The Multiple Benefits of an Inquiring Mind

Spirit of inquiry

Intellectual curiosity and spirit of inquiry are part of the same continuum. There isn't a switch that activates one and keeps the other off. Rather, when we pursue inquiry we cultivate our ability to increase the number and richness of connections in our minds.

Warren Buffet is a widely known example in the business world. In a recent WSJ article#, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway comments on the reading habits of a young investment manager who is on a quest to read the annual letters of 3,000 companies:

“Over the years, there have been multiple times” when reading the annual letter “has been a factor in my deciding to do something or not to do something,” Mr. Buffett told me this past week when I mentioned Mr. Abbott’s project. Reading a letter was never “the deciding or dominant factor,” he said, “but it was definitely often a factor.”

Reading actively, asking questions of ourselves as if in a conversation with the author —whether that be of a book, an article, or a letter to shareholders— engages our spirit of inquiry. Which helps us understand the context of decisions.

We can learn to appreciate when the view comes from somewhere and its direction. Reading helps us go from knowledge to data. In the case of human data, we see the value placed on promises.

Focus on the long term, care about customers, a clear articulation of how the business makes money and how the company measures its progress toward goals are the data points Mr. Abbott, who runs a small New York investment partnership called GCA Capital, looks for.

In business, it's our job not just to read, but to notice, not just to see, but to observe to make sense of our work. Pressure to perform and the stress associated with it is not the sole reason why meditation has been top of mind for anxious Wall Street types and TV anchors alike.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”

In Wherever You Go, There You Are, he says:

The spirit of inquiry is fundamental to living mindfully. Inquiry is not just a way to solve problems. It is a way to make sure you are staying in touch with the basic mystery of life itself and of our presence here.


Inquiry doesn't mean looking or answers especially quick answers which come our of superficial thinking. It means asking without expecting answers, just pondering the question, carrying the wondering with you, letting it percolate, bubble, cook, ripen, come in an out of our awareness just as everything else comes in an out of awareness.


Inquiry and mindfulness can occur simultaneously in the unfolding of your daily life. In fact, inquiry and mindfulness are one and the same thing, come to from different directions.

When we marry a curious mind with a mindful approach to life, we learn to face the problems that arise —small and overwhelming alike— and get to their root cause of our thinking without getting swept under it.

The more we listen to the questions, the more effective we become at understanding our thought process. Which is the drive hard-wired in us and the filter with which we face the world and use in our decision making process.


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