Why It Costs To “Connect With Me” and “Pick My Brain”

Since when did meeting someone become “connecting?”

Not a week passes without an invitation for lunch or coffee to, as they say, “connect with me.” Somehow, that phrase rings of shallow intentions.

In the physical world, I believe in cultivating “friendships.” The virtual world has different rules. I’ll save that for a later blog.

I believe in “I would love to get to know you better.” But I’ve found that almost no one (there are rare exceptions) has the desire or the time for really wanting to know me. Most just desire easy access to my “network” of relationships.

I cannot adequately describe how often people ask to meet with me and immediately ask the obligatory “connection” question. You know, something like, “Your life seems so fascinating, could you please tell me what you are doing these days?” Only to see their eyes glaze over a few seconds later or wander the room looking for notables to walk in.

It is immediately obvious they do not care at all about my story or learning from it, they are waiting for a breath so they can tell me their story, or ask me to introduce them to someone important, provide leads for their career, give me their latest CD or book, or similar.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE hearing other people’s story. The greatest meals and sacramental times I’ve experienced in life are those when I hear a fascinating story and realize I have met someone of my “tribe.”

But I find it disingenuous to be invited to coffee or lunch to get to know ME better, when all the time it is a guise to get to know my connections—not me, at all.

But even more often, someone asks for the opportunity to “pick my brain.” Yes, “pick my brain.”

PICK. My. Brain.

Pick. MY. Brain.

Pick. My. BRAIN.

Ponder that phrase a few moments.

To “pick my brain” connotes asking for my many years of hard work experience, life experience, knowledge gathering and years of diligent, blood sweat and tears invested into my success—for free (or at the very best a $7.00 lunch.)

No one would dare ask me to lunch to talk me into giving them my Macintosh computer which costs only a thousand or so dollars.

But somehow, no one hesitates to ask to “pick my brain” which represents hundreds of thousands of real dollars of investment and years of hard work that are truly priceless.

Since when are physical things worth more than a lifetime of knowledge.

I have finally realized that my knowledge, my ability to gather people, my love for life, my mentoring, my advice, and my maturity are worth a bit more than lunch.

So don’t be offended when you ask me to coffee or lunch to “connect with me” or “pick my brain,” and I happily quote you my prorated day rate plus lunch.

Sure, I do pro-bono work. Lots of it.

But please realize I live in the city where CCM, charities and religious organizations abound—who never hesitate to ask for freebies—so my generous but limited number of pro-bono hours usually disappear by the end of January.

Last time I checked, the grocery store and electric company still charge me real money to buy my groceries. For some reason, they just will not accept my good intentions for payment. I’ve tried.

I love “connecting” and getting my “brain picked” when it truly is a straight-up business deal. It almost always turns out to be a win-win situation.

Just be honest with me. What do you really want?


142 responses to “Why It Costs To “Connect With Me” and “Pick My Brain””

  1. Deby Avatar

    Everyone needs encouragement. I find lunch or coffee is often a pouring out of myself to encourage a fellow creative. I charge for coaching, but I will never charge to meet and
    share hearts. The human, eye to eye is so important. To me . . . it’s the goal of this faceless online communication – that I may be the light that brightens someones dark night of the soul. I ache to think what would happen if I closed that part of myself to new prospects and especially to that one who simply needs a leader to speak up and validate their dreams and questions. I find most dreams are given wings over a short coffee or lunch. Not everyone can afford your fee, but they are still important parts of the overall picture.

  2. shari brown Avatar
    shari brown

    My issue is somewhat similar. “Could you snap a few quick photos of my son during his basketball game? Your photos are so good.” “Could you donate 3 hours and video my daughters dance recital and then make short videos of each performer and post them on you tube so our families can share in the experience? Grandma isn’t well enough to travel to the recital and would love to see it.” (Grandma is well enough to shop at the mall though) Boy, no one would do that right? This is my version of pick your brain. Let me have your skills that you have crafted over the past 20 years for nothing, because we are friends. Wish you lived closer to Kansas, I’d buy you lunch and pick your brain to see what I should do, lol. j/k

  3. David Teems Avatar

    When we first met, some time ago, I asked to meet for coffee, and only because I detected a resonance between us, a lot of common ground—artistic, literary, musical, old acquaintances—with ground to cultivate. It really was for the coffee. Still, I suddenly feel the need to apologize.

  4. David McCauley Avatar
    David McCauley

    I think that you are correct 100% I think we should develop more intentional words to discribe what will happen at lunch, Like “Hay Randy do you have a minute for a Leeching session?” or “Hey Randy I’d like to pillage you brain over lunch”

  5. Stephanie Avatar

    This is excellent advice, Chuck. I want to remember this…”be quiet, other people have better stories than I do.” Thank you.

