Back in 2011, Human Resource expert Adrienne Graham published an article on Forbes entitled, “No You Can’t Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much.” (All links will be at the end of the post). It garnered over 200,00 views and eventually inspired a book of the same title. I caught it because the article spurred a dust-up online amongst consultants and freelance professionals. The popular opinion at the time was that one must give away a ton of value first before being paid for it. Social media promised lucrative contracts for the seasoned pros, if we could only set up a blog and a podcast and free downloads and an info-packed newsletter.
Ms. Graham did all of those things, of course, but she started spreading the message of the virtues of saying no to when you are asked out for coffee by another professional seeking advice or support.
“How would you feel if your boss came to you and said, Hey since we can get this done from information from the Internet, I won’t be paying you today. Go ahead, let it sink in. Got that visual yet? Good. That’s exactly how I feel whenever someone wants to take me to lunch or call me to pick my brain.”
Since reading that article over 4 years ago, I have slowly but surely cut back on the invitations I accept. To do this, I’ve had to skip attending the type of events where invitations to “pick my brain” were likely to occur. This year, I’m going all in: 2016 will be a “no coffee” year.
When I say coffee, I mean “coffee” – which can also mean “lunch” or “a beer.” I’ll meet with friends, but this year will, to the very best of my ability, contain no coffee with strangers seeking professional advice. As Adrienne says, those types of outings simply cost too much. These meetings, while flattering and sometimes exciting, leak over the time allotted. They usually last much longer than an hour. Even if was just an hour, there is commuting time. I have 6 hours a day during the week when the kids are in school. That isn’t a lot. Protecting those hours is harder than you may think. There are dentist and doctor appointments or half days from school or winter break (forget summers).
I anticipate having a lonely year. As a freelance writer, I don’t have co-workers. I’m alone most of the time. As an extrovert, that doesn’t exactly float my ego’s boat. I get disconnected. Professional tech gatherings combat the solo hours, but the coffee suggestions almost always follow. It’s difficult to turn down an invitation to hang with a new potential friend or business contact. I have to admit, though: not once has “coffee” ever led to a paying gig. Not once.
I’m not even consulting anymore. Meeting business people for coffee doesn’t help me achieve my novel-writing dreams.
So I have to accept a lonely year if I want to finish the novel. In fact, I may have to accept a bit more of a lonely life if I want to make this fiction thing work. Who knows? What I do know is I’ve done my part to help my various communities. I’ve volunteered, written, designed, published, and doled out advice for years, all for nothing more than the satisfaction to my ego and the knowledge I helped my city, an organization, or a business person in need.
A side note: A no coffee year also means a “no advice” year. When I am with friends or family, I’m going to institute the spirit of the “no coffee year”– Letting people figure things out for themselves. This means: More listening, less talking. More nodding, less jumping in. More echoing back, less spewing of advice (maybe even if it is sought!).
How will you be having your coffee in 2016? Alone, pursuing your dreams, or helping someone else pursue theirs?
Photo credit: Me (Christine Cavalier)