HOW TO BE INQUISITIVELY STUPID: GRAD TIP #3

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Identity theft is not a joke, Jim!
You may be thinking, “Surely, that can’t be right! Why would you tell me to be stupid? What do you mean by doing it inquisitively?”. Basically, what I’m trying to say is ask the stupid questions.

Sometimes you need to learn to push against that risky, scary feeling that you might embarrass yourself by asking a question that maybe everyone else already knows the answer to. Maybe everyone does already know the answer, maybe they don’t. But you could never know the answer if you don’t embrace feeling stupid occasionally and just ask the damn question.

​We’ve all been there:

Something comes up in lecture or conversation or in a group meeting – whatever it is – you have the moment: “wtf does that mean?”

Being able to learn and grow as an expert in your field sometimes requires a stupid question. You need to learn to just stew in the fragility and vulnerability. You know what I mean. Something said confuses you and you feel the stupidity (feeling!) rise in your stomach like an involuntary burp. You want so bad to understand this content but you just. can’t. raise. your. hand. I’m here to tell you (again) that you are not alone. ALL of us have felt this way from one time or another. Some experience it more frequently than others (me) and that’s okay. Because if you know where your weaknesses are and are willing to learn how you can improve on them, then you’re gucci, baby! And ultimately, your work won’t suffer. Sure, you didn’t know the answer. But you asked what it meant and now you know

In short, if you want to be successful, but you need a key piece of information, you need to learn to ask for it and not worry about the looks or judgement. I AM NOT SAYING THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION. There absolutely is such a thing but – what I am saying is –  sometimes the stupid questions are just mandated. You have holes in your education. We all do. We have to be comfortable with uncomfortably filling those holes, for the sake of our research. A research endeavor that is well thought-out and well understood, is one that will flourish with meaningful results.
……And sometimes that requires asking a stupid question.
If you go and talk to people I work with, I can tell you, they won’t say I never ask stupid questions or that I have never had a stupid moment but, they also cannot say that for themselves. I’m trying to remind you that people will judge you no matter what. They will judge you for things you can’t control and things of which you can control. They will judge you for things you never even recognized in yourself. They will judge you whether or not you asked the dumb question.
My advice: Be the stupid person. They have to kick you out for worse things than asking stupid questions. 
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Literally every graduate student ever. Especially that first semester.

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