3 Sure-Fire Steps to be Intellectually Hungry

It’s important to be intellectually hungry. Why? Because your intellectual hunger determines your altitude. While it is not the only factor, it certainly is a very important factor. This is especially true in this era of “information age” and “knowledge workers”.

Being intellectually hungry makes you highly motivated to learn. While reading a book for example, you can’t wait to finish it and absorb all the ideas in it. You are eager to get the most of it in the shortest possible time. Learning will be something you do with passion and excitement. Learning will be a lot of fun.

If you are hungry, you will be a passionate person. People can recognize your passion in your talks and writings, and they feel energized by it. People will listen to you because you are both very knowledgeable and exciting. There is something in you that will turn people’s attention to you.

In short, being hungry gives you a strong competitive advantage. You will move forward at full speed.

While ideally you should be intellectually hungry at all time, that doesn’t just happen. You must cultivate it. Here are three sure-fire steps to be intellectually hungry:

1. Find things you are passionate about

It should be your first step. It will be much easier to be hungry about something if it is something you are passionate about in the first place. Find your passion and start from there. See How to Find Your Passion for some tips on finding your passions.

2. Aim to be a Maven

Even for things you are passionate about, you won’t be hungry if you aim too low. Why should you move at full speed if you just want to go to a near place? Aim high and you will be hungry. Aim to be a Maven.

Maven is one of the three types of person in the book The Tipping Point that has the ability to spread social epidemics (the other two types are Connector and Salesman). Mavens are “information specialists”, “people we rely upon to connect us with new information”. From The Tipping Point

Obviously they know things that the rest of us don’t. They read more magazines than the rest of us, more newspapers… Mavens have the knowledge and social skills to start word-of-mouth epidemics.

But Mavens are not just experts:

They are more than experts. An expert… will “talk about, say, cars because they love cars. But they don’t talk about cars because they love you, and want to help you with your decision. The Market Maven will. They are more socially motivated”.

A Maven is an expert with a good cause, which is helping others. In turn, it gives them influential power:

The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone’s attention.

If you aim to be a Maven, I guarantee you will be hungry. Your life will also be fulfilling since your motivation is to help others.

3. Find your role models

It is difficult to be hungry if we only have vague idea of how hunger is like. So it is always helpful to find some persons as your role models. They will inspire you to be hungry. You can find your own role models, but here are some samples:

  • Bill Gates
    In his official bio, he is described as “an avid reader”. He has deep interest in multiple topics such as information technology, biotechnology, health, and social welfare.
    There is also a statement in his book The Road Ahead which describes Microsoft’s hunger. This hunger can of course be attributed to Bill Gates. I can’t find the book to give you the precise quote, but Bill Gates said something like this: “If there is anything that could be praised from Microsoft, it is that we fight for the top spot everyday. We always think that we are in the losing side.”
  • Steve Jobs
    Steve Jobs’ hunger leads him to achieve extraordinary achievements like the Macintosh, Pixar, and iPod. These are things that shake the whole industry. His hunger is well described in the way he closed his famous commencement address at Stanford:

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.

  • Richard Feynman
    Richard Feynman was a genius in physics who won the Nobel prize in 1965. He has always been an inspiration for me. You can see a glimpse of his hunger from the subtitle of his book Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character. He had deep hunger on learning many topics as diverse as physics (of course), Brazilian music, Japanese, and hypnosis. He was simply unstoppable. If you want to get a glimpse about the life of a hungry person, for whom learning was indeed a lot of fun, I’d suggest you read Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman. It’s a fun and inspiring read for me.

Find out what you are passionate about, aim high, and find role models to inspire you. If you do these three steps, you will be intellectually hungry.


  1. Great post Donald. You “hit a nerve” here.

    Learning gets exciting when we can begin to see the application of what we are learning come to fruition in front of us! When learning stimulates something tangible, we tend to get motivated to learn even more.

    Many people are fearful of learning new things because of pre-conceived notions of inadequacy. Their attitude is limiting them. We should embrace learning because of the doors it will open to us. Learning is the primer step to earning!

    Continuous, life-long learning is the rule, not the exception anymore.

  2. I completely agree with you, Daniel. We have to learn more if we are to earn more. In the future, as knowledge becomes more and more important, this principle will be even stronger.

  3. I’ ve never heard the term ‘Maven’ before, but now I want to be one! I really believe that if we focus on helping people with our information, we will achieve greatness.

  4. @Court:
    That exactly is the beauty of being a Maven. We help others, but by doing so we eventually achieve greatness. I’m glad you want to be one!

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