Big curiosity

I was a better diplomat in Portuguese than in English because I had to listen harder and was a little more reluctant to talk. This is hard for a compulsive talker like me. And I did my very best work when I was really interested in learning about what others had to tell me and let them tell me.

That is why this book made so much sense to me. It imparts simple advice – a version of trying first to understand before trying to communicate – and like most simple advice it is easy to think you do it already, but when you think harder you see you don’t. I would especially recommend this book to two groups: junior officers just starting their careers and old guys like me on the way out. Both are in phase transitions and in special need of broad wisdom from others.

We never can know for sure what will come from any of these “curiosity encounters.” It is an exploration. I am making changes already next week. When I came to Smithsonian last year, I immediately & proactively started to meet people and try to learn as much as I could about … everything. When I looked at my more recent calendars, I noticed that there is much less. Fatigue? Actually, I just got lazy. It is easy to make the excuse that you know enough or meeting any particular person will not add much. You can probably argue that any missing any particular encounter is not big deal. But it is a big deal in total. Next week I am back to a more active meeting schedule.

I read an inspiring quote from William Mulholland, in a book I read last week and also talked about on Facebook. He said about the Los Angeles aqueduct project that it was …”a big one. But it is a simple one. The man who has made one brick can make two bricks. That is the bigness of this engineering project. It is big, but it is simply big.” This applies to many things besides engineering projects.

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