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  • James McPartland

A Curious Life

"Most people fail at living out their wildest dreams – not for a lack of talent - but for a lack of imagination." — James McPartland

Ideas enter into the world in a way remarkably similar to that of a child... They need permission to struggle, and room to fail, as the journey of their life takes shape. Ideas begin as prototypes, used to test the waters of a product, concept, or solution. Consider the difference between your first cell phone and the one you use now or the evolutionary way we have all become accustomed to listening to music. Ideas require curious minds, to become all that they can be.

It’s okay for prototypes to fail. They’re supposed to. Prototyping life provides us with options, explores new questions, and gives rise to our next conception.

Designing our lives is all about generating possibilities. It requires deep thinking and imagining a future as if you were already living it. However, a prototype is not just a thought exercise. It must involve a physical experiment in the real world to provide the data you need in order to move forward. Curiosity permits us to fail fast, fail forward, and sneak up on our own future.

It’s not important to get this process perfect – just to get it going. We often hesitate by holding the picture of the perfect scenario taped to the refrigerator door of our mind, while deep down, fearing that we won't get there because it's too hard. Sometimes it's the pain of what we know that keeps us from the imaginary pain of what we don't know. It can feel more comfortable to hold on to the familiar failed approach to our problems than to risk a greater failure by attempting the big changes we think will be required to eliminate them.

The way forward is to reduce the risk of failure by designing a series of small experiments to test the waters. Remember, it's ok if they don't all go to plan, as that assumption is already built into the model. This is design thinking.

Design thinking requires a set of simple mindsets that include:

  • Curiosity – This makes everything new and invites exploration. Mastering curiosity helps you get good at being lucky.

  • A bias to action – Building your way forward by trying things out. No watching from the stands, you have to get out on the field and play.

  • Reframing – This is how to get unstuck. It allows us to step back, examine our biases and self-limiting beliefs, and open ourselves up to new realms of possibility.

  • Awareness – Life gets messy, and for every step forward, it can sometimes seem like we’re taking two steps back. Mistakes will be made, and prototypes will be discarded. An important part of the process is letting go of your first idea and the good - but not yet great - solution. Often, amazing designs can emerge from a complete mess.

  • Radical collaboration – You are not alone. Ask for help. You do not have to come up with a brilliant life design by yourself. Remember that life is a team sport.

A curious life, one designed to help you manifest your gifts and execute your life assignment, is a participatory process. Many of the best ideas are going to come from other people. A fun part of this journey is the cultivation of a supportive community, a tribe of people who care enough to be a member of your design group. When you reach out to the world, the world reaches right back.

Living a curious life, and prototyping a life by design, leads to a life that makes sense. It's a life in which who you are, what you believe, and what you do all line up together. A curious life is a marvelous portfolio of experiences, adventures, lessons, and hardships that made you stronger and helped you come to know yourself better. A curious life is a life that is generative. It is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and one that always provides the possibility of surprise.

Finally, if you truly get curious, you will find that it’s never too late to design a life that you love. The kind of life that makes the world a whole lot better for your effort, and for your willingness to maintain a childlike enthusiasm for the journey.


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