John Hendricks On Being Curious

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

The man behind the Discovery Channel explains how a childhood passion for road maps sparked his lifelong thirst for knowledge – as well as being the driving force behind his entrepreneurial spirit.

John Hendrix

Everything begins with curiosity. As a boy, I was captivated by my father’s old road maps of Colorado and Utah, as well as his stories about the majestic red-rock canyons he had discovered while traveling in western Colorado as a young man. Many evenings, after my dad came home from work, I would climb behind the wheel of his 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook and, armed with the colorful maps, set off on an imaginary drive to Provo, Grand Junction, Rifle and Zion. Adding to the wonder of each imagined trip were the illustrated dinosaurs on the map covers that told me I was traveling to the land of Tyrannosaurus rex. It would be some years before I made the journey in real life, but I am grateful for the powerful curiosity that my father (and his map collection) sparked in me.

In 1985, I launched the Discovery Channel, the flagship network of a company dedicated to enabling people to explore their world and satisfy their curiosity. There needed to be a channel devoted to the documentaries and educational programming that I found most interesting. The success of that business is testament to the market
and power of people’s curiosity.

I have my own theories about what it takes to be an entrepreneur – a fundamental sense of purpose and passion bordering on obsession, in addition to confidence, self-reliance and optimism that seem to outsize logic and facts. New business ventures are started only by people who are powerfully driven by their curiosity to find solutions and solve puzzles. In my experience, about a quarter of people in the world are fundamentally curious. That is not to say that 25 percent of people will launch a business. But the attribute of curiosity is an essential building block of those who create initiatives of any sort.