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John C. Maxwell! 15 Golden Rules of Personal Development! Curiosity Principle

John C. Maxwell! 15 Golden Rules of Personal Development!

Chapter 12 Curiosity Principle

Life is found in the dance

between your deepest desire and your greatest fear. — Tony Robbins

Is it possible to stimulate curiosity by asking why?

When I was a freshman in college taking Basic Psychology,

everyone in the class was asked

to do a creativity experiment.

To my surprise and disappointment,

my grades were among the worst in my class.

What’s so bad? you can ask.

A lot of people aren’t creative.

The thing is,

I know I’m going to be a speaker for a living,

and there’s nothing worse than being a boring speaker.

How can I overcome this shortfall in my profession?

I rely on a distinct trait that I possess a lot:


I’ve been curious since I was a kid.

When I was a teenager,

I was just like you

– only with one difference.

They like to sleep in,

but I like to get up early in the morning.

I’ve always been afraid

that if I stayed in bed,

I’d miss something!

Now I find it funny

because I live in a small town in central Ohio

where very little can happen,

so what could I be missing out on?

However, this sets me apart from my friends.

I started using this nature to collect quotes,


and ideas.

I thought to myself,

the best way to avoid being bored is

to quote people who are not boring.

I started looking for ideas that were stated in a funny,


or inspirational way.

But guess what happened after

I’ve been doing that for years?

I began to ask why their stories

and claims were so interesting.

Why are they cute?

Why do people laugh at them?

Why are they creative?

Why do people connect with them?

Before long,

I was learning from the quotes

I had gathered how to create my own creative and memorable ideas.

It took my communication skills to a whole new level.

And better than that,

it also stimulates my personal growth and achievement.

A wealthy person is simply someone who has learned how to make money

when they are not working. ― Robert Kiyosaki



Am I born curious?

Or was it injected into me afterwards?

I don’t know either,

but I do know:

I’ve continued to be curious

and nurtured that curiosity throughout my life.

And that’s important

because I believe curiosity is the key

to being a lifelong learner,

and if you want to keep growing,

you have to keep learning.

Curious people crave knowledge.

They are interested in lives,



experiences and events;

they live in a constant state of wanting to learn more.

They keep asking why?

Curiosity is the main catalyst for voluntary learning.

Curious people need not be encouraged

to ask questions or explore.

They just kept doing it

– always.

They know that trails to discover are as exciting

as discoveries themselves,

because there are great things

to be learned along the way.

Curiosity helps one to think

and expand possibilities beyond the average person.

The question why?

spark the imagination.

It leads to discovery.

It opens up options.

It takes people above mediocrity

and leads an extraordinary life.

You don’t know how deep the river is,

but as someone once said:

“The world belongs to those

who cross the river in their imagination

before anyone does it.”

I believe that is

why the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein said:

“Every meaningful and lasting change starts

with your imagination

and then works its way.

” Einstein made his great inventions

because he was a curious person.

And he considers his curious nature and imagination

to be his greatest qualities.

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it. — Bob Hope



I like curious people.

I love spending time

with them and chatting with them.

Their excitement for knowledge

and learning is contagious.

I often wonder why so many people are not curious.

Too many people seem indifferent.

Why don’t they ask why?

Are some people born without the desire to learn?

Or are they lazy?

Or has life become so cliché that they don’t mind

when they’re living a boring life,

doing the same things day in and day out?

Can such people “awaken” their minds

and become more curious

so that personal growth becomes more natural to them?

I hope yes.

I believe yes.

That’s why I wrote this chapter.

And that’s

why I recommend following these 10 tips to foster curiosity:

If you invest nothing,

the reward is worth little. ― Richelle E. Goodrich


1. Believe you can be curious

Many people fill their minds with limiting beliefs.

Their lack of confidence

or self-esteem causes them

to create barriers for themselves

and impose restrictions on how

and what they think.


They fail to reach their potential

– not because they lack competence,

but because they

they don’t want to be willing

to expand their beliefs

and break new foundations.

We cannot achieve disproportionately superior

to what we think within.

You can’t be the person you believe you can’t be.

But the good news is:

You can change your mind

and thereby change your life.

Allow yourself to be curious.

The biggest difference between curious,

progressive people and the rest is the belief that

they can learn, grow,

and change.

As I explained in the chapter

The Principles of Intention,

you have to stick to growth.

Knowledge, understanding

and wisdom will not find you.

You have to find them.

The best way to do that is to be curious.

The biggest difference between people

who are curious,

growing and those

who are not curious

or growing is the belief that they can learn,


and change.

