We all start from the same baseline — “Zero.”

I took up my last job at a private equity fund after quitting McKinsey. I soon found that I had no idea about the jargon they were using. I had not even heard terms like Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and termsheet.

In fact, once by mistake, I told a company in the first meeting that I would send them a draft termsheet. They must have nearly had a cardiac arrest before I quickly corrected the fumble and told them that I meant an NDA.

Since people would bandy around this jargon quite freely, I felt too embarrassed to ask openly. Gradually, by stealth, I figured all this stuff out.

In retrospect, I think I was quite foolish. I should have just sat down one of the guys and asked him to explain all the jargon to me.

I have noticed that we have a deep-rooted fear of our ignorance getting exposed. This fear besets freshers and CEOs alike. In fact, the more senior you are, the more you hesitate to ask basic questions and in the process, just prolong your ignorance.

Whether it is a new job or not, if you don’t know something, just ask openly. Anybody who tries to act superior should be reminded that we all start from the same baseline — “Zero.”

– Rajan

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