People ask me why I still call myself A Junior VC after having spent so many years in the ecosystem.
While it’s a great question, my answer remains the same. “I always want to be A Junior VC in spirit.”
I remember the curiosity I had in my first year. It’s something that has been a part of me ever since. Curiosity is a reminder to be a student at heart, to have the hustle and energy of A Junior VC.
People grow up asking questions.
They thrive on it. But as we grow up, we experience certain situations where our questions aren’t welcome. We become more self-conscious, afraid to ask or say ‘I don’t know’, and are increasingly conditioned to show confidence over genuine curiosity.
We value breakthrough inventions and remarkable discoveries but fail to create room for inquisitiveness. Instead of asking questions, employees are set in their roles and they and their leaders try to solve problems with a minimal amount of questions.
It’s almost as if asking questions will mean that you are incompetent. However, true incompetence rises with the inability to ask questions.
Have a curiosity that goes beyond what is said or assumed. It starts simply with two questions: ‘Why?’ and ‘What if?’
In today’s fast changing world, we cannot afford to just ‘assume’ or fall back on previously established systems of doing things.
Think of any startup idea, inventions throughout history, and you will find curiosity.
Curiosity is a basic human attribute, however, as we move up the social and corporate ladder, it’s very easy to forget it.
Ironically, those who succeed tend to be curious. They show willingness to learn more, as people who are ready to challenge the status quo.
Amazon came into light because someone thought of a new way of retail. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.”
Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, always be junior in spirit, never work on assumptions, and keep asking relevant questions.
Everyone says you should be curious, but how do you become curious?
Be as honest as possible about not only your skill-set but also about what motivates you, drives you, and how in turn that can aid your curiosity. If you don’t know something, say it.
One of the first jobs I got was because in my interview I admitted I didn’t know anything about the job, but I was willing to learn. It doesn’t make you incompetent; it actually makes you perfect for learning more.
We don’t often challenge the status-quo. “My boss asked me to do this so I’m doing this.” “My manager asked me to not do it this way, so I won’t.” is how it goes.
Ask questions, ask if there is another way to do it, ask how it will impact things in the big picture, ask questions that start with ‘why’ or ’what if’? Ask silly questions. Asking questions will not only get you to be better at your job but will also give you a stronger sense of direction.
Another thing that has helped me with curiosity is reading extensively. Reading is like a drug for me. It isn’t by accident that satiating curiosity results in a dopamine rush.
Be fascinated with how the world works – not only in your domain but in other domains as well. It may not be related directly to what you do, but it will definitely help you to ask the right questions, form patterns where there are none, and apply some learnings as well.
I read almost entirely outside venture and startups. In fact, if I want to improve on something, I often find myself reading something completely unrelated. Patterns form when you least expect.
We need to move from a culture of having all the answers to asking questions. Having been taught that being a topper with all the answers is right, and being clueless is not, we need to actively change.
How will you become curious?