  6. Chuck Harris Avatar

    i just like being around you. one thing i learned at recreate last year. be quiet, other people have better stories than i do. i should listen. thanks Randy. some day i hope to have the funds to go to Kaelin and pick your brain. i believe it’s worth every cent.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Chuck Harris, Thanks, Chuck. yes, listening is a lost art, I need to do it more.

  7. Jeff Goins Avatar

    Thanks, Randy. Already working on it. Here’s a sneak peak of a post scheduled to go live next week: http://wp.me/pwmK3-8d

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Jeff Goins, Jeff, the link doesn’t work for me…

      1. Jeff Avatar

        @Randy, Should go live soon. Check again tomorrow.

        1. Randy Avatar

          @Jeff, Awesome, thanks, Jeff!

          1. Jeff Goins Avatar

            @Randy, It’s live now. Sorry about that.

  8. Jeff Goins Avatar

    I agree, Alece. I had a similar experience.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Jeff Goins, Thanks, guys. That means a lot. I don’t want myself coming across as a money monger and that the only way to access me is to buy me.

      That is not who I am.

      But…the point in this post needs to be made.

  9. Jeff Goins Avatar

    Wow. Great post, Randy. I’ve only ever seen you be generous with your time. Thanks for the opportunity to get to know you and for taking the time to get to know me. I have probably not done the best job of honoring your experience; thanks for your patience and generosity.

    You’re right, though — the desire to “connect” has really gotten out of hand. I like the idea of exploring new friendships far better. It occurred to me a while ago (probably as a result of living in a pretty “connected” city) that the best way to “network” is to serve. Thanks for exemplifying that with your willingness to give away your time and wisdom to so many people.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Jeff Goins, Thanks, Jeff. I love this: “the best way to “network” is to serve.”

      That thought needs more of the magic Jeff Goins pen applied to it!

  10. Dale Schultz Avatar

    Your’s is a good explanation and rationale.

    Considering my own accessibility (and that of any leader), I’m convinced that each of us must control what of ourselves we give way (“pour out”) lest we become soul-dried. Or worse, become such an incarnation of co-dependency that we’re numb to true relationships.

    I’ll be thinking more about (and soon be writing about) how we can safely (for our sanctity and sanity) befriend those whom we lead.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Dale Schultz, Powerful, Dale, I love that term, “soul-dried.”

      Oh.my. goodness.

      And your point “Or worse, become such an incarnation of co-dependency that we’re numb to true relationships.”

      I sense that in many entitled “advisors.”

    2. Chuck Harris Avatar

      @Dale Schultz, wow, i think that is me. i’m soul dried and often numb to the relationships that count. Thanks Dale.

  11. Jim Gray Avatar

    1-I am a pseudo-certified zombie-hunter…zombies always want to pick your brains, so you are wise to keep them at bay.
    2-After years of working for companies where I HAD to go to lunch with people who didn’t really care, I choose to hang with those who do.
    3-i rarely go to networking or tweetups anymore because it’s always, “What are you up to?” and then the next week you’ve attempted to copy something I do…i’ve recently had coffee with the owner of a local design firm who was paranoid that i’d steal his work and clients…so i made him a “Gentleman’s Agreement” via a handshake for 1st right of refusal locally, for a commission, of course…
    4-Those of us who are connectors, we know when someone is using us…i’ve got a list of people who want me to promote their stuff.

    In closing…Randy…if I ever happen to be in Nashville…you are on my list of people have an idea-generation session with…

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Jim Gray, Jim, i would be honored.

      These points are to the point and can only be made by a seasoned veteran of caring for people deeply.


    2. Stephanie Avatar

      @Jim Gray, I have come to a similar conclusion about networking and business events. So often, I walk away feeling deflated (rather than energized). I much prefer one-on-one or small group gatherings – more room to really get to know people.

  12. alece Avatar

    (and that “<i?" would be an italics-attempt gone bad!)

  13. alece Avatar

    this is exactly why i so enjoyed and appreciated our chicago irish pub conversation back in september. i truly loved simply hearing your story. and i felt immensely grateful that you’d share it with me. because <i?that, more than anything you know or do or people you have connections with, is what makes you who you are. and i feel so richly blessed to know you even in the smallest bit. thank you for your friendship, randy.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @alece, Thanks, Alece! that means a lot!

