As young children, we begin our quest for the answers to “Why?” It’s an innocent curiosity that is present in every encounter, every conversation, and every thought. And it’s part of the wonder of being a child. Discovering the world and what makes it tick.
As we enter adulthood, this wonder matures and evolves into a deeper intellectual curiosity. It’s one of the most important traits we possess – and is key to our professional success, personal happiness and overall fulfillment. But in today’s legal profession, the presence of intellectual curiosity has diminished. And not enough professionals look beyond what’s in front of them, think deeper…or display an interest in connecting more dots.
So what’s driving the decline? For some lawyers, unhappy and unfulfilling careers quash their desire to inquire. Some are in cruise control – content or apathetic with their lot. And others are uninspired by their surroundings and discouraged by the lack of support for their contributions.
Whether your state of mind aligns with the list above or you find yourself elsewhere on the spectrum, turning up the volume on your intellectual curiosity is an exercise that will increase your engagement and enhance the quality of your professional experience. It will also elevate your game and make others take notice. So for those who aspire to learn more, grow more…and be more, I recommend a daily practice of asking “Why?”
It’s not exactly a tall order, but one that is prone to neglect. So success requires intent and practice. And the strategy is simple: Each day, pick one topic, one issue, one encounter…one “thing” and pursue additional insight and information. Ask questions and seek answers…beyond the motions, beyond your job description, beyond your pay grade. Because the daily pursuit of Why will broaden your mind, make you a better and happier professional…and strengthen your skills as a leader. For those who need guidance, below are a few topics of inquiry to kick-start your practice:
- How much do know about your current/potential employer? Its financials, investors, culture, competitors? How can you learn more about the industry or profession: Where is it heading? What are the challenges? Where is the opportunity to succeed? How can you discover the bigger picture? Who are the best people to learn from?
- Your Current Role. How can you make it better? More efficient? Add more value? Where does…and can it fit in the company? What else can you learn to work more effectively? Can it be more? Should it be more?
- Client Interactions. How can you enhance the interactions with your clients (internal and external)? What do they care about? What more can you learn about them? What ways can you converse on broader topics, share ideas and collaborate on problem solving? Are there new ways to provide better service?
- People Around You. What do they do and how does it fit in to the professional landscape? What makes them tick? How can this understanding help build better and more satisfying partnerships? How can you be of service to others?
- How can you contribute more ideas, thoughts, opinions and solutions in meetings? Set goals for what you want to contribute, learn and accomplish in your meetings.
- Go beyond Internet preparation and understand the big picture and how your background fits in. Bring ideas and an informed perspective to the table.
Intellectual curiosity is a vital piece of the happiness and leadership puzzle. And while professionals tend to focus on tasks to “advance their careers,” this practice is about more money, a bigger title or climbing the corporate ladder. It’s about invigorating your mind, learning new things, being engaged and understanding how things work. It’s about applying these things to solve problems and lead others. Perhaps most important, it’s about being a better person. And from there, personal and professional success will flow…and that…is a wondrous thing.