"I Wished to Know More..."


Bertrand Russell, the mathematician and Nobel Laureate, once described his early years by saying, “There was a footpath leading across the fields to New Southgate, and I used to go there alone to watch the sunset and contemplate suicide."

That's an ominous setup.

"I did not, however, commit suicide..."

The act of his retelling makes this a bit redundant. But what I find most interesting is the reason why he did not act out the thoughts he contemplated.

What kept Russell from the edge of desperation? Perhaps unrequited love or things left unresolved?


"Because I wished to know more about mathematics.”

As someone who has never enjoyed math, this makes me chuckle. I'd be more likely to be pushed to desperation because of mathematics.

But I do resonate with Russell's sense of curiosity driving him ahead. This is why I love reading so much. In particular, books that offer an idea or perspective that's new to me. I'm fascinated by the concept that there are brilliant ideas out there I've never heard of before. 

We don't know what we don't know.

This is why the wish to know more can be a powerful motivator. It can unlock perspectives you don't currently have or ways of living that would better allow you to thrive. But it doesn't happen when we're content with what we already know and what we've already experienced.

It also strikes me as the difference between people who age well and those who are grumpy and alone. The former continue learning from younger people and adapting as they age. The latter convince themselves they already know all there is to know and become combative to new ideas.

This has been my favorite part of podcasting. I recently recorded my twentieth episode and I'm amazed at how much I've learned from these conversations. I've even added a few questions I regularly ask guests that get to the heart of staying curious:

  • How has your faith changed over the last ten years?
  • What is something you used to believe that it turned out later you were wrong about?
  • What is something that's blowing your mind right now?

Check out Cabernet and Pray if you're curious about how different leaders answer these types of questions.

If math can keep someone from despair, just imagine what a healthy curiosity could do for you.

Photo by Joseph Rosales on Unsplash

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