What I Learned by Training My Brain for a Month

In February, I asked Lifehacker readers to pick my brain . Awful phrase, but a really enjoyable experience (unless you are the one who is already bombarded with these requests). I needed to write tips for recruiting journalists, promoting fandom podcasts , creating buzz in academic journals, getting around the country, and building a writing career. Here’s what I learned:

Giving advice is really nice

At least if you asked people to ask about it. It’s nice to be helpful, whether by email or in person. And you don’t have to be very specialized to give decent advice. Half of the advice is just helping someone unleash their own ideas. AsDude said: “I began to think very hard about this case!”

This satisfaction is dangerous; it is easy to convince yourself that you are an expert in any business. So when someone needed more general advice outside of my area of ​​expertise, I tried to include cautions, convey the wisdom I’ve received from others, and just provide relevant examples that guide my thinking.

Don’t ask for advice from anyone

I specifically invited readers to ask this advice! In general, do not write to someone for no reason asking to help you “start” your career, unless you are very kind and have no rights, and you have already exhausted all the best options, such as searching on Google, finding friends (and friends of friends), as well as posting on open forums where no one is obliged to give you an answer.

If you could find the answer simply by reading books or on the Internet, then you are not really asking for advice, you are simply asking for someone’s attention. Be especially careful if you are a man when asking a woman (or in any other situation in which you have the privilege) for career advice. Don’t be the asshole described in this conversation (and later topic ):

Remember, just because you want what someone else has doesn’t make you the little guy in this situation.

Be specific when asking for advice.

If you’ve ever read an advice column, you’ve read the phrase “I don’t understand from your letter …”. If you’re asking someone for personalized advice instead of just googling or posting on Reddit, make sure your request is as specific and contextual as possible.

Do not force the advisor to conduct research for more than three minutes. You can suggest some optional sitelinks, but make it clear that they are optional.

Even a smug counselor like me must have some structure. Don’t just write a free-form hint. (This is what happened in one email that I completely ignored.) If your question can be answered in a whole book, you need to clarify it.

God I’m so bad at email

After writing one line of this post, I realized that I had never answered four different people who emailed me asking them to choose my brain, so I had to go and give them an answer at the last minute. There are only 50+ branches in my mailbox; ten of them have played an important role, four of them since 2017. The oldest is from July. How did I get hired on the Productivity Site? We will never know!

“Choose Your Brain” is a terrible phrase, but it’s a great way to set the tone for a productive conversation.

I only had the opportunity to meet face to face with one person and everything went great . I have trouble keeping up a conversation, in part because I’m bad at remembering to ask questions. (Probably because I am full of myself.) By establishing our conversation as an almost informal interview, we easily flew past the original timeline of our meeting. And now we drink again.

I want to give advice all the time

So you can still feel free to email me for advice. (Unless you indicate otherwise, I consider our email to be fair game to publish Lifehacker.) If you’re in New York, we might even have a coffee near Union Square. I can’t promise I’ll get back to you in time, but one day I will pop up with an answer that may or may not help you.

And if I never get back to you, don’t worry, Lifehacker already has a regular tip reviewer .

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