Stop Asking Questions - Start Giving Answers

in Thoughts & Observations

The World Needs Answers Not More Questions

If your childhood was anything like mine, you were constantly pushed to ask questions:

“Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!”

“Smart people question everything”

…And other such sayings seemed to fly out of the mouths of teachers, parents and intelligent adults on an almost daily basis.

The adults were right, the greatest minds in history famously questioned everything, even seemingly logical facts that others took for granted (“the world is flat” for example).

The smartest and most successful individuals I have met seem to have the art of asking questions down to a tee, you can almost see the cogs in their brain turning as they listen to an answer; filtering the information their ears are receiving into ideas and practical translations to be used in future.

As adults trying to build expertise, trust and respect, there has to be a point where we stop asking questions of everyone else and start providing answers

Growing up I was raised by my father, and he had a few basic rules or principles that he would use to prop me up after falling down or whenever I would do something stupid (think getting caught doing something you weren’t supposed to, and responding with “but everybody else was doing it”). His favorite line was “lead, don’t follow.”

I believe that to be a leader, in any capacity, you have to be the guy providing answers and not asking questions

I’m not saying you should know everything about everything, learning is living and all that jazz. Rather, if you want to be seen as a leader within a field, as the best man/woman for a job, as the go-to person within an industry or simply as a person worth respecting and looking up to – you need to provide more answers for people then you do questions.

Think of the last time someone asked you a question on a subject that you knew only a little bit about, was your answer “maybe it’s this?” or was it “I think it’s [solution], lets try it so we know for sure”.

Your answers don’t have to be correct all of the time, it’s very likely that you’ll predominantly be wrong as the answers guy, at least starting out. But as you provide more and more answers, meaning you build your own self-confidence and test out different answers for yourself – you gain experience and at the same time, trust.

People start to realize that if they want an answer rather then a discussion, you’re who they call.

Everyone wants someone who can remove doubt, in a world that is full of it. You want them to scroll to your name in their iphone’s contacts when this need arises. You provide answers. You are a leader.

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  1. There isn’t a dichotomy between the two actions: those who ask the most questions also provide the most answers. Leaders of industry are in a position to ask the best questions, get the best information, and then ‘answer; with it… think Richard Branson (he asked awesome questions in his many books), Plato (via Socrates), Joe Polish, Tim Conley, Andrew Warner, etc…. You seem to recognize that at the top of the article and then pivot to this idea that you should ‘stop asking questions.’ Why would asking questions prevent anyone from delivering answers?

    • Dan,
      You’re right, asking the right questions and extracting crucial information and strategy from the replies to be used IRL (‘providing answers’) is a skill shared by some of the greatest leaders in history, like Napoleon Bonaparte.

      But at what point does someone stop asking from others and start putting information they have gleamed from others into practice. Who’s Andrew Warner without a website that summarizes the questions he asks into specific answers to startups questions? A nosey by-stander.

      Asking questions does not prevent someone from delivering answers, I agree, but asking tons of questions by itself is not an indicator of a (current or eventual) leader. Providing answers and removing doubt for others, even if not always correct, is a clear indicator of a leader, however. It’s a case of doing one more then the other.

  2. “But at what point does someone stop asking from others and start putting information they have gleamed from others into practice?”

    Never. And immediately.

    Andrew Warner makes a career out of asking questions. So did Socrates. Do did Branson. And the more successful a person I meet, the more likely they are to dominate the conversation with questions my way.

    I suspect it’s the opposite. Leaders spend most of their time asking questions (or gathering data), and choose the critical moments to provide key answers.