Opportunity lies in the place where the complaints are. ― Jack Ma


2. Have a Beginner’s Mindset

The way you approach life

and learning has nothing to do with age.

You can do anything with your attitude.

Having a beginner’s mindset means asking yourself

why and asking lots of questions

until you have the answers.

It also means openness and vulnerability.

If your attitude is like that of a beginner,

you have no image to defend and desire

to learn more to save face.

You are not influenced by preset principles

or the so-called accept-ability mindset.

“My biggest strength as a consultant is being clueless

and asking a few questions,”

says management expert Peter Drucker.

That’s a beginner’s mindset.

“My biggest strength as a consultant is being clueless

and asking a few questions.”– Peter Drucker

People with a “beginner mindset” approach life the way a child does:

with curiosity.

They were like a little girl asking her mother question after question.

Finally the mother had to shout:

“Oh, please don’t ask so many questions, baby.

Curiosity killed the cat!”

After a few minutes of thinking, the child continued to ask,

“So, what does the cat want to know, Mom?”

The opposite of those

with a beginner’s mindset are the know-it-all.

They consider themselves experts.

They have a lot of knowledge,

education and experience,

so instead of asking

why and starting to listen,

they start talking and giving answers.

Anytime a person answers more than questions,

you can be sure that they have slowed down their growth

and have lost their motivation

for personal growth.

Anytime a person answers more than questions,

you can be sure

that they have slowed down their growth

and have lost their motivation for personal growth.

You mind is like the bank,

what you deposit is what you can withdraw. ― Warren Buffett


3. Make “why” your favorite word

Albert Einstein said,

“It is important not to stop asking.

Curiosity has its own reason for existence.

One can do nothing

but marvel as one contemplates the mysteries of eternity,

of life,

of the wondrous structure of reality.

That’s enough if one is just trying

to understand a little bit of this mystery every day.

Never lose your holy curiosity.”

The secret to maintaining that “holy curiosity” is

to always ask why.

In my early years as a leader,

I thought I was supposed to be an answering machine.

No matter what someone asks,

I guide,


and answer questions clearly

– whether I really know what I’m doing or not!

As an adult,

I’ve discovered that development leaders focus on asking questions

instead of answering them.

The more we ask, the better we,

as a team,

will get.

And the urge to ask more questions increases.

These days I always force myself to learn about the people I meet.

I have become a questioning machine.

Speaker and author Brian tracy says:

“A great stimulus for creative thinking are focused questions.

There is something about a carefully worded question

that often hits the heart of the matter

and generates new ideas and insights.”

Most focus questions begin with the word “Why”.

Words can really help clarify an issue.

And what matters is how you ask the question.

People with a victim mindset will ask,

“Why me?”

Not because they want to know why,

but because they feel sorry for themselves.

Curious people ask questions to find solutions

so they can continue

to progress and grow.

Scientist and philosopher Georg Christoph Lichtenberg observed:

“One’s first step towards wisdom is

to question everything

and the last step is to accept everything.”

It is the basis for continuous development.

Ask why.


Rate what you discover.


That’s a pretty cool recipe for growth.

Never forget,

whoever knows all the answers is not asking the right questions.

The single most powerful asset we all have is our mind.

If it is trained well,

it can create enormous wealth in what seems to be an instant. — Robert Kiyosaki


4. Spend time with other curious people

When you think about curiosity,

growth and learning,

do you think about formal education?

I think that in the early school years,

curiosity is encouraged,

but after that, it is not.

Most formal education programs direct people to answers,

not questions.

If you were in college,

how many times have you seen a professor ask students

to stop asking questions

so he could finish or finish his syllabus?

Do you see an open and information-seeking attitude in organizations?

Usually not.

Most corporations don’t try to encourage curiosity.

Jerry Hirshberg, in his book The Creative Priority:

Putting Innovation to work in your business, writes:

No one in a company deliberately stifles an innovative idea.

However, a traditional bureaucratic structure,

with its need for predictability,

linear logic,

acceptance of standards,

and the dictates of the most recent “foresight” vision statements,

is a standard machine.

Kill the idea almost perfectly.

Everyone in the group retreated to the safety

of the familiar and well-controlled.

Even creators do.

That’s easier.

It avoids ambiguity,

the fear of the unpredictable,

the threat of the unfamiliar,

and the confusion of human intuition and emotions.

So what do you have to do to foster curiosity

and stimulate growth?

You have to look for other curious people.

A few years ago,

Margaret and I went to Jordan on vacation.

We love history and art,

and over the years we have heard

and read about Petra,

the old city built of sandstone.

