I had shared my experience as a teenager when the steel industry collapsed, and my father dying all around the same time.
It was 360-degree despondence (Episode 1). My hopes of gaining the skills to build a resume and a career were dashed, and my support system to help me build a profound character was eliminated. I was caught in a thick, amorphous fog.
It was never easy and rarely comfortable, but I made it all work. In hindsight, the one endowment that I credit with my triumph is curiosity. At a deep level, I had a profound need to get to the root of why. Curiosity was my flashlight.
I wanted to find out why I was angry, reactive, unhappy, maladjusted, different, insecure, fearful, anxious, and most of all, lost?
My naiveté made me a susceptible sucker to emotional reactivity. Those emotions led to impaired thoughts which led to ineffective and unproductive actions. I was moving in the wrong direction! But why?
Curiosity: A precursor to life’s answers
My curiosity and asking why? led me to books. That’s where I found solace and better strategies.
For example, when I read what the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant wrote in the 1700s, humankind must emerge from a self-incurred immaturity. I thought, that resonated with my experience!
I then asked, who else had a similar experience? The answers were endless.
- Abraham Lincoln strived to get ahead by writing disparaging stories, criticizing others, creating division, and attempting to embarrass his opponents publicly. Unhappiness, anger, and discontentment seeped from his writing.
- Ben Franklin was pulled aside by a family friend at a young age. Advised that if he didn’t change his overconfident, superior, and condescending ways, he would have no future
- Recently, Howard Stern published a book citing his anger, embarrassingly arrogant and narcissistic past.
- Bruce Springsteen said pretty much the same thing. If you don’t take on the project of self-realization, you’ll be lost in the wilderness. Creeping anger, frustration, and humiliation will accumulate and take you over like an avalanche.
Like me, these people made it all work. What I see in their experience is the precursor of curiosity. And a hope that we can improve.
Here’s the formula in as few words as possible.
Curiosity: A precursor to life’s answers. Curiosity leads to awareness. Awareness leads to developing insight and understanding. From that place of increased knowledge—not university knowledge but a more profound life knowledge, one realizes; I can change, you can change, and together we can change the world.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead