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Why curiosity is better than being smart?

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A lot of people say to me: “Ivaylo! You are so smart. Your newsletter is full of insights. The books you summarize are so elegantly presented with so much attention and care. Your parents must be proud!”

To this, I always respond:

“Thanks! I was simply born amazingly gifted.”

And then I wake up.

I’m kidding, of course.

To be honest. I consider myself pretty ordinary in terms of smartness.

Actually, the word I’m looking for is average.

But there is one quality that helps me fight through my natural stupidity – my unfair advantage sort to say – I’m curious.

While I do think that there are folks who are naturally smart. I do believe that they keep being smart because they are also curious.

It’s something like a loop.

They are smart and that’s why they are curious and keep getting smarter because they are curious.

To compensate, since I can’t inject intelligence into my ordinary brain, I focus on doing the things I can.

Тhat is, I encourage my curiosity.

It’s still a loop, but it starts with curiosity.

Curious people are smart and smart because they are curious.

To present this concept better, let’s first observe the thought process of smart people.

Smart People Become Curios

smart-curious-loop

Smart people become even smarter because they are smart enough to understand that they don’t have all the answers. That knowledge fades. That you need to continuously invest (time and money) in learning new things even when you go out of college. That there are stuff we know. Stuff we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – stuff we don’t know we don’t know.

That’s why smart people become smarter. They know that being smart is not a permanent state. It’s a continuous process. That’s why they keep learning. Doing. Failing and then trying again.

Curios People Become Smarter

curious-smart-loop

Curios people become smart by accident.

Their curiosity simply pushes them into various rabbit holes.

Guided by a childish desire to understand why something is the way it is, they end up exploring webs full of strange to them, initially, things.

The relentless desire to explore the world we live in. To understand why people behave the way they do. To investigate what caused something to work makes them read articles, books, even old newspapers and look for solutions outside their field of work.

It’s harder for them to get things, but their uncommon hunger to figure out how exactly things work helps them overcome their lack of intellect.


When I was a kid. I was super curious to understand how things work.

That’s why I enthusiastically destroyed every toy I had.

I simply wanted to see what’s inside.

“What magical force makes this truck produce sound?”

I wanted to know!

Fortunately, this quality stayed with me.

And it’s helping me progressively increase my naturally low intelligence.

Because, when I approach something, even if it’s something I’m fairly familiar with, I don’t think: “Well, I know how to read a book. I don’t want to read a book on how to read a book…”

I approach it like this: “I know how to read a book. But since there is a whole book about how to read a book (this one here), there are surely things I’m not familiar with. I should definitely check it!”

All of this leads to the following:

If you’re not curious, does this mean that you’re dumb?

Smartness Without Curiosity

I personally know a lot of smart people. Some are really successful in terms of income and wealth. Others aren’t.

The difference between the two types?

The group of smart folks who fail to make a good living stand still.

Not that they don’t move. Go to work. Travel. Or walk to the refrigerator to grab the ketchup.

They simply don’t take time to expand what they already know.

The difference between smart and curious people and only smart people is that curiosity helps you move forward in life.

If you shut the door to curiosity. You shut the door to learning. And when you don’t learn. You don’t move forward.

You must be curious to learn. Otherwise, you won’t even consider learning.

If you’re not curious, internally, you don’t think that learning more about what you already know is needed. You have convinced yourself that you already know everything. Why waste time?

When he hops out of school. The now smart but uncurious person will feel entitled.

He thinks he knows everything. He can quote you facts from textbooks and dictate with precision years of when important events took place. However, he will fail to implement these facts in real-life situations. Unable to see past years and statistics. Simply state them.

The curious person, in contrast. Will spot his flaws. He will assess his knowledge objectively and realize what he doesn’t know. That there is much to learn. Much to do. And therefore, he will keep moving upwards. Learning and doing.

Or if I can put this into perspective, if you’re smart without being curious, you stand still while the world is changing. Which, basically, means that you’re falling behind.

when-you-are-smart-but-not-curious

Conversely, if you’re curious, even if you’re not mighty smart. You keep moving forward. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. But always steadily moving.

when-you-are-smart-and-curious

And if you’re currently scratching your head thinking, “Is there a way to enhance my curiosity?”

Yes, there is…

How To Boost Your Curiosity?

Personally, what works for me, are the following three:

Reading books, being aware of the curiosity gap, and asking a lot of questions:

Let me expand a bit more on these three:

  • Reading books: Even if I’m reading nonfiction books – which is 90% of my reading – I still view the content as an adventure movie. You take on a journey. A journey through a terrain you’ve never seen before. Where you eventually end up is a completely new place. Not geographically new. But new in terms of beliefs and understandings. Every book, even the ones that are not so good, can give you a new perspective. And every new perspective will help you spot your blind spots and see things from a different angle. From an alternative perspective showing you ways to make things better.
  • Curiosity gap: Commonly used by copywriters, the curious gap is a way to make someone click on an overpromising title while the content underdelivers – i.e., clickbait. But this concept can also be leveraged to boost your general curiosity. For instance, when meeting someone. When reading a book. When taking a course. Instead of only observing what’s visible, what the instructor is sharing, or what’s inside the book, you constantly ask yourself, “What’s more out there? How this can be done better? How this can be done differently? Are there similar books/courses on this topic?” You’re always looking for the gap between what’s visible and what’s potentially out there. This motivates you to close the gap by learning.
  • Ask questions: This partly overlaps with the above, but it deserves a stand-alone bullet. Asking questions is the best way to uncover more ground and get more done. Resolve problems better. Reach your long-term goals. Plainly, this is a “reach the next level” kind of activity. How exactly does asking questions help? Well, think about the following: If you’re not happy about what you’re doing. Ask why? Why I’m not happy? Why I’m not productive? Why I don’t make enough money? Why I’m not curious? If the answer to the last question is because I don’t think I should learn more, then ask again, Why is that? Regularly asking yourself different questions will motivate you to find the answers. And when you start seeking for answers, you progress. It sounds super simple, but few people do this.

Some Closing Thoughts

Standardized smartness means that you’ve earned a degree. You can state different facts and wave your diploma, thinking that people will care.

In a way, people who are smart, without being curious, see information as finite. That after completing a book or a course, they now can call themselves experts.

Uncommon intelligence is about never retiring the thought that there is so much to learn. So much of what’s out there is unexplored and will never be explored by you. I mean, there are millions of books published. It’s impossible to read them all.

However, for the curious person, this doesn’t feel limiting. Quite the opposite – it’s exciting. Stimulating because there is always something new to learn. By reading that new book. By talking to this new person. By taking the unfamiliar route. You approach new things with excitement and open-mindedness.

And when you look at life through the lens of curiosity. Your life is “the glass is half full” type.

The challenges that occur and try to wreck your progress don’t bother you. You approach them with optimism because you realize that there is so much you can learn and do.

So much you don’t know that, when learned, will help you get out of any situation.

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