If you’ve seen Indiana Jones and the last Crusade,

you may remember the stone facade engraved

with a message about

where the Holy Grail is hidden.

That scene in the movie was filmed outside the Treasury in Petra.

When we visited Petra,

we walked many miles.

At the time,

I needed knee replacement surgery,

so I found the experience difficult and painful.

By lunchtime,

I was exhausted

and had terrible knee pain.

As we were eating, the guide told us

there was a nicer place

to see what’s carved in the rock.

It was on the next mountain,

and we could see it,

but we had to climb it ourselves.

Most people choose not to participate.

Like me, they were tired.

I also refused.

But as we sat down for lunch

and a few people decided

to join in and get ready to go,

I started to wonder.

They were curious and excited about the trip,

and their excitement began

to excite and inspire me.

Arousing my former curiosity and unable

to bear the thought of missing something,


and I decided to join the group.

It took us an hour to climb the mountain

and two hours to get back,

but it was worth it.

I didn’t even mind having

to soak my knees in a hotel room all night.

Being surrounded

by curious people is amazing.

I don’t know of a better way

to nurture and maintain curiosity.

If you want to be financially-free,

you need to become a different person than you are today

and let go of whatever has held you back in the past. — Robert Kiyosaki


5. Learn something new every day

One of the best ways to stay curious is

to start each day with a determination

to learn something new,

experience something different,

or meet someone you don’t know.

Doing this requires three things.

First, you must wake up

with an open mind

to new things.

You have to treat that day as a day filled

with opportunities to learn.

Second, you must stay open and receptive

to new information throughout the day.

Most unsuccessful people accept their day

as it should be,

see things as they are, and simply look forward

to the end of the day.

Most successful people stick to their day,

focus on it,

and ignore distractions.

Developing people both focus

and maintain a sensitivity

and awareness

that helps them embrace new experiences.

The third factor is thinking.

Seeing something new without taking the time

to think about it doesn’t work.

The same goes for hearing something new without applying it.

I’ve found that the best way

to learn something new is

to take time at the end of the day

to ask yourself questions

that make you think about what you’ve learned.

Over the years,

I’ve made it a habit to sum up the day

and list the highlights.


experience is not the best teacher;

It’s the experience that has been evaluated.

Experience is not the best teacher;

It’s the experience that has been evaluated.

The philosophy of the rich and the poor is this:

the rich invest their money and spend what is left.

The poor spend their money and invest what is left. — Robert Kiyosaki


6. Reaping from failures

A curious, developed person sees failure in a completely different way

than a non-curious person.

Most people see failures,


and flaws as signs of weakness.

When they fail, they say,

“I will never do that again!”

But developers see failure as a sign of progress.

They know that there must also be times

when they fail in a series of attempts.

It’s part of a curious journey.

Therefore, they befriend failure.

When failure is your friend, you don’t ask,

“How can I stay away from this experience?”,

instead, you ask,

“Why is this happening?

What can I learn?

How can I grow from here?”

As a result,

you fail fast, learn fast,

and try again faster.

That leads to future growth and success.

A smile puts you on the right track.

A smile makes the world a beautiful place.

When you lose your smile,

you lose your way in the chaos of life. ― Roy T. Bennett


7. Stop looking for the right answer

By nature, I am someone who is always looking for options.

However, I know that there are many people

with unusual personality types looking

for the right answer to any question.

Believe it or not, that’s the point.

People with this “single solution” mindset are not

in the best position to learn and grow.

Why? Because there is always more

than one solution to a problem.

If you believe there is only one solution,

you may feel frustrated

because you cannot find it,

or if you think you have found it,

you stop looking and may miss out on new ideas,

thought better.

Also, when you get what you think is right,

you become complacent.

No idea is perfect.

No matter how good it is,

it can always be improved.

You’ve probably heard the saying,

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This sentence is definitely

not from someone determined to grow personally.

If that has been your mindset in the past,

I recommend you change to the mindset

of the person asking the question and replace it

with the following:

• If it’s not broken,

how can we make it better?

• If it doesn’t fail,

when is it likely to fail in the future?

• If it doesn’t break,

how long will it last when the world changes?

Curious people are constantly asking questions,

and as a result,

they are constantly learning.

A few years ago,

I sold my companies

so I could focus my energy

and spend more time writing and speaking.

But after a while,

I got nervous.

I can see that the resources

I’ve developed over the years to help others grow

and learn to lead have not reached everyone the way

I thought they would.

So in 2011 I bought them

and started the John Maxwell Company

so I could direct that process again.

I’m so glad I love my team.

