Ask questions, look dumb, learn, grow.


Recently, someone I work with told me many of my colleagues had trouble accessing my capabilities in their first few interactions with me. I thought to myself, 'Cool, I'm mysterious and I leave people wanting to talk more to me in order to figure me out, that's good, no?'. Then I was told people actually think I'm a bit dumb in the beginning. I ask too many questions, from simple to hard, I ask them all. So I went from thinking I looked good in those interactions to knowing I looked stupid.

So, should I change and ask fewer questions, about everything, just to look smart? Or should I keep looking dumb?

Thinking ahead

Remembering our school days, usually, who asks more questions? The interested, wanting to learn students or those who just don't care or don't want to look unintelligent? From my experience, the first group! You have to know, to have studied before to ask questions. You needed to at least try to understand to know you didn't understand and you need help to figure it out. Once you ask questions, you get answers, you learn, you grow. People who aren't afraid to ask questions and look stupid are the ones who learn.

In the long run, who do you think will be more knowledgeable? The one who asks questions or the one who doesn't? I have my answer. And unknowingly, I battle-tested my thesis throughout my life. I've always asked questions, my parents can tell you about that. Eventually, they got enough and started buying me books to answer my questions and fulfill my curiosity. If you ask questions and then search for answers, you gain knowledge. It's a huge advantage to be curious, have no ego, don't be afraid to look dumb (because who isn't and who is born knowing everything?), and ask questions. It's basically compounding knowledge, be humble and acknowledge you don't know everything, ask questions, get answers, learn, repeat.

Working world

So picture me, coming to my first job, from Physics to Software Engineering, of course, I'll be asking questions! I don't know anything, I work with people who know things and can teach me, why shouldn't I take advantage of that?

Well, some people don't think the way I do. They think asking questions is a sign of weakness, of not knowing, of being dumb. They think you should know everything, even when you're just starting out. Let me just finish the conversation I had with my colleague. He proceeded to tell me that, in fact, on top of people thinking I'm dumb and not confident, my manager at the time thought I wasn't good enough, would never make it. Just from a 1/2 weeks of me starting to work! He was going to cut me off, but my boss saw through me and believed in me. He saw that I was asking questions, learning, growing. Eventually, my manager was let go, and I was told this story after he was gone. Did he ask questions? Did he learn? Not really, he thought he had me figured out, 'look at the kid asking questions, he doesn't know anything'. Well, I didn't, but I was learning, and eventually, I did know things.

Was I lucky some people believed in me? I guess so, but I also think I had the right attitude, and if you are in a good place to work, people will see that. They will see you are trying, you are learning. And they will help you, they will teach you. If they don't, do you really want to work with them? Nobody knows everything, and if they think they do, do you want to work with them?

Final thoughts

Don't be afraid to ask questions and look dumb. In the long term, you will come out ahead. People who ask and learn are the ones who grow, and eventually, it shows.