Stay Curious for Career Success

Steve Jobs ended his famous Stanford commencement address with these words…

“Stay hungry.  Stay Foolish.”

Pretty good career success advice.  I’d like to add another piece of career advice though – stay curious.

Cathy and I visited her mother during the holidays.  When we were there I spent some time in Cathy’s father’s home office.  Roy Blackman passed away a few years ago, but his library is still there.  I began looking at the titles on his bookshelf.  Their diversity amazed me.

In addition to a lot of history books and a great collection of novels, I found these titles…

  • Adventures With a Hand Lens
  • Hunting With a Microscope
  • How to Clean Practically Anything
  • Juggling for the Complete Klutz
  • Isaac Asimov’s Book of Facts
  • The Formula Book: Easy, Safe Instructions for making Hundreds of Personal Care and Household Products
  • The World’s 100 Best Short Stories
  • The Best of Health
  • Insects
  • The Way Things Work
  • The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbs
  • Invest with the Best
  • Roget’s Thesaurus
  • Sisson’s Word and Expression Locator
  • English/Spanish Dictionary
  • The Oxford English Dictionary – Cathy’s mother gave me this one to take home

These books show that Roy Blackman was a curious man.  He wanted to know a little bit about a lot of different things.  This type of curiosity can serve you well as you go about creating your life and career success.  Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it helped her become a life and career success.

I have always been curious.  In my neighborhood in Ambridge PA it was very common for grandparents, parent and lids to share the same house.  My grandparents lived upstairs from us.  The same was true for the Hronas family who lived next door.

Old Mr. Hronas (my friend’s grandfather – or “Papou” as they called him in Greek – was one of my favorites.  He was kind and patient.  But sometimes I could drive crazy with my questions.  I remember him saying to me, “Why, why, why Bud.  All you do as ask why.  You want to know so much.  Doesn’t your brain ever get tired?”  To be truthful, my brain never does get tired.  I always want to understand things.

This curiosity has served me well in my life and career.  When I first joined Marathon Oil about 35 years ago, I found a copy of a book the company had commissioned on its history called Portrait in Oil on a bookshelf in my work area.  I took it home and read it.  It provided some great insight into the company I had just joined and how it came to be what it was.

In those days Marathon was located in a small town in Ohio about 45 miles from the Toledo Airport.  Often, a group of us would make the trip to the airport in a company car.  When I had been with the company for about three months, I had a conversation about the company with a fairly senior executive who was sitting in the back seat with me on one of those trips.

He said, “How long did you say you were with us?”  I said, “Three months.”  He said, “You know more about this company than a lot of people who have worked here for 10 years or more.  How did you learn all this stuff?”

I told him that I read Portrait in Oil and the company’s annual reports for the past five years.  He was impressed.  After he got back from his trip, he invited me to his office.  He became my mentor, helping advance in the company – all because I was curious about the company I joined and took the time to learn more about it.

My sister is like me.  Betty is a CPA who has developed a specialty in Sarbanes Oxley or SOX– the law which set new or enhanced standards for all U.S public company boards, management and public accounting firms. It was a reaction to a number of major corporate accounting scandals at companies like Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, and World com. Basically, the law was passed so senior executives like Ken Lay and Dennis Kozlowski could not say that they were unaware of some shady dealings carried out by the people who worked for them.

Most people considered SOX to be a headache, and more work for accounting and internal audit departments.  Betty saw it as an opportunity.  She delved into the Code of Federal Regulations, curious to learn about the new law and how it applied to her company.  She became and expert and saved her company a couple hundred thousand of dollars in outside accounting fees the first year the law went into effect.  Her curiosity got her a nice bonus and promotion.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.  All you have to do is look around you.  Be curious.  Learn everything you can and you’ll be on the road to the life and career success you deserve.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Curiosity didn’t kill the cat it helped her create the life and career success she deserves.  Successful people are curious.  They want to learn everything they can about the important things that affect their life and career success.  Be curious.  Learn something new as often as you can.  Put these learnings to work in your life and career and you’ll succeed.  I guarantee it – after all it’s only common sense.

That’s my career advice on curiosity.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  Better yet, please share a situation in which your curiosity paid off for you in your life and career.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.

Bud

PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.

 

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Comments

  1. I really enjoyed your story about impressing the Marathon Oil executive, and also learning that you used to work for Marathon oil. I also liked it that he became your mentor.

  2. Lynne:
    That atory illustrates the importance of being curious.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Bud

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