Asking Simple Questions

question-markOne of the most common personal fears is speaking in front of others.  Pretty close to that fear is the fear of looking stupid by asking silly questions.  You remember that old byline of teachers, "there's no such thing as a stupid question?"  Anyone who has spent anytime teaching knows that is not an absolute truth, but it is a wise proverb pertaining to sincere questions.  I wonder how many stupid blunders or bad ideas could have been prevented by someone being unafraid to ask simple questions.  Paul Johnson gives an example of this in his A History of the American People, concerning President Ronald Reagan:

"One of his great strengths was that he was not ashamed to ask simple questions.  Thus: 'What makes the Blue Mountains blue?' (A lot of people want to ask this but fear to reveal their ignorance.) He asked Paul Volcker, chairman of the Fed, 'Why do we need the Federal Reserve at all?' Volcker, six feet seven-and-a-half--half a foot taller than Reagan--sagged in his chair and was 'speechless for a minute'."

We don't ask questions because we don't want to look stupid or reveal our ignorance.  Not asking simple questions is a symptom of pride and pride is something that we've got to kill.  So ask simple questions and kill your pride.

I'm sitting here wishing that a lot more people in government, banks, and financial institutions had been asking Reagan's kind of simple questions over the past ten years.  Questions like, "is it a good idea to lower lending standards that are the result of over a hundred years of experience?"

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