Curiosity Saved the Cat

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In his influential and oft-quoted book, The World Is Flat, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and pundit Thomas Friedman argues that “IQ still matters, but CQ and PQ—Curiosity Quotient and Passion Quotient—matter even more.” While I personally think that Friedman frequently oversimplifies complex concepts, I ardently agree with his assessment on the importance of curiosity and passion.

The old adage “curiosity killed the cat” cautions against the dangers of being too nosey or too cavalier, and has been invoked for hundreds of years to dampen dreams, allay ambition, and eschew enthusiasm. Yet, it is the openness of curiosity—and the passion that comes with it—that allow us to challenge convention, explore possibilities, and drive human progress.

More than this, however, curiosity is an important factor in personal and professional success, as business psychologist Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic argued in a recent Harvard Business Review post. An ample amount of recent research has demonstrated that people with high CQs can actually match the academic performance of people with high IQs. Studies have also confirmed that people with high CQs tend to be more innovative, more knowledgeable, and more adaptable to change. And, in a world where technology is relentlessly accelerating the rate of change, it will be those who are constantly questioning, experimenting, and dreaming that can keep up with the world, understand it, and master it. As Friedman writes, “give me a kid with a passion to learn and a curiosity to discover and I will take him or her over a less passionate kid with a high IQ every day of the week.”

Fortunately, unlike raw intellectual capacity which is a largely static phenomenon, curiosity can be cultivated by trying new things and being undeterred by bad experiences. This last part is critical since it’s the emotionally positive experiences that help broaden and build curiosity—like the savory taste of a new ethnic food encourages you to learn more about that culture or the romantic feeling of a new relationship encourages you to learn more about the other.

So, just as we spend time developing new skills and sharpening our intellects, we should also spend time dabbling in new subjects, exploring new interests, and embracing new experiences. Doing so helps us become more rounded, more open, and more understanding. It equips us to lead change instead of reacting to it and invent the future rather than being invented by it.

Yes, curiosity can kill the cat, but curiosity can also be the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. “I have no special talents,” Albert Einstein once said, “I am only passionately curious.”

Remington is a guest blogger for Polyglamorous. He is a senior strategy consultant at Siegelvision, an NYC-based organizational identity and brand strategy firm. He holds an MS from New York University, an MA from Loyola University Chicago, and his BA from Marquette University. He sits on the boards of numerous nonprofits and startups. He identifies as a skeptic and agrees that an open mind is an essential fashion.

Follow him on Twitter @RemTonar.