I had a friend who won my admiration because his constant go-to request was always this:  “Can I ask a stupid question?” Then he’d ask a question that was A-B-C simple about something I thought I knew.

I’d answer the question (out of my own great wisdom, of course).  It made me feel so good to be able to be…uh-hem…The Expert.

My friend Les listened carefully.  He’d think on what I said.  Then he’d ask more “stupid” questions, helping me explore where my thoughts might lead. One thought would lead to the next and then the next.  He’d interject his own insights, showing me that he was listening and appreciating what I had to say.  In the discussion that would inevitably follow, with me expounding and him asking more and more questions, a light would start to dawn.  Often, I’d reach the limits of my understanding fairly quickly, and still he had more questions.

That’s when the real fun began.  Because he brought a little-kid wonder to the exchange and he’d jump in with his own thoughts on the thing, new ideas would start popping up.  Often they were things I’d never considered.  Les would start grinning wide and bring up another question.  He’d get all sparkly and go with the flow of the conversation, interjecting “yes-and” thoughts, building on the mind-construct I would make.

Les had a lot of fun running with ideas.  (I guess nobody ever told him that ideas are like scissors and it can be dangerous to run with them.   Nobody told him that the ideas can cut you if you’re not careful.)

Our discussions got quite lively.  They really were a lot of fun. At the end of all our talk-story, we’d hug each other, hugely satisfied by our game, and go along on our merry ways.  And my take-away, always, was another way of seeing the world and more ideas for explorations and moves to try.

I don’t know what he got out of these talks we had, but it sure was a lot of fun.


We are always being told that being a “master” is the pinnacle of our journeys toward Achievement and $ucce$$.  It’s the end-all, be-all of the whole thing, they say.  Be a Master, Rule the World.  R-i-i-ight.

In this YouTube video, “Sarah Lewis:  Be a Deliberate Amateur,” which was published by the National Association of Independent Schools in 2015, art historian Sarah Lewis tells us that part of the process of developing Mastery is knowing how to fall back into an I-Don’t-Know state of mind and ask “stupid questions.”

Who knew?

Lewis is an Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture and African and African American Studies at Harvard University.  She is also the author of the LA Times bestseller book, THE RISE:  Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery.

Her book explores the question of how new ideas happen and is a lively and interesting read that has won widespread praise.  It mashes history, biography and psychological research together and explores the value of what the wise guys call “Beginner-Mind”.  In it, Lewis points out the value of retaining that natural sense of wonder you carried around as a child.


The following YouTube video is a part of a series published by Mindfulnessgruppen, a Stockholm-based company offering courses and trainings based on mindfulness.  It features mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn exploring the benefits of Beginner Mind, one of what he calls “the nine attitudes of mindfulness.”

Kabat-Zinn’s life-work has been explorations of the mind-body connection and how mindfulness helps promote health and well-being.   He’s been credited with bringing the once-obscure concept of Mindfulness into mainstream thought, it says here.  After Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness was no longer just the province of wrinkled, half-naked, bearded old men sitting in caves all blissed-out.

The man has written numerous ground-breaking books in the field, and is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.   As a result of his studies, testing and developing assorted practical applications for his discoveries, Kabat-Zinn figured out a way for people to use mindfulness to help reduce stress.  He and his crew teach other people how to do his MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction).

The whole thing is a further iteration of old wisdom that’s been made new and relevant to our own world now.


In order to explore ideas to their fullest extent (or at least as far as your own mind can take them), it’s clear that you need to get back to Beginner-Mind.  That is the start of it all, it seems.

The very best thing about the Beginner-Mind mindset is the sense of wonder that is a part of our birthright as humans.  We can wonder.  We can think.  We can dream.

This extraordinarily beautiful YouTube video, The Wonder of Life, was published by RedFrost Motivation in 2015.  In it, Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, some of the best of our scientific thinkers, give us things to ponder while the guys who put together the video blow up our minds big and bigger with out-of-this-world images and heart-expanding music.

My own thought on all of this is that it gets really hard to think small when you figure out that you’re made up of the same stuff as stars and rainbows and butterflies.

Here’s a poem:



Oh…here I am again.

I LIKE this place:

Standing on the tippy top

Of a razorback ridge,

Rocking in the wind,

Waiting for…I don’t know what.


Clarity’s coming…

The mist is down there,

Looking like the softest bed,

And the other mountain tops

Are poking through the cloud-duvet,

The strong, silent types.

