“How do you stay relevant?” It is a question I’ve been asked by marketing professionals, my students, colleagues, and friends. The question can take several forms.
- “How do you stay on the cutting edge?”
- “How do you continue to reinvent yourself?”
- “How do you choose what to learn next?”
My answer is always the same, it starts with being curious.
Humans are innately curious. It is hardwired. “The impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities is a basic human attribute.” 1
I have an insatiable appetite for understanding what I don’t. Cultivated for years, my curiosity is rarely accompanied by emotions such as fear or hubris, nor does it come with the expectation of mastery or complete understanding.
Simply being curious permits us to think deeply and differently, empowering us as we wander into uncomfortable territory without the fear of failure, permitting us to find new boundaries of our skill or understanding of the world.
Being curious is a path of lifelong learning, transcending career-centric conversations.
This is more than simply staying relevant in your career; it creates a path for lifelong learning. However, here is how I’ve harnessed my curiosity for professional growth.
Move at the Speed of Culture
As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s easy to reflect on what has changed. The technology adoption curve has been flattened or bent considerably as we were forced to embrace tools like FaceTime or Zoom to connect with people. Virtual and hybrid events have allowed us to come together for any sort of event. And through this, the creator economy exploded just as we predicted its death.
In our professional lives, we’re being asked to do more with less. Less people, less time, and less information. To move at the speed of culture is to understand and embrace it.
To do that, find emerging networks of influence. In 2022/2023, there is no better place to experience culture right now than TikTok. You can dive deep into a subculture on Reddit, Discord, Twitch, or Twitter. They are all worthy channels. However, on TikTok, you experience culture through the lens of trends that are told in various ways and often with a healthier community than on other channels.
Create an account. Embrace the algorithm. Follow people. Lurk in the feed.
Find the Whitespace
Listen and look for signals of change. Weak or strong, they are indicators of opportunity.
In the shift from Web1 to Web2, I had the opportunity to establish a social media practice for my agency and many clients. We see a similar shift now from Web2 to Web3 and within the world of talent as the creator economy continues to evolve and grow – including live streams and social commerce.
By taking the time to examine and understand these trends and technologies, you’ll connect the dots. There you’ll find the whitespace to create and lead.
Primarily focus on the signals you see within your team and organization. The equity you’ve built with your organization may afford you more opportunities – especially if they see it through the lens of growth and net new revenue.
Identify Stretch Goals
By their definition, stretch goals are high-effort and high-risk without an immediate reward. Don’t sacrifice family, friends, or mental wellness as you pursue stretch goals – they may not always be realistic when assessing the other commitments you have.
These moon shots may feel unattainable, and failure may even be an outcome. The key is understanding what you learn in that success or failure.
A few years back, I committed to learning more about Python. I have a background in different object-oriented languages and was interested in how I could use Python to better understand the AI and machine learning landscape.
All of this was accompanied by my reading of “How to Create a Mind” by Ray Kurzweil. While I haven’t gone all Ex Machina and created a synthetic being, I have a better understanding of the trends in AI and machine learning.
Some may consider my lack of programming with Python a failure, but it’s paid dividends in my conversations with data science teams. I can speak their language and ask intelligent questions about research and measurement.
You may work in an industry or organization that has put significant limits on you. Perhaps you only work on one client or within a regulated industry. In these cases, it may feel impossible to break out. But doing so may be the only way to maintain an income while augmenting your skillset.
Ask for additional responsibilities or find ways to support your team. Perhaps it’s engaging a part of the business you’ve never fully understood. Connecting with team members may reveal opportunities to diversify your skillset while challenging you enough to stay engaged in your current job.
A more radical solution may be freelancing, even as a part-time gig. Taking on a local client or volunteering your time could challenge you in ways you wouldn’t expect. Just take care in choosing opportunities that will support your curiosity and growth.
Investing in yourself is a lifelong journey. Embrace the joy of being curious and create space to reflect on what you’ve learned.
How do you stay curious? Share your stories below.