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Curiosity Is the Door to Passion

Curiosity Is The Door To Passion

I’ve been wrong all these years.  Even 20+ years ago when I was teaching high school, I was giving out bad advice.  Like so many others, I’ve been telling people to follow their passion.  The problem is, that’s like telling someone to build a house but giving them only a photo of the front elevation.

The truth about passion

Last week I listened to a podcast from Sounds True’s series called Insights at the Edge.  In the episode in question, Tami Simon, who has crazy good interviewing skills, spoke with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love (which I’ve never read).  At one point in the interview, they got to the topic of passion, and Gilbert grabbed me by the eardrums with this:

Passion is the big burning tower of flame in the desert.  You’ll know it if it ever happens to you. It’s like a big love story.

Curiosity is so much easier to access than passion.  You may not know if you have a burning life passion, but you’re probably curious about some stuff.

Don’t worry about finding your passion.  Just look around today and ask yourself if there’s absolutely anything you can find in the world that you feel even 1% curious about and then follow it.

That trail of pursuing your curiosity very loyally, with discipline, knowing that your curiosity will eventually take you to your destiny, I think that’s where you find your passion.

Following my curiosity

What Gilbert said is absolutely true.  In thinking back on my life, I can’t find a single instance when any of my passions began spontaneously, when I didn’t first go through a period of exploration.

As an undergrad, for example, I recall watching my friend Doug get really absorbed in learning computer programming.  I asked him questions.  I watched as he turned his handwritten lines of Fortran into stacks of punch cards to be run through the IBM 1130, and I wanted to do that, too.  I got the chance in one of my physics courses, and my curiosity blossomed into full-blown passion.  A few weeks into the semester, I stayed up late into the night reading the whole book and figuring out subroutines and writing programs to do some cool stuff.

More related to what I do now, in grad school I watched my thesis advisor, Liz Seiberling, design and build an off-grid house in central Florida.  I asked questions. I learned a little bit about construction.  I began reading about photovoltaics and composting toilets and passive solar houses.  Then I went out and did it myself, and that’s what launched me into this new career.  I finally had discovered what I’m passionate enough about to spend my life working on.

This blog is all about following my curiosity.  I read something that raises a question for me.  I hear someone say something that makes me think of something else.  I see a product and wonder why anyone would make (or buy) such a thing.

Elizabeth Gilbert hit the nail on the head.  Passion is a great thing, but it’s too big to access directly—or even to know where to find it.  Look around and pay attention to the questions that arise.  Your curiosity will take you where you need to go.

What is it you wonder about?


Allison A. Bailes III, PhD is a speaker, writer, building science consultant, and the founder of Energy Vanguard in Decatur, Georgia.  He has a doctorate in physics and is the author of a popular book on building science.  He also writes the Energy Vanguard Blog.  For more updates, you can subscribe to our newsletter and follow him on LinkedIn.


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Photo by Emilio del Prado from, used under a Creative Commons license.


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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. What a great article, thanks
    What a great article, thanks so much for sharing this. I think you will help as many who read this. may i have you permission to share this to my peers?

  2. Rodney:
    Rodney: You may share anything you find here in this blog with whomever you’d like. I’m all about spreading ideas here. Glad you found it share-worthy!

  3. It’s so true. From the time
    It’s so true. From the time my parents built a new home when i was 12 I have been interested in everything to do with designing homes. I took all four years of drafting in highschool, then in my senior year I took a standardized mechanical aptitude test. The guidence counsler tole me I really to study mechanical engineering in collage. I did and graduated but still drawing home plans just for fun. Now some 30 years later i earn a living doing it. Long story short I wished I would have just followed my passion to begin with. I would have save a bunch of time. I lawayse advise young people to find something they love and stick with it.

  4. I’m immediately sharing this
    I’m immediately sharing this with my 17- and 19-year-old sons.

  5. Dang, Allison, good deep
    Dang, Allison, good deep thoughts. Like John, I LOVED the process of my parents building their house back in 1991. I pored over the blueprints. I wanted to build homes. I’ve subscribed to Builder Magazine for almost 15 years. I love old homes, my wife and I walk around foreclosures for fun.  
    On the other side, I LOVE science. I was interested in quantum physics in high school. I was always in advance math and science classes. I read Popular Science for years and years.  
    I love the challenge of business as well. That is my degree. Fittingly a BS… 
    I’ve always been rabidly curious about the things I’m interested in. If I’m sitting still, my nose is in a book or magazine. I’m compulsive about it. 
    Then I discovered Building Science. It has completely screwed up my life. But it’s my path. It combines my love of houses, science, and business. 
    I hadn’t made that connection so completely until this post. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Good observations, Allison.
    Good observations, Allison.  
    Curiosity is THE characterstic of good scientists. It leads one to observe the world around you without making assumptions about the outcome. If you are sufficiently amazed by what you see, you might then become passionate about your work. But if you ENTER science because of your passion, you’re in danger of becoming an an ideologue. Think Climate Change Denier or Creation Scientist.  
    Heck yes to curiosity!

  7. Excellent as usual Allison. I
    Excellent as usual Allison. I came across a quote recently that grabbed my attention…  
    “Don’t follow your passion. Take it with you!” 
    Fits nicely with your emphasis on curiosity.

  8. I sent this link out to a
    I sent this link out to a bunch of friends, and have gotten more responses of appreciation or delight than to any other I have ever sent out! 

  9. I agree with the majority –
    I agree with the majority – very good general guidance. Nick Corcodilos (from Ask The Headhunter fame) recommends “Taking A Vacation In The Library” as one of the first efforts in finding a career. You look through anything you are initially interested in and make a note of what it was. Look at your notes at the end of the week to see the consolidated interest areas. 
    My difficulty has been that I have way too many things I’m interested in at the same time.

  10. I agree..curiosity has kept
    I agree..curiosity has kept me in this biz for 15+ years. 
    always something new to figure out.

  11. Wonderful reminder! I’ve
    Wonderful reminder! I’ve actually heard this interview, but sometimes in the march of daily living, I forget that curiosity is what life is all about. It can lead to wonderful things, for ourselves and our world. Thanks for sharing!

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