All of the greatest innovations in human history came from someone asking a question. All of the great scientific advancements and technological advancements came not from the people who thought that they knew it all, but from the people who asked why and how. Questions are the gatekeepers to knowledge.
When I was in A-school in the nuclear pipeline, we had this one guy in our class, let’s call him Ted. Ted was doing terrible in the beginning of A-school. He had a failing GPA and things were looking pretty bleak for him, we thought he was probably going to be kicked out because of his academics.
Then one day, out of the blue, Ted started asking a million questions. It got to the point that most everyone in our class started to resent him for it. Our lessons lasted longer, sometimes the questions weren’t well thought out and people started getting annoyed with him.
The funny thing is Ted went from being the guy with one of the lowest GPAs to one of the top students in our class. In fact, our class had one of the highest GPAs for any our size and I think a lot of that credit goes to Ted and his relentless questions.
Not only was Ted learning by probing our instructors for answers, but the entire class was learning something as well. Some people are fine with just knowing the answer to a question but not really understanding why that is the answer. Some people are content with being scary good at memorizing the material and getting good grades with the brute memorization method and that’s good enough for them, but not Ted.
Sometimes Ted would ask questions our instructor didn’t know the answer to, and the next day our instructor would come back to us with an answer to Ted’s question and we’d all be the better for it. I learned so much from that class and I owe a lot of that to Ted.
Some people are afraid to ask questions, afraid to appear dumb, maybe they’re just shy, but Ted didn’t have any of those filters. If a question came to him, his hand was in the air by the time the thought formed, sometimes even before it. Ted was a good laugh too.
All the instructors in the office knew him and he made some of the best grades in our class. I got a 4.0 on the basic electricity section of the final exam and I have to give Ted some credit on that one because without his questions, I wouldn’t have understood the material quite as well as I did.
Admitting you don’t know something means you’re one step closer to understanding. Ask a question and you’re metaphorical miles further. A lot of people like to think they know everything. What happens when you think you know everything is that you no longer grow.
You’re not changing anymore, growing stagnant or ignoring the facts and that leads to loads of trouble. To be humble enough to admit you don’t know or that you don’t understand and then asking a question will only lead to a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you.
People are so afraid to be wrong. There’s nothing wrong about being wrong unless you choose not to do anything about it. I’m wrong all the time. I’m constantly adjusting my views and beliefs and that’s a good thing. It means I’m learning; I’m growing and I’m not content living in my wrongness because I’m too proud to ask questions or admit that I got it wrong.
Being a questioner is like being a scientist, and life is like a big experiment. We’re all trying different things out, trying to figure things out, wanting to know what’s wrong and what’s right and we can all get there faster if we just asked more questions like Ted. Being a questioner, a scientist of sorts is not only important, its essential for our growth.
“I have firmly stated that it is essential to our spiritual growth for us to become scientists who are skeptical of what we have been taught-that is, the common notions and assumptions of our culture. But the notions of science themselves become idols, and it is necessary to become skeptical of these as well.” – Dr. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
Many people will just accept what they’re told if it’s coming from someone who they believe is in a position of authority. You should be questioning everything that you’re told you should believe. Hell, you should be questioning if what you’re reading here is true, in fact, I encourage it.
We don’t have electricity in our homes because Volta discovered current and was like, “Oh that’s cool, I’ll call it current,” and then stopped looking further. No, he asked all the questions he could think of and became the first person to produce steady flow of electrical charge. Then someone else took what they learned from him and asked more questions and discovered or created something new, and then the next guy and the next guy, you get what I mean, and now I’m here typing on a laptop which took thousands of years of questions throughout human history to become a reality.
I was told something I’ll never forget by my grandmaster. He was an interesting guy, kind of scary, an old green beret with stories that would leave you amazed. He told me, “Never accept or reject an idea presented to you until you have discovered the truth of it yourself.”
It wasn’t what I had expected to learn when I went to meet him. I was expecting to learn some kind of crazy strike or secret technique, but instead I was taught many valuable lessons that applied to life, not just the martial arts.
Questions your actions, thoughts, and words. We are all going to be wrong, its unavoidable, but we should be striving to be a little less wrong every day and that can only be done by asking the hard questions. Asking where that thought, or emotion came from will lead you to better self-understanding. Asking why people do the things they do instead of being offended will help you understand people.
Thats what the Eclectic Method is all about. Questioning all of the information, beliefs, and opinions thrown at you, deciding what is useful and keeping it, and discarding the rest. Be a scientist. Ask the questions. The most important words in the English language are what, where, how, why, who, and when.