The 3 Benefits of Infectious Curiosity

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I am obsessed with knowing why and how things come to be. Knowing how something works isn’t good enough; I need to understand the relationship between things and how it makes everything else in the bigger picture tick.

Looking to differentiate yourself from your colleagues? Be curious. Tell people what you’ve just read out of HBR, Wired, TechCrunch or a LinkedIn post. Always inspire people to learn more by showing them what’s out there.

Instead of checking your email 30 times more than you should – set some time in your daily schedule to read something new and make a habit of telling someone about it within 24 hours. Making a habit of actively revising your newfound knowledge will actually help you remember it for a lot longer than if you just skim over an article.

The benefits of infectious curiosity:

1. You learn.
Learning is a lifelong endeavour. It nurtures your mind and builds you as a person. If you want to have a growth mindset for the rest of your life and avoid stagnating, you must invest in your personal development. The only time you should stop learning is when your heart stops beating.

2. You become interesting to talk to.
The most interesting people are those with stories to tell. The ability to captivate an audience with your knowledge of fascinating tidbits is one that will pay dividends if you leverage it properly. People pay you a lot of attention when you talk about stuff that most people don’t bother to, specifically people of influence.

3. You inspire people of influence to think optimistically about the future.
There are so many problems to solve in the world and there are so many wonderful people working in these fields – take their insights and passion and spread the love by telling other people about it. By doing so, you become that positive person people want to relate to.

So where do you find all this interesting content? Simple. Let other people find it for you.

If used properly, your social media feed will give you all the best articles & readings you could ever hope for. The trick is to delete (or hide) the people who only post stuff about themselves (you know who I mean) and curate your feed with inspirational people who post a lot on social media. Some great sources include:

  • Mark Zuckerberg: he regularly shares what he’s reading with the entire world
  • Richard Branson: a regular blogger with keen insights about entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Bill Gates: a keen social advocate, Gates is the epitome of entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist and his insights into both areas are incredibly interesting
  • HBR Blogs: the go-to place for business content
  • Quora: Yahoo-answers much more sophisticated, intellectual cousin, Quora is one of those places you could literally lose yourself in. Very popular amongst Silicon-Valley-ers, Quora is a goldfield of fascinating content.

Thank you for reading my post. Here at LinkedIn & on my personal blog, I regularly write about people management, digital & data. If you would like to read my regular posts, please click ‘Follow’ and feel free to also connect via Twitter, Facebook andimteazahamed.com.
Here are some other recent articles I have written:

About: Imteaz Ahamed works in the eCommerce space for RB. At the tender age of 6, in the early 90’s his father bought him a 386 PC for $3000, the best investment he could’ve ever made for his son. Imteaz also mentors early stage startups & entrepreneurs from all over the world and is avid fan of hackathons. He is also StartupBus Alumni – the most intense 72 hour startup hackathon in the world.

Connectors win in the long run

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Envy isn’t a part of my makeup.

At school, I was subject to a highly competitive environment. I had a 12-year old super genius in my Year 12, Extension 2 math class (the highest level of high school mathematics offered in Australia – not bad for tween). I also sat next to a guy who scored 100 in the university admission index. I was surrounded by what you’d call nerds, so I was nowhere near being the smartest kid at school and I knew it . My strengths were never in the traditional subjects – I did well in things like public speaking, debating, art, design tech, talking smack & being a showman. Not exactly examinable content.

But if school taught me one thing it was this: how to value & respect everyone. I’ve always had an ability to connect with the super geniuses – being able to discuss abstract concepts like whether zero is a positive or negative number and make them feel comfortable being themselves. And yet I was also cool with the super cool kids. My ability to transcend social constructs allowed me to move freely between diverse circles and learn from them all.

Now that I’m a grown up (though my wife would disagree), I apply this in a work context – I work in the tech space, but have no formal tech background. I’m the connector between the tech people and the key stakeholders that have the authority to make decisions. I can communicate effectively with both because I can speak their respective “language”. This comes from being appropriate to the situation you are in & selecting your words carefully to have maximal impact. This is a skill that can be easily developed over time – specifically if you mentally prepare how to you want to approach things.

Just like most learned behaviours, once you get the hang of it – it becomes second nature.

Be the connector at work, in relationships and in life. Be the guy/gal that bridges the gap between seemingly incompatible units. Not only will you be valued for your incredible ability to communicate but you will be in a prime position to create cross functional opportunities that will put you years ahead of the game.

EQ Insights from the Happiest Person in the World

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Growing up was tough. Not in the way people usually mean it when they say that though. I had a roof over my head, a hot dinner on the table every night and everything I needed or wanted. My parents worked full-time, I went to a selective high school and did pretty well academically and socially.

It was tough because I had a sister. A sister that happened to have an intellectual disability.

What does that mean? Well basically, it means she will never grow up (Peter-Pan style). Her mental capacity is that of a 2 year old and will remain so for the rest of her life. She can feed herself, walk by herself and follow simple instructions but that’s as far as her autonomy goes. Everything else (including her toileting, showering & day to day activities) must be tended to by someone else. When she’s not in care during the day, she’s being looked after by my tireless parents who come home from their full-time jobs each and every day to look after her every need.

And yet, she is the glue that keeps our family together. As her only sibling, I was made aware from a very young age that she would one day be my full responsibility. To have that on your shoulders from such a tender age forces you to grow up and be determined to achieve a lot in life. My sister has been my inspiration to succeed and has helped me gain insights into the world and people that I could not have gleaned otherwise.

