Passion can be a fiery thing. It lights you up, gets your heart pounding, makes you raring to go after that thing that drives you wild. When you find your passion, it feels like the world makes sense. You just know that’s your calling.
But passion is more like striking a match than keeping a fire going. It burns bright and hot, but it can fizzle out just as quick. Me, I used to be passionate about playing the bongos1. Man, I was into those bongos. I’d play them sunrise to sunset, tapping out rhythms till my hands went numb. But you know what happened? One day I woke up and I just didn’t feel it anymore. That passion had burnt itself out.
When it comes to doing your best work, conventional wisdom says you gotta follow your passion. Light that fire under your ass and let it propel you forward! But here’s the thing, chimichangas—passion burns hot and fast. It’s more like a case of gasoline than a nice log cabin fire. One minute you’re all revved up and ready to go, chasing that passion project like a dog with a bone. But the next thing you know, you’re burnt out, your passion’s faded, and you’re left wondering what the hell you were so fired up about in the first place.
That’s where good ol’ curiosity comes in. It’s not as flashy as passion, but it’s a marathoner rather than a sprinter. While passion screams “Do this one thing right now, it’s the most important!”, curiosity whispers “Huh, that looks interesting, let me poke at it.” Sure, it lacks urgency, but curiosity is the Energizer Bunny of motivators. It just keeps going, and going, and going.
Curiosity is a renewable resource. You can feed it again and again When you follow your curiosity, you’re energized by a constant flow of new discoveries and surprises. You explore questions without really knowing where they’ll lead. But that’s part of the fun! Curiosity drives you to turn over every stone, to dive down every rabbit hole. It will lead you to all kinds of unexpected places, things you never knew you were looking for. And often, you’ll stumble across something amazing you never would have found if you limited yourself to just that one passionate pursuit.
With curiosity, you stay interested and engaged. You keep asking questions, digging deeper, making those accidental connections that lead to the good stuff. The juice stays flowing. It doesn’t run dry like passion can.
Passion starts from what you already know you love. But curiosity lets you find new loves along the way. Old passions fade, curiosity keeps leading you to new ones. It keeps you cruising along the highway of life, stopping at roadside attractions you didn’t even know you wanted to see till you pulled in.
Passion is about the end goal. Curiosity is about the journey. Passion says you have to be in it to win it. Curiosity says the fun is in playing the game.
I’m not saying passion is all bad. It can still take you places. But it’s best when it starts with curiosity. Let curiosity change your game plan. Follow the twists and turns it gives you. Let it surprise you sometimes.
Here’s an example. Let’s say your passion is baking crazy syrup-soaked pancake stacks. So you get a job at the hottest brunch place in town, determined to become the world’s greatest pancake artist. For a while, you’re obsessed. You try every recipe and technique to find the fluffiest flapjacks, the most luxurious syrups, the most decadent toppings. You wake up every morning vibrating with passion for pancakes.
But the months go by, and the thrill starts to fade. You get bored making the same three pancake specials every weekend. The smell of syrup now turns your stomach after inhaling it every day. Your passion for pancakes has dried up like a forgotten English muffin.
Now imagine if instead, you followed your curiosity about food in general. You’d probably still get that job at the brunch place to learn the pancake ropes. But even when your interest started waning, your curiosity would still nudge you to explore something new. Maybe you try your hand at omelets for a while, then move onto perfecting hash browns. When you get sick of breakfast foods, you spend some time experimenting with sandwich fillings. Then you move onto salads and house-made vinaigrettes.
By bouncing around to whatever piques your interest next, you end up learning a hundred times more than if you laser-focused on just pancakes. And chances are, your varied skills and broad knowledge of food would lead to creative innovations. Maybe you’d use your omelet techniques to create fluffy souffle pancakes. Or you’d draw from your salad days to whip up some killer potato pancakes.
When you follow your curiosity, you never run out of fuel. You’re always discovering new challenges and unanswered questions to dig into. Sure, you may never become world champion pancake artist. But you gain knowledge and abilities that cross-pollinate into awesome new ideas. And isn’t that better than being a one-pancake wonder?
Curiosity expands your world. It keeps life feeling fresh, keeps you engaged with the present moment. When you’re curious, you don’t get stuck in the past or obsessed with the future. You’re right here in the flow, not knowing where you’ll float off to next.
That’s living, man. That’s really living.
Of course, that’s not to say curiosity is perfect. You gotta wield it with wisdom and purpose too. Dabbling often means you never gain deep expertise. And curiosity is easily distracted—if something shinier comes along, off it goes. Can’t just go chasing every random question, like a puppy dog after a squirrel. Cause then you’d just run yourself in circles, never getting anywhere. Follow a guiding purpose and principles. Let your interests align with what the world needs too. Then curiosity becomes a tool for discovery and change. It unlocks new solutions from unexpected angles. It weaves together threads from different places.
Curiosity flows, passion burns. Curiosity connects, passion collects. Curiosity is improvised jazz, passion is practiced choreography. Both have energy and purpose, but curiosity leaves room for accidental magic. Your original passion pushed you to drive fast and be competitive. But your curiosity led you somewhere unexpected along the way. It opened up new possibilities you’d never considered.
Let your curiosity be a guiding light. Follow its flickers down unexpected alleys. See where it takes you, the people you’ll meet, the places you’ll see. Treasure the detours as much as the destinations. Don’t fence yourself in. Throw those gates wide open and let curiosity run free.
At the end of the day, passion feels like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But curiosity is effortless—it carries you forward on a wave, buoyed by interest and momentum. So, forget passion. Follow curiosity. Let it bring some wild wisdom into your life. Listen to what lights you up today. Take chances. Embrace uncertainty and change. See every moment as a chance to ask “what if?” and “why not?” That’s where the fun begins. That’s how you wake up to life.
Don’t worry about finding that one magical calling you feel destined for. Instead, give your curiosity free rein to explore and play. Approach the world with open senses, and never stop looking for the next mystery to unravel. The more you seek, the more you find. And the more you find, the more you see. The view just keeps getting better. There’s always another mountain to climb. Your car will never run out of gas.
So get out there and get curious, folks. Let it lead you to wherever you need to be. Don’t worry about how the path unfolds. Just keep on cruising down that open highway of life. Your own vision is waiting for you at the end of the road. Now put down those pancakes and see what else is on the menu!
Bongos is actually my friend. It was painting for me. ↩