It was Christmas Eve 1993 when John Lloyd awoke to the devastating thought that all he had achieved was worthless. By all outward standards, Lloyd was the picture of success. He was a TV producer and director with homes in London and Oxfordshire which he shared with his wife and three children. Before the age of 40 he had produced some of the most popular comedy shows in Britain and had three BAFTAs - Britain’s Oscars - to show for it. But that Christmas morning, he was flattened by the sense that he didn’t know anything.
“[Lloyd] entered a serious depression, despite knowing he had much to be thankful for,” recounts Ian Leslie in his book, Curious: The Desire to Know and why your Future Depends on It (House of Anansi, 2014.) “Lloyd eschewed some of the popular strategies for coping with male mid-life crisis,” writes Leslie. “Instead, he took time off work, went on long walks and drank whiskey. He also started to read,” something he had never had time for during his previous years of success."
He dug into Socrates and ancient Athens. He learned about magnetism and light. He had no method or plan, says Leslie, but simply followed his curiosity wherever it took him.
"He was furious that no one had thought to let him in on a secret: the world is incredibly interesting.”
Lloyd’s exploration was driven by the sheer pleasure of discovery underpinned by his desire to understand nothing less than the meaning of life: “I was really trying to find out, what is the point of me? What is the point of anything?”
A few years later Lloyd pitched a new show to the BBC: QI, a quiz show now loved by millions for its ability to make anything from quantum physics to Aztec architecture both entertaining and interesting. In his pitch to the network executives, Lloyd explained: “There is nothing more important or strange than curiosity.” QI was Lloyd’s crowning jewel, now one of Britain’s most popular and longest running TV series.
For many adults the flame of curiosity has all but gone out. In fact, some experts say our pure intellectual zeal begins to wane as early as four years old. We hit an equilibrium and quit adding to the store. As a result we have fewer questions and more default settings.
“This waning curiosity is not necessarily a bad thing,” says Leslie. “It’s essential in becoming a person who can act on the world, rather than one in thrall to it.” But in his study of the inquiring mind he has landed on an essential truth:
In the game of life, it’s the curious who win.
If you’re paying attention, everything you see and do - from a fire beetle’s underbelly, to the Magna Carta, to a blade of grass - is extraordinary.
A life of pure utility quickly becomes sterile. Embracing JOMO opens up space for curiosity and quiet. You never know where inspiration might strike.
Christina Crook is the award-winning author of The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. She has addressed conferences, corporate teams, and universities over the past several years, sharing with them how presence and peace can be found in the midst of the cacophony of the modern world. She’s a personable and engaging speaker who shares her advice in a way that’s relevant and uplifting. Invite her to speak to your team today.
Bored and Brilliant shows the fascinating side of boredom. Manoush Zomorodi investigates cutting-edge research as well as compelling (and often funny) real-life examples to demonstrate that boredom is actually a crucial tool for making our lives happier, more productive, and more creative. What’s more, the book is crammed with practical exercises for anyone who wants to reclaim the power of spacing out.