When I was growing up on a tiny island on the west coast of Canada, we didn’t have a lot of the things that city kids did – no movie theatres, no McDonalds, no cable TV. So we had to find other things to do – and that often involved being gently pushed out the door first thing in the morning by my Mom. We spent our days riding bikes, playing in the woods behind our house, exploring the world around us. That exploration led to a curiosity that has stayed with me my entire life.
People sometimes ask me how I have learned everything I know about digital storytelling and social media. Back in 2006 when I was first introduced to this world, I entered it with that same sense of curiosity that I had traipsing around in the woods when I was 9.
I firmly believe that curiosity is the key to learning anything new and learning it well. In order to be curious, you have to give up a lot of your inhibitions about technology, communication and putting yourself out there. That’s hard for a lot of people. Here are a couple of tips that might help.
Stop being afraid.
Stop being afraid you’re going to break things. Stop being afraid of “doing it wrong” (and stop listening to the self-righteous “gurus” who pontificate on Twitter about how everyone else is doing it wrong but them). Stop being afraid of what other people will think.
Fear is the thing that freezes most people in their tracks when it comes to communicating online. Many people I know who are just delving into the social media world consider themselves “lurkers”. Sure, you can learn a lot by listening to the conversation, but that will only take you so far. Where it gets really interesting is when you start contributing. Maybe you @reply to someone on Twitter. Maybe you ask a question on Facebook. Perhaps you write a post on your blog.
There is nothing to be afraid of. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the online community are very welcoming, and accepting. Join in the conversation, you’ll see. And if you’re shy to meet people, let me know. I’m always happy to introduce people.
Oh, and by the way, you’re not going to break the Internet, I promise. So point, click, and explore. It won’t hurt one bit.
Being curious is about trying new things. It’s like lifting the lid on a box to see what’s inside. Sometimes you’re surprised. Sometimes you’re shocked. But if you’re curious, you’ll always learn something new. Don’t be afraid to click (on links you trust, not spammy messages!), read, sign up for things, and try them out. I try just about every tool I find, at least once. Some I like and keep using, and for some I end up deleting my account. By trying things, I learn what works for me and what doesn’t. I learn why it might be useful (or why it’s not). I read reviews, and I ask peoples’ opinions of things. All of the information that I gather by being curious about things goes into forming the thoughts and ideas and opinions and expertise I have.
And perhaps most importantly, I tell others about what I’m learning…through this blog, our podcast, and by giving courses and public speaking. The act of explaining things to other people helps me to understand things better.
Curiosity is, I think, one of the single most important characteristics you have to have if you’re going to truly master something. So get out there, start asking questions, start clicking, and trying and exploring and experimenting. You’ll soon find your entire experience in this crazy online world will reach a whole new level.