  14. Dirk Avatar

    I am not a place where I am overwhelmed by, or resentful of, people in my professional community that want to meet for lunch of coffee to pick my brain or even to do the talking themselves. I am not at that place and I don’t think I want to go there. I usually get on the wrong track when I first think about what someone can do for me, what they can pay me or whether they are worth my time. At my best, I am thinking first about what I may be able to offer someone else, even if it is just to listen. More often than not, I am able to learn something from the most unlikely encounters. Many important people offered their time to me early in my career and it was invaluable. Some even coached me on my approach when I wasn’t relevant or interesting. So I want to pay it forward. I realize Randy, Michael and other executives can’t possibly entertain every request, but I suspect most of us aren’t that important. I know I’m not, so I am still somewhat flattered when someone asks to “pick my brain”. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Dirk, Thanks, Dirk. For Mike and myself, it is hopefully not that we are more important than others, but rather so inundated with so many requests that we cannot possibly handle them.

      And for me, it is now portion of the way I make my living (as I alluded in my post), so like it or not, since the grocery store keeps charging me (darn it), I must also charge for my time.

  15. Stephanie Avatar

    Bravo, Randy!

    This is an excellent topic and has given me much to think about. I read through most of the comments to hear the reactions and ideas of your readers as well.

    I have lots of jumbled thoughts.

    Upon first reading, I found Michael Hyatt’s automated response to be…a bit robotic, impersonal. The message is “pay me or we can’t get to know each other at all.” At the same time, I understand that people tenured in their careers probably get HUNDREDS (thousands?) of requests so a response like that makes sense. People have to establish boundaries and priorities, after all. You can only give so much. There are only 24 hours in each day, 365 days in each year.

    I also wanted to express my sincere yearning for mentors. I do feel like there is a gender void (as you pointed out in your response to Michelle). Where are the female mentors? I often have questions about business/writing/blogging/life…and I wish I had someone older/wiser to consult.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Stephanie, Yes, Stephanie, there is no adequate way to describe the myriad requests that come thru my purview via Twitter, Facebook, my blog and my years of relationships. It is impossible to keep up.

      and I can only imagine what Mike must go thru with his visibility and his company recognition.

      But your question: “Where are the female mentors?” penetrates my heart. There are very few male mentors (of which Mike and I are two) but I know of NO female mentors.

      Where are they indeed?

  16. Lori Zimbardi Avatar

    Randy, this is a great topic for discussion. I appreciate the fact that it costs to connect because it means that I am getting what I came for. As much as we should value what you have to offer, we should value what we are receiving and sometimes that costs.

    If it is a priority, we make it work. Instead of a spa day for my birthday year before last, it was a trip to Lifework from my hubby. This past year it was Catalyst in ATL because the speakers were people we wanted to hear from. (I did have a dream that at Catalyst I bumped into Beth Moore and she called me Beloved-didn’t happen. Still dreaming.) Instead of a trip to Israel with our church or Italy for our 10 year anniversary this Feb., we are going on the cre:ate cruise because these are the people we want to hear from and the trade off is worth it to us.

    Oh, we WILL be celebrating our anniversary (finger snap), spending time together as a couple and taking an awesome adventure. Believe me, adjacent cabins should “watch out!!” But we are also taking the opportunity to hear the creative speakers, build relationships with like minds and hearts and pitch a book I recently finished. To top it off, all of the trips and conferences were less money than we were planning on spending anyway. There are ways to make it work financially-if learning from extremely creative people is a priority.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Lori Zimbardi, I love you and your comment on all sorts of levels!!

      I didn’t know you were going on our cruise. Awesome!!!!

      1. Lori Zimbardi Avatar

        Thanks Randy. The cruise is going to be fun. It all came together after watching Cross Points series trailer for “More.” When Pete Wilson said “The opportunity of a lifetime has to be seized in the lifetime of that opportunity.” I was like “Danny, were going on a cruise!” Okay, it was more like, “Danny, pleeeease can we go on a cruise?”

        I registered through Michael Hyatt’s site so that I could take advantage of the pitch with Alice. I have just finished a book and figured the meeting was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime.

        There is so much I know Danny and I will take away from the experience as a whole. We can’t wait.

  17. Jeff Henderson Avatar
    Jeff Henderson

    I agree. Now for the courage to implement it.

    Thanks Randy,


    1. Randy Avatar

      @Jeff Henderson, Jeff, You have definitely shown me tangibly that you agree by honoring me as I worked with you and your great team.

      Now for you to have the courage to also expect that of your myriad expertise, I pray for you much courage and derring do!!

  18. Kyle Reed Avatar

    My only struggle with this is for the youngins (like myself) who are seriously looking to talk with leaders who are down the road and have done things.
    I definitely think you are right, we often come into a conversation thinking that if we meet for 2 hours we are set to take over the world. But I wonder about all the guys my age who are looking to talk with leaders they respect.
    I do think there is a price to be paid for that, no always financially, but some sort of price or cost.
    I just know that there are a lot of people that I want to learn from, be around, and even have a chance to meet more then once.
    How does a young person go about respecting a leaders time but still ask to meet or talk?

