You’re never as interesting as you think you are. You’re either more (or less) interesting than you think because you can’t objectively measure how interesting you are. This is kind of a problem because if you believe what Russell Davies wrote in 2006 , it’s becoming more important than ever to be interesting (and creative):
… the core skill of any future creative business person will be ‘being interesting’. People will employ and want to work with (and want to be with) interesting people.
Davies’ key advice is to:
- Be interested in the world around you.
- Share your interests with other people.
He also cited ten ways to become better at being interesting in the post that I linked to above.
A few other people think that it’s important to be interesting. You could easily argue that Seth Godin’s most famous bit of wisdom (be remarkable) is being interesting, but taking it to an extreme. Over at Copyblogger, Jon Morrow capped off a short series of posts with 21 ways to make your writing more interesting. My friend Mark McGuiness took another stab at this topic by revisiting Russell Davies’ original article and condensing the whole thing down to two main points:
- Follow your interests (don’t try to be interested in the entire world)
- Commit (actively pursue these interests by working at learning and doing them)
It’s all good advice, isn’t it?
But why is it so important to be interesting? Davies has given us a couple of key statements but maybe you’re looking for more explanation.
Here’s why it’s important (or at least a good idea) to be interesting:
- If you develop interests and tell other people about them, it makes you distinguishable from the rest of the world. Note, however, that these interests should be uncommon without being completely alien. Saying that you like to play golf, tennis or drink beer and wine isn’t enough to distinguish you from the rest of the world unless you are extremely good at these hobbies or if you use advanced skills, techniques and gears. The same problem exists for saying that you like to listen to music, play Rock Band or World of Warcraft: too much competition. Unless, of course, you can do these things while standing on your head.
- Developing interests gives you knowledge and experience that you can apply in many different areas of your life. If you learn the piano (and the theory behind it), it gives you some insight into science and mathematics. Plus you can make some money tutoring people (which in itself is a bit interesting).
- Having interests (again, one of the keys to being interesting) gives you stories to tell other people (Davies’ other key to being interesting).
- Being interesting makes you, well, interesting to other people and they might like to have you around.
Having written all that, I trust you’re convinced that it’s interesting to be important.
Now, just in case Davies’ list wasn’t comprehensive enough, I’ve included 23 more ways to become more interesting. There’s also a little caveat at the end, so please make sure that you check that out as well. I wouldn’t want you to spend a lot of time trying to be interesting, only to screw it up at the end!
23 More Ways To Be Interesting (and creative)
1. Take up a cause, as an individual, and become the champion of something that’s not well known. Write a manifesto about it, if it feels right.
A couple of decades ago (or maybe even last year, for all I know), it used to be common to tell people “I’m into (insert your own cause here).” It could be a fad. It could be a religious crusade. It could be anything in between. The point is to become an expert on something that people haven’t heard of, but that sounds intriguing.
It would be tempting to make something up at this point, but ideally you should be able to find a least one Google result for it, but less than 50,000 results. These days, having less than 50,000 results is a sign that something’s new or not well known. It could also be a sign that your area of interest is uninteresting, so be careful with this one.
Note: the 50,000 results figure is somewhat arbitrary, so use your best judgement here.
If done with care and integrity, being the expert on something unknown and potentially cool increases your Interestingness Quotient score by a healthy amount.
2. Take up a cause, as a part of a group, and become the champion of something that’s not well known. Help write a group manifesto about it, if it feels right.
This is the “team” version of #1 above. Basically, it works the same way, but you’ve got the added appeal of belonging to a group of the cool kids.
3. Learn to write with the opposite hand.
If you are right handed, have you ever tried to write with your left hand? One of the few things that I’ve found more awkward than writing with my left hand was driving a manual transmission car on the left hand side of the road and shifting with my left hand… in a snow storm.
But here’s the funny thing: I never seem to get any worse at writing with my left hand and my handwriting seems to improve a bit each time. This is one of those activities that stimulate your brain in a beneficial way. It also looks cool if you are something close to being ambidextrous.
4. Try an unusual activity with the idea of setting a world record and/or winning a sporting event.
This will be a great conversation piece whether or not you succeed.
5. Try to learn a new artistic skill such as: singing; playing a musical instrument; dancing; learning a simple but effective magic trick.
You’ll benefit greatly from the skills and experience that you’ll gain from doing this. You can demonstrate and entertain people with the skill (no matter what your level of mastery is). Plus, if you win awards for doing this… you’ve got social proof.
6. Build elaborate houses of cards or insanely complicated domino runs.
You will demonstrate awe-inspiring patience and persistence if you succeed at doing this.
7. Become vegetarian or vegan; each something new once per week and tell the world about it; make water the only liquid that you drink.
Messing around with your diet always raises eyebrows. Steve Pavlina did a 30 day Juice Feast (i.e. he only ingested juices made from raw vegetables or fruits) or at least he tried to – I don’t believe that he finished that one. However, it’s always interesting to hear what people experience when they try different foods.
There are a few diets that I’d steer clear from, like:
- The all water diet
- The all Snickers/insert your favorite candy bar here diet
- The all Burger King diet (not to pick on them; many fast food chains will also fulfill this requirement)
You get the picture.
8. Learn to cook at least one delicious meal that virtually anyone would enjoy.
Please note that I said virtually anyone – it’s impossible to satisfy everyone’s food likes. However, there’s some advantage to making the best pizza, pasta, vegetarian dish, etc. The experience is great and it helps to be known as a great cook, even if it’s only for one thing. If possible, make sure that you use at least one secret ingredient, even if it isn’t real.
