October 17, 2014

Over my long career, working closely with my mentor and friend Marty Edelston, whenever we sat down to meet he would often start the conversation with the following question:

“Who did you give up your right arm to today, Brian?”

Marty wasn’t asking me this to be mean…he was asking out of care and concern.

While I cherish the fact that I love humanity and all people, I also know that I don’t protect my privacy or the access folks have to me…and I have a really hard time saying “no.”

I was just reading a wonderful book called Give and Take by Adam Grant which examines people through three basic categories:

  1. Givers
  2. Takers
  3. Matchers

It’s very interesting to note that some “Givers” are at the bottom of the success ladder while others are at the very top.  “Takers” and “Matchers” are all in the “murky middle.”

And I am learning that getting control of how we give is critical for our long term success…in business and in life.

I’m shortcutting quite a bit here about the book…but it’s safe to say that if you don’t think about “how you give” (if you are a Giver), you can get yourself in a heap of trouble.

It’s the difference in being a champ or a chump.

Here’s one important thing about giving that Grant says (which I believe in wholeheartedly):

“You should be willing to give five minutes to anyone…anytime…”

My problem is that I’m not looking at my watch while “giving” and five minutes can easily turn into an hour…and I think that is why Marty continuously coached me on this issue.

And keep in mind, he was a supreme Giver too…

I have gotten many new insights after organizing “The Titans of Direct Response” (which some have called “the event of the decade”—not bragging—others said it!)…and the fact that I have not written this weekly e-mail for two weeks is indicative of how much I need to re-prioritize how I “give.”

The amount of e-mail, snail mail, gifts, cards that have come my way “post-Titans” has been overwhelming (and so rewarding)…and of course I have had a “need” to acknowledge everyone who reached out to me.

But I’m seeing that there is a limit to what you can do to truly stay productive…especially someone like me…and this post may be one of the more important ones I’ve written.

My big question (and maybe you’ve asked this one of yourself too):

“How do I continue my love affair with humanity and all of the wonderful people (new friends and old) who are part of my life while somehow making myself less accessible?”

Just writing that is hard.

Better way to put it:

“How do I say ‘no’ with love…and therefore protect all of my appendages?”

Watching Dan Kennedy up close and personal through “Titans”—or as up close and personal as anyone could be with Dan Kennedy—taught me a lot.

Dan doesn’t own a cell phone or have a cell phone number (or certainly one he gives out to anyone I know); he doesn’t use e-mail; his phone appointments are carefully controlled by a gatekeeper/assistant who is best contacted via FAX; and if Dan reaches out to you, it will either be via a Federal Express package or a FAX.

And whether you approve or not of how Dan protects his privacy and how folks get access to him, there is no one I know who is more productive and focused on what he needs to do (and wants to do!) on a daily basis than Dan Kennedy.

So there are some lessons here…adapt what you will…and of course what Dan does is way too extreme for me.

However, every entrepreneur I know always talks about “protecting their confidence” and I think if you protect your privacy and figure out the best ways to limit access to yourself in ways that work for you, productivity (and therefore confidence) has to go up exponentially.

I have to admit that for me, I gain confidence through the extensive interactions I have with all the geniuses in my life…I am blessed that way for sure…

But knowing the difference between what I call “no longer” and “not yet” is my newest distinction.

I am looking to incorporate a bunch of responses and behaviors in my life going forward—some I have put into play already—and I wanted to share that list with you here to see if any resonate for you:

  1. “I can’t do that right now but if anything changes I will let you know.”
  2. “I will if I can”
  3. “I charge $1,000 per hour for my time”
  4. “While I charge $1,000 an hour, I don’t want to charge you; however for my time, I would like you to donate the equivalent of my fee to a charity of my choice” (obviously shows commitment to the conversation…and respect for your time)
  5. “While I don’t like charging you for my time, overload doesn’t serve anyone and I will do a disservice to you if I simply say yes given how cramped my schedule is.”
  6. “I’m willing to set up that call but please send me your three most pressing questions in advance of the call so we can use the time most productively. And I have a hard stop at __.”
  7. “My assistant (or I) can give you a half hour from 1:10 to 1:40 on Thursday.” (using a specific time and not on the hour will also have both parties respect the time even more)

I’m still adding to this list…and refining it…to see what works best for me going forward.

Overriding theme:

There are only two times…


Not Now.

I’m hoping I can get much better at this…and the more I look at this issue of “access” and protecting our most important asset (“time”), the more important I think it is.

I would love your feedback on this post…and more specifically, I’d love to hear some of the ways YOU protect your time and how people get access to you.

And if you have had any “productivity breakthroughs” through the methods that you use, please share those as well.

Until next week (and if I don’t post for two straight weeks again, ask me how that “protecting my time thing” is working out for me)!


P.S. I am currently at the American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI) conference in Florida…about three hours before I go on stage talking about, “7 Things Every Copywriter Needs To Know If You Want to Write For The Big Dogs” (and I guess I am a “Big Dog” in addition to being a “Big Boy” now). I think the lessons I will teach to copywriters today will resonate with all of you whether you are a copywriter or not so I think I have my post for next week already. I’m looking forward to sharing those with you.

P.P.S. And please send me your suggestions for “time/access protection breakthroughs.” I will look to add the best ones in future posts to everyone on this list (with your permission) in the weeks ahead.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

  1. You’re right on! I’m guilty of giving away might right arm all the time too… actually our whole family does. I will share this article with them.

  2. After being a corporate executive and having an admin “protect my time,” I just copy what I learned there:
    1. I have an online calendar. No one gets a business call without going through that calendar…and it is set up to only allow calls on certain days and times. That way, there is no creep into my writing or personal time.

    2. When people want to pick my brain about marketing, I give them the 30 minute consult (through the calendar) and then they have to pay just like everyone else. (My mantra: I don’t create marketing for free unless its for me!)

    3. I never do trades. Ever.

    4. I mentor new marketers for a small fee…I don’t mind helping new people (I love it, in fact) but I charge a fee because I would otherwise spend all my time helping everyone. My fee stops me from doing that.

    I LOVE your #7 – having meetings start at off times is genius! Brilliant marketing move right there.

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