Business transformationist Tom Peters calls life “one big learning experience” (Peters, 30). Thus, work must also be one big learning experience.
This is so whether we believe it or not.
Presented with this reality, we must awaken, cultivate, and apply one particularly powerful attitude: curiosity.
“Curiosity can (more or less) be trained/learned,” says Peters. We must turn mere casual curiosity into a driving force active in every moment.
Mt. Cadillac and the Power of Observation
Acadia National Park in Maine is home to Mt. Cadillac, from the top of which, it is said, the rising sun can first be seen in North America.
The destination of many tourists, the parking lot is filled with buses shuttling visitors to the observation deck: disembark, gaze, snap photos, on to gift shop, back to the bus.
Wanting a different experience, I took a few steps down a rocky trail and took up a position just yards–and worlds–away from the busy tourist points.
I was alone. No, all the world was with me.
Settling on a rocky ledge I simply observed, letting my attention fall where it may and opening all of my senses to the experience.
The experience seemed to surpass reality itself. Colors, shapes, sounds, smells, textures, motion, stillness, and time itself, all took on new-found qualities, vibrancy, immediacy, and presence.
Observation morphed into fascination and amazement. How could all of this be?
And there it was, deeply engaging curiosity.
Following the passage of an unknown period of time, I “returned” to the reality of “national park tourist,” but not until I had become lost in the nearly microscopic universe of multi-colored quartz crystals comprising the seemingly solid granite of Mt. Cadillac.
Astonishing! Not that I found myself on my hands and knees so totally absorbed by fragmentary rock crystals and the flora and fauna that called the area home, but that I had experienced–physically and psychically–a new depth of curiosity.
I had seen, thought, and experienced differently, in ways that were initially startling and ultimately transforming.
When I returned to the busy parking lot, it was not the same because I was not the same. I had become more deeply acquainted with the powers of awareness, attention, and curiosity that far outstripped my previously curious mind.
And, although I have just imperfectly recounted this incident, the most profound insight was not that it happened, but that it could happen and that the key lay not outside of me, but within. While the episode occurred in a beautiful natural setting, the setting was ultimately only incidental to my transcendental experience.
When awakened and placed stably upon any object, attention triggers a curiosity that transforms even the most “mundane” into the miraculous and fuels an internal engine of learning.
And work is one big learning experience.
What are you curious about?
Peters, Thomas J. 1999. The Project50: Or, Transform Every Task into a Project that Matters! (New York: Random House).