LIE: “The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask.”
We’ve all heard that, but it’s not true at all. There are genuinely stupid questions that get asked out loud all the time. What’s the difference between a stupid question and a good question, and how can this affect your business? Let me tell you.
Ignorance Versus Stupidity
Most people think of a stupid question as a question they fear will make them sound stupid. Let’s say you’re in a room full of people who practice search engine optimization and they’re talking about “latent semantic indexing.” You don’t know what that is, and from the way everyone else is nodding it seems you’re the only one. You’re afraid to ask what it is because you fear it will make you look stupid.
But you wouldn’t look stupid — you would look ignorant, and that’s ok. If you’re ignorant you just lack information. Stupidity can be defined as willful ignorance — you don’t know and you don’t care to know. Not knowing is not a negative trait because you can learn. Refusing to learn is a very negative trait because it harms you and (quite often) the people around you.
Stupid Questions, Good Questions
That said, a question can be classified as stupid when the person asking it has no intention of finding or applying the answer to it.
For instance: “Why am I such a failure?” That question can be a good question, but it can also be stupid. If you ask that question and just go on with your life as-is, it’s stupid because it’s pointless. You had no intention of finding the answer and fixing the problem. You continue to be a failure despite having asked the question because you took no action.
If, however, you ask that question because you genuinely don’t understand what you’re doing wrong and you want to correct your mistakes, then it’s a good question. It’s a question with purpose, and finding the answer to it will help your future tremendously if you take action once you find it.
How A Good Question Becomes Stupid
The best question can become a stupid question when asked of the wrong person. If you ask the bank clerk the best way to repair your car’s transmission, what are the chances that you’ll get a good answer? Virtually none. You should know this because they’re a bank clerk and not a car mechanic. If they really understood how to properly repair your car’s transmission what are the odds they would be working as a bank clerk?
I see this in Internet Marketing all the time. Rather than asking proven, successful individuals how to run a business online, people go to public forums full of wannabes that have absolutely no experience in running a successful business anywhere (online or off).
Any business-related question you ask of people like that is automatically stupid because it’s asked to the wrong people, and you should know they’re the wrong people because they’re wasting time on public forums — time that successful people would be using to build their business.
Asking The Wrong Person For The Wrong Reason
Why do people so often ask the obviously wrong person for answers? Because it’s “free”. If you ask a business question at a public forum, for instance, you don’t have to pay for the answer. If you ask your “computer expert” relative how to fix your laptop (even though for some reason they work at a grocery store despite being an “expert”), you probably do so because they’ll give you a “free” answer.
I keep quoting the word “free” because those answers are not free — they cost you dearly because they’re almost always the wrong answer (or at best an incomplete answer, which can be just as bad). Getting the wrong answer is often worse than getting no answer at all! In the long run it can cost you a lot more.
Why are doctors and lawyers so highly paid? Because the answers they give you are incredibly valuable. Your health, wellbeing, money or even freedom may be at stake when you go to see these professionals. Would you take advice about your health from your “expert” relative that works at the grocery store? Would ask them for legal advice? Of course not. That would be stupid.
Would it make any more sense to go to a public forum of people with no verified knowledge to ask those same questions? Again, that would be stupid.
So why would you go to a public forum full of people who have little to no experience in running a successful business when you have questions about how to run yours? Your financial welfare is at stake! It would be stupid to do so. It may appear to be “free”, but in the long term it’s anything but.
Success = Good Question + Right Person + Action
Success can be defined as asking a good question to the right person and then taking action to apply the answer to your problem.
If you’re trying to run a business online you don’t ask wannabes at public forums with no experience how to be successful. No, you ask an experienced businessperson with proven success, and when (s)he tells you the answer you immediately take steps to put it into practice. That’s how you become successful.
“No man is an island.”
Unlike the quote at the beginning of this post, “No man is an island” is a quote I can get behind, with a slight modification — “No person is an island.” Man or woman, nobody is successful all by themselves. We all need help to succeed. I’ve been running a successful business online for the last 12 years. I still ask questions, find the answers and apply them all the time. As long as you’re breathing you should never stop doing that.
So don’t be afraid to ask the “stupid” questions, because they’re not stupid if you’re asking the right person and intend to take action once you get an answer. In that case, ask away.
In fact, why not start right now by asking me a question in a comment below? I’ll do my best to give you a good, actionable answer.