There’s a lot of talk in the entrepreneurial ethers about what to do when people ask you for advice, or “to pick your brain”, from the position that these requests are a mild nuisance at best and inconsiderate at worst. It’s an interesting discussion and there are plenty of useful scripts being shared if this is a big issue for you and your business. In my business and in my life, I don’t see it as an issue.
I am a firm proponent of boundaries. I am also a firm proponent of asking for help.
The two are NOT mutually exclusive.
The wonderful thing about boundaries is that they actually create spaciousness and cohesion. My husband and I recently walked through a busy park that had at least six baseball diamonds filled with earnest kids and hollering parents. In the far corner of the park was a massive fenced-in area for dogs to tear around, sniff butts and roll around in the dandelion fluff with unbridled joy. Awesome to behold. Had there not been that dedicated space, there would have been some serious clash of species. Balls and mayhem, ahoy.
Good fences make good neighbours. - Robert Frost
And the wonderful thing about asking for help is that you often get what you need. Funny that.
I know myself that I wouldn’t be where I am today without having asked for help, requesting coffee dates, and in the early days, I may have even uttered the verboten words:: can I pick your brain?
Shun me, shuck me, burn me at the stake.
And, I totally get why this feels hot ‘n bothered right now. It feels like we have less time to meet the needs of our clients, family, friends and colleagues without taking on additional appointments/correspondence with people we don’t know. (I suspect we could find more time in the day if we spent a little less of it in the aforementioned ethers, but I digress).
As much as I believe that we all deeply desire to help each other and to see one another succeed, I have CERTAINLY heard myself from time to time saying: I’m sorry, I’m not available to meet with you for lunch. What is the specific question that you have? I’ll be happy to address it in an upcoming TGtv in case others are curious about my take on it too.
It’s not perfect, but I highly recommend that for you too. If there’s a question that you get often, you may consider writing about it. Create a product, program, post, class if it feels aligned + good and direct people there. (And if you’re the one asking for someone’s time and attention PLEASE MAKE SURE that you have invested YOUR time and attention already on resources they have created for just.this.very.reason). If you want to ask Kate Swoboda for the blueprint to creating a sustainable coaching practice, for instance, I reckon that it would prudent to get your hands on The Coaching Blueprint.
Now…that said (discernment rests in contradictions), the argument is oft-made that if people ask you for the very thing you sell, as in your time, advice, wisdom, then they aren’t valuing you. Could be. AND can we also hold space for the possibility that it’s not quite so nefarious? That wanting to meet you for a coffee has more to do with wanting to connect at a heart level than wanting to rip you off?
And I also wonder…
Is it possible that this isn’t actually a PROBLEM and that all of this brow-wiping breathlessness is more of a badge of busy-ness than anything else?
In my business and in my life, I don’t see it as an issue. If ever it’s felt like a problem, then it’s only ever been a champagne problem. I am doing something right. People are noticing. And they want some of what I have. Case closed.
We all know that asks are energetic exchanges…it must feel right for both sides of the transaction. We all need to find our own way into this.
And now, a personal request...
If you are feeling inundated with asks, before locking into the “no” position, will you please pause in gratitude for the honour of the request? Will you please pause in celebration for the good work you’ve done to get here? Will you please pause in appreciation of those who gave you their time, energy and attention when you were first starting out? Will you please check your gut and check your schedule? And will you THEN proceed accordingly?
No’s are often required…and that’s completely cool. But I fear the world my daughter will walk in if we are too pinched, gripped, clenched and clamped to consider sharing our abundance of attention, wisdom, gifts and even, yes, time.
Aspire to be useful. Aspire to be generous. Aspire to be kind.