The sky’s that “come-and-fly” blue

That pierces your heart

And breaks it open.


Clarity’s coming,

And the world’s going to change again.

Wonder what’s going to happen next.

(It’s never what I think, you know…

The world pays no attention to

Ant pronouncements and jellyfish goals.

It just keeps on turning, the World.)


Clarity’s coming

And there’s something new

That’s been there all the time,

Just waiting in the wings for

Its turn to dance.

And there I will be –

The faithful audience –

My hair all messy from the head-scratching,

Another stupid grin plastered on my face.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  Wonder by technolibrary via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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  1. Good morning! What an interesting and inspirational article! It’s been a habit of mine also to ask the “stupid questions”. Many times, people will respond “there are no stupid questions” – which I totally agree with. If a person is lacking knowledge in an area and wants to gain knowledge – how else to do that than to ask? I truly believe that we are in a constant state of learning and I enjoy that! I am proud to say that I am a lifelong learner and open to new things and ideas. I loved your story of your “sessions” with your friend Les. Sounds like so much fun ! Thanks for sharing this information and the videos – I plan to follow up and learn more!

    1. Hey Julie:

      Thank your for your visit and your comments. It seems to me that many people do hesitate, reluctant to ask the beginner questions because of echoes from small-kid days when they got teased for not knowing what “everybody” knew.

      The greatest gift Les gave me was the notion that it is a heck of a lot of fun to romp through ideas and play with them. I’ve tried to pass on that gift to others as well, and some folks do like it.

      Please do come again….

  2. You have so many thought provoking questions and ideas in this post. I respect the people that ask the “stupid questions” and admit they don’t know all the answers, but are willing to reach out for help. We start out in this world knowing nothing at all and learn from our experiences, reading, and asking questions. We should be doing these things every day of our lives and never stop the quest to learn!

    You have a very inspirational way of writing and expressing your thoughts to help others! Great read this morning!

    1. Hey Jen: Thanks for your visit and your kind words. I do appreciate them. Please do come again….

  3. Mei Scarlet says:

    Wow! Amazing poem at the end! I like what that Lewis woman says as well… that we ought to remain with the curiosity of a child! This is something I try to live with, my curiosity… and letting it run wild and take me places. It’s only when I do this that I truly discover great things!

    When I take some time to immerse in nature, I go deep inside myself, and learn wonderful things…. all because of these “stupid” questions that I ask, or that other people ask me. I’ve realized over years, that sometimes it is best to listen; and let your mind wonder; and discover! 🙂 Thanks for the great post!

    1. Hey Mei:

      Thank you for the visit. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts. Please do come again!

  4. Matt's Mom says:

    What a great post! I don’t think that any question is a stupid question and they get your mind thinking. I think that to ask questions like a child would, to learn new things….is always good. Like you say, the beginner mind when you have that sense of wonder, just like a child does. Looking and seeing things differently, maybe for the first time.

    1. Hey Matt’s Mom:

      Thanks for visiting again!  Beginner Mind is a heck of a lot more fun than Expert Mind, I agree.

      Please do come again….

  5. the wonder of life video really gives me existential crisis vibes. But i love listening and learning about that type of stuff. Learning what actually might be out in other galaxies, or listening to everyone’s different ideas as to why we are here and where we came from. It almost makes everything you go through seem so insignificant

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Ty.  

      Funny…my own take on the Wonder of Life video was one of awe.  Wow!  I’m a PART of this great thing! 

      Sure, I’m just small, but so what?  Without me in the mix, it wouldn’t be the same mix.

      (Yeah, okay…I’m a bit of a brat, but, hey…I’m cute!  Hee!)

      Please do come again….

  6. this really was a beautiful article. Reading about how you admired your friend really reminds me of my nephew, he was such a curious kid (hes 22 now) but when he was little he was ask anything that came to his head, and then would begin crafting these crazy ideas based on the answer. I loved that about him because his imagination had no limit! I loved that poem at the end too. Do you know if there are any books that speak more about that mindset?

  7. Your article was very interesting. As we grow older, we don’t ask the stupid question because we should know all there is to know, The truth is we are never in a place of knowing all there is to know even if we are the expert. Asking the stupid question can often lead us down a path of knowledge that we were never aware of.  Many time the question isn’t stupid at all as you learned from your friend.  The poem at the end was also very interesting.  Thanks for the post.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it and agree most heartily that we can never know everything about anything.  

      Please do come again….

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