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Kyle Reed, Great question, Kyle. To me, you handled it perfectly with me. You engaged regularly and intelligently on my blog, you gave me advance notice that you would be in town, you were very clear about your reason for our meeting, and you were a joy to be with.

      Most good leaders will always have pro-bono time to meet with young leaders like you.

      1. Kyle Reed Avatar

        @Randy Elrod,
        gotcha, that makes me feel better :)

        I have been thinking a lot lately that young leaders often just need something to show up to, something that calls them up, and someone that believes in them. But it also comes at a price. They cannot just expect it to be handed to them.

    2. Stephanie Avatar

      @Kyle Reed, Thanks for adding your thoughts to this discussion, Kyle. You put into words what I was wondering.

      Great question! (Also – thank you for answering, Randy!)

  19. Brian Hinkley Avatar

    I enjoy helping people, especially when it is something I’m passionate about. What I normally find though, is there are some people who only call on me when a THEY need something. There is almost never a personal connection in the end, once they have what they want and I watch them walk away.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Brian Hinkley, Yep! Thanks, Brian. Unfortunately, so true.

  20. Jacob Yount Avatar

    Most folks, when asking someone such as yourself for the “pick your brain” time, networking time, probably are not even thinking that this is costing you valuable moments of your day. In general (and this may not sound nice) but in general, folks are selfish and don’t mean to be or don’t take the time to realize it. We look out for “self” and put our immediate wants over what’s best for the person we’re asking.

    Sound advice you gave on avoiding it: pick the times or folks whose life you feel led to sow in to. Continue doing the work for Church, charity and of course do what necessary for life support. Just like in our jobs, we have to prioritize our “connecting/helping/brain-picking” life. If you’re the “brain-picker” remain thoughtful of the “brain-pickee”. The more I lovingly or professionally learn to tell people “no”, in business, life, whatever…the more liberated it feels.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Jacob Yount, Yes, Jacob. so true. Thanks for your insightful comment. Your quote rings true to me: “folks are selfish and don’t mean to be or don’t take the time to realize it. We look out for “self” and put our immediate wants over what’s best for the person we’re asking.”

  21. Jimmy Williams Avatar
    Jimmy Williams

    Hmmm….Crap…..I have used both those sets of words.

    We don’t know each other. I read your blog, follow you on twitter and am blessed to be able to attend recreate this year for the first time. We have a mutual friend, who I grow closer to every week. Other than that, you are a digital extension to me….but I have learned more from you than words could be written by these digital means. I will have the chance to meet you in real life soon and I hope to get to “know” the person behind these writings better.

    I understand where you are coming from….In my little town, up until 4 months ago, I was the only “Technical” guy on a church staff in a 200 mile radius. I said yes to everything at first. I quickly learned I could not do that. My time and everything that I had poured into my “job” would not allow me to be everything to everybody. I felt bad and still do sometimes, saying no…but I let myself get abused saying yes to everything. I come from the mindset of: I have been poured into, so I have to pour into others. Having been blessed by having so many great leaders pouring into me over time, I realized that in order for my pouring into others to be worthwhile, it must only come from the overflow. I cannot pour out myself and be effective, my cup has to stay full. It is from the overflow of my cup that I am able and supposed to pour into others. That is difficult for me.

    I am still young, and have a daily mission of learning something new everyday. I want to return that to the generations under me and to my children and will do it for free as much and often as I can, but sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand.

    (not sure any of that makes sense, but I needed to “pen” it)

    And just for the record….I love reading about your life and all that you do, as I find it fascinating….but one of my favorite “gleams” from you is your wine list. That is the part of your brain worth “picking” all day long. :)

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Jimmy Williams, Thanks, Jimmy. I must say when I worked full-time as a pastor, I gave myself away, because the church allowed me to mentor on their behalf. So I did not charge, ever.

      But now, that it is my livelihood, it is a different story altogether.

      And I’ll talk wine at the drop of a hat!

  22. Adam Herod Avatar
    Adam Herod

    Love this bro. Although I’m realizing that the cost for “connecting” with you next time I’m in Franklin just went up. :-)

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Adam Herod, Ha!!! I assure you it is worth it!! :) Thanks, Adam.

  23. Michelle Avatar

    How can we change this? I notice a lot more women are registered for recreate this year too. That’s a lot more women looking for mentors too.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Michelle, Yes, I’m so thrilled with the increase of re:create females. We should somehow talk about this…maybe you girls can do so on your girls night out. Do you know about that?

