Dear Future Me,
You did it. You’ve achieved your goals and some measure of success in your work.
Or, if not, you’ve at least gained a lot of experience trying.
In either case, you’re busier than you were before. You have increasing demands on your time coming from a variety of sources — family, friends, colleges, employees, clients, customers, publications, events — you name it. And this list doesn’t recognize any new projects you cook up.
Understandably, you will want to be intentional with your time, and that often means saying no to most of the things that cross your desk.
“No” is one thing, and often it’s the right thing, but don’t ever stop answering.
There will be people who want your advice, your guidance, your mentorship, or just a sounding board to lean on because they’re starting something on their own — just like you did.
You may only spend 15 minutes on the phone or respond to a few emails, but it can make all the difference to the person on the other end of the line.
You could be the one to unlock something that allows them to advance. You could provide a perspective they’ve never considered. You could simply keep their morale going when all the other doors remain shut.
Here’s some advice on how to do it:
The worst thing you can do is not respond. Your response may be short, your response may be that you don’t have the right experience or expertise to shed any useful light, but don’t leave the person battering against the closed digital door. Get back to them with something human.
Make it a routine.
It will be easier to accommodate if it’s a part of your regular schedule. Maybe that’s through monthly office hours, maybe you set aside one meeting slot a day. You’ll have to decide what makes sense.
The structure will also allow you to put a system in place to make it easy for you to automate 98% of the process.
All of this also helps those reaching out. By being proactive and setting your method for offering advice, they will be able to target their asks rather than feeling like they’re sending a paper kite into never-never land.
Make it valuable.
You’ve always disdained wasting time, both yours and other people’s. Don’t lose that. Take 5 minutes to read up on what they’re doing and who they are. Really listen to what they’re sharing. Put your grey matter to good use and cross-connect the dots.
Give valuable, honest advice away if you think it will help the other person. That’s what this is all about.
Don’t wait until you feel like you’ve made it to open the line. You have a perspective and something to add earlier than you think. There is someone out there who would benefit from hearing it. After all, that’s why they’re reaching out.
And isn’t it great you’ve started some of this now? Let’s keep it up.
Your Younger Self