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I only know to ask questions

It is important to retain the childlike wonder and curiosity to learn and grow in all aspects of life
By Narayan Krishnamurthy | May 17, 2017

A perk of my job is that many people assume I am an authority on personal finance, because I have been working in this space for some years now. I chide some of them (whom I can) that I struggle to be an author (writer), which is the closest that I come to the word ‘authority’. Over the years, a lesson I have learnt is to ask questions when I don’t know something. I tend to ask questions, some of them at times, bordering on irritation to those I pose them to. I remember hating school because some of my teachers felt it only for them to ask questions and not for me.

You can learn a lot by observing children who discover things by asking questions—it is the simplest and most effective way of learning. Yet, when it comes to your money, chances are, that many will blindly follow what others are doing or simply sign on the dotted line because someone with perceived authority says so. I think the biggest impediment to our financial success is the belief that we would be perceived to be dumb if we ask questions to financial advisors.

For those of you who think asking questions is a stupid thing, you could draw inspiration from what Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.” He was clear in his belief that if you keep asking questions you can keep finding better answers. As part of a college connect initiative, Outlook Money, Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund and NISM, have collectively visited several colleges across India in the past two years. The experience has been mesmerising, the curiosity to learn remains amongst students. They just take more time to open up, many even remain silent, because they feel their questions may be perceived to be silly or too basic.

Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions. If you read the works of Malcolm Gladwell, you will realise that he is very good at asking questions, many of which may fall under the so called dumb question set. He learnt to ask questions from his father who was a mathematician and had no intellectual insecurities whatsoever. Some of the best in their field reach such great levels because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights. They just don’t care if they look stupid asking these questions.

To get command over any subject, approach it with an ‘I don’t understand’ phrase, till you actually start comprehending it. I must narrate a scene from an old and popular Tamil film from the 1960s – Thiruvilaiyadal, between yesteryear film stars Sivaji Ganesan and Nagesh, where the comedian that Nagesh was says, “I only know to ask questions”. Their conversation is a meaningful, yet comic classic that you could check out with those who follow the language.

So, get out and start asking questions. And, keep on asking questions till you are satisfied. You will also get some surprises, which will indicate how much an authority one is on the subject or if they are just authors.

 

nk@outlookindia.com

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