Tuesday, April 6, 2010
“Star-Stuck”: Stop Censoring and Begin Championing your Curiosity (inspired by my weekend talking to ghosts and ghost hunters)
It is not every weekend that I get to go ghost hunting, nor is it every weekend that I get to meet and hang out with the people that I watch on TV on a weekly basis. So you can imagine my delight (if not outright glee) when my boyfriend surprised me with a TAPS(The Atlantic Paranormal Society) ghost hunting weekend at The Spalding Inn in New Hampshire lead by Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson, and Brit Griffith whom you may know from the Syfy hit show Ghost Hunters.
It is no secret that Ghost Hunters is one of my favorite shows. Watching Jason, Grant and the team calmly explore extremely creepy places, debunk hauntings as rattling pipes, etc. and enthusiastically document unexplained incidents, is a weekly ritual. It appeals to my Nancy Drew-side with its mix of adventure, practicality, and the uplifting knowledge that there are mysteries out there to be explored.
So when I found myself standing next to Jason Hawes in the lobby on the first night of the weekend, you can understand that a.) it felt unbelievably surreal and b.) that I experienced my first case of (subtly) being “star-struck.” More importantly, for the purposes of this creative thinking blog, I would like to call it “star-stuck,” meaning that I suddenly had an incredible opportunity to have a memorable conversation and receive the answers to about 10,000 of my ghost hunting questions (or at least say something interesting to a very normal and cool person) but I found that my internal dialogue was being censored by my preconceptions. I didn’t want to say something that every other fan had most likely said. I didn’t want to pester him with a question that he had most likely answered a zillion times. I opened my mouth and the only thing I managed to say during this fantastic opportunity was “I really enjoy the show.” Lame.
With the entire weekend still stretching before me, I resolved that a moment like that would not happen again, not with the TAPS team or with any other person that I found interesting and had the opportunity to meet in my lifetime. For me, the ironic part was that since I teach, and also present to clients at work, I know what it is like to answer questions, and frankly, they are my favorite part of any presentation. Questions are great because they give you a place to start an interesting conversation. So, with that knowledge, I bolstered my courage. I also made a list of all of the things I had ever wondered during the show and identified my key questions: have they ever encountered any people living in the abandoned buildings? Were there any situations where they had felt afraid? Do they do anything special to master or control their fear when being in an unfamiliar (and sometimes sinister) place?
Not only did I get to ask my questions to Jay and Grant at the Q&A session on Saturday, but also afterwards when we were hanging out in the lobby and the pub. During the investigation time, I even volunteered to ask questions to the ghost of Mr. Spalding who haunts the inn—and (through the K2 meter)—he answered back. Now that, is a memorable conversation.
I took many great things away from this experience, but one of the inspiration points for me was tapping into my curiosity and taking advantage of those rare chances you have to ask questions. One of the ways that I am continuing to cultivate this is by keeping a question list in my sketchbook. It is a great source of new discovery points, especially as I try and let my imagine run wild. This means I ask questions such as “What would I have asked Jim Henson if I met him?” or “What was Edison’s inspiration for the lightbulb?” In making it somewhat limitless—out of the boundaries of time and space reality—I discover a lot of cool things that I want to explore.
Within the more practical boundaries of reality, this is also a very helpful activity for when you are going to lectures, discussion panels, or networking events. I recommend identifying someone that you hope to speak to at the event and then list five questions that you would like to ask them. Then make sure to ask when you have the chance!
Curiosity Building Exercise:
In his book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Gelb, recommends creating a list of 100 questions to help stimulate your curiosity. I find that creating any list of 100 things can be daunting (although I recommend the challenge of it—it leads to some good questions.) I like cultivating the habit of curiosity through questions in sets of five. I recommend focusing on people or subjects that you have an interest in learning more about. A good starting place, for instance, is to take one of those crazy college entrance-like questions such as “If you could have dinner with someone from any point in history, who would it be and why?” Then make a list of five or more people that you find fascinating—then imagine you get to actually have dinner with them: what would you ask? List five questions for each person. See where it takes you. Happy discovery time.