      1. Michelle Avatar

        @Randy, I do, I’m looking forward to sharing time with these amazing ladies. It is definitely something to talk about.

  24. Alice Avatar

    Perfect. I’m there, too. And I’m still trying to find a polite way to change the subject when (some) people outright ask for MY contacts. Hmm. Tact?

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Alice, Alice, Yes. Don’t you think a proper response to this sort of tactlessness is a professional and polite firmness?

      1. Alice Avatar


        I agree. It’s only happened a few times and I’m so caught off guard that I usually react with the deer in headlights look. I guess I should at least write out and practice an answer so that when it happens again I don’t sound like a jerk. Learning curve :)

  25. richard Avatar

    Being a young minister, I am constantly encouraged to “connect” with more established worship or youth ministers. I have always thought that such an inorganic way of developing relationships had to be awkward for more than just me. I don’t know who you are, but I appreciate your honesty in this. I have always preferred actual friendship, and learning from the life lived rather than the words spoken.

    Of course, it would be even more creepy to ask to sit and watch you for a day.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @richard, Ha! Richard. So true. As long as you desire to have “actual friendship, and learning from the life lived rather than the words spoken,” you will have no trouble at all being “connected” in all the right ways! Thanks!

  26. Kyle Avatar

    Really enjoyed the post. I’m a worship & young adult pastor who finds myself in the middle of this networking struggle. I just finished up a message series on Dreams and had a lot of time to think about this particular issue. One thing I hit on was pure networking. Networking with pure motives. And I completely understand your side of this. I have had to become very careful and intentional about the people I pour myself into and share my time with. But be reminded of the countless amount of young lives you can literally shape. And the countless others that they will go on to shape. Seven bucks for lunch and a pro-rated hourly rate doesn’t come close to the reward of making a cultural impact in the long run. I know that sounds cheesy. But be encouraged. Everything pays off in the end.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Kyle, Thanks, Kyle. I love your quote: “Networking with pure motives.”

      And thanks for the encouragement!

  27. Rich Kirkpatrick Avatar

    Not sure people have said it on here, but I have invested church budget money and personal expense when that has not been available to be part of cre;ate conference nine times before this year. Every penny has been worth this one week of picking your brain each year, if you will. In fact, it has been an amazing investment that has been life changing for me and I know my peers who attend. My thanks to you, Randy. You are clearly a generous person and I am thankful to have received advice, comfort and mentorship.

    Now, this is interesting since just recently I met with some high level staff people at a mega church who wanted to “pick my brain” about some areas of my expertise and observation. I sent an email with an hourly rate and a consultation proposal. I would have never done that before knowing you, Randy. My experience is that this puts of church leaders, even though my rate is less than what I get playing music as a professional in a church setting.

    Here is something that burns. There seems to be a new economy out there that seems to say content creators should make very little if nothing at all. Whether it is writing guest blogs, posting links or doing a “favor. Cash is not something even companies with it are willing to part easily with. Being an influencer might mean one can be a catalyst for the better and for others, but how do I make a living doing it, especially in Christian circles? Something I am pondering.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Rich Kirkpatrick, Hmmm. sounds like you need “48 Hours of Solitude.”

      And “picking my brain” at re:create is a business proposition. You register, you get “my brain.”


      Thanks, Rich.

      1. Rich Kirkpatrick Avatar

        @Randy, No doubt the 48 hours of Solitude would be amazing. I just have to be sure I can bring proper coffee with me.

        Yeah, recreators have peeked inside your brain and we love it. :)

        1. Randy Avatar

          @Rich Kirkpatrick, Proper coffee? Ha. That can be arranged!

  28. Sheila Harper Avatar

    Randy! You just articulated what I have felt for many years but could never really pinpoint why. When someone has wanted to “pick my brain” and I get automatically frustrated I always felt guilty or like I was being smug. Now I understand why! These people are wanting me to take my years of experience about a subject that is deep within my soul and espouse it all over a 60 min latte at starbucks. Thank you for validating all I’ve been feeling! I feel so free! Keep up the great work!

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Sheila Harper, Awesome, Sheila. Go thou and create a day rate!!

  29. Cendrine Marrouat Avatar

    Randy, this is a very refreshing article! Thank you for taking the time to write it! You echo my feelings perfectly!

    Yesterday, I was approached by someone: “I need help with my website. I was that you were a professional with a heart.” I stopped the conversation very quickly, I know where it was headed.

    I am always willing to help, but there is a limit to everything, especially when I don’t know the person. It has to be a win-win situation. Because at the end of the day, I also have bills to pay and a body to feed.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Cendrine Marrouat, Yes, indeed. Darn those grocers and bill collectors! They are the professionals without the hearts! :)

  30. Marty Sacks Avatar
    Marty Sacks

    I would be nowhere without mentors and it’s interesting how I was able to connect with their networks and develop more relationships because I grew to treasure the “first” relationships. Great post! Thanks!

