Curious Russell and the Enigma of Life

The weather in Reno is perfect. Perfect for biking, or running, or playing catch, or BBQing, or packing boxes, or moving… Eeesssh.

An outlook of curiosity is a rewarding outlook. If you’ll hearken back to the Golden Era of children’s books, you may remember the many quests of Curious George. What a great role model!

This morning there was a huge truck outside our office containing a ton of brand new, shiny fire extinguishers. Now, I know next to nothing about fire extinguishers other than they handle three types of fires (liquid, paper, and electric) and that they are red. Not exactly an expert. Right away I saw this truck containing at least 150 of these things so I began to wonder: Who manufactures these things? How much does each one cost? Where do they go when they’ve expired? What happens if it doesn’t work when you pull the pin? How much red paint do they buy for these things? Do they incorporate new technology ever? How big is their IT department?

The list goes on and on – and that was just within the first three minutes of being at work.

I am often fascinated with people who just aren’t curious about the world around them, and I’m not talking about anything in particular. How can you not wonder about the world around you? How much snow is truly accumulated on Mt. Rose and who measures that? Is that a career!? Where do your car tires come from and who shipped them across the ocean? What state did the cow you had for dinner live in? How do you manufacture toothpaste? Star Wars or Star Trek? What is Minecraft and do I need to play it? If a jet engine breaks the sound barrier and runs into an orange, what happens? How do you create the carbon fiber that is inside my racing bike and wheels?

The world is an incredibly complicated place, which just begs the option of asking more and more and more and more questions.

I wonder if people who aren’t curious lost their curiosity then they were kids. All the kids I know ask about 10 million questions, and even if they ask too many, at least you can see their brains ticking away, soaking up information like a sponge. It seems as adults that the ability to ponder, dwell, and spend time thinking is utterly discouraged in this modern society. Why don’t adults ask more questions? Are they afraid? Afraid of people thinking they’re foolish or dumb or ignorant? I think that’s part of it. I also think that there’s just a negative connotation around admitting “we” don’t know something. It’s kind of sad really… we can’t all know everything (fortunately) so what’s wrong with admitting when we don’t know an answer? Hmm. Maybe we are too obsessed with Google doing all of the thinking for us.

I was at the doctor’s last week and honestly, I was freaking thrilled when he got out his phone and had to look up an answer to a question I had. Yes, he’s an expert and yes, he went to medical school, but 99.9999% of the time I would much rather have someone admit that they aren’t entirely sure about an answer and then look it up, just to be sure, than to lie to me or give me an answer that is completely off kilter.

I surround myself with people who make me want to ask questions, and it’s not because they speak in a way I don’t understand or because they’re speaking too lofty, but it’s because they’re experts in an area that I’m simply not. Learning something new every day is such a small feat when you think about the grandiose nature and scope of the world in which we live in. Go research underwater monsters. Study the effects of supernovas on the solar system. Learn about the note and structural scale to Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue (best jazz album ever). Ask someone to explain to you how flux is a vector quantity. Ask, learn, grow, and develop your mind. It’s far too impressive of an organ to let go to waste.

Exciting people ask interesting questions. Boring people, well, boring people don’t ask questions. Don’t be the lump on the log who doesn’t ask questions and pretends not to care.

Here’s some secret life advice that was passed on to me… an expert conversationalist is someone who listens and asks good questions. That’s it! Want to be a good listener? Ask questions that show your listening and applying the subject at hand to your own perspective on the world based on your own assumptions and experiences.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

Have a wonderful Tuesday. Eat tacos. Learn things. Ask questions. Take a nap. Be productive.

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1 Comment

  1. Just curious:
    – Why do you ask so many questions?
    – I am wondering who gave you such sage advice?
    – What happens when a jet hits an orange?
    – What do you want to be when you grow up?
    – Wanna write some books together? We’re of to some great starts.
    – Is there really a tooth fairy and a Santa Clause?
    – Have you ever seen a $2 bill and a silver dollar?
    – Here’s the best one that I still can’t answer, “If the world was made perfect, where did sin come from (asked by a child in a Sunday school class a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.)

    Great article, by the way.

    By the way: I think there’s also a special fire extinguisher for chemicals too.

    By the way #2: You’re a quality belt clone. So, suggest you learn to continually ask the question “why.” Learn to ask the series of “why” Q&A without making people defensive. Behind the answers to the “why questions” lies the secret to 1) the root causes of any problem & the shortest path to methods and process improvement! (Learned at the Procter & Gamble company in the early 70s and still true today.)

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