“If you want to be interesting, be interested.” -Paul Arden
Few are more interesting than those who are not ruled by a fear of being boring.
The best way to become a fascinating person is not by trying to get others to see you as fascinating, but rather by following your own fascinations without regard for how popular, eccentric, or fashionable they are.
Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, on where schools often go wrong in getting children to truly learn, observed:
I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.
Advising others on how to get the most out of their studies, scientist and author Richard Feynmen wrote:
Study hard what interests you in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.
In An Anatomy of Inspiration, an interesting Brainpicking’s article on the origin of creative ideas, Maria Popova points out how many of the great creators were influenced and inspired by other interests which, though not directly related to their field, helped them make fascinating discoveries and surprising connections:
(Harding: Originality depends on new and striking combinations of ideas. It is obvious therefore that the more a man knows the greater scope he has for arriving at striking combinations. And not only the more he knows about his own subject but the more he knows beyond it of other subjects. It is a fact that has not yet been sufficiently stressed that those persons who have risen to eminence in arts, letters or sciences have frequently possessed considerable knowledge of subjects outside their own sphere of activity.
(Popova) Harding goes on to give a number of examples: Pasteur was a bachelor of literature in addition to being a doctor of science; James Watt rested his mind from honing the steam engine with archeology and poetry; Emmanuel Kant read classics, mathematics, physics, astronomy, metaphysics, law, geography, and travel; Goethe was a collector of art and science ephemera, and took a close interest in the engineering of canals, harbors, and tunnels; George Eliot was obsessed with philology:
We all have interests that go beyond the things we’re required to know in order to meet the demands of our careers and everyday responsibilities. The key is to give ourselves permission to make time for the pursuit of those things as opposed to chasing after obscure knowledge or popular fads in an effort to be eccentric for eccentricity’s sake.
While there’s never a guarantee that by following our fascinations we’ll become famous, we stand a much better chance at becoming the kinds of people who have interesting stories to tell, compelling messages to convey, and inspiring energy to impart if we insist on being more loyal to what makes us come alive than to what we hope will impress others.