Can knowing the answer hurt you?

The questions you ask yourself determine the results you get in life.
Keith Cameron Smith

In school, we were taught to know the answer. And we were constantly checked to see if we knew the answer. There were periodic tests, exams, pop quizzes and, most dreaded of all, occasions when we were called on in class. So we’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated in the importance of being able to provide answers when asked.

But I wonder, can knowing the answer hurt you? I’m sure your reaction is typical: how could knowing the answer possibly work against you?

To illustrate the point, I’ll share a recent experience. I was talking with an entrepreneur and we were discussing how to improve things in his business. For each question I asked, he had an answer. He didn’t have to think about the answer; it was an immediate response. When I asked why he couldn’t increase his staff, he said there was a shortage of qualified people in the area; he even cited chamber of commerce statistics to validate his answer. When I asked why he couldn’t increase his prices, he was quick to quote the economic statistics for the region: “We’re experiencing an economic downturn; my customers can’t afford a price increase.”

Think about his mindset for a minute. He had accepted someone else’s limiting beliefs as his own. He believed the chamber of commerce information about the number of qualified workers in the area. He also believed the information about the current economic conditions.

Here’s the question I want you to consider: where is the profit in his way of thinking? There is none. I don’t doubt for a moment that the statistics were correct. But even so, there’s no gain from simply accepting that position.

In business as well as life, we often have a convenient answer that we allow to determine our future. We accept someone else’s definition of what is possible. When we have such an answer, it certainly can and will hurt us. The self-limiting information becomes our reality.

As long as you restrict yourself to what you know is possible, you’ll always be right. But there’s no profit in being right. You’re limiting the possibilities based on what you believe.

If you give up your attachment to knowing the answers and ask how you can make a different reality, you will change your life.

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.
Naguib Manfouz
1911 – 2006

Copyright © 2019 John Chancellor


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