Most underrated skill you never ask about

Nov 06, 2019 | Posted by Bobby in Past Newsletters

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Asking questions is an underrated skill

Asking questions is probably one of the most underrated skills in the world. I mean, everybody can ask questions, right? A toddler asks questions. And, oh, my God, they do ask a lot.

As you know, though, it’s not that simple.

I grew up in communist Romania. School was a serious matter and you didn’t ask stupid questions. Or, even better, don’t ask anything. Take everything the teachers give you, learn it by heart and become the perfect little communist. Of course, I’m generalizing, because I was fortunate to have some great teachers, but they weren’t the rule. This continued through college, even if it wasn’t as obvious as it was in the first years of school.

I was also lucky to have parents that encouraged my curiosity, but that almost bit them in the a$$ when I told people at school that my parents were listening to Voice of America radio, which was banned in Romania. My family was lucky that my third grade teacher heard me and sent me home to talk to my parents. Otherwise, the results could’ve been dire.

Anyway, as I got older, asking questions seemed a sign of weakness. I mean, my first “real” job was in a Government institution, that had its ways. And I was working with a lot older people, that had THEIR ways. And it was “obvious” how I should do things. What, I was hard in the head, couldn’t I see on my own? Where the hell did I grow up?

After about 1 year of working there I continued on my entrepreneurial track. And finally, asking questions seemed a lot easier and more accepted. Especially since I was so interested in new technology. This meant that all the people I knew had bits of information they could share so I started asking LOTS of questions. And, for the first time in my life, they didn’t seem like an annoyance to anyone. OK, OK, I had a good friend that ALWAYS made fun of me for asking “stupid and obvious questions”, but I learned a lot from him during those early years.

Now, I ask questions all the time (really, I do). Even if I seem slow or stupid. I want to know things, so I’m ok with that.

Here are the tips to ask good questions:

  1. Don’t worry about being annoying

It’s worse being annoying because you don’t know something and execute badly, rather than being annoying by getting right what you need to do.

  1. Ask specific questions

Don’t ask general questions: how can I make money is a general question. It’s better if you ask “How can I monetize my mobile app?”. But the even better question is the one that asks “What is the biggest issue you had with monetizing your app with subscriptions?”. Of course, based on your relation to the person you ask, you can start with the general ones and get to the more specific questions as time goes by.

  1. Understand time limitations/specific situations

You are at a conference and you want to ask a speaker something. There’s no Q&A session at the end, so you wait for the presentation to finish and you go and talk to the speaker. And you ask one question, then another, then another. You can see the speaker looking around, trying to escape, but you don’t stop. There’s a queue of 10 people behind you waiting to speak to that person, but you ignore them. At this point, you are annoying. VERY annoying. Ask one question, get the answer and, if you have follow-up questions, ask for an email address to ask a little bit more.

  1. Try to find the answers on your own first

You have a phone in your pocket that has most information than most people had access to during our history. Use it. Google things before asking, read Wikipedia articles. If you can’t find your answers, by all means, find someone to ask. The advantage, though: you will ask really specific questions.

There’s more to asking good questions than these 4 tips. Practice will make you better. Ask questions, challenge people. If someone doesn’t like you because of this, maybe you shouldn’t care.

➡️ ➡️ ➡️ Oh! Don’t forget that I asked a question, as well 🙂 If you find it annoying, there’s a subscribe link at the bottom of the email. If you don’t I’d love to read your answers:

➡️ ➡️ ➡️ What are the best 3 books you read this year? (2019)

What I’m reading now

I got really interested in American Football lately. I’m a fan of Carolina Panthers, just so you know.

I actually went to Atlanta for Superbowl 53, to see what I thought would be Tom Brady’s last champion ring. I’m fascinated by the business/sports machine that is New England Patriots.

Right now I’m reading two books about New England’s coach, Bill Belichick:

The Education of a Coach – David Halberstam
Belichick – Ian O’Connor

Both are about Bill Belichick’s life and career. The first one is gentler with the coach, because the author had access to him personally. It also has only the first two Superbowls, because it stops in 2003. This means the writer didn’t know about the 2 biggest scandals that involved Belichick: Spygate and Deflategate.

I’m still reading the second book. It’s more agressive and it doesn’t pamper Belichick’s image. It talks about his mistakes more and in a less understanding light. This makes the book a little bit more balanced, but with less insight from the man himself. The writer talks about the scandals involving Belichick at length, as well.

Additional Reading

Here are some things to read from around the web and The CEO Library:

  1. Book talk with Brian Burkhart

Things to take from the interview:

  • the books that dramatically changed his career path
  • how he really improved his presentation skills
  • how you should use “reverse engineering” and do what you love
  • why is gratitude important
  • find out about how to build a brand people authentically love
  1. Why are rich people so mean?

Is meanness necessary to become rich or is it a learned trait, that you gain as you make more money?

  1. Is Amazon unstoppable?

Great write-up on how powerful Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, are. Really eye opening.

  1. List of Basic Advice

Following my email last week, somebody asked for more examples of Basic Advice. And I made a list.

  1. The Best and Worst Thing About Financial Independence

I have a soft spot for the Financial Independence movement. Maybe because, without knowing it, I looked for this all my life. What I didn’t realize until several years ago when I finally achieved financial independence is that it can make you miserable. This article is better at explaining my feelings.

And this is it for this email. I hope you liked it, don’t forget to go and answer the question about your best 3 books of 2019 here and thanks for reading until the end!

Bobby Voicu
The CEO Library

P.S.: Don’t forget: This article was sent as a newsletter to our subscribers. If you like what you read, you can subscribe as well, for a weekly dose of reading. Here’s the link.

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