Reaching out to ask a question, emailing your boss with a query or raising your hand in class are actions that are overflowing with thought, second-thoughts and a deep sense of trepidation. Yet it is the most successful individuals in today’s world who have taught us that “he who is rich is the one who is not afraid to ask.”
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” – Voltaire
Here are a few examples of highly successful individuals who weren’t afraid to ask:
Steve Jobs, at just 12 years old, called up one of the founders of HP, Bill Hewlett, to ask him for help. The American entrepreneur and co-founder of Apple Inc. found the number of the Hewlett Packard co-founder in the phone book and asked him a question about building frequency counters. The then junior high school student was quickly offered a job on the HP assembly line building frequency counters.
Later on in his career, it is rumored that Jobs hired John Sculley, CEO of Pepsi, so that Sculley could be a mentor to him. Although it became a somewhat contentious relationship, a big reason Jobs hired John Sculley was apparently due to the lack of leadership qualities Jobs had and so he looked to Sculley to teach him.
Starbucks founder Howard Schultz once asked Bill Gates Sr., father of the founder of Microsoft, for help standing up to a titan Seattle investor. Schultz turned to Bill Gates Sr. once again to be one of the first investors in the now multi-billion dollar company, Starbucks.
Bill Gates turned to his mother for an initial connection to IBM securing them as a client.
It has also been widely reported that Gates often turns to the American business magnate Warren Buffet for advice.
The American entrepreneur is quoted as saying, “To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask?” Words he lived by.
Founder of the Virgin group and English business magnate Richard Branson owes his early success to “…asking lots of questions. I was willing to listen to anyone who could help.”
One of the most renowned successful American businessmen, Trump’s net worth is $3.2 billion, according to the 2013 Forbes Rich List.
Trump’s kindergarten teacher remembers him as the boy who “never stopped asking questions.” He was the most inquisitive student she had ever had in her class.
The Founder and CEO of Bloomberg L.P. and New York City’s 108th Mayor, Michael Bloomberg said it best when he stated that, “inquisitive people who are not ashamed to ask questions invariably wind up knowing more and there is a high degree of correlation between knowledge and the ability to make good decisions. There is also a high degree of correlation between people who have the information and people who succeed.”
Successful people are successful in part because they have learned the art of asking questions. Doctors ask questions to find a cure and investigators to solve a case. Of course, it wouldn’t be smart to ask questions for the sake of asking questions. Rather formulate a question prior to asking to obtain the most effective and helpful response.
Take a page out of their books, swallow your fear and go for it. Because I will let you in on a secret: nobody has it all figured out. Any questions?