Teachers often tell us that there are no stupid questions, but we still resist raising our hands. Why? Embarassment. We don’t want to appear unintelligent.
Our egos preempt learning and personal growth. All because we’d rather look cool. How stupid is that?
For the record, I’m as guilty as a lot of other people. I often had questions in high school, but was afraid to ask. Sometimes, it was because I knew I wasn’t paying attention. Other times, I was truly confused and needed help.
What if I had summoned the courage to ask more questions? How much more would I have learned?
Rejection is survivable
Author, blogger and entrepreneur Jia Jiang gave an entertaining Ted talk about his experimentation with rejection. Jiang approached people with all kinds of crazy requests. He asked strangers for $100. He rang doorbells and asked if he could plant a flower in the person’s backyard.
Jiang received a lot of rejection. In the beginning, it was very difficult to approach people. But over time, he responded to rejection by asking “why?” Often, knowing why someone said no to him, opened the door to negotiate.
Jiang once walked into a Starbucks and asked if he could be a greeter for them. The manager actually agreed but said, “So long as you don’t act weird.”
As the TED talk intro to Jiang’s video states:
Jiang desensitized himself to the pain and shame that rejection often brings and, in the process, discovered that simply asking for what you want can open up possibilities where you expect to find dead ends.
Jiang’s book is Rejection Proof- How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection. Jiang proves to us that rejection is not only survivable, but overcoming our fear of it can open doors and opportunities.
Here’s Jiang’s TED talk:
Be the inexperienced
American founding father Benjamin Franklin was incredibly multi-dimensional. He was a printer, author, political theorist, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and a diplomat. He also found time to discover electricity and make bifocals.
For a man with only two years of formal education, Benjamin Franklin became an exceptional polymath.
Most people would be afraid to dive into so many different disciplines, but Benjamin Franklin was undeterred. He wasn’t afraid to be an amateur. To start from scratch and learn something new.
Writer Elliott Pak, in his blog post Don’t Be Afraid to be an Amateur, wrote that Benjamin Franklin was:
“…never afraid to be the inexperienced, never afraid to be the new guy to a subject. And because of that, he literally accomplished 100 people’s lifetimes in just one.”
Elliott Pak went on to write:
“It only took traveling to the other side of the world to realize that being open to being an amateur at things is really just the first step to EVERYTHING good — ANY kind of growth that you want to experience. There are so many things in my life that I just refused to do because I would be the noob. I’d be the older kid in the class.”
There are many possibilities
Blogger Thomas Mondel wrote an article about the advantages of being an amateur. Mondel noted:
“The amateur is the one who can freely explore new areas. Because he just doesn’t know better.”
“The expert already knows (from his experience in the field) where certain routes might lead him. And he doesn’t even care to waste time looking for something down this road. He already “knows”.
“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said the Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”
What if being an amateur was cool? What if we celebrated the courage of vulnerability? What if we worried less about what people think and became rejection proof, like Jia Jiang? Imagine how much faster we’d grow and learn.
It’s never too late to change. To risk a bit more in order to learn a lot more.
I’ve returned to being an amateur without any ties or strings attached, which gives me a freedom I never had before. — Cat Stevens
So go ahead and raise your hand. Ask more questions. Adopt Benjamin Franklin’s willingness to be the amateur.
While everyone else is busy trying to look cool, you’ll be the one learning, growing, and reaching new heights of achievement.