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Marty Sacks, Yes, that is true of myself also. Thanks, Marty!

  31. Rory Mac Avatar
    Rory Mac

    P.S. We should do business sometime.

    1. Randy Avatar

      @Rory Mac, I love “win-wins!” Bring it on! Need to know my hourly rate?

  32. Martin Allen Avatar
    Martin Allen

    And Randy, I’m pumped you and Gary are “connected.” This dude is a gem.

      1. Martin Allen Avatar
        Martin Allen

        @Randy Elrod, I hit the wrong reply button that put this comment at the bottom rather than directly under Gary Molander’s comment above.

        1. Randy Avatar

          @Martin Allen, Ah. Thanks for the clarification. I don’t think we have met physically as yet.

  33. Martin Allen Avatar
    Martin Allen

    Thanks for this, Randy. And, many thanks for the few times we’ve connected over coffee. If there’s a next time, I’ll bring my Mac. I need a new one anyway.

    One issue that hasn’t been overly addressed here, with the exception of the people pleaser conversation between you and Gary, is the service the brain picker provides for the picked: the fluffing of ego. We must admit that much of the time we agree to have our brain picked it’s not because we give a rip about the picker but because it feels good to have someone essentially say, “you have something I want” or “you’re smart,” regardless of their intention. By now, you’re able to quickly recognize intention. This recovering people-pleaser and egoholic is still working on it. Hopefully, I’m more importantly working on saying no selflessly, for their sake and mine, rather than saying no because it also feeds my ego to be in control and say no. Thoughts?

    By the way, in that something as physically painful as having your brain literally chiseled is our idiom of choice might indicate how problematic the experience to which you’re referring can be.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Martin Allen, Thanks, Martin. I understand what you’re saying and I do suppose that can be true at an early stage for a mentor when the requests are infrequent. But after a few years of being used, it no longer feels good, rather, as someone stated above, it feels slutty.

      The ego thing only lasts a while, and it soon wears away, if one is truly committed to changing culture. Because it quickly becomes evident in these “brain-picking’ events, that it is doing neither any good.

      And yes, the idiom certainly befits the request.

      Somebody has to pay for a mentoring network, right? Whether its a foundation, or donations, or an hourly rate…someone is paying.

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

  34. Michael Hyatt Avatar

    Here is the email template I use. This makes it much easier to respond. As you can imagine, I never hear back from most people. The ones who are serious, don’t mind.


    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks for your interest in meeting with me about [topic]. I have three options available. The first one is free:

    – My Blog. I have numerous articles on [topic] available on my site. You can find them all by using the Search feature in the right-hand sidebar of my blog.

    – Consulting. I do a limited amount of consulting on this [topic]. My minimum is a one-hour consultation (not including travel time). Though I am expensive, I do provide a discount on half-day and full-day rates. I would be happy to explain how that works if you are interested.

    Speaking. I also speak on this topic. I have a one-hour speech called “[Title of Speech]” I also have done half-day and full-day seminars. If you are interested in this option, you might want to start by checking out my Speaking page.

    Thanks again for your interest. Let me know if I can provide anything further.

    Kind regards,



    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Michael Hyatt, Mike, This is an awesome and reasonable resource!! Thanks so much.

  35. Meredith Dunn Avatar

    Wow. This was huge to me. Not because I have people asking to “pick my brain,” (that would be the shortest lunch meeting… ever) but because I am so often the person asking to learn and glean from others their well earned wisdom. I don’t think I take what they have to share lightely, but I unforunately assume that it doesn’t exhaust them to share their understanding and insight wihtout being seen as more than information channels. Thanks so much for this.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Meredith Dunn, Yes, Meredith. I believe there is a fine line. A good understanding of what is expected is always a good thing. At least, that is true for me, because I have so many requests. I am only one person and would love to be able to handle all the requests, but unfortunately, that is physically impossible. Thanks!

  36. mandythompson Avatar

    Even a few months ago at Story, all I knew was that you were an influencer of influencers, and you’ve picked creative influencers as your “tribe” as you say. And I knew that the people who are like me love you.
    In some painfully embarrassing way, I’m glad that’s all I knew. Because if I knew more, I would’ve probably made a huge fool out of myself–and my self-consciousness would’ve prevented me from asking all those questions. But why am I even saying that? You can see it anyway. And all I have for “payment” is gratitude.
    What do I really want, even from you? A mentor who can help me find a way to best steward what I’ve been given.
    See you in a few weeks. And until then I’ll remain as giddy as a schoolgirl.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @mandythompson, Mandy, You are a pleasure! You really care about not only your future and your dreams but mine as well.

      This post is not about your “tribe.”

      Rest easy!

      I’ve already told you that, but hear it again!

        1. Randy Avatar

          @mandythompson, Don’t “sir” me , ma’am!!

          1. shannon lewis Avatar


            Ha! “Don’t ‘sir’ me, ma’am!!”

            That was good. Very nice. I’m grinning.

            1. Randy Avatar

              @shannon lewis, Why thank you, “sir.”

  37. Kenny Silva Avatar

    Excellent post, Randy. I struggle with this sometimes. A lot of folks in my sphere have started to recognize my expertise on a few things and invite me to lunch or coffee to ‘pick.’ I love to provide value and advice, but I’m also working on building a consulting platform and can’t give away ALL of my time for free.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Kenny Silva, Thanks, Kenny. Yes, it is a good exercise to determine your worth. It is hard to draw the line between consultant and friend at times.

      But it must be done, or there will be no consultants.

  38. Terry Weaver Avatar

    I use the phrase connect a lot cause I am a connecter. Its what I do. I love to see people of like minds and visions connecting together. I fear there is a competitive nature too much in this town. Where people are not working together but rather against each other. God has called me to build His Kingdom not my empire. I love to see people come together and brainstorm and I know what you are saying is that many times people invited you to brainstorm when its really a brian vacuum on your ideas.

    I have enjoyed the times we have “connected” I also enjoying telling every worship leader / creative I meet on the road that they are crazy if they don’t come to your conference. Just like in any relationship it has to be good for everyone.

    All of that being said. I think it becomes consulting on an ongoing basis. When people want to meet, talk, chat, email on an ongoing basis it takes away from my time. In fact I will give my ideas for free, but you are going to have to pay for the time I spend away from my family and friends. That costs money.

    Oh and you need to make people take you to better places for lunch!

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Terry Weaver, Ha!! Downtown Franklin will do.

      I do feel that free enterprise is the lacking ingredient in most of the “Christian” business that goes on in this town. Almost everybody in that culture wants something for nothing.

      We all need to re-read Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” that was written in the contemporary year of 1776. And it still holds true today.

      Thanks, Terry.

  39. Rachelle Gardner Avatar

    As a literary agent, I can relate. Nobody really wants to know ME. They want what I can give them.

    The moment I stop being a literary agent (the moment I stop holding the key to THEIR publishing dreams) is the moment nobody will visit my blog anymore, nobody will invite me to speak at conferences, and my inbox will no longer be flooded with 100-200 emails a day.

    I know this, and I’m at peace with it.

    Like you, though, I can no longer “get together for coffee” with everyone who asks. I can’t charge a daily rate, so I just say no.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Rachelle Gardner, Wow!! My talk at re:create this year deals with exactly what you are talking about here: “Nobody really wants to know ME. They want what I can give them.”

      Powerful thought.

      But I challenge you to be YOU. We need YOU, not what you DO.

    2. Keith Jennings Avatar

      @Rachelle Gardner, I just a big “aha” moment reading your comment.

      You’ve just captured why so many people struggle with depression following retirement or loss of job. I’ve always thought about the obvious reasons. But what’s also (or really) at work is that, once we lose our title/influence, we have to face the reality that people really didn’t care about us personally. And this evokes feelings of worth and belonging that go way back to our school days.

      The fact that you’ve realized this, accepted it and are at peace with it, inspires me. Thank you.

      1. Rachelle Gardner Avatar

        @Keith Jennings, Keith, you’re right, I think when people lose their jobs for whatever reason, they realize their “influence” and even their self-worth was all wrapped up in that job. I remind myself of this everyday, trying to keep things in perspective.

      2. Randy Avatar

        @Keith Jennings, Yes, Keith, that is SO true. It happened to me immediately after my early “retirement.” It was a brutal awakening.

  40. Kevin Thompson Avatar


    I’ve been on both sides of this equation. As an attorney, I get hit up for free advice all of the time. I really dislike it and I certainly understand your analogy of giving away a Mac computer. I tell people, “It’s as if you want to come in my home and take my sofa….I’ve worked hard for this information, other clients pay for it, so what makes you so special.” I’ve also been guilty of inviting a stranger to coffee to “pick their brain.” I used to compete in track and field at Tennessee and I miss hanging out with motivated, goal driven people. I sincerely like hearing others’ stories because the best teacher is experience and the best experience is always someone else’s;) But with networking, and this would be a good topic for a post, it’s probably important to earn trust offline first, not online, before building lasting relationships. Great post, Randy. Very insightful.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Kevin Thompson, Thanks so much, Kevin. Your quote: “But with networking, and this would be a good topic for a post, it’s probably important to earn trust offline first, not online, before building lasting relationships” really hits the nail on the head.

