If the Corona crisis makes something clear to us, it is that the solutions of the past no longer work for today’s problems. But in order to achieve those new solutions and create real innovations that benefit society, something has to change in the way we look at the world. Curiosity, the basis for everything we do at Innovation Origins, is crucial, as the research of Danae Bodewes shows. In a series of interviews, she talks to curious types who each in their own way provide the building blocks for a life filled with curiosity. Here’s the complete series so far. [NB: this interview took place in the spring of 2019 – please read the epilogue for an update]
Curious types: Justin Stomp (18), autodidact with ambitions, b-boy, and pupil
Breakdancing on your head and solving a Rubik’s cube at the same time? Justin Stomp taught himself the trick and entered the finals of Holland’s Got Talent in 2016. I interviewed Justin to find out more about his enormous will to explore and learn. How is it possible that with an attitude like that, school is so difficult? Justin, when we meet, is 2 months away from his final school exam.
What’s curiosity to you?
For me, curiosity is that you’re very curious about how something works. You want to know all about it. You do this by examining it. What mechanisms and history are behind it? Who knows?
How curious do you think you are?
I’m curious about some things, not others. In general, I find myself curious. I’d like to know why something is like this or why it works like this. I won’t settle for it “it’s just like this“. I also like to investigate things when I’m interested in them. I’ll observe how it works and then dive right in. Unfortunately, I don’t have this at school and I’m not curious about school topics.
Can you tell me how you learned to solve a Rubik’s cube so quickly?
I was at my aunt’s house and saw a Rubik’s cube lying there. I wanted to solve it, but I couldn’t. I thought I could do this. I was looking on Youtube for a way to fix it. When I finally could do it, I wanted to be able to do it faster and looked again on Youtube to find out how to do it. Then I was able to dissolve the cube within 15 seconds. At my dance group, someone said for fun to do the Rubik’s cube with dancing together. That was five years ago.
What’s the most curious thing you’ve done in your life?
That must be the breakdancing because I was really obsessed with this and wanted to find out everything about it. With the breakdancing, it all went like with the Rubik’s cube. I learned new moves on Youtube and practiced for two hours every day. First I practiced alone, then I went to class for about a year. When I grew above the level of my class I started practicing on my own again. There was a dancer I really looked up to. I asked him if I could train with his crew. They let me. They gave me a lot of tips.
At the moment I’m not competing, I want to start again in two years. I now train every week for 5 days. I train focused for 1.5 hours on my own. I’m always filming my workouts. This is useful for learning existing moves and creating your own moves. I keep looking at myself critically.
“There’s no right or wrong for my own moves, only what I like.”
You need creativity to create your own moves. There is no Youtube movie to compare it to, to say whether it is right or wrong. It’s about whether you like it yourself. You try something, film it, see if you like it and then try 100 more times. For this, you have to be curious about creating something new. You don’t have a manual, you just need to discover for yourself how your body works and what is possible with the human body.
Have you learned other things the way you learned to breakdance and solve Rubik’s cube?
Yeah! I still use Youtube for everything I want to know. I wanted to work out more seriously to get stronger for breakdance. Then I get a lot of my information and training schedules from Youtube. Exactly like I learned cubes I also taught myself magic, skateboarding, and a few small things. I used to be more into this, then I had a lot more time in one day to practice.
In 2016 you were in the finals of Holland’s Got Talent. You previously appeared on a Japanese television show. What did you learn from this?
I’ve learned that the TV world is a fake world in a way. TV is another world with nepotism and lots of attention to what sells well. It was a really cool experience though. You can do your thing. You’re nervous, but then you just go and get the comment. If you want to become famous, you have to be able to handle that environment. For example, you first have to wait two hours and then suddenly you have to go on stage. As a dancer, you want to warm up first. There are often changes such as last-minute costume changes. Things have to go over a few times. You have to be able to withstand that pressure. I think it would be nice to be famous. The downside is that you get so much attention. You always have to stay cheerful or it’s not good for your image.
That Japanese program was bizarre. That’s been really weird. It was a program about people with special skills. They were in Europe at the time. They wanted me to combine breakdance with the craziest things like pouring tea and blowing bubbles. It was a fun experience.
