It Wasn’t Curiosity That Killed the Cat

Lack of curiosity is holding people back from having a better job and fulling life. Having taught more than 1000 business courses, I have seen the same issue with thousands of students. The success of those who lack curiosity pales in comparison to those who embrace it. Over the last decade, I have researched the importance of curiosity to improve performance. I have also learned how successful individuals value and develop curiosity through interviewing hundreds of guests on my show. That has led to my interest in doing further research for my forthcoming book about curiosity.


Curiosity is a strong desire to learn or know something. Curiosity can be viewed as either state or trait curiosity. If it is fleeting as with a reaction, that would be considered state curiosity. It occurs when we see a reward associated with reacting to something. The other way of looking at curiosity is something that resides within us. That would be considered trait curiosity. Studies often attempt to measure trait curiosity, which can be challenging.

Curiosity is not unique to humans. Animals also display curiosity. The Max Planck Institute coined the term “curiosity gene” based on their work researching a songbird. The gene is the Drd4gene that deals with dopamine in the birds’ receptors. This institute researched how birds explore unfamiliar objects in their cage. Researchers have also discovered an increase in dopamine when animals display curious behavior (source: PhysOrg). Dopamine has been called the reward molecule because it makes us feel good. Not only did curiosity not kill the cat, it made it feel better.

If curiosity makes us feel good, why don’t we try to develop it more? Because there are things that hold us back from being curious, including fear, our family values, technology doing things for us, and even our sense of how we think things should be done as they always have been in the past. We risk growth if we fail to develop our sense of curiosity. Curiosity urges us to roam outside of our comfort zone. Part of what makes us want to take the leap and explore something new is what we see as the payoff vs. the cost for taking that action.

The key is to recognize the things that hold us back from exploring our curiosity and work on developing our natural sense of curiosity. Whenever we feel trepidation when trying something new, we can look at what stops us and work on our inner voice. If we enter with a clear mind, ask questions, and try to diversify our interests, the world is our oyster. And for those of you who are curious about that expression, it means that you are in a position to take the opportunities that life has to offer and originates from Shakespeare’s play The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was originally written as “the world’s mine oyster.”

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