Nobody wants to be the first person to raise their hand and say they don’t know. Get an assignment on the job that you haven’t had before? You accept it, and then the kindling of stress fire ignites, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Will your work measure up? Did you complete the assignment correctly, even though you didn’t understand a part of the instructions? Without understanding expectations, there’s no way anyone will be able to complete an assignment they’re unsure about. Without asking questions, you can’t figure out if you should add a stride in the line when you’re riding a pony and the class is “Children’s Hunter 1″. Without asking questions, you could give the wrong medication to the wrong horse if the buckets aren’t labeled properly.

Unless you are a search engine or an encyclopedia, you don’t know everything. You don’t have to know everything, and you probably won’t. There’s something fantastic about the wonder of discovery. Learning is so valuable, and we don’t do it enough.

One of my least favorite things to say is, “I don’t know,” but that doesn’t stop me from saying it all the time. Unfortunately, I quite typically don’t use the phrase in the situations that call for it the most. Instead, I assume I know the answer. I assume I’m supposed to. I try and think of every option, everything from answers to solutions. I assume I know. I think I should know.

When did I become Here’s a better question: why do I think I need to be?

Asking questions isn’t a sign of your skill level. It’s not a sign that you’re not capable. Asking questions is like grabbing a map to find your destination instead of relying on what you think is the correct direction. You probably knew how to get there, but you saved yourself loads of time by checking the map really quickly. There was no reason not to check the map, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t a good driver, or that you’re bad with directions.

I used to think if I didn’t know the answer, it meant I wasn’t knowledgeable. I can guarantee any instructor I’ve ever had will tell you that I have excuses for why I didn’t do something correctly (we all do). I’ve missed lead changes because I relied on a horse who knew how to do them. When I rode a new horse, I was confused when he didn’t pick up on my cues. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I didn’t give any cues because I didn’t know how. And all this, of course, could have been solved if I took a deep breath and admitted I didn’t know how to ask properly for the lead change.

It can be incredibly hard to stand up and say “I don’t know”. There’s a pivotal moment where asking questions becomes a necessity to grow, to learn. To get better. There’s an earth shattering value in asking questions, because it means you know that there’s more to learn. There are things you accomplish quicker, more efficiently, and with less anxiety.

According to the judge, I could have won that class if I hadn’t missed my lead change. So speak up; ask questions. And try not to miss your lead changes.