It's week two of the "Foundations" series, where I'm covering the basics for developing a great marketing and communications strategy for your business. Today I want to talk about curiosity. Whether we're talking about life or business, the ability to ask good questions, the desire to learn, and the drive to understand what you don't know will take you far, which in turn, can be a huge benefit for your company and your cause. Curious people tend to excel because they are always seeking to improve themselves.
Do you want to learn a new skill you can use in your job? (Ex: design)
Do you want to learn more about your role and the latest trends? (Ex: public relations)
Do you want to learn about your cause? (Ex: human trafficking)
I am a curious person by nature and love to learn. But it took me a long time to figure out exactly how to make this work for me. I was a good student, but my mother always reminded me that I had potential for better grades. (Thanks for believing in me, Mom!) I soaked up new information with eagerness, but I didn't enjoy reading. I wanted to talk to people who knew things that I didn't, but I didn't know how to find them. I have a lot of passions and interests, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by them.
And then three things opened the doors for me
The first was when I attended my first major conference, Catalyst, which will always hold a special place in my heart for this reason. Oh my, I was in heaven! Where had these gatherings been all my life! (Evidently, they'd been having them without me.) My friend had a ticket, and he couldn't go, so I filled in. I mean, I had NO IDEA what I was in for! I'd found my people. It was two glorious days of note-taking and hearing from people who were so smart and generous enough to share what they knew. I. WAS. HOOKED. That was about 12 years ago, and now conferences are a regular part of my life. In fact, when I worked full-time with a regular vacation policy, most of that time was spent at conferences. I can't get enough, and am always looking for new conferences to attend. This love was also a big reason I accepted my last full-time job as an Event Marketing Director. I got to help create a great conference experience for others, which was exciting.
The second thing was Audible. If we've had an hour-long conversation at any point, I've probably brought up something I listened to on Audible. This was an absolute game-changer for me. Another friend dragged me down this rabbit hole, and I'm so glad he did. Honestly, I didn't think I'd enjoy it. As I said, I wanted to learn, but I didn't enjoy reading. And I am not really an auditory learner, so I didn't think I'd pay attention. In the beginning, I definitely had to rewind and replay the sections I'd spaced out on—a lot. But once I got the hang of it, I was absolutely smitten. It's pretty much the only way I read books now. In fact, I rarely listen to music in the car. And up until this self-employment gig, I had a long commute, so I'd easily get through 30+ books in a year. (TIP: I always recommend that people start with fiction since there is a narrative you can follow, and you won't get lost as easy if your mind drifts.) It's been an invaluable tool for me, and in fact, one of the best books I read last year was called A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer.
The third was finding a mentor. I actually didn't know I needed a mentor until I had one. It was kind of like walking through the aisles at The Container Store, and realizing how unorganized you were and that they had exactly what you've been looking for all your life. Just me? My first mentor was a group experience with some ladies at my church. There were two mentors, and six of us single girls. It's such a special memory to me, and I learned so much from all of them. After that ended, it took me several years to find my next mentor. But a mutual friend introduced us, and now I've been meeting with Holly almost monthly for about six years. She is amazing. Such a smart business woman, a kind individual, and someone I definitely want to be more like. It's been a terrific experience. I always have so many questions to ask her, and she is always patient with me. Additionally, one of the things Holly has taught me is that you can have multiple mentors that fill different roles in your life. So, this year, I'm seeking a new mentor that has similar experience to mine, and can show me the ropes in this new role as entrepreneur. Should be exciting!
So, let's circle this back around.
My curiosity has served me well, and I know it can do the same for you.
It has led me to learn all kinds of things I might not have known otherwise. It keeps me asking questions, and it helps me strive to be better. I'm certainly better at my job because of conferences, books (or podcasts, etc.) and mentors. They have all played crucial roles in my life, and now, I can help you be better at your job too!
Undoubtedly, you know of books that you can read to develop a new skill, or learn more about your role, or gain more understanding about your cause. That one is easy, you just have to go for it. Similarly, podcasts of all kinds are out there to do the same.
Conferences of all shapes and sizes are are just waiting to be discovered by you as well. I have another friend who is a math teacher, and has attended math conferences. To me, this sounds like a nightmare I can't wake up from, but she loves what she does and wants to improve. Now she's looking at a conference for educators. Google will be your best friend here if you don't already have a few events in mind. And just maybe, your work will foot the bill, or at least part of it, which is the absolute best!
Mentors are definitely the trickiest. Start by asking around. That's what I'm currently doing. And if you sit and think about it, you may already know of someone that would be a great fit. Never assume they're too busy, just ask. If they are, move on. If not, problem solved! But your friends or networks are the best place to begin. And if it takes you a while, hang in there! It took me about three years to find Holly. Until it happens, find wisdom through books and events and use those smart people as virtual mentors.
I hope you have an insatiable curiosity as well, but if not, I hope you'll take the time to develop it. I cannot stress how important it is, and how much it can do for you, both professionally and personally. You will improve. Your work will improve. Your cause will benefit.
If you're curious about my favorite resources, including books, podcasts, conferences and more, you can grab that RIGHT HERE. You can also share your suggestions or experiences in the comments below.
And if you'd like to try Audible free for 30 days, click here. It might just change your life.
SIDE-ISH NOTE: Want to dive deeper into curiosity? Embracing curiosity as a leadership skill.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.