I’ve had the opportunity to address two different groups of high school students recently, as the keynote speaker at events celebrating them and their accomplishments. This is an audience that I don’t get in front of very often so I had to put some serious thought into what I would say that would be motivational and encourage them to stay on the great paths they’ve created for themselves, fully knowing that life brings so many twists and turns and that nothing in their young lives will be as predictable as they would like.
After vetting my jokes with my teenager, and making sure I included a reference to Instagram, selfie’s and Beyonce, I settled on a message about being curious and having a desire to learn.
I acknowledged to both groups that they probably didn’t think there was anything special about either because everyone is curious about one thing or another after all, and it’s hard to believe that a person could not learn when they are being taught. But they started to get it when I explained it in great detail and gave examples of what happens to people who lack curiosity and have no desire to learn more than what they already know, especially in the fast-paced world we live in today – where disruption is the new norm.
And you know what? It worked. Parents and students at both events came up to me after saying that the message was spot on and what they needed to hear. One grandparent disclosed hat he had been one of those people who didn’t want to learn how to use a new computer system at his job years ago and what it had cost him.
Today’s youth have an advantage. They don’t know a world that doesn’t move at the speed of light. They learn how to use new smartphones, apps and tablets with ease and move from one platform to the next without batting an eye. But what I found is that they didn’t realize the power of that or how far that level of curiosity can take them if they just apply it to all aspects of their lives.
But this is not just a message for teens. It’s a message for anyone alive today. If you’ve lost your curiosity or perhaps you are curious but don’t back it up with action – you are in a bad place and not poised for success or growth. Not in the long-term, and maybe not even the short-term.
If you’re not reading about your industry, following trends related to consumer behavior or picking up a book (physical or electronic) to expand your horizons and learn something new, you’ve given up.
This applies to people and companies – big and small.
We have to be curious and keep learning. As I told those two groups of teens who will some day run the world: “In this world of profound change, the learners will always come out on top. They will win every time.”
And before I left the stage, I ended with this:
“The only way to predict the future is to create it, and you create your future with every choice you make. Stay curious. Keep creating your future. And the world will have no choice but to stand up and take notice.”
A lesson for us all.