Let Curiosity Be Your Guide
In More to That’s recent reflection, True Learning is Done With Agency, he talks about learning for curiosity versus for practical value. He reflects on his Economics degree, a time when he learned for practical value, and how he remembers little from it. Now, he learns for curiosity and shares these learnings through his essays.
So how do you cultivate the desire to learn? Well, the first thing is to decouple an interest from its practical value. Instead of embarking on something with an end goal in mind, you do it for its own sake. You don’t learn because of the career path it’ll open up, but because you often wonder about the topic at hand.The second is to understand that a pursuit truly driven by curiosity will inevitably lend itself to practical value anyway. The internet has massively widened the scope of possible careers, and it rewards those who exercise agency in what they pursue. More To That is the result of my inner child running wild, allowing it touch whatever it wants to explore further. And then by applying the work ethic from my inner adult, the outline of a newfound career path begins to emerge.
In the past, my learning was driven by curiosity moreso than practical value. Practical value was still a goal but it came secondary to curiosity. A recent example of this is my Semester in the Library experiment where I took time off to read and write.
Over the past year, I immersed myself in the job search and I found that my psychology shifted to yearning to do things for more practical reasons like acquiring resources (physical and social) to advance my career. I find that doing things driven by external results leads to emptiness and dissatisfaction.
Yet, as More to That notes, pursuit driven by curiosity will inevitably lend itself to practical value. Many of my past experiences, including a Semester at the Library, validate this. I’ve made friends, opportunities, and have grown personally and professionally from the skills and habits I learned during this time. Ironically, I found that pursuing things for curiosity’s sake leads to exponential value versus pursuing things with external goals in mind which lead to linear value. The difficulty with pursuing things for curiosity is that the practical value comes over a longer time horizon and in the moment it’s unclear how things will play out.
As I’m done the job search, I’m looking forward to letting my curiosity drive my pursuits once again.