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Ask A Silly Question

Joseph Tom Riach – Author of successful living books and mystery novels, vivid views of life and business


"Ask A Silly Question" is the twenty-ninth in my 2022 series of articles based on my real life experiences, professional insights, personal views and fun stories.

My hope is that in them you find joy and inspiration.




     Was there a pupil in your form at school who the rest of the class laughed at for regularly asking what they perceived to be silly questions? That pupil was me.

     Then in later years at college, night school or adult education was there also that one inevitable student capable of reducing the class to hysterical laughter with what were apparently equally stupid questions? That was me too.

     And had you been a member of my profession in my early years in its ranks, or the proverbial fly on the wall, then there in the front row at conferences, seminars and training schools you'd likewise find me firing off my salvo of questions weird and bizarre, to the perplexion of the speakers and the entertainment of all.

     Being renowned for my, let's call it 'lateral thinking inquisitiveness', had its advantages. It meant that I could show at the last minute to these events because my front row seat was kept for me by those intent on ensuring a good laugh! That, and the fact that venues tend to fill from the back rows forward - why do attendees shy from being in front, near the action? - meant that I was always best placed to easily interrupt presentations and harangue speakers with my apparently crazy questions.

     But as my 'notoriety' spread, over time so did its nature. I had you see grown to become one of the most prolific producers of new business in the industry. So, whereas previously my questions had been greeted with guffaws and the rolling of eyes, now when I interrupted and rose to speak an attentive silence descended. Delegates leaned forward to better hear what was being queried. The mood had become one of - 'what rich wisdom is in the question'?

     Without being fully aware of it, my audiences had themselves become, by association, askers of silly questions! Somewhere in the collective conscious had been seeded the realisation that being bright, educated, intellectual even, wasn't bringing wealth or success. But that an enquiring mind and a desire to know, even to the point of appearing dopey to your peers, was what produced results.

     Inevitably therefore, I found in time a constant stream of inquirers seeking me out, each one primed with the same hopeless question of the inspirationally lame – “What is the secret of your success?”

     Of course I had a ready answer - “Ask a silly question!”  

 I am Tom Riach. I live and write in the sunny south of Portugal.

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'ASK A SILLY QUESTION' is an original copyright Tom Riach feature.
I hope you enjoyed this presentation and found it to be of value.
To learn more please visit me on my Author Page.
See you there! Regards, Tom.

© Copyright Joseph T.Riach 1998-present. All rights reserved.

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  • Top Commentor

    Learning is filled with questions that open the mind. Very good post as always. 

    • Top Commentor

      Thanks John. Good to know you enjoyed the read.

  • Top Video Contributor

    I enjoyed it, as usual. thank you, Tom.  I and my classmates, although we were in the accelerated class, did not embrace learning.  Personally, I could not wait to graduate so I could stop  Now, I genuinely love to learn, and 'stupid questions' are often eye-openers.

    • Top Commentor

      You were in the accelerated class George - are you saying you were on speed? :-) The thing with education is that much of it is accidental. The stuff that kind of rubs off on you in passing, be it at school or in life or business generally, and which later on kindles an interest in both what you've learned and in learning itself. My favourite 'silly question' is to ask - "Do you mind if I ask a silly question?"

    • Top Video Contributor

      Ask for permission! ~ a sales strategy that works.  We were lucky when it came to drugs. they were almost nonexistent for kids and teens.  Most of us were broke.  I made good money starting around 10 or11, mowing lawns, weeding gardens, painting houses, shoveling snow, cleaning out garages and basements, fertilizing with real manure (somebody had to do it), and whatever else you might need that a teen could do. I guess that is where I learned about entrepreneurialism.  Once I embraced learning, I was fortunate that it had become almost an obsession.  Even now, I listen to an education tape (now a DVD) while driving, an old habit that I was lucky to create.  I agree that learning is somewhat accidental, but I think it has a lot to do with our conscious and perhaps subconscious positioning.  Thanks, Tom. 

    • Top Commentor

      An enlightening response as always George. You don't know (or perhaps you do) how much I learn from hearing of your experiences. Your life experiences are themselves, great education.

  • Top Member

    What an informative post, Tom...  I was very fortunate when I learned, much to my surprise, there is no such thing as a stupid question...  After I learned that I lost all fear of being inquisitive...  That idea would have totally handicapped my education...  I soon became proud of my nature to ask as many questions as it would take to get the lesson clarified in my mind...  I do believe in self-education for that very reason...  I can arm myself with what I've already learned to be true & then learning becomes easier for me...  This is a process I've learned to appreciate... :D

    • Top Commentor

      You're right Linda - there's nothing to fear about being inquisitive. It's only by querying everything that we can understand some things. And never forget, the answer is most often in the question. Those who refuse to be questioned or insist that those with opposing views are deplorable or are in some way undesirable expose by their position the very reason why everything should be questioned - especially the 'obvious'!

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