Yes, you may pick my brain... at a price
The more experienced and widely known you are, the more people will want to know what you know. It’s flattering, and sharing knowledge is the best thing any of can do. At the same time, valuing your own time must be non-negotiable.
I frequently come across people whose careers are exploding or who have already arrived, and they’re experiencing some new challenges that come with it. They’re creating new works of art, exhibiting at fairs, curating and staging shows. As much as they want to help people at earlier stages, they’re time challenged with what they already have on their plates.
A few years back, I started receiving requests from individuals who wanted to “pick my brain”. It’s initially flattering for sure, but there’s a problem: people who are often asked this are usually short of time to spare, too.
I would love to have all the time in the world to be able to share what I know. But this is the real world, and time is precious.
Here’s what I do:
My first rule is this: Help students, if their area of study is relevant.
I highly value education, and sometimes help students who are researching for specific projects. I’m particularly likely to help someone at MA or PhD level. Students at BA level or below normally speak with someone else in the Be Smart About Art team, or are recommended to someone we know.
My second rule (for everyone else) is to arrange a value exchange, which may or may not be monetary.
In my work, I talk a lot about the concept of value. Monetary is but one form.
A researcher who had a huge list of questions for me was able to “pick my brain” for an hour, while we were simultaneously photographed for BSAA’s photo library. I was able to give him vital insight into the industry, and he was modeling for images of one-to-one sessions (which are otherwise confidential, and thus aren’t suitable for photographic sessions).
When you find that you are reluctant to accept “picking your brain” meetings, with the knowledge that if you accept you will be annoyed with yourself for doing so, it’s time to be honest with yourself, as well as the other person. Sometimes, it means not meeting at all, and other times, you’ll find yourself in a win-win value exchange.
Remember that you run a business, not a charity. Much like the key principle of first aid, you need to look after yourself first and foremost to be in a position to help others.
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