Should you let people “pick your brain?” It’s one of those questions that’s been talked about and debated for years.
And, for years, I’ve gone back and forth to both sides on this hot topic.
When I was starting my consulting business 13 years ago now, I was firmly on the “pick away!” side as I wanted to meet everyone! It was in my best interests as I built out my network even more. And, truth be told, I really liked it. It was fun to be approached. I was flattered that people wanted to “pick my brain”. No one had really ever asked me that before! To be fair, it’s not like I was getting asked all that much. But, I did get asked. And when I did, I always said yes.
But then, at some point, I started swinging to the other side. Probably around 2013-2014. I was very busy. Business was going extremely well. I was volunteering with MIMA and the Winona State alumni board. My kids were getting a bit older and needed more attention. I didn’t have the extra time I once did. And, I found myself defending my time a lot more. I almost bordered on getting defensive about it. I kinda felt like I had to.
But, I never really felt great about that. It went against who I was. I had people telling me “you don’t want to give away advice for free! You should get paid for that!” But, giving stuff away has always been a core tenet to who I am as a consultant. I’ve been doing that for years! Not just over coffee. On my blog. On the podcast. On my e-newsletter. At events speaking! I didn’t charge for any of that–why would I worry about someone picking my brain over coffee!
But over the last couple years, I’ve firmly swung back the other way, and that’s felt a lot better. It’s more of who I am. Again, I feel very fortunate and flattered to be in a position where ANYBODY is asking to pick my brain!
And sure, I like money and clients as much as the next person, but I also firmly believe in karma. That’s a big piece of this whole equation. If I give, give and give eventually it will come back to me in some way. And I’ve almost always found that to be true. So, the “picking” fits into that karma camp for me now. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
The last couple years have certainly changed my thinking again. Here’s where I’m at. Someone wants to “pick my brain”–first, like I said above, I’m flattered! But second, if someone is asking to “pick my brain”, they probably need help in some way, shape or form. And, in 2022, coming off a worldwide pandemic and the two crappiest years ever, why wouldn’t I want to help someone?
In the past, I might have thought “I don’t have time to do this–and I may never see this person again!” That has happened–many times. I offer to help, but really never see the person again. But again, in 2022, does that even matter? Maybe I should be blindly helping people where I can. I’m feeling that more and more lately. If I can help, I will. Worst case scenario, I feel great having helped someone and never see the person again. Best case scenario, I feel great having helped someone and I make a new professional friend I stay connected with for years.