Column: The proverb to success

Sometimes, we should learn from and return to our inner inquisitive child.
<a href="" target="_self">Amy Lin</a>

Amy Lin

July 28, 2022
Confucius once said: “The man who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; the man who does not ask is a fool forever.” 

If one asks a question, he would only be seen as foolish for five minutes — temporarily. However, if one never asks a question, he would be trapped in the unknown and remain foolish forever, for he will never have the answer to his questions and will never be awarded the newfound knowledge. 

Why is the sky blue? How did the world begin? Where do we go after we die? Etcetera, etcetera.

In the same arbitrary manner as infinite fledgling toddlers, I asked those questions over and over again. With nil filter and guarded with thick skin, I couldn’t place a definition on fear. The only thing in mind is to be revealed to the complications and unknownness of this world.

According to Newsweek, preschool children, on average, ask their parents approximately 100 questions a day — endless “why’s” and “what if’s,” but gradually, by middle school, they pretty much stopped asking. As our age increases, so does the delicacy of our dignity. We somehow speculate that our question is a disturbance, or asking amounts us to a fool. 

However, little by little over the years, building up enough courage to unwind the slipknot of fear of losing face proved my past apprehensions wrong. I often credit this growth to my parents’ constant motivation.

I remember every day back in my elementary and middle school years, exactly the second the wheels of our white Honda Accord rolled to a stop adjacent to the dropoff curb, my parents’ voice would ring out —“If you don’t understand something, you have to ask — the sooner you learn it, the better. Got it?” I would nod in agreement as the words had already entered one ear and begun trickling out through the other. It wasn’t until I fully processed the weight of that phrase and assessed it myself, that I completely vouched for the meaning. 

Harking back to the time I received my Spanish test. A red “B” was largely scrawled and circled on the top right corner of the exam. The rest of the pages were filled with vibrant colored marks. I quickly shoved the papers in my folder, pushing everything deep into my backpack as if that would make the B disappear in thin air.

That night, only in the safety of my room was I able to cautiously take out the slightly crinkled pages. Addled-minded, I just couldn’t put the test away without resolving my mistakes. Proclaiming my determination, I picked up a green erasable pen, and slowly worked my way through the corrections — pausing every so often to circle the ones that stumped me. 

The next day after Spanish class, I took a deep breath and walked up to the end of the table where my teacher was situated, engrossed in weaponizing her colorful pens on another student’s exam paper. I winced while clenching my paper with both hands.

 “Señora, I looked over my test last night and made some corrections, but I didn’t understand some of the parts. Do you have time to look over it with me?” I managed to croak out as I gently placed my papers next to her. 

She paused and looked up at me. Crowning her eyeglasses on top of her dark hair, a slow smile spread on her face: “Of course, mi Amy, let’s take a look.”

Her easygoing tone struck me and my tightening balloon of fear burst. Just like that, she obliterated my walls of stress with her words. I took another breath, this time, relieved. 

“Let’s see…” she began. 

We worked our way through the problems. She patiently stopped at every green circle I marked last night and explained, often referencing the textbook and some of our lessons. We even got in some laughs as correct answers finally dawned on me. After the settlement of all my inquiries, I graciously thanked her and got up, ready to leave. 

“Thank you, Amy, for seeking me with questions and making the corrections even when it wasn’t asked from you. For that, I’ll give you a little extra credit “ She said, putting her pink frames back on the bridge of her nose and rewriting my grade with her now friendly red pen.

My mouth fell open as I blinked at her. “Extra credit?!” I exclaimed, unable to control my excitement. Her beaming face made me recall something I once heard someone say — “A teacher’s job is to teach, and they do it because they love it, so do them a favor and let them do what they love.”

I left the classroom with my test, still filled with disbelief. Not only did I receive solutions to my confusion, but I also earned credit for my efforts and courage. That was when my parents’ words came spiraling back to me, hitting me with a wave of recognition. So that’s what they meant. 

The experience was just one of the bunch that infiltrated me with surges of confidence to rid myself of any dragging confusion. Although they were quite trivial as they were temporary with seemingly little significance, I look back on them as the stumbling blocks that I overcame on the road to success 

As a young adult, if I learned anything from those experiences, it’s that sometimes, we should learn from and return to our inner inquisitive child. The candidly ignorant ones with their thoughts only programmed with a learning mindset. The fearless ones willing to let down their guards to put on thick skin for the label “fool” for just a moment. The ones that would never be a fool forever.

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