Be More Curious Than Afraid

Feb 20, 2015 1 Min Read


I once came across a story of a native tribe in America a long time ago that believed trains were gigantic, man-eating monsters that rampaged through the night.

The tribe’s initial exposure to trains was the roaring sound of the giant machine as it barreled past their area during the night.

Therefore, they taught their children to fear the loud, angry, giant “monster” that blasted through the dark.

Decades later, when a young man from the tribe made it to a big city, he was invited to ride on a train.

Initially he hesitated, because he recognised it as that giant, angry “monster” terrorising and eating people. But eventually he stepped into the train and went for the ride.

He was asked later why he dared to get on, and he replied this:

“Life has taught me to be more curious than afraid.”

I thought that that was a wonderful story. We were conditioned from an early age to mind our own business and not to sneak and play around with things that could get us hurt.

“Curiosity kills the cat” was the quote we were taught in schools.

Let me ask you this: When was the last time you got yourself hurt for being curious?

Why develop a curious mind as a coach?

I’ve learnt in coaching that I cannot form powerful questions without listening well. I can’t listen well if I’m not interested in my coachee.

Sometimes, my coachees come with very interesting stories. Usually, they would bring their issues and challenges in life to me when they were at pretty low points in life.

I find that the best (and only) way I can genuinely show interest to know more about my coachees is by being very curious.

Without curiosity I would miss many subtle clues and nuances, which are crucial to the success of the coaching relationship.

I must not take whatever words spoken by my coachees (even those seemingly insignificant) for granted.

I’ve to put on my investigator hat and think from a very inquisitive angle.

Only then can I put together the pieces of the puzzle to see the whole picture.

Why develop a curious mind in life?

In my journey of life, I’ve been through disappointments and faced many fears.

I’ve learnt that I can empower myself and take charge by asking this question:

“What else can this mean?”

I can always reframe and give new meaning to all outcomes and circumstances, even the negative ones.

For example, when I’m about to speak in front of a crowd, I’d feel butterflies in my stomach, my heart pumping rapidly and my palms sweating. Naturally, one of my inner voices would say, “I’m so nervous I’m going to wreck the speech big time!”

I would overcome that voice by asking, “What else can these feelings inside mean?”

And I can turn up the volume of another inner voice that answers:

“I’m feeling so excited and I’m pumped up for the big occasion. Let’s do this!”

Concluding thoughts

Without curiosity and the right questions, I’ll miss out on the bigger lessons that are right in front of me. That would be a waste.

Whenever I feel anxious or nervous, I’ve learnt that I should be more curious than afraid.

Hwai Tah is the founder of and a certified professional coach and Professional Certified Coach with ICF (International Coach Federation). Drop us a line or two in the comment box below or email us at For more Thought of the Week articles, click here.

Reposted with permission and published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 21 February 2015

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