“Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.” – Arnold Edinborough

Note: Today’s post is a gust contribution from my homey, Tom Meitner.

We’re all sheep.

We run in packs.

When we want to know what to watch on TV, we look to TV ratings – because if everybody else is watching it, it must be good. For music, we turn on the radio, because that’s what everybody listens to. We make our purchasing decisions based on television commercials, and we only read books that “everybody’s talking about”.

So we watch Jersey Shore and American Idol. We listen to regurgitated garbage from overdubbed pop stars. We drink really crappy beer because the commercials make us laugh, and our reading list consists of vampires and wizards.

Sounds harmless, though, right? Let’s go further:

We look around and see that everybody gets some kind of job after school, so we try to do the same. We all take out lots of debt to go to college and listen to professors just waiting out the rest of their tenure. We try to get an entry-level job somewhere so that we can get together on weekends or our two weeks of vacation time every year and complain about our jobs. Can’t get that job yet? More school, more debt.

We get married before we are ready, we have kids before we are ready, and we buy houses we can’t afford, because all of it is about “growing up”. It’s what everybody else is doing.

We live out our years in perpetual debt, hoping that we don’t get fired. We sit on our butts, we get fat, we get unhealthy, and then we die of some stupid disease that we could have prevented.

Screw. That. 

We need to start challenging ourselves to be different.

Without challenge, we don’t grow. Take a seed and put it on the counter. Water it a little every day, and you might see a little sprout here and there, but it’s not going to get far beyond that. Take a seed and pack it in some dirt, and that seed is going to fight its way to the surface. In exchange for fighting through the dirt, the dirt rewards the seed with nutrients – it gets stronger, and becomes a full-fledged plant ready to take on the world.

Past generations came out stronger than us because they allowed themselves to be challenged. That starts with curiosity. Our world today has tried to compartmentalize every step of life that we’ve forgotten what it was like to just go after something – learn about something you love, pour your heart into it, and get after it with everything you’ve got. Doing something like that helps you grow and learn.

Instead, we’ve turned the concept of “learning” into reading out of a textbook and doing group reports about other people who actually did stuff. We’ve removed passion out of life and put the completely fake concept of “financial security” and “being responsible” in its place.

  • What you do for a living has become begging somebody to let you work for them and not fire you, instead of being so passionate about something that people come running to you with money.
  • Being a “grown up” means carrying obscene amounts of debt and piling onto it, instead of working hard, paying it off, and living a life of freedom.
  • Eating dinner is now about opening a can or box, adding water to powdered crap and getting something edible on the table as quickly as possible, instead of taking the time to know what’s going in your meals and making it into your body.
  • Spending time with your loved ones has turned into sitting in front of a box watching people act like idiots instead of getting out into the world to do things, like dance till you sweat or playing games till your guts hurt from laughing.
  • A healthy lifestyle means paying $50 a month for the privilege of getting on a treadmill like a hamster on a wheel instead of running to go somewhere. It means paying hundreds of dollars on shoes and equipment instead of just getting out the house and getting a sweat going.

You want your life to be better?

Start getting curious about the world around you.

Grab a book or two on building a business. Learn how to cook a real meal. Turn the damn TV off and take your friends or lovers out somewhere where you can do something. Quit trying to buy your way through life and experience what it’s like to take charge of it.

Our ancestors didn’t look at these activities as “work”. They look at them as life. Instead of blindly following the pack, start questioning it. Ask “why” when someone tells you that something needs to be done a certain way. Bust out of it and try something else. It’s not going to kill you.

Life is a constant state of learning. You learn by being curious. When you were a toddler, you learned about the world around you by being curious and getting your hands dirty. Get involved with the society around you and don’t let it tell you what to do all the time. Get on a plane and go somewhere that you’re not comfortable with (where they don’t speak… *gasp* ENGLISH!), and see how they do things.

There are plenty of ways to live your life. It’s time to start figuring out yours.

Tom Meitner blogs about reaching your goals at The Practical Nerd, and publishes a monthly digital magazine on chasing your dreams at HustleLife. He feeds himself and his wife with his freelance writing work, and dreams of publishing a book someday.

Photo Credits: 1, 2 and 3

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  • Sweet post… it's amazing how conditioned society is in which we live… it's refreshing to see things from an alternative perspective. Thanks for sharing. Thankfully I am not a cat, so I shall remain forever curious x

    • Haha. -=)

    • Recognizing it is the first step to breaking free from it, Vicky! Thanks for the comment – and stay curious.

  • Dawn

    I have to laugh…I have never been one to follow trends. Never really a conscious decision, I don't think, but I never felt like following what the "crowd" was doing. I have never seen a single episode of Jersey Shore, I stopped watching the news years ago, and not once have I been tempted to buy a pair of Jeggins (wtf??).

    I guess I'm a rebel, a free spirit so to speak. Unfortunately, I did fall into the stream of conformity when I married, had my babies, stayed at home and tried like hell to be a happy little housewife. Took a chance on ME when I bucked my comfy little life for one more suited for me. Even though I'm working for minimum wage at a corporation that I though valued people over $$…I'm finding it's changing course. So now I feel the winds of change and my heart aches for something fulfilling to my soul.

    I'm curious…to find something more suited for me. Fortunately, I have faith I will find it!

    Great post!

    • Well, stay curious Dawn! When you bounce from situation to situation like that, it's important to figure out what you are grounded in, and where you find fulfillment and happiness. Otherwise, you may struggle and keep changing all the time, without finding any situation that works for you (remember, nothing's perfect!). Sometimes it's about adapting yourself to your situation a little bit, too. Good luck!

  • Mike A

    New follower Jacob,

    Just wanted to say this is arguably the best site out there for this kind of information and I've enjoyed all i've read here so far, this one in particular is very important if you act like a sheep and think like a sheep, then you are a sheep. it's when you break those walls down that you truly find yourself and grow, i'm taking this one to the heart dog.

    Thanks for making a truly excellent ( Air Guitar ) site out there, i'm gonna follow you for a long time compadre.

    Mike

    • Thanx so much for the warm words Mike!! Thrilled to have you on board. And yup, Tom did a dope job with this guest post! Talk soooon!!

    • Ha, can't take credit for the site, that's all Jacob, but thank you for the kind words about the article. Avoid those sheep, man!

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  • Tom, that was a great post man.

    After graduation, it's so easy to start constantly existing within the confines of a box: driving a box to work, sitting in a box all day, thinking in a box, driving the box home, grabbing dinner for a box, and then watch a box all night.

    We live in an era where we can easily live the most "generic" life, or the most extraordinary life. And every single day we have the opportunity to choose which one it's gonna be. I know which one I'm going for… :)

    • Nice work, man. I love the box analogy! Keep fighting against it!

  • You hit the nail on the head here! Dang! Wish the world would have a giant mental shift in to this mindset. Jeez. Keep spreading the word!

    • It all starts with a few people, Brock! Thanks for reading!

  • Great post Tom. I've definitely been guilty of being a follower in the past, but slowly I'm changing that as I get older and wiser.

    I'm learning to follow my own intuition and live life on my own terms… but I still have a long way to go.