What are you curious about now?
I still find breakdance very interesting. Especially learning movements that are difficult. I am also interested in self-development and the process of making money to travel around the world with that money and then do cool things like skydiving and surfing. I’m curious about what I want to do in the future and all my life. After my final exams, I want to do an intermediate year, work, and travel around the world. Then I want to become an entrepreneur.
I read non-fiction books on how to improve yourself. For example The 4-hour work week by Tim Ferris and Flow by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. But I also listen a lot to podcasts about self-improvement and watch Youtube movies. Audiobooks are the best. It’s hard to make time for learning. Instagram is more fun and before you know it’s too late. When I ride my bike I put on an audiobook and then it the learning starts by itself.
I understand you recently had a tattoo done: the word discipline. Can you tell me more about that?
Yeah, there’s a whole story behind that. I just thought it was a cool idea to get a tattoo. The word discipline also means a lot to me. I have trouble being disciplined. I often take the easy way out. I’m lazy. You need discipline for a lot of things. Also to get out of bed.
How does it feel to you now that you have the tattoo?
The tattoo feels nice. Of course, it doesn’t suddenly make me more disciplined. It reminds me to keep going, keep going. Commitment. Two more months and I’ll take my final exams.
How do you feel about going to school?
I like going to school. I see my friends there and it offers me a good fundament. It gives structure to my life and I have a nice, good group of friends. Actually, I can get along with anybody. I’m happy to go to school on Monday. I think it’s a good thing you have to do things you don’t like. That’s part of the job, that’s what school’s good for.
“School is fun and hell”
But it’s still a little bit like hell. I’m just doing what’s enough. I need pressure. That’s why it helps to hear that I won’t go to the next year when I’m not learning. Otherwise, I won’t be able to spend any time in school. I’m also a deadline-worker. Suppose you have 4 weeks for an assignment, then I only start working on it on the last day. I doubled in the fourth year. I still have continuous conversations with my mentor and sometimes some arguments with my parents about my school performance but in the end, I succeed every year. School is fun and it is hell.
When you wouldn’t need a diploma and no one would have specific expectations of you, would you still go to school?
I’d go to school. You need a base. But you don’t need school to do or become what you want. To become an entrepreneur or influencer you don’t need an education. I do the vwo while I could choose between the havo and the vwo. I chose the vwo because I want to get the most out of it. I can do it. Havo would have been easier, I could have achieved results with less effort. But then I wouldn’t have made the most of it. Now I have to challenge myself, but after that, it feels like I’ve really achieved a result.
So a challenge is important for you.
Yeah, I like to accomplish big and special things. Otherwise, there is no challenge. Then I have no purpose. I always wanted to be the best breakdancer.
You want to be an entrepreneur; when do you find yourself a good entrepreneur?
When you’re good with people. When you really have a skill that makes you of value to others and you keep getting better. When you know where your talents and weaknesses lie. And when you know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing.
What advice would you like to give teachers on how to use the students’ curiosity?
As a teacher, you have to approach your student personally. Look at the student himself, not the students in general. What does this student like? Where does he spend most of his time? You have to be able to ask questions as a teacher. You have to give more freedom to do it your way. So formulate your own personal assignment from which you can start teaching.
I’m in a modern, ‘vrije’ (free) school. This sometimes gives us the opportunity to make an assignment in which we are allowed to choose the subject ourselves. With history, for example, we had to write a research report on a subject of our choice. This is working well!
What I also find important are role models to look up to. You automatically become curious about what they do and how they achieved it. For me, b-boy Emile was an important role model, and now Jay Alvarrez. I find it interesting how he lives and what he does. I’d like to do something similar.
How has genuine curiosity affected your relationships? I would like to hear from you via the comments below or via e-mail: [email protected].
Epilogue, June 2020
Justin indeed passed his vwo in June 2019. He then made a trip with his family to Surinam and later went to Japan himself. However, the coronary pandemic ended that journey prematurely. In September, he will start a course in entrepreneurship and business innovation at Tilburg University.
During his stay in Japan, breakdancing was also never far away: