Ask not!

Some of you might know that I had a brief stint at a bank before we started Gridle. As a Mechanical Engineer whose interaction with a bank had only been to pay fees for college, I never knew much about their ways. For the first few weeks, I was almost like a kid trying to figure out quantum physics. Extremely uninterested and absolutely unqualified

While my job-profile was that of an investment banker, in the hierarchy, I was assigned Dy. Manager. My reporting officer was Mr. M. Ramanaiah, Sr. Branch Manager; an irritating personality bordering on ridicule and sometimes, even sexism; unknowingly though.

Most of the things that I was expected to do were alien to me. Naturally, I would ask a lot of questions to people around. Typically, he would give me an answer quickly and I would go back. Maybe, I asked him many questions because he would quickly answer them. But that day was different.

I distinctly remember; it was my 4th question to him that day. I was just confirming my understanding of the term ‘collateral’ when I asked “Sirji.. what does collateral exactly mean?”. He took a deep breath; almost a sigh and asked me to sit in in his cabin right in front of him, dead-centre. I sat there, partly confused, rest anxious. I was never invited in his cabin, even during the weekly meetings, I would have to stand in a corner. Mostly, I went ignored or unnoticed. But, not today.

“Yash.. you are an engineer, right? what kind?” He asked. To be honest, I would have preferred the term ‘Stream/branch’ over ‘kind’. Animals have ‘kinds’.

“Mechanical, sir”, I said.

“hmm.. can you define an engineer?”

For the next 5 mins, I struggled, almost visibly. He let me marinate in my own mediocrity of non-answers. He was silent.

“Stop,” he said and continued, “I also don’t know definition of an engineer.. you know what I do when I don’t know something? I search for it.” While saying this, he searched and made me read out the first few lines of the wikipedia page.

“It is always going to be easier to ask someone. Asking questions to people around is a great way to learn and grow but before you do that, make sure that the question satisfies the following 2 criteria:

  1. I don’t know the answer to it. and

  2. I don’t have any other ways or means to figure out the answer.

If you do this, the only kind of questions that would remain are the subjective ones; where you need opinions or perspectives from people around. We spend our formative and most curious years with a teacher whose job is to answer questions that we have but that is not how the real world works! In the real world, you are always being judged; not only by your performance or your hardwork but also based upon your interactions, including but not limited to, your questions.”

He went on to teach me a lot more about work-ethics, approach to learning, money and life in general which will appear in following notes. This one, by far, has had the largest impact towards my approach. It has framed my future questions and has pushed me to enhance my ability to arrange for answers. A little later, I came across this video which spoke about ‘learned helplessness’.

I would encourage you guys to think about this the next time you have a question. I would want you guys to think of not asking a question until you’ve exhausted every resource you have available.

I firmly believe, in doing so, you will learn a lot more than you set out to know.

Until next time



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©2021 by Yash Shah