Columnist

Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions – it’s often the smartest thing you can do

“Oh no, is everyone looking at me? Have I just asked a stupid question? Oh hell, now everyone thinks I’m a fraud and have absolutely no place at the intelligent table of blockchain and cryptocurrency!”

I’m getting sick and tired of walking away from meetings or events and having someone whisper “I didn’t understand a word of that, did you?”

Sadly, it is an all too frequent problem in this complex space we currently inhabit.

Blockchain is complicated. The technology, its uses and adaptations change on a near daily basis.

Cryptocurrency is complicated and, guess what, the technology, uses etc change on a near daily basis.

We have to accept this in a way that will allow us not to be afraid to ask for a simple explanation.

Nods of approval…

I recently attended a seminar where an absolute colossus of the crypto community was speaking.

Dozens of attentive ears were being cupped towards him as he explained why several coins can all work together to bring about change and make the world a better and fairer place. Nods of approval rippled across the auditorium.

He then took himself down one of those roads that knowledgeable people tend to head for when their enthusiasm for a subject they are intimate with urges them towards it like an out-of-date sat-nav pushing a truck down a remote farm track in the middle of the Yorkshire Moors.

You could see the expressions on the faces of people in the audience visibly change. First came the slight narrowing of the eyes and that obvious internal dialogue of: “Wait – did I just zone out for a moment there? Not to worry – I’m sure I’ll catch the drift of this in a couple of minutes.”

Carousel of confusion…

They then sit back, perhaps glancing round at their fellow guests to see if they too are suffering from the same affliction.

After five minutes, if they are still unable to jump back on the carousel of confusion, they tend to then slump a little in their seats and resign themselves to never being able to hold their own in the Q&A or post-seminar drinks following the talk.

As amusing as it may appear, I actually think this is a dangerous attitude to have in a world where we have this glorious – yet albeit embryonic – technology in front of us.

If you’re invested in something, you can’t afford to allow yourself to be edged out just because you don’t understand part – or even any – of what someone is talking about.

The value of time…

Sometimes, I take the two-and-a-half-hour train and bus journey into the office rather than the two-hour drive. Why? Because I value my time. As ridiculous as it may sound, that extra half hour of travel that bookends my day is worth every minute because I can get my laptop out and dedicate myself to Coin Rivet work – not something I can easily do with a steering wheel in my hands. It’s not so much a case of five hours lost going to and from the office, but more a case of four hours used well in a working day.

This is the same principle which we should apply when we are confronted with something we don’t understand.

And that’s why, the moment I began to wonder if I too had ‘zoned out’ during the seminar I decided to thrust my hand skyward like an overenthusiastic child who always chooses to sit at the front of the class.

Simple terms…

“Wait,” I said with one of those confused expressions you can only pull while tilting your head.

“Can you just explain that bit again – in simple terms?”

Sure, I felt that little bit of panic and nervousness – that thing when you can sometimes feel your pulse beating through your ears which then seem to become as hot and reddened as your slightly embarrassed face.

“Oh no, is everyone looking at me? Have I just asked a stupid question? It didn’t seem stupid. But Maybe it was? Oh hell, everyone thinks I’m a fraud and have absolutely no place at the intelligent table of blockchain and cryptocurrency!”

Thankfully, our speaker smiled, retraced his steps, and explained things in a slightly different way that allowed me to grasp exactly what he had meant.

But imagine if he hadn’t. I would have sat there for another hour not being able to understand or indeed contribute to the conversation. What a shocking waste of my valuable time that would have been.

Hands up…

So guess what happened at the end of the session? You guessed it. A steady stream of people came over to say “Thank goodness you asked that question – I didn’t have a clue what he was going on about” or “I’m so glad you put your hand up – I would have done, but I didn’t want to look stupid”.

That’s okay, I’ll gladly throw myself on the dumb-ass grenade. Not to help anyone who feels they might end up looking stupid by asking a question, but just to make sure my time isn’t wasted. I can’t afford to allow my contribution to the blockchain and crypto world to be rendered null and void just because I was too afraid to ask.

After all, I’ve been a journalist long enough to know that if you don’t understand the story you are being told it isn’t your fault. The blame lies squarely at the feet of the storyteller.

So please remember this – you can’t fear the unknown road ahead if you at least ask for directions!

Asking questions because you don’t understand something does not make you stupid – it makes you smart enough to want to understand.

I think everyone can get a little R.E.S.P.E.C.T in this curious space

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