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We have all heard the cliché’s: There is no such thing as a stupid question, or, the only dumb question is a question not asked. There is a lot of truth to these, yet so many times we are afraid to ask a question because we are afraid to look foolish or ignorant.  I am guilty of it, but why? I think the answer is pride. 

Pride goes before a fall, yet another cliché has some truth as well. Pride can also keep us from growing. If we don’t ask we can’t learn. That doesn’t necessarily mean asking a person. Digging into an owner’s manual to learn how your truck operates is asking yourself the questions and seeking out the answers. Yet how many of us actually read it before taking off?

As a man, I am not allowed to read an owner’s manual, nor am I allowed to read assembly instructions. It is an unwritten rule or something. However, after several projects that ended up with spare parts, I convinced myself reading the instructions was probably a good idea. On a positive note, my injuries healed nicely and my limp is barely visible. 

Asking Leads to Answers

Just remember, if you ask a question, you may not like the answer you receive. That doesn’t mean the answer isn’t correct or helpful though. Sometimes answers are difficult to hear or understand, leading to more questions, which leads to more answers, and possibly more questions, with more answers, followed by more questions….see a pattern here? A simple answer may be just what is needed, but many times it takes a more complex series of questions to truly understand. Don’t be afraid to keep asking until you “get it”. Don’t be afraid to keep reading the instructions until you understand what they are telling you. Spare parts usually aren’t a good thing. Neither is a trip to the emergency room.

Ask the Right People

To get the right answers you’ve got to ask the right people. Asking a carpenter how to program a computer on the International Space Station may not give you the results you need, unless you run into an ex NASA computer programmer who is now building cabinets. To be successful at achieving high Miles Per Gallon, you should talk to people that achieve high Miles Per Gallon. To learn how to bake a cake you must ask a chef or read a recipe.  To learn how to River Dance, you have to ask….Oh never mind. Nobody really wants to River Dance, do they? (Relax, it’s a joke people, I know no one really wants to River Dance!)

The point is, to improve at anything, the best people to ask are the people who are successful at whatever it is. Then listen. Most people are more than happy to share their experiences and knowledge. The answers may not make sense. That is when you ask more questions. And when you understand what you have been told, do it.  

Don’t Ask if You Don’t Want to Know

I don’t know where this quote comes from, but I like it. “What one man has done, another can do”. Find the ones who have, ask them questions, and then do it yourself. It will probably take practice, just keep at it.

I am part of a group, (which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty), that is dedicated to improving a certain aspect of our professional truck driving careers. Most of the members genuinely want to improve and ask good questions. The people answering those questions are truly wanting to help. There are, however, a scant few that always criticize what they are being told, regardless of the results shown and the documentation given. I always question why they are even part of the group, but I also wonder why they would doubt those who have been successful. I think maybe it is because they don’t really want to change, or maybe they just like to stir up stuff. I don’t know. Don’t be that person though. Ask, observe, absorb, and act. Talk to those who are successful, ignore those who are negative all the time, and criticize those who are achieving what you would like to achieve. 

PS. I was not injured in the writing of this article.

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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