It’s said that “curiosity killed the cat,” but was Curiosity unjustly accused? Maybe Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but the cat had been attempting to murder Curiosity. No, not by actively drawing its claws, but by slowly getting too chunky and comfortable. In an attempt to kill by slow suffocation that fat cat of the “good life” may have been crushing Curiosity at every opportunity.
Now clearly, this is just a metaphor for what happens in our lives. So let’s take a look at how the “fat cat of the good life” can be the death of our Curiosity.
The first time I met James, I was struck by his unshakable swagger of confidence. He had an “I’m all that and a bag of chips” persona. His self-identity—and personal pride–was very strong. At that meeting, he leaned in and said that a professional athlete client of mine had told him to meet with me, and he was here because he trusted that person.
“That’s great, James, so what can I do for you?” I asked.
“I have no idea.” He said kind of dismissively. He continued: “I don’t need anyone like you. I’ve had a great life.” For the next 13 minutes, James rolled out a laundry list of all the things he’d achieved, all the recognition, and all the things that were not only good but great in his life.
I listened intently and paid attention to everything James was saying but also to everything that he was not saying. When he appeared to be finished, I asked if he had anything else he wanted to add, and he shook his head with confidence. “I don’t think so.”
I smiled and said, “So, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to remind you of what I actually asked. Is that okay?” Without missing a beat, James jumped back into all the reasons he didn’t need someone like me and all that he had accomplished.
I listened some more, and then, looking him right in the eyes, I said, “All right, so seeing as it’s a bit challenging for you. I asked you to tell me why you’re here. Maybe you can help me out by giving me some clarity on what you said at the beginning.” His eyebrows furrowed, indicating that he clearly had no idea what I was referring to. I continued, “You said that you don’t know why you are here and that you didn’t need someone like me.” He gave a reluctant nod. “Please tell me: Who you think someone like me is, and or what you think I do that’s not for you?” I smiled and continued, “even though you are here.”
James replied, “You know…” and his voice trailed in a mixture of anger and frustration.
“Actually, James, I have no way of knowing what you think I do.”
“Well, I guess you fix people who are in some way broken.” He paused, “But I’m not broken. I’m….” He paused without finishing the thought. This was the first time James had allowed himself to hesitate, and I let him sit with his own statement.
After a couple of seconds, I sat up very straight, looked him in the eye in a way I doubt few others had ever done, and said, “James, I don’t work with people who are broken. If that’s what you think I do, then you are in the wrong place.” I could see that he was taken back, and the furrowing of his brow told me he was a little confused, although he was relieved that I seemed to acknowledge he wasn’t broken.
I continued, “To be clear with you, James, the work I do with my clients is about discovering what’s deeper and more meaningful than the list of achievements like the one you rattled off. I work with people who are already at the top of their game, but they secretly have an intuition, a gut feeling about a few things.”
His swagger gave way to a hint of curiosity. “Like what?”
“Often, the people I work with have gotten to a place where their achievements aren’t really doing it for them anymore. Many of their relationships are beginning to feel a little shallow, and they want something more. More than anything, they realize that there’s a part of them that they’ve lost access to…and they want to know how to get to it.”
While I was speaking, James had gone from looking over my shoulder to avoid real eye contact, to looking directly at me. “What is it they’ve lost that they want back?” The very tone of his voice told me I was absolutely on the right track.
“They’ve lost their curiosity.”
He sat bolt upright, and I could see my words had hit a sweet spot. “That’s it. I feel like something has killed off my curiosity. How is that possible?” He continued without giving me a chance to answer or for him to even take a breath. “It’s not that I don’t ask questions. It’s that I’m just not that interested to hear what people say. I feel like I’m being a bit of a douche, but no matter how exciting something is supposed to be, I’m just not that interested….Is there something wrong with me?” He took another breath and then said, “OMG, maybe I am broken!”
Broken or not Broken, that is the question
I smiled and continued. “James, you are not broken! The way you are right now is not unusual. In fact, what I notice in people like you, people who have reached a certain level of success, is that they will often express a sense that there feels like there’s been a seeming death of their curiosity.”
I didn’t need him to say anything, but I made sure we had genuine eye contact, and we did because I wanted him to know that I got where he is at. I continued, “When this happens when we lose touch with our curious nature, it’s not unusual to begin engaging in more and riskier behaviors. Sometimes the risks are money-based like gambling with poorly research investments. Other times the risk is far greater. I’ll let your imagination fill in the gaps.” I took a pause. “Is this making sense, James?”
“Oh yeah! I’ve been doing some crazy stuff. In fact, that’s why my friend told me to come to talk to you. He said I was being self-destructive, and even though I knew where he was coming from, I didn’t agree. That’s why I hesitated to come to meet with you. What he called self-destructive, I called trying to feel fully alive again.”
I paused carefully before I spoke again. “James, would you agree that, as humans, it is our nature to desire growth?”
He nodded his head.
“But when we stop and think about what growth really is, it can become a little confusing. So, if I may let me see if I can bring some clarity to this. Growth is learning or doing something that expands our experience of life. Which brings us to people like you. You been to all kinds of wonderful places and had amazing experiences. So, what happens when you’ve been everywhere on your bucket list, you’ve bought everything on your vision board, and you’ve even done the things that good people are supposed to do with their money and you’ve still got a lot of life in you?”
“I have no idea.” He hesitated, “But I guess we both know why I’m here now.”
Are you the cat that’s been suffocating your own curiosity?
Here a few of questions to get you started:
- How did you most feel seen as a child?
- Who is someone you disagree with but find fascinating?
- What might happen if you got curious about 1 and 2?
The Mic is yours… I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Stay Curious, My Friend! Stay Curious about discovering what success beyond success is for you!
Dov Baron, Expert on Leadership, presents his Authentic Leadership Matrix!
My Authentic Leadership Matrix is free this link! Why? Because one of the questions I’m most often asked is; What authentic leadership is and how do we define it? As a result, with years of experience and extensive requests, I created the Authentic Leadership Matrix. It’s designed to give you a clear process of how to perform in each of the five main areas that are required for you to become a world-class authentic leader. Start your yes and no evaluation to discover your leadership traits here: https://matrix.fullmontyleadership.com
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