Her EQ is incredible – she can gauge how personable a person is from the moment she meets them for the first time. She either likes them or doesn’t and in almost all cases, as I’ve ended up discovering, her assessments have been spot on. How does she display this? With warm, happy and hospitable people – she will instantly connect with them and sit & converse with them in her own way. With cold people, she’ll either refuse to enter their house or stay as far away as possible from them. How she gained this ability we will never know.

What amazes me most about her is that she’s always happy. Always. As someone with Angelman syndrome, her happy disposition is a prominent feature of the condition and one which endears her to everyone she meets. This has taught me an invaluable lesson in life about human connection – it’s fostered through hearts not words.

To experience what this is like – help out a person with a disability. Hang out and do an activity together (painting, walking, reading a book). You don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it – just observe the perseverance of a person with a disability and see how little effort you actually put into your life.

Building networks of reciprocity

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Making people feel special is an art form, especially when you’ve only known them for ten minutes

I’ve had a mentor who would walk into a room and by the end of the night, everyone in the room would know who he was and why he is simply just a remarkable person. His personality is extremely different to mine (he is on the extreme end of extroversion where I would describe myself as an ambivert) but I’ve learnt a lot just by observing what he does.
Listening and genuinely helping someone attain something of value to them – is by far the easiest way to get people to remember & like you.
Three things to make this happen for you:

  1. Keep building your personality portraits
  2. Read, Experience stuff & just Do it
  3. Be selfless.

A lot people think that networking is awkward, uncomfortable and difficult. It is if you come across as the annoying guy that only blows his own horn. But if you see networking as an opportunity to help someone realise something they’ve always wanted to – it becomes an incredibly powerful way to connect.
You can’t do the above without building and utilizing your personal networks. This is where your personality portraits come in handy & lets you put each new person together with another member of your network. LinkedIn & other networks also come in handy when you can’t remember certain details about a particular person. Additionally, I have my own trusted “experts” in almost every field whose expertise I will leverage frequently – from all aspects of business to tech, fashion, restaurants (if you don’t eat, you die), law, health, art, politics etc. In turn I provide these friends help with stuff that I’m good at.

But you can’t build a network if you don’t know stuff. And by stuff, I mean almost everything. The art is just knowing enough to string a conversation and demonstrating you’re genuinely interested. Pick up random magazines when you’re about to board a flight and read them cover to cover. Download Zite and choose some topics you have no idea about. Go have lunch in a suburb you’ve never been to before. Go to an art exhibition and just absorb.

Knowledge is only useless if you have no one to share it with. So read widely, have opinions & when its obvious that you don’t know enough, be humble. Key here is to do this daily, no matter how small an effort (reading an article on Zite takes 5 minutes).

Being selfless is how reciprocity kicks off – “be the change you want to see” said Gandhi. A bit clichéd, however by helping someone you’ve instantaneously built trust – they’re going to share a lot more information with you than would do normally. Information is more paint for your portrait and only helps you keep building your networks.

Being interested isn’t hard, doing something about it to help someone is. So JUST DO IT.

Sell Sell Sell – How to understand people

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You know when you meet someone for the first time & they ask you “what do you do for a crust?”

I work in Sales. I’m a bag man.

What’s a bag man? I get stuff out of my bag and sell it. Granted I do this in the online world now – but there’s only one thing people care about in sales & it’s the results you deliver.

So what makes a truly great bag man?

Is it the slick, extroverted guy who can talk who can make stuff up & talk his way through anything? Or perhaps the guy who knows all the facts, figures and detail to everything you didn’t know you needed? For long term selling – I believe it comes down to one thing.

Relationships. 

Building relationships with new people isn’t exactly easy – specifically if you’re naturally introverted like me. The below is what I do & is relevant for everyone who works with people (i.e. not just sales people). At the end of the day, we all sell sell sell.

Where do you start? One needs to understand what makes someone tick, before you come up with a way to get them to buy into what you want to sell them. How I start this process is quite simple.

I paint portraits. Not real ones (though I love art & will write about this another time), but mental ones of people’s character & personality. Once you get pro at this (with lots of practice), you will be able to predict people’s behaviour, reactions and decisions.

Start with a blank canvas. Hold back any prejudice and let the person tell you their story. If they’ve prompted you to tell your’s first, I would advise telling them something about yourself that you’ve told to 100 other people – being genuine and credible at a first meeting is incredibly important.

After you have concisely come to the point of your story (e.g. I got my first job in FMCG through my love of Fashion. How? I recited the entire alphabet in Designer Fashion labels at the interview – true story), ASK the person for their story & just listen. Don’t start thinking about your next line to impress, just listen. Take an extra 3 seconds to think about the “next logical question” to show that you have a deep understanding/concern for what they have just told you. But honestly, just listen. 

Just listen. Every piece of information a person shares with you is a reflection of their thought process, concerns and even their childhood/upbringing. There have been times within minutes of meeting someone, I would be able to tell that they have extremely close or distant relationships with their parents – how? Carefully listening to tonality and seeing facial responses to anything said about their childhood or just their parents.

Every piece of information you gain on a person is paint for your canvas. I will constantly ask mutual friends/connections for information on people all the time & social media/internet has made gathering basic information so much easier. Yes its kinda stalkerish, but enormously powerful in establish rapport with someone new very quickly.

Will come to how to use the above in the next post…

first up

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Going to keep this blog as a repository of thoughts, ideas, readings and musings to be able to one day reflect on how things were.This also fulfills a need to unleash the creative side of my brain that has been tucked away in endless spreadsheets & forecast models over the last 6 years. A lot has happened in that time & I want to give back and help out where I can with so many people I’ve lost touch with.

I will endeavour to post weekly & apologise for the American autocorrect spellings of words

Ideas for blog posts would be appreciated!