The Most Important Skill

Is being interesting. In improv and creative brainstorming, we sometimes call it being “high-reference.”

We all know interesting people. They brought a bizarre knowlege of the US whaling industry to the work happy hour. They just sent out an office email inviting you to see a play they just wrote. They gave you advice for relieving your lower back pain by lying down on the handle of a kettle bell so it smashes a tendon in your stomach. They’re like a Swiss Army Knife of hobbies and life experiences.

Sometimes you talk with them and their end of the conversation sounds made up. They’re not like an onion you peel the layers back with; they’re a field of onions. It doesn’t make any sense. They’re different. And weird. And they must be fake. 

What you don’t realize, though, is these people aren’t the old man in the movie Big Fish, making it all up as they go along. They’re simply the product of actions any person can take.

They’ve cultivated a skill through years of turning curiosities into interests. Even curiosities they didn’t want to pursue, but did anyway to fill a gap in their knowledge they previously didn’t know existed.

Being interesting is a skill. It requires the same rigor of any other skill: desire, discipline, repetition and - ultimately - virtuosity. Be willing to learn something new. Dive into it. Find something else. Do it again. Repeat for a lifetime. 

The goal? Make yourself so interesting that people think you’re making it all up.

Eminem becoming more high reference.

Eminem becoming more high reference.

Matt Kelly