Russel Davies writes about how to be interesting (unrelated to the recent brouhaha surrounding the Flickr interestingness patent). This seems to be related to the phenomenon of homophily (the tendency to associate with people like yourself). By stepping outside of your comfort zone to learn and try new things you are breaking from the personal inertia that binds so many of us to our boring daily routines.
I find it can be a challenge to keep pushing myself to find new sources of intellectual stimulation. It’s so easy to just read blogs written by people I know and agree with or listen to radio programs I already like or watch TV and movies I know I will enjoy. I sometimes to grab a random book or DVD, to drive down a different road, or, my biggest challenge, talk to a person I don’t know. I find that a degree of randomness in what I’m exposed to each day is alternately unsettling and exciting.
Being interesting can be useful. It helps you win friends and influence people. In business it helps increase sales or get you hired. In life it helps you get the girls and makes people want to be your friend or invite you to parties. However, staying interesting over time involves being versed in a wide variety of subjects from history to economics to pop culture, the same diversity of knowledge that helps you win at Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit.
A side benefit of diversifying your areas of interest is that it can lead to the serendipitous juxtaposition of ideas. Big words describing a simple, beautiful moment when two seemingly unrelated things are put together and BAMMO, something new and unexpected is discovered like the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. The Natural Philosophers of the English Royal Society such as Newton, Hooke, and Boyle made great discoveries and leaps in scientific knowledge as a result of their diverse interests. They studied math, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, optics, anatomy, and may other fields. Many of their discoveries came about as a result of hard work interspersed with moments of serendipitous juxtaposition of ideas.
Your moments of inspiration may not end up leading to the discovery of natural laws as Newton’s did. However it could lead to a great invention, innovation, business idea, or joke that will get you date.