The team is small,

consisting of people who are agile,


and talented.

I put everything in their hands

and let them do as they please.

And I told them I wanted them

to come to work every morning

with the mindset that there was a better way

to do everything they did,

determined to find out

who could help them learn how to do it,

and willing to do anything better than ever.

And they have been doing so!

Roger von Oech,

author of A Whack on the Side of the Head says:

“Almost every advance in art,


medicine agriculture,





and design happened

when someone challenged the principles

and tried a different approach.”

If you want to avoid growing too comfortable

and becoming should stagnate,

continue to question and challenge the process.

Keep asking if there is a better way to do things.

Would that make complacent

and lazy people uncomfortable?

Right. Will it energize, challenge

and inspire those who are growing?


“Almost every advancement in art,






politics, education,

and design has happened

when someone challenged the principles

and tried a different approach is different.”– Roger von Oech


8. Overcome yourself

If you ask questions and let yourself fail,

there will be times

when you will look stupid.

Everyone doesn’t like that.

Do you know what my reaction is?

Overcome yourself! As Roger von Oech put it:

“If we hadn’t tried anything

that would make us look ridiculous,

we’d still just eat the fur in the hole.”

Instead, we need to think like children.

What I like about the kids is that they always ask.

They don’t think the question is silly.

They just ask.

They don’t worry about

whether they’d be foolish

to try something new.

They just do it.

And as a result, they learn.

Richal Thalheimer,

founder of Sharper Image, says,

“It is better to appear stupid than

to be really stupid.

Let go of your ego and keep asking questions.”

That is great advice.

 Spend more time with the solution than with the problem. — Tony Robbins


9. Get out of the rut

I love the words of inventor Thomas Edison:

“There are no rules here!

We’re trying to make something happen!”

Edison always tries to innovate,

thinking out of the way.

Most groundbreaking ideas break existing conventions.

They upset the old order.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Life is an experiment.

The more you experiment,

the better you do.”

“There are no rules here!

We’re trying to make something happen!”– Thomas Edison

I value creative thinking,

and I am easily frustrated by those

who refuse to think outside of their own self-imposed ways.

When failure is your friend,

you don’t ask,

“How can I stay away from this experience?”,


you ask,

“Why is this happening?

What can I learn?

How can I grow from here?”

As a result,

you fail fast,

learn fast,

and try again faster.

That leads to future growth and success.

There is no such thing as failure, there are only result. — Tony Robbins


10. Enjoy your life

Perhaps the best way to stay curious

and keep growing is to enjoy life.

Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence,


“The race will be on those

who are curious,

a little crazy,

and those who have faith.

Endless passion for learning

and daring to find.”

I believe that thanks to God,

we can enjoy life

and live it well.

That means we have to take risks

– sometimes failure,

sometimes success,

but always learning.

As you enjoy your life,

the lines between work

and play begin to blur.

We do what we love and love what we do.

Everything becomes a learning experience.

Always deliver more than expected. — Larry Page



Would you say that someone who earned a doctorate,

was a professor at a prestigious university,

and won a Nobel Prize in physics must have reached his

or her full potential?

What if you also learned

that the person was invited

to help invent the first atomic bomb in the Manhattan Project

when he was only 20 years old?

It’s a remarkable achievement, isn’t it?

What is the key to such a person’s success?

Most people would guess intelligence.

But this scientist is famous

for having an above average IQ of just 125.4

Sure, he is smart,

but the real secret to his growth and success is curiosity.

His name is Richard Feynman (pronounced Fine-man).

The son of a uniform salesman from New York City,

Richard is always encouraged

to ask questions and think for himself.

At the age of 11,

he created electrical circuits,

did experiments at home,

and soon gained a reputation

for his ability to repair radios.

He was always exploring,


questioning why.

He began studying algebra in elementary school.

He was very good at trigonometry

and both calculus and differential at the age of 15.5

When his high school physics teacher started

getting upset with him,

he gave him a book and said,

“You talk too much and make noise.

You know why?

I have nothing to do.

Read this book and

when you know everything in the book,

you can continue talking.”

It’s an advanced calculus textbook

for college students!

Feynman has covered it all.

It became another tool in his toolbox

for learning about the world.

He was extremely fond of puzzles and decoding.

When he was in high school,

Richard’s classmates knew this

and threw him all sorts of puzzles,

equations, geometry, etc.

they could find.

You can handle it all.

Don’t count the things you do,

do the things that count. — Zig Ziglar



Feynman’s desire to know why prompted him

to study anything and everything.

He was not only interested in physics or mathematics.

Any idea might interest him.