9. Watch more documentaries/science/history/biographies and read books from every section of your library.
Broaden your knowledge and look for it in unusual places. You’re guaranteed to find out at least one interesting thing that you might turn into a new hobby or obsession.
10. Do something ordinary in a completely different way (e.g. take a different route to school or work on a regular basis).
Do the dishes blindfolded. Invent a way to sort your incoming mail in five seconds. Invent a robot to answer the door. Make custom answering machine messages. Be creative with something banal.
There are two advantages for doing this. First, if you come up with a really original and revolutionary idea, you’ll learn a lot through the process. Second, you’ll probably help other people and look clever in the process.
As an example, this video about folding a T-Shirt in two seconds is a mini-classic.
11. Travel to places that most people don’t go to.
People like to hear about travels to exotic or seldom-seem locales, especially if they sound mysterious or exotic. Tell other people about these unknown gems.
12. Cultivate at least one paradox or contradiction in your life.
The best example of this one that I can think of comes from my friend Mark McGuinness. As he said on Wishful Thinking, he writes sensitive poetry yet he’s a huge football fan. Sure seems like a contradiction to me [sounds of bones crunching on the television]. However, these contradictions are made of the stuff that interesting comes from. In other words, contrasting to extremely different interests makes for good conversation.
13. Grow something.
Vegetables and fruits are usually the first choice here but, by all means, raise livestock if you want! Whatever the organism, growing something is educational and rewarding. Plus you can show off the fruits (sorry) of your labor later on.
14. Get better at memorizing things, public speaking, and/or learning a new language.
There’s a huge oral component to this one. Memorizing things is cool because you can, say, rattle of verses of Shakespeare’s plays at the drop of the hat. Getting better at public speaking will make that easier. For extra challenge, learn a new language as well.
People still like to hear the sound of other people’s voices, especially if there’s both enthusiasm and vocal variety in the delivery.
15. Remember/collect people, their names and their lives.
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell upgrades the classic socialite by giving them the name “connector”. Author Keith Ferrazi takes this to another extreme by making an art and science out of networking. Here’s the thing: it’s not really a shallow thing. It’s a great thing to know lots of people because you can help them and vice versa. You learn from them and vice versa. Plus, people appreciate it when you can show that you are actually listening to them.
16. Organize gatherings to connect people with unusual shared interests.
This has the same basic benefits as 15 above, but it has the added benefit of bringing a number of people together, which adds to the possibilities of learning and laughing (and seeing at least one person make a fool of themselves in order to please the crowd).
17. Do one 30 day trial at least two times per year and write about it on a blog.
I first heard of the term 30 day trial via Steve Pavlina. You adopt a new habit (normally a healthy one) for 30 days and see what kind of impact it has on your life. Try a new exercise habit; change your diet; do something different every day for 30 days. You could argue that NaNoWriMo and GloManWriMo are examples of 30 day trials. At the end of 30 days, you can determine what you want to do next.
18. Become an active listener and thoughtful questioner who brings out the interesting qualities of the people you talk to.
This is another aspect of “be interested” that Davies wrote about: being interested in other people. This is a little bit different than #15 although it’s similar.
19. Study comic book series or organized religions.
Aside from Jack Chick, neither of these are connected, right? Actually, there’s one big thing that connects them: mythology. Understanding mythology is powerful stuff. You can learn a lot about humanity via mythology. It can help you to relate better to people from different cultures, too.
20. Sketch and doodle regularly; work your way up to actual drawings.
It uses different mental and physical muscles than you use while writing. If you’re not a drawer (I’m not), it will feel uncomfortable, kind of like working with your opposite hand (see #3 above). It’s a great exercise in focus and patience and it’s pretty rewarding when you get a sketch that looks like more than just a mess of lines.
21. Make lists of things to do and start doing them.
Maybe this should really be #1, but it doesn’t matter. The point is to set goals and try different things. Interesting people do things, especially new things that they haven’t done before. You can, too!
22. Practice losing a sense or ability and try living without it for awhile.
I think I first heard about this when I was reading a biography about John Lennon or Pete Townsend. In British art school, some students were given projects to simulate the loss of their legs or one of their senses.
The closest that I’ve ever come to doing this was when I used to come home late at night, when it was already dark out (this was back in my early 20s, FYI). I’d close my eyes, walk downstairs, and find my way into my bedroom. I used to take quite a lot of pride in doing this. Mind you, it was so dark that there wasn’t much difference in keeping my eyes open or closed, but it’s the principle that counts here.
I never broke any bones doing this, either.
People may look at you strangely, but simulating the loss of a sense is an interesting thing to do… right?
23. Listen to classical music or jazz, especially if you hate them now.
Here’s the thing: classical music and jazz often do a few things that most of today’s music fails to do, such as:
- Getting beyond 4/4 time
- Getting beyond a thumping bass beat
- Getting beyond rap/hip hop
- Getting beyond words
Appreciating different musical styles and structures will teach you lots of great things.
And now (I know you’ve been waiting for it) the caveat:
Just remember that sometimes the things that you find interesting don’t always seem interesting to other people. Therefore, while it’s great to share your interests… use good sense and judgment in sharing them. In particular, don’t overwhelm them (or bore them!)
Now over to you: these are my ideas on being interesting. What ideas do you have to share with us?
Image by tourist_on_earth
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