“To be more interesting, be more interested.”
How interesting are you? Maybe more than you realize. Have you ever met someone who doesn’t know something you take for granted knowing? I have. Sometimes, you don’t know what you know, until you meet someone who doesn’t know it. That moment, that’s where the magic can happen. I recall reading the be more interested quote in an article about effective networking, but I think it applies to a broader context. It stuck in part because I realize it is by being interested that new people, experiences and knowledge have come my way.
Take for instance a brief conversation I had with an older couple this morning when out for my daily walk. They were standing in front of greenery before a wire fence that bounds a now vacant piece of property. As I approached, I asked them what they were harvesting.
I could see wild grape vine, but it is far too early for grapes. They told me they were picking the grape leaves, to use for barbequing. Not sure what that meant exactly, I asked. “Oh, how do you use them?”
Then they told me they are Italian, and use them as the shell, in which to place the filling. And now it makes sense, because of course I have enjoyed dishes with grape leaves done in such a way.
Here I had passed by this wild grape vine and never given it a thought. (And isn’t that kind of true for some of the people in our lives? Or at work?)
Judicious use of technology to remain open to the moment
Yes, I am going to say it, unplug. My cell phone is with me when I walk, in part because I use it to track my steps. Part of my initiative to get more fit.
I also use the camera function, so I can capture what’s around me, flowers and wildlife mainly. That’s it. The other functions we typically use it for are off limits during this time.
When I take my daily stroll, or bike ride, I purposefully choose to be involved in what I am doing. I look for what is interesting and unusual. That’s not to say that my mind isn’t ticking along, because after all, as a writer, observing leads to wondering, thinking and often ideas.
Back to being interested.
What gets in the way of expressing our interest
I had a conversation yesterday with a new acquaintance who is well on her way to becoming a friend. Of the many things we talked about, the subject of not knowing something arose. Specifically, we talked about admitting to someone our lack of knowledge if they mention a topic with which we are unfamiliar.
I shared with her a recent experience.During a friend’s birthday celebrations I met a fellow entrepreneur. When I asked him what he does, his area of expertise was unfamiliar. The field was new to me. The most logical thing in my mind was to say, “I don’t know what that is.” I felt no embarrassment in telling him this. It opened the door to both a conversation and knowledge I didn’t have before.
My friend said she thought that was a good thing to do. Of course I agreed, but wondered didn’t most people do that? She disabused me of that idea as she related the experience of her partner at grad school. When working on his master’s in philosophy, no one wanted to risk looking stupid in front of their peers. So if someone mentioned something that was new, everyone just nodded as if they were all “in the know”. Apparently risking even the thought of not having that knowledge, shameful.
The fear of looking stupid or being embarrassed by what you don’t know, that is straight up fixed mindset thinking. The firm belief that we have a set of innate talents and skills. Discounting the ability to learn something outside of our talent areas through effort. Hand in hand with this thinking is avoidance of losing face, of appearing stupid or less able. In this case, apparently, it’s not knowing everything in a specific realm of academics at his institution.
How limiting and what a waste of bright and capable minds. Not just for themselves, but for all those with whom they interact. It’s also a little ironic, given that philosophy is in part the study of knowledge.
Adding oral knowledge into acquiring an interesting life
For thousands of years, humanity depended on the ability to transfer knowledge orally. It’s why storytelling makes it easier to remember points in a presentation. We are wired for remembering information through the use of story and connect the dots from what we hear. It aids us in remembering the information. We are also wired for connection. In person, oral exchanges. Our levels of happiness go up when we hear other’s voices, interact with them in person.
When I think about grape leaves in the future, it will begin with the story of the seniors I met today. It will be a story that I share with others, because it is a little unusual and that helps too.
Here’s some of what I learned from my conversation with the senior Italian couple I spoke with this morning.
- There are naturally occurring, wild plants in my neighbourhood that can be used for cooking
- There are dozens of links online about how to pick, use and store grape leaves
- That my practice of taking a chance and talking to strangers, can result in interesting new pieces of knowledge
- That opening to not knowing, introduces worlds I don’t know exist.
- A reminder that we are all containers of knowledge that others don’t have, and we can improve lives if we are willing to share.
My interaction with the couple has not only provided me with thoughts for tonight’s dinner menu, but also this article and fodder for future conversations.
Here’s my challenge to you. Go out and be interested in those around you. Ask questions, find out what they are into. Then, I would love it if you would share here. Add to the collective knowledge, inspire others to explore and dig more deeply.