      I may have a week or two of follow-up posts from this extraordinary conversation.

      Thanks again.

  41. Michelle Avatar

    great post, again, Randy.

    I know I have asked to pick peoples brains in the past, but my intentions were always coming to them as a student, wanting to learn more, not necessarily make the connections you mentioned. I did this more when I was in college, trying to figure out what career path to pursue, than I have these days. But I still find there are times when I would love to sit down with someone who is doing what I dream about doing, to learn more of what I can do to further that dream.

    My one wish is that more people who are successful in whatever field they may be in, would take time to mentor as well. I know it is a huge investment, but there are those of us hungry for knowledge and insight on how to better do what it is that we want to do. Finding those mentors is the challenge.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Michelle, Yes, Michelle, and for some reason, female mentors are very, very rare.

      This must change.

      Mentoring brings me the most satisfaction of my life, other than my family and my spirituality.

    2. Stephanie Avatar

      @Michelle, I could have written your comment, Michelle. This part especially resonated with me, “My one wish is that more people who are successful in whatever field they may be in, would take time to mentor as well.”

      I’ve been mulling over this post over the past few days and I keep coming back to one thing: Who am *I* mentoring? (I want to be more intentional about that in the coming year).

      1. Michelle Avatar

        @Stephanie, You bring up a great point. I think those of us that are challenged by this need to step up and ask ourselves who are we mentoring? And if we’re not, why aren’t we? Because if we’re looking for mentors for ourselves, then you can be sure there are many behind us who are also looking. It’s certainly given me a lot to think about these past few days and in the days to come.

  42. shannon lewis Avatar

    Wow. I’m sitting here wracking my mind to figure out if I’ve ever used those two terms before. I probably have. Very good reminder. I am humbled. Definitely will consider my words and intentions with folks I meet with. Thanks for the post.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @shannon lewis, Shannon, somehow I can’t see you using those words, and if you by some chance did, they would ring hollow because of the depths of who you are.

  43. Chad Jarnagin Avatar

    GREAT insight and honesty here Randy. Thanks. I am wanting to follow suit… when my schedule begins to look like a game of Tetris, something has to give. The responsibilities I have in my job, plus friendships, family… and THEN all of the “connections” from those interwebs…

    I noticed at a young age that something is more valuable when you pay for it. Mentoring (giving back) is one thing completely different and I’m thankful you know this balance.

    I will not write an entire blog post in the comments, but I’m sure I could.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Chad Jarnagin, Ha! Thanks, Chad. It is a privilege to be able to serve as a mentor to you and our motely crew of artists each Tuesday.

      As it was this morning, it is incredibly ironic and right when the mentor gets “mentored.”

  44. Julie Kolb Avatar
    Julie Kolb

    Speaking only for myself in response to this blog..In fact, I didn’t read the other comments, because I want it to be straight from what I’m thinking and feeling…

    My whole point to being on twitter is for fun…No agendas whatsoever…I actually stumbled onto your blog and found you to be someone I simply wanted to talk with…

    It is a rarity for me to comment on anything…Contrary to what I may project, I am very shy…I have decent social skills which allow me to hide it well…

    When it comes to you or anyone else, I want nothing from anyone…And wouldn’t ask for anything either…

    I hope I have made some genuine friendships on twitter (which is how I found you, via twitter)…There are some persons on here that I would never dream of “deleting”..They have become apart of my life and to be honest would love to meet them as their friend..

    So to answer your question…Yes, if it ever worked out, I would love to meet you as a friend and actually ‘know’ you face to face…No agendas, no picking…Maybe at that great little breakfast place you always talk about

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Julie Kolb, Yes, I appreciate that. May your tribe increase!!

  45. Grant Jenkins Avatar

    Excellent post, Randy. And I also really appreciate Lindsey’s comments. I’ve found myself on both sides of this scenario, and continue to now. I am someone who legitimately enjoys reaching out and meeting with people whom I admire and respect, but always with the intent to hear their story, and hopefully begin to develop a relationship or even introduce them to something else who I feel they should meet. It’s how I’m wired and something I genuinely enjoy doing.

    I often also find myself on the other side of the ask, and have for years for a variety of reasons. For as much as I love also being on this side, this season of my life is helping me quickly realize that even though I enjoy these types of meetings, conversations and relationships, it is not wise for me to say ‘yes’ to every invitation. I can be horrible at saying ‘no’, but the reality is I’ve got a lot of people in my life, both personally and professionