Staying Curious And Playful


Curiosity and playfulness are the ignitions of technology and progressiveness. If inventors and scientists were never curious and playful, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But who’s to say that only inventors and scientists can be inquisitive and motivated?

In a time where the overall sentiment and mood are down, all the more we must keep motivating ourselves to push forward. When the tough times are over, and the majority are crawling out of their caves, it’s those who were already out and about that would lead the charge.

Yes, we might not be the next big name to become a billionaire overnight because of a new tech product we coded by burning midnight oil for months or investing in such businesses. We might not even make it in our career because of hundreds of reasons we can’t control.

One thing is for sure, though, if we just sit back in our comfy status quo, we’re not going anywhere, literally and figuratively. The inquisitive is always on the move.

Before this sounds like a pep talk (or article), I just want to share some musings over the past four months or so since Singapore took quite extreme measures to ensure the safety of close to six million local and foreign residents.

Hopefully, these will help put the situation in perspective. If a pandemic feels like it’s time to take a rest or break, maybe we should think twice and do quite the opposite.

Unemployment rates might hit SARS levels

Just a scary statistic to give us a reminder how bad this is going to be: Singapore’s unemployment rate hit 2.9% recently (3.3% at the peak of the 2009 global financial crisis, and 4.8% during the SARS outbreak in 2003), and it doesn’t look like it’s going down anytime soon.

If we’re still employed at this time, we should be grateful and still be on our toes. We’ll never know when we would suddenly be added to the unemployed pool, especially since many companies are cutting costs.

As someone who works in a digital marketing agency helping hundreds of businesses in Singapore promote their services and products online, the consensus among the management teams of our clients is that they’re expecting at least another six to nine months of depressed economic conditions.

With that in mind, we can’t expect the same job security, opportunities and compensation as when it’s all sunny and rosy. We’re all expected to not just pull our weight, but add that extra value to our employers because every bit counts in helping our companies traverse the rough waters ahead.

Staying curious and learning – that’s probably the one biggest commitment we can make to our company and the economy on a wider scale.

Best time to learn

Without having to commute to and from the workplace, many of us “saved” ourselves at least a couple hours per workday, which adds up to 10 extra hours a week. Some of us invest that time into more sleep, gaming, drama bingeing… and the list goes on.

Now, there’s no judgment or wrong in doing anything that makes you happy amidst this dark period. In fact, it’s a necessary “guilty pleasure” to keep ourselves sane. It doesn’t hurt to take one or two hours out of the extra time we get and invest in future selves, though, right?

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

– Henry Ford

With time in our hands right now and the internet at our fingertips (quite literally), we should at the very least make use of this advantage to “future-proof” ourselves. The baby boomers may feel like they’re getting obsolete at their age, but if Gen X, Y and Z don’t stay curious and learn, they’ll feel obsolete in a few years.

That said, there’s mindless learning just for the sake of learning, and there’s intentional learning, which is what we’re looking at next.

Intentional learning

There are SkillsFuture credits for every Singaporean and Permanent Resident, yet less than half of us have used any credits at all. Nevertheless, just taking up a random course and paying for it (from our pockets or not) won’t get us anywhere.

The intention and purpose behind the learning set someone who benefits from the knowledge apart from another who just wants to maximise taxpayer benefits.

Setting the intention to learn a skill that piques our interest gives us something to look forward to outside of work. Look at it as a hobby if you will and if it helps to make it fun – the theme is staying curious and playful, anyway!

Most importantly, fall in love with the process of learning, the seconds and minutes and even hours on the nitty gritty of a certain topic. For example, I’m recently spending a lot of time understanding beyond the basics of HTML and CSS, and getting into Javascript as part of my interest in website development.

In fact, I’ve used some of my free time, though very little, to build fully functional micro websites for a close friend who runs a cleaning company in Kuala Lumpur, and a yoga teacher whose classes I’ve been religiously attending all through Circuit-Breaker to start his online yoga studio.

Behind the production of those websites, was dozens (or hundreds?) of hours of prior research, reading up, taking a course, and intentional learning from others.

How to stay curious and playful

Sacrifice some hours of gaming or drama bingeing for some intentional learning online. There are tonnes of free courses and blogs out there for the curious mind – just a simple Google search for any topic related to your field of expertise or interest will take you several weeks or even months to complete.

It’d go a long way when you accumulate those intentional learning hours over months and even years. You’ll be surprised how certain knowledge you gained years ago can become useful in a current job function.

Reignite the curiosity of the child in ourselves – the child will thank us in decades to come.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

– Walt Disney

About the author

Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.


by Vance Wong


Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.