For example, while majoring in physics at MIT,

he took a summer job as a chemist.

While studying for a PhD at Princeton,

he had lunch with fellows in other fields

to see what questions they were asking

and what problems they were trying to solve.

Thus, he obtained both a doctorate in philosophy and biology.

That curiosity continued throughout his life.

One summer he decided

to conduct genetic research.

Another time,

while on vacation in Guatemala,

he taught himself how

to read ancient Mayan script,

which led to mathematical

and astronomical discoveries about an ancient manuscript.

He became an expert in art,

learned to draw,

and knew enough to have a one-on-one performance.

He was a lifelong learner.

Feynman’s curiosity also waned at times.

That was after years of devoting himself

to the Manhattan project.

He was going through a period of stagnation

and thought he was down.

He lost his will to explore.

But then he discovered the problem.

Feynman wrote:

I used to love doing physics.

Why do I like it?

I used it to play…

For me, it doesn’t matter whether it is important

to the development of nuclear physics,

but it is important to have fun

and be interesting.

When I was in high school,

I saw water coming out of an increasingly narrow faucet,

and wondered

if I could find out what determines that curve.

I find that pretty easy to do.

I don’t have to do that;

it doesn’t matter to the future of science;

someone else has already done it,

it doesn’t make any difference:

I discover things

and play with them for my own amusement.

So I embraced this new attitude.

Now I am stagnant,

and will never achieve anything…

I will play with physics,

whenever I want,

without worrying about any importance.11

That change in mind allowed him

to awaken his curiosity

and cure the disease of “stagnation”.

As a result he began to ask why back.

Not long after,

he saw a man in the university dining room spin a plate by tossing it.

He wondered why the disc was spinning

and spinning like that.

He relied on math to figure out the principle

and drew some drawings,

just for fun.

The graphs and math he did in doing this,

which he called “fun fiddling with the turntable,”

are what led to him receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics.12

So what he did eventually work for science.

But it happened simply

because he wanted to find out

why to satisfy his curiosity!

Feynman lived by the Curiosity Principle.

How about you?

For the answer,

ask yourself these 10 questions:

1. Do you believe you can be curious?

2. Do you have a beginner’s mindset?

3. Do you make why your favorite word?

4. Do you spend time with curious people?

5. Do you learn something new every day?

6. Do you reap from failure?

7. Have you stopped looking for the right answer?

8. Have you overcome yourself?

9. Are you out of the rut?

10. Do you enjoy life?

If the answers are yes,

then you are probably curious.

If not, you need to change.

And you can change.

Being able to answer

Yes to these questions has nothing

to do with natural intelligence,

talent level,

or access to opportunity.

The point lies in being curious

and willing to ask why?

Author Dorothy Parker says:

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.

There is no cure for curiosity.”

That is very true.

When you are curious,

the whole world opens up

before you

and there are very few restrictions on

what you can learn

and how you can grow.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.

There is no cure for curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker



1. Think of three to five major areas in your life

where you focus most of your time and energy.

How do you see yourself in each of those areas?

Do you think you are an expert

or a beginner?

If you see yourself as an expert,

you could be in trouble

when it comes to further development.

Beginners know they have a lot to learn

and are open to every possible idea.

They are ready to think outside the box.

They are not limited to pre-existing concepts.

They are willing to try new things.

If you have a beginner’s mindset,

do everything you can to maintain it.

If you already think of yourself as an expert,


Find a way to reawaken the beginner’s attitude.

Find a mentor who is ahead

of you in that area.

Do what Richard Feynman did:

Find joy again.

Be the positive impact on the lives of others. ― Roy T. Bennett 


2. Make a list of the people

with whom you spend the most time in a given week.

Now rate each person on their level of curiosity.

Most are people who like

to ask questions?

Do they often ask why?

Do they enjoy learning new things?

If not, you need to make some intentional changes

to spend time with more curious people.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. ― Benjamin Franklin


3. One of the biggest obstacles to curiosity

and learning is the reluctance

to look silly in the eyes of others.

There are two easy ways to tell

if this is a potential problem in your life:

The first is fear of failure.

The second is to take yourself too seriously.

The cure is to take

what I call a “learning risk”.

Sign up to do

or learn something

that takes you out of your comfort zone.

Take an art class.

Sign up for dance classes.

Study a martial art.

Learn a foreign language.

Find a calligraphy or miniatures master to study.

Just make sure you choose something that makes you happy,

your field of study cannot be seen as an expert,

and is outside your comfort zone.

A wealthy person is simply someone who has learned how to make money

when they are not working. ― Robert Kiyosaki

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