I got the worst news in the world: I’m balding on the front of my head.
Yesterday I went to get a haircut and noticed it for the first time. It makes me feel old. I thought I’d never show signs of aging, you know, because of the plant-based diet and exercise routine.
For the next few hours, I thought about life and how short it is. I went deep in my mind and got all philosophical. Felt amazing. So much clarity.
What’s unique about this experience is this huge aha-moment happened on what I call a “curiosity day.” Let me explain.
The magic of taking a curiosity day
Most of us chase our to-do list all day, every day.
Or we focus our days on being reactive to the requests of others. As such our curiosity and imagination get quietly suppressed.
After a while of living in this state of mind you start to feel dead inside.
Recently I began to feel the onset of burnout again. I’ve worked too hard, written too much, and overloaded my calendar.
In fact I’ve written so much that my right hand now feels partly paralyzed. So I decided to take unconventional action. Typically we’d take rest days or go on a holiday if we reached burnout.
I decided to take curiosity days instead.
What are they? A day spent chasing your curiosity from when you wake up to when you go to bed.
Will someone please think of the children
Kids don’t have to-do lists.
Think about it. What they do is wake up and go everywhere. They’re explorers. They tell stories. They use their imagination to turn common adult tasks into an adventure.
‘Adulting’ means we can’t do this all the time like them. We have energy bills to pay and sky-high gas to put in the car. But we can get inspired by their example.
So I did.
On my recent curiosity days I went down rabbit holes. I’d open a blank browser and simply start reading. Then I’d click links and hop from one piece of content to the next.
The difference is, normally, I do this sort of internet browsing with an outcome in mind. But with a curiosity day there’s no outcome.
The only outcome is to have fun.
As kids we used to play endlessly.
Until we were told to stop playing.
And compete. Endlessly! — Ankur Warikoo
Here is a list of things I did on my curiosity days:
Get ready to have a blast!
1. Read kids’ books
As a kid I loved a picture book called “How to Live Forever.” So on my curiosity day I got a copy. It took me way back. I thought about things I hadn’t remembered in decades.
Then I let that kids’ book lead me to the next. I landed on TinTin. In one afternoon I went from kids’ book to kids’ book. Suddenly my imagination sparked up again.
I said to myself “there are no rules. THERE ARE NO RULES!”
2. Call people you haven’t spoken to for years
I’ve had the same cellphone number since 1999.
On my curiosity day I rang people whose numbers were still in my phone, but who I hadn’t spoken to in 5+ years.
It was totally random. People I called were like “Yo, what up dude, it’s been ages.” Naturally, they asked “But why are you calling? What can I do for you?”
As good little economic cogs in the institutional machine we’re trained as adults to think every call must end in a transaction. What surprised the people I rang randomly was this line:
“Nah, I’m calling for no reason. For sh*ts and giggles. Zero agenda. It’s all about you. Tell me your story. What have I missed?”
An invitation for someone to talk openly about themselves for as long as they want is a drug no human in history can resist.
Give it to people.
Let your curiosity drive the conversation down random paths.
3. Stay up ridiculously late
Routines can become a prison. Read that again.
As a kid, I used to stay up once every few months and watch David Letterman until 3 am. There were no rules. I didn’t think about the consequences or worry about the next day.
I did it because I was curious what random guest Letterman would have on. It’s how I learned so much about American culture which was radically different from my Aussie heritage.
So on one curiosity day I stayed up late. I broke all the rules. And then I slept in the next day and woke up late.
Use curiosity days to rebel against schedules.
4. Surprise the parents
My parents live far away.
Normally I’d call before stopping by. On one curiosity day I just drove all the way there and knocked on their door. They were completely shocked. They took more than an hour to get over the random joy.
A good thing to do on a curiosity day is to make someone else happy. That happiness torpedoes its way right back into your life, too.
5. Take a different walking route
I always walk to the same places. If it’s a new place I let Google guide me.
On one curiosity day I left the phone at home and just started walking. I had no idea where I was going because I’ve only lived in this area of Melbourne a short time.
I ended up finding a random Buddhist temple in the middle of an industrial park surrounded by forest.
A patch of water surrounded the buildings beautifully and a statue of a queen towered above me, casting its shadow over the footpath I walked on.
I’d been in this area a few times and never seen it.
The structures were marvelous. The building looked like a palace fit for a queen. I went and sat in the garden outside the temple. I looked straight ahead and saw rainbow parrots playing a game of chase.
My mind was completely transported away from the stress of running an online business with no 9–5 job safety blanky to fall back on.
Then a thought smacked me in the face…
I will take my unborn daughter here one day to play. Visions of the future rushed into my head. That’s the bloody awesomeness of a curiosity day.
6. Explore a new location
On another curiosity day, I decided to visit a location I’d walked by many times with my wife: a pub.
When I got inside I realized there was a hidden games arcade at the back. So I walk in. It was a huge room full of wall-to-wall old school games like Sonic, Mario, Pac-Man, Time Crisis, etc. There were some new games like Halo, too.
I watched teenagers play for an hour. It felt like I’d found a hidden treasure.
To sum up, the best part of a curiosity day is you don’t need to know what to do next. Calendars don’t exist on curiosity days.
Following your curiosity is a powerful drug because it helps you reset your brain and contemplate life from different angles. You become an ancient stoic philosopher on a curiosity day.
You don’t need permission for one either.
Okay fine. There, I give you permission. Now do it.