The Most Powerful Trait of the Most Successful People

At a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.

Eleanor Roosevelt
[5-min read]

When you were a kid, everything was a mystery waiting to be solved. You would ask endless questions, eager to learn more.

My 4-year-old daughter is that kid who is always asking “Why?” And I hope she never outgrows it.

As we age, it’s easy to lose our intense curiosity. Life gets busy. Responsibilities pile up. We get into routines. We stop asking questions.

Yet curiosity is the spark that ignites personal growth and innovation. It’s what drives you to learn, discover, and push beyond your comfort zone.

Three of my favorite stories of people who made a huge impact on the world all stem from their ability to stay curious:

Steve Jobs

When Steve Jobs was a young boy, he was intrigued by electronics and how things worked. He spent countless hours in his garage, taking apart and rebuilding gadgets, driven by an insatiable curiosity.

This fascination didn’t just stay a childhood hobby. It grew into a lifelong quest for innovation and excellence.

His curiosity led him to co-found Apple, revolutionizing technology and design. His ability to question the status quo and explore uncharted territories resulted in groundbreaking products like the iPhone and MacBook, which transformed the way we live and work.

His journey demonstrates the power of curiosity. By constantly asking "What if?" and "Why not?" Jobs not only built a tech empire but also changed the world.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie’s journey started with a simple question: How can I contribute to science?

Born in Poland, she moved to Paris to pursue her curiosity in physics and chemistry. Despite facing immense challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field, she never let her curiosity wane.

Curie’s relentless exploration led to the discovery of radioactivity. She became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields. Her groundbreaking work has had a lasting impact on medicine and science.

Curie’s story shows that curiosity can break barriers and lead to monumental achievements. Her quest for knowledge not only expanded scientific horizons but also paved the way for future generations of women in science.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, one of history’s greatest polymaths, exemplified the power of curiosity.

From a young age, he was fascinated by everything around him. From the human body to the mechanics of flying. He filled countless notebooks with observations, sketches, and questions, constantly seeking to understand the world.

His curiosity drove him to make advancements in art, science, and engineering. Da Vinci’s innovative thinking led to masterpieces like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, as well as visionary ideas for inventions like helicopters and tanks.

Leonardo’s insatiable curiosity didn’t just make him a brilliant artist. It made him a pioneer in numerous fields. His life is a reminder that curiosity can fuel creativity and lead to extraordinary accomplishments.

The Science of Curiosity

Curiosity goes beyond helping you find creative solutions to challenges. It also has profound benefits for your mind:

  • It enhances learning and memory. When you’re curious about a topic, you process information more deeply and retain it longer.

  • It boosts problem-solving skills. Curiosity drives you to ask questions, explore different perspectives, and find creative solutions.

  • It keeps your brain young. Engaging in novel, mentally stimulating activities can slow cognitive decline as you age.

In short, curiosity is like a workout for your brain. The more you flex your curiosity muscles, the stronger and more agile your mind becomes.

Check out my below infographic with some questions to discover if you have a curious mind or a closed mind. Click the image for a high-res PDF version.

Making It Work for You

So how can you rekindle your sense of wonder? Here are some practical tips:

1. Adopt a beginner’s mindset. Approach familiar topics as if you’re learning about them for the first time. Ask basic questions and challenge assumptions.

2. Read widely. Explore subjects outside your usual interests. Read fiction and non-fiction, news articles, and academic papers. Diverse knowledge fuels curiosity.

3. Talk to people different from you. Seek out conversations with people from various backgrounds and fields. Their unique perspectives can spark new ideas and questions.

4. Take on challenges. Step outside your comfort zone and try new things, whether it’s a hobby, a project at work, or traveling to a new place. Discomfort stimulates growth.

5. Schedule “curiosity time.” Set aside dedicated time to pursue your interests, whether it's 30 minutes a day or a few hours on weekends. Treat curiosity as a priority.

Small steps like these can reignite your innate sense of wonder. Over time, curiosity becomes a habit — one that enriches your mind and your life.

Diving Deeper

For more on the power of curiosity, check out these resources:

Book: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. Get better at embracing the unknown and the joy of being wrong.

TED Talk: How Curiosity Will Save Us by Mónica Guzmán. Find out why curiosity is the most powerful tool we have to navigate our world.

Podcast: Curiosity Daily by Discovery. This award-winning podcast will help you get smarter about the world around you.

Connecting the Dots

In a world of rapid change and uncertainty, curiosity is a crucial skill. It allows you to adapt, innovate, and find meaning in your life.

So take a cue from your childhood self. Keep embracing that wide-eyed wonder and never stop asking “Why?”

Until next time, stay curious, my friend.