We’re living in wild times, where “crisis” gets thrown around like a hot potato of reality. Before you stop reading, though, this isn’t another article from the echo chamber obsessed with “where we’ll go from here” – there are plenty of those articles written by much smarter people, on this site and others.
No, instead, this is about my two favorite keys on a keyboard: Ctrl and Z.
These two keys gave me a ton of knowledge: SQL code, SharePoint design, website design, running .exe programs, and writing in another language. I owe much of my college degree to these two keys, but as with anything related to technology, it’s not just about these two magical “undo” keys on any computer keyboard: it’s about the mentality of the person behind it.
When I was little, I was the self-proclaimed “computer expert” in the house… which simply means, I took things apart and put them back together again.
I cleaned the mouse ball, buffed the already scratched CDs I was trying to copy, untangled the wires and figured out where they plugged in, and mostly waited on the progress bar with whatever program I found on the computer. When I couldn’t easily fix something, I simply shoved whatever experiment had gone wrong in the back of the junk drawer and moved on.
I’m still that little girl in a lot of ways, and it’s not just because of my height. My computer friends may have changed from Jeeves to Google or Linguee, but the concept is the same: I want to know why something exists. Why is the Castellano accent different than the accent in Latin American Spanish? Why does Argentinian Spanish sound different than Peruvian Spanish? Why does every noun in Spanish have a gender attached to it? That curiosity was made stronger by the knowledge that no matter what, I could use my two favorite keys to undo whatever path I mistakenly went down.
So often in school, we’re taught that something exists, full stop. It exists, so memorize this, so you pass your exams, and the reputation of the school remains untarnished. Life, however, revolves less on reputation and more on innovation. We give special weight to the dreamers, the doers, the experimenters. We hold them up and provide pedestals: book deals, movie deals, biopics, biographies, and speaking gigs.
We study innovation, but we never learn it —simply because innovation is not something that can be learned. Curiosity begets innovation.
We’re so amused and entertained by the new, that we forget to ask why or how.
We’re so content to soak in other people’s ideas, that we forget to create or cultivate our own. We ask for help and are satisfied with each 3-step program, simplified to fit on a sales infographic. We’re excited by numbers simply designed and trotted out to wow us, and we sign contracts and “do deals” that may or may not be beneficial, but will certainly add to those infographic numbers. We chase numbers for numbers’ sake, and chalk it up to “the rat race” and “the grind”. We’re so focused on where we’re running right now, that we forget to look up and see the possible paths we could be running on instead.
Life isn’t a prescriptive 15-step program, with exact instructions on what to do in each situation. Business is Life times 20, with a lot more floundering and fluctuating than finite steps. I can’t tell you the 7 steps to language fluency, because we all have our own motivations, ideals, goals, learning styles, and timelines… but I can tell you that I’m curious about learning all I can to help you.
In times like these, “crisis” or not, we all need some help. We need guidance and mentorship from each other. We crave connection and a feeling of belonging in a seemingly scary or unknown world. But more than that: we need curiosity. There’s going to be a lot of need for innovation and pivoting: in business, personal life, and beyond. Whatever we do, whomever we ask for help, should want to know the why and how of something, and even more, we should be able to take the leap and create something. If you don’t like it? There are always those two magical “undo” keys to the rescue.
Stay curious and creative, my friends.