Never Grow Up

The other day I was thinking about why we don’t ask enough questions to gain clarity as we grow older and progress in our careers.

It brought this idea to my head that when you’re young, you don’t care about looking ‘foolish’ and asking ‘Why’ 1000x until you understand what’s being discussed.

Somewhere as we grow older, but not yet an adult, someone laughs as you raise your hand and say, ‘I don’t understand; what do you mean?’.

That single interaction leaves a lasting impression and starts a slow cycle of being timid to stick out for what we perceive as the wrong reasons.

As time passes and we enter the workforce, we want to make a good impression on the people around us and quietly nod our heads even though we have no idea what ABM, MTTR, or FERPA means.

We quietly google the answers to our questions instead of asking in real time because we fear we will look like less of a person than the one sitting next to us.

In reality, not asking questions is harmful. Not just for you but your organization, your team, and your well-being.

As you ask questions, it sparks conversations, curiosity, discovery moments, and sometimes healthy debate. Others join in and start to ask clarifying questions as well. Something magical is happening, and you notice no one is looking at you funny for saying, ‘I don’t know what that means.’ because neither do they.

At an organizational level, we NEED people to push back and ask questions. We NEED people not to be afraid to be laughed at; we NEED people to bring their authentic selves to the table and push us all forward.

You have to create an environment where it’s okay to revert to your childhood self, who will ask ten clarifying questions to understand the best path forward.

Ask ‘Why’ until no ‘Whys’ are left to be asked. You need to understand everything being discussed so you can motivate your team. There is no room for ‘I don’t know, but my boss said so.’ in life.

You are not a fool for asking clarifying questions. You are not a fool for pushing back. You are not a fool because you don’t know how to create a masterclass spreadsheet.

You are exceptional for wanting to understand. You are exceptional for ensuring the entire room is on the same page. You are exceptional for being the leader pushing the team ahead.

Never grow up, and if someones ask you to, ask them ‘Why’ instead.

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Jeff Johns

Husband, father of three, engineering leader, planner, organizer, runner, and music lover.