In late 2011, I wrote a short article titled “How to Be Interesting in 10 Simple Steps“ that went viral. I then turned it into a book with same title. It’s now in its ninth printing and has been translated into Chinese, Russian, Arabic, French, Spanish, Dutch, Thai and Korean.
While I wrote the book, I thought of all the interesting people I’ve ever known and why they’re so compelling, so fascinating and so memorable to me. What is it about some people that makes them unforgettable, that makes me want to invite them to everything, that makes them inspiring?
Why do some people make lasting impressions while others just make small talk?
The facts are: Interesting people do things. They share what they know, what they’re curious about and what they worry about. They have interests and hobbies and causes and places and people they care about.
Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time
They’ve got quirks and odd habits. They do things other people probably have never even thought about doing. They don’t apologize for their loves and their passions. And they don’t think their favorite things are better than anyone else’s favorite things because they’re too curious to be reflexively judgmental.
Interesting people, ironically, listen far more than they talk. They’re not afraid of naysayers or long odds, and they don’t get caught up with trying to be interesting to everyone.
There’s a park near my house with a long, stony beach, and there’s a couple that walks that beach every day, holding hands. They smile constantly, even when the weather is dismal. They dress alike: In faded blue jackets and green rain boots, and they even have the same short gray haircuts.
And they are clearly the most interesting people in the world to each other. They explore together. They share the experience. They put on their boots, and they hike that beach every day.
They don’t do it because it’s a popular activity; they do it because it’s their thing. They put consistent effort into it. And they don’t do it for likes or praise or status. They do it without fear of judgment or ridicule. They do it for fun.
They’re not trying to be everything to everyone, but they are everything to someone. They’ve each found someone who thinks that they’re the most interesting person alive—and I’ve never seen either one not smiling. Why wouldn’t they? The whole world is their playground.
So get out there. Take the first step. Explore your playground.
Jessica Hagy is the author of How to Be Interesting in 10 Simple Steps.