The Corona Diaries, Vol. 7: Curiosity enriches the cat

May 18, 2020

Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, perhaps the most famous investor of all time, was once asked what he would invest in if he had just $10,000. He said, “Ultimately, there’s one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself. Nobody can take away what you’ve got in yourself, and everybody has potential they haven’t used yet.”

How true. Many of us are working at home these days. Some of us even have some extra time on our hands that we would have spent going out to eat or to the gym. Why not follow Mr. Buffett’s advice and use some of that time to invest in yourself? It’s not just a convenient thought. With all the changes going on in the world, we will all need to evolve to be ready for the accelerations coming our way.

Every high-performing individual that I have met anywhere in the world has had one trait in common: intense curiosity. It’s not that they want to know about everything, it’s that when they find something of interest they dive deeply into it. They ask good questions, they find patterns, they seek expertise and measurement. To these leaders and high-performing individuals, curiosity is a way of being.

It doesn’t take some magic or special power to be this way. Anyone can decide to be curious. That’s the wonderful thing about life – we get to choose. We wake up every morning and decide to get better, stay the same or decline. It’s that simple.

For me, satisfying the curiosity desire has been about becoming a dedicated, rigorous learner. I live a life that resembles a non-paid academic or even a non-professional philosopher. Books, articles, learning and writing are part of my daily habits. I have made learning a strength and here are a few tips that help me in this:

  • Adopt a life-long learning mindset. It’s funny how many of us assume that learning is something we only do in school between the ages of 5 and whenever we graduate college. That’s not learning. That’s education. We want to be learners. In truth, we are naturally life-long learning sponges. Once you realize that, learning becomes easy and an act of empowerment.
  • Pick up a copy of “UltraLearning” by Scott Young. His self-learning blueprint is easy and effective. You will find it useful whether you want to learn guitar, speak a language or master some new skill for work. There are several other resources that I have used to improve my learning capacity. I will post those separately at my website,
  • Create a plan. Whether they have degrees or fancy certifications, most high-achievers are very dedicated and thoughtful about their approach to learning. Books like Young’s can help. But you can simply make a basic plan on a sheet of paper if you want. The important thing – as with most things in life – is to start. Your natural genius will take over from there, and I bet you end up with a plan that’s better than you thought.
  • Work the plan and measure the results. A plan without effort is like a car without gas – it’ll just sit there. Schedule regular chunks of time times to implement your plan. Try using the Pomodoro technique and then regularly measure your progress. I use a simple spreadsheet to register my learning progress on an annual basis.
  • Identify resources that will help you. This one is easy. With the internet, much of humanity’s entire body of knowledge is available to you in one form or another. Focusing on subjects with established teaching mechanisms is a big plus, here. For example, if you want to learn to play guitar or even to learn how to play the slide guitar solo from ZZ-Top’s “Tush,” there are many options from which to learn. (Whereas, learning the tiny details of falconry is not so easy, as a friend of mind in the falconry business once told me.)
  • Get feedback. Feedback is vital to learning. If you really want to get better at, say, figure drawing, eventually you’re going to need a coach or feedback from another source. When it comes to learning effectively, none of us is an island. Hire a coach, ask a friend, get feedback and use your growth mindset to accept it for what it is.
  • Be realistic. If you want to just learn enough Spanish to order at a restaurant, then create a plan to do that and not one to make you fluent enough to give an academic lecture.

Invest in yourself. It simply makes life richer.

Onward and upward.