Curiosity and Humility
By Bryan Caplan
I had a conversation with a colleague today where he discussed research showing that successful people have (a) the confidence to aim for the top, and (b) the humility to harshly critique their own work. He went on to argue that you need humility to remain curious about the world.
I disagreed. In my experience, humble people are sheep. They aren’t curious about the world; instead, they look to other people for guidance. It is hard for them to question conventional wisdom, because their inner voice taunts, “What makes you think you’re so special?”
True, if you’re so arrogant that you think you’ve got the whole world figured out, you’re not going to be very curious either. But it takes a lot of confidence – even arrogance – to ask a question your peers aren’t asking, and insist that it deserves an answer. As Emerson wrote:
Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we
ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books
and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man
should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes
across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of
bards and sages.
P.S. Yes, I am aware of the irony of quoting this passage.