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I’m fascinated that too often people don’t ask. We don’t ask the question that seems obvious to us. We don’t ask for help even though we know we could use it, or we need it. Additionally, that we sometimes – perhaps often – don’t ask questions to feed or satisfy our curiosity or desire to truly know. The motivations behind our behavior are interesting. We can ask questions to show off, to impress others with our prowess (perceived or real). We can ask questions to intimidate. We can ask questions to ridicule. We can ask for help to patronize. On and on it goes. The fuel behind our asking isn’t always honest or sincere.
This isn’t a philosophic topic. Rather, it’s practical.
Don’t get hung up on the truth – yes, I believe it’s the truth – that some questions serve different ends. Teachers ask questions to find out how much the student knows (or doesn’t). Parents ask their teenagers questions to put them on the spot, making sure they know we’re watching them to protect them from foolishness. And tons of other end results are part of the question quest.
But today, I’m focused on how entrepreneurs need to ask questions that we honestly want to know the answers to. Questions intended to satisfy our curiosity or our need to learn.
Entrepreneurship is largely about figuring it out. It’s what we do. Over time we can sometimes lose our edge though. We can think we’re smarter than we really are. Success…or failure can jade us. That pool of assumptions we make grows increasingly larger over time. And it slows down our question asking skills because we may think we already know the answer.
One question leaps to the forefront for me continually. It’s a question that is aimed squarely at my innate abilities, my hardwiring. I’m very intuitive. I’m a dot-connector, always trying to make sense of things. Trying to figure things out. Here’s the question that can keep me awake at night.
What if I’m wrong?
I honestly want to know the answer to that. More specifically, I always want to know if I am wrong. Or right.
“What if I’m wrong?” keeps me on my toes by helping me consider the possibility – too often the probability – of being wrong. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I am a knife. I give into the reality that my intuition, while reasonably reliable, isn’t fully bulletproof.
More than that, my “what if I’m wrong?” question forces me to ask other questions in order to find out. That drive, that curiosity, needs satisfaction.
What do you honestly want to know?
Maybe there are lifelong questions like mine. Maybe not. But there are certainly tons of daily questions that need answers. Answers you could be getting if you’d just ask instead of surrendering to assumptions.
As business operators don’t we deserve to get the answers when they’re readily available simply by us asking? Working to figure things out would seem to demand we get better – not laxer – at asking questions we honestly want the answers to.
Know what to ask. Know whom to ask. Know when to ask.
What is easy. Ask whatever you honestly need to know. Forget about how you look. Forget what others think. The answer you need is more important and valuable than all that.
You know whom to ask. You know the people who likely have the answer – or at least, the people who have an answer. Nothing prohibits you from asking as many people as you’d like. My only word of caution – and the reason I titled today’s show as I did – is to avoid asking in search of the answer you most want. Truth. Honesty. Those are the goals.
When you should ask is easy. The minute you know what you’d like to find out. Don’t wait. Speed is key. Can you really ask a question you want the honest answer to too soon? No. You can certainly wait too long and until it’s too late though. So take your swings the second you want to.
Become a question expert!
Curiosity may be innate to some, but it can be cultivated and fostered. Asking questions in search of honest answers is the best way to become better at asking. Practice makes perfect.
Getting the answers is often its own reward. It’s fuel to your curiosity fire. You’ll find that asking in search of an honest answer sparks within you more questions, taking you deeper into knowledge that you’d ever achieve otherwise. Drill down just as deeply as you’d like. It’ll make you a better person, a better entrepreneur and a better leader.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!