How leaders lose followers aka How to kill curiosity in 1 sentence

“Don’t ask such a stupid question!”

I HATE that sentence! I heard it many times… first as a kid, then as teenager, then at work. It kills curiosity…worst possible consequence: becoming indifferent! Here is the path to indifference:

who what whyAs a kid I thought that I had done something wrong when someone said the “stupid question” sentence to me. My thinking was “adults know = what they say is true = my question is stupid = I must be stupid”. I came up with a brilliant solution:  “don’t ask questions = I am not doing anything stupid = no one tells me I am stupid”! Awesome! Which basically means I stopped exploring, stopped asking, stopped being interested in things…

What do kids naturally? Explore.

Why? Because that’s how they learn (it’s a 200,000 year old proven process)!

How? By asking questions and trying out stuff.

Why? Because curiosity drives them.

What annoys adults most? 200,000,000 questions from kids.

Why? Because we run out of answers after question 2.

Why? Because we have something urgent to do and cannot spend time on thinking right now.

Why? Because that’s the way it is!

Why? Stop asking stupid questions!

Why was my question stupid? …that’s another stupid question!

Why?…the silent treatment follows….

…5 years later: “Kid, you spend all your time in your room or with friends. I don’t see you any more. Why don’t we do something nice together?” “I DON’T CARE! LEAVE ME IN PEACE!” is the answer you get. In reality the sentence continues but only in the kid’s head, not as spoken words… “…you told me that I ask stupid questions. Why would I want to spend time with someone who thinks I am stupid!” …curiosity was killed 5 years ago….a follower was lost.

bored studentOnce we enter school we are trapped in an education system that teaches us to be good answering questions, not asking them. A packed curriculum does not even leave enough time for kids to ask questions during lessons…curiosity is killed…followers were lost. ever wondered why kids don’t like going to school? The only examples of excited school kids I know are based on teachers letting them explore something new…


bossNothing is more discouraging for a young person starting out in their first jobs than hearing “you are not here to think but to do as you are told”, “This is nonsense. I have 30 years experience doing this. I have all the answers”, ….curiosity is killed…ambition and ideas are killed…respect is lost…a follower was lost…

BUT leaders need followers!!!! 

The real reasons for saying “don’t asking such a stupid question”:

  • Diversion tactic for not knowing the answer
  • Too proud to admit “I don’t know. Why don’t we find out together?”
  • Trying to assert authority despite being incompetent

So far I have failed to figure out the difference between stupid and not stupid questions…and I don’t want to.

I just know that I don’t want to kill curiosity, I want to encourage curiosity!

A question that helps me is “What have I done today to inspire curiosity?”




One thought on “How leaders lose followers aka How to kill curiosity in 1 sentence

  1. Did you ever hear this German phrase as a child: “Warum, warum, warum ist die Banane krumm?” This was a standard “answer” to my Why-Questions. However, my curiosity was not killed getting this answer – it actually provoked the next why-question – I guess you know what it was….

    Liked by 1 person

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