My good friend Joe Polish often warns entrepreneurs, coaches, and all “marketing advice givers”:
Beware when someone asks to pick your brain because more times than not, they are picking your pocket
You may think Joe is being a bit cynical when he says this…and the irony is that Joe is one of the most giving and caring people in the world, allowing many to pick his brain regularly.
But that doesn’t take away from the point he is making…and why I wanted to write today about “pickpocket prevention.”
Like Joe, I am free about giving advice…whether I have something useful to deliver or not…but I rarely think in terms of those who ask to pick my brain as taking advantage of me…until it’s too late.
I admit I’m a little naïve…and I also see my brain as similar to the brain of ABBY NORMAL from Young Frankenstein…
Definition of “too late” is when brain pickers never stop picking until you cut them off…and it is much less painful to cut them off early than later down the road.
That’s why you need to cut them loose once you can identify the signs of a pickpocket in waiting…and I have some thoughts on spotting those signs.
Here is a checklist of ideas and thought processes you can use to save time, create less anxiety…and avoid loss (in income and general happiness) when a brain picker comes knocking (picking?):
- Assess how much the request is an “ask from nowhere.”
I wrote a post about this a year ago from the perspective of how you make “asks” (i.e., requests, picking someone’s brain) of others; and whether you read it or watched it previously, read and watch it now through the lens of those making requests of you.
Simply put, the more established the relationship you have with the brain picker, the closer you are to not getting your pocket picked.
But that’s only a starting point.
There are many subtleties involved and they are contained in that post and in the videos.
- Getting your pocket picked can be about losing money (e.g., someone asking for valuable advice that others have paid you top dollar to share with them).
It can also be about losing time (which often translates to money).
But I think the biggest thing that gets picked (and disrupted) is your mental state…a depressed feeling that you are being taken advantage of…and a general malaise that something is not satisfying or excellent.
Those are the things that are the biggest loss.
Don’t assess on money or time alone…always ask, “How does this request make me feel.”
Then act in accordance with those feelings, sometimes at the expense of logic or even pure generosity.
Try to get in touch with those feelings and begin the process of creating limits.
- In addition to setting limits based on feelings, set boundaries at the outset with specific guidelines…whether it’s a request from nowhere or somewhere…and also set expectations and objectives of what you will do on a first brain picking meeting or call.
It may be as simple as setting the meeting for 15 minutes with a hard stop…or as complex as having them send questions in advance before you say yes to anything.
Also good: Set objectives of what they want and what you want up front.
- Beware of the flattering pickpocket.
My good friend Mark Ford says this about flattery (and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I subscribe to this philosophy myself):
“Flattery works. At least it does on me. I am equally pleased by insincerely given compliments as by genuinely felt ones.”
Fortunately for Mark, he avoids flattering pickpockets better than I do…but try to be aware when insincere compliments are being bestowed upon you…and try not to be a victim of a misdemeanor pickpocketing offense without realizing it’s happening.
Even if you can’t get rid of the suspect right away, try to pick up on clues of insincerity and make sure you call your internal “psyche police” to arrest the culprit before they commit a felony. 🙂
- Create a true sense of reciprocity…without setting up a 50/50 deal.
This one takes some experience…with even more elegance…and you cannot keep score on a “reciprocity equation.”
I define “reciprocity” as Robert Cialdini, author of the classic book, Influence, defines it as his first “Principle of Ethical Influence”:
Reciprocation—You, then me, then you, then me…be the first to give service, information, concessions
Once you understand this principle, then your experience and elegance can take over.
Create a way to be first…with a 100-0 mindset as opposed to a 50-50 mindset…without getting taken advantage of…and be aware that “first” doesn’t mean “forever.”
You need to build in protection for yourself while being the most generous person you can be.
- Someone picking your brain can always create windfall opportunities for them (and for you) under this principle of reciprocation…but it’s up to you to set it up in advance.
One way to do this: Set up the initial meeting/call with defined boundaries (e.g., an objective with some kind of “what” to be explained or presented by you) …but since every “what” needs a “who” to do it…and then a “how” to get that “what” done…you can be the who (or the person who makes it happen) …for a fair price.
Give them a taste of your brilliance…and then rock their world with the follow through of your genius.
- One more pro tip from Cialdini (and I will paraphrase it below) to advance the feeling of reciprocation when you are the first to give service, information or concessions–while getting your brain picked.
After you deliver what they are asking for in a helpful way, hopefully you will get a sincere “thank you.”
Note: If you don’t even get that, your pocket has already been picked! 🙂
Your response to that sincere “thank you?”
“You’re welcome. It’s what friends do for each other.”
This is a subtle way to forward pace “returning the favor” without asking for anything.
And…to get them to at least think about what the advice or counsel you just gave them might be worth to them…and that you did it out of friendship.
Even if nothing is ever given in return immediately (or ever), you will be able to tell whether you got your pocket picked just by their reaction.
Also, if you vet them properly at the outset, something magical will happen…at least in my experience.
They will become “friends with benefits”—and get your mind out of the gutter.
These are non-sexual benefits that come back to you in the future whether from that brain picker or another one (through a referral).
Or…the benefits come to you simply because of the good karma (and advice) you share on regular basis.
That’s just the way high integrity human beings…and the world…work.
I call this “serendipitous reciprocity” …when you put positive vibes into the universe (which includes free advice), and the universe rewards you.
Under the right circumstances with the appropriate people, it all comes back to you from places you expect…and from places where you don’t expect.
I’m not being woo-woo here. This is a blueprint for success and happiness.
The key features of anything you do for anyone (whether you interpret it as an honest brain pick or not), must never increase your anxiety, never be a money grab and never be a time suck…and it should always lead to peace and prosperity in your life.
And consider a pay day or compensation “gravy.”
Not every pickpocket makes it their career…you can rehabilitate many of them through the process described above…and make them useful members of society (and part of the league of blue-chip marketers too).
Then you can leave the rest to mingle in large crowds with fat wallets (and vulnerable ABBY NORMAL brains). 🙂
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I implore you to pick my brain…and pick my pocket. 🙂