I spoke recently with some entrepreneurial friends about what we look for in a person. As the saying goes, you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, and if that’s the case, then you better be selective about your friends.
As I went through my criteria, I noticed a delicious metaphor coming to mind. All the people I enjoy spending time with, want to spend time with, and respect or admire have one thing in common: they are sponges.
What do sponges do? They soak up stuff in one place, and then they squeeze them out somewhere new, leaving the overall surroundings more desirable. That’s exactly what my favorite people do. In a sponge, it’s absorbent and squishy, but in a person, it’s curious and creative.
Sponge People Are Curious
Sponges are not conscious, but a person wielding a sponge is. And what does a person wielding a sponge do? They look for areas to clean, for places that need sponging. One would not call the resulting entity curious, but you could call it inquisitive, exploratory, questing, even ‘thirsty’ for water. Those are all great ways to describe my favorite people as well – thirsty for knowledge.
Sponge people are curious. They want to know why the world is the way it is. They question incessantly in order to understand. They are open minded individuals who languish without new ideas and perspectives. Without something to explore or a mystery to tinker with, they cannot indulge their intrinsic desire to know more about the world around them.
As a result, an intellectually curious person becomes an interesting person, because their incessant questions eventually turn them into esoteric experts, knowledgable about every subject slightly, or one subject deeply.
In my eyes, the best friendships bring interesting, relevant, new things into the lives of each participant. A good friend will find the things they think you like and share them with you, enriching your life with novelty and theirs with a shared interest. In this way, they act as filters, screening out the vast expanse of boring reality into the choicest bits they know you’ll like. It’s one reason why friends are great!
A curious friend will always have something new to brighten your life with, because they can never satisfy their inquisitive spirit. And since they are your friend, chances are the things that excite them are things that excite you. So a curious friend will always bring exciting new things into your life.
Sponge People Are Creative
A sponge has only done its job once it is dry. What use is a bloated sponge that never releases the water it soaks up? It is only then that it becomes useful. Otherwise a sponge could only be used once, while one that releases its water can be used again and again.
A true sponge person is one that is curious, but also puts that knowledge and wisdom to use in the form of something creative. They are not content merely to soak up and experience new things, but also wish to add something new to the world of their own making.
It doesn’t matter what that thing is. A creative person is interesting to talk to regardless of their medium, for you have all the more to learn from the ones outside of your interest, and you can share tactics and hone your craft with those you are more familiar with. What’s more, you can start relationships with creative people more easily because you can get a sense of who they are and what they stand for without talking to them, through their creations!
A creative person thus becomes more effective at curiosity that a solely curious person could ever be. A curious person can only explore what is in front of them, the parts of the world she knows about. Even with fellow curious friends who filter out the vastness of reality for relevant interests, they can only explore what they and their associate are aware of. But a creative person will work less and experience more. Their creations bring great things into their life all on their own..
How? Like attracts like. If you see a piece of art that strikes a chord with you, read a book you empathize with, or otherwise experience a creation that speaks to your worldview, you will probably want to learn more about the creator. Except for the stupendously famous, most creators are quite accessible – only an email, tweet, or click away. Once you find them, you will tell them about how their creation made you feel, what you think it means to them, and share other creations that it reminded you of.
In this way, the creator recruits others to her curious cause. She has an army of admirers and supporters who feel a kinship to her through the creation, and they all want to tell her about similar things or experiences. She is more powerful than the uncreative curious person, because she does not have to devote time to discovery. Instead, she devotes time to creation, and her creation passively recruits other people to her curious cause.
Be a Sponge Yourself
The best people to surround yourself with are those who take in and put out. Needless to say you should do the same. You gain all the benefits of a curious, creative person, other curious, creative people will want to spend more time with you, and you gain the satisfaction of learning more about the world around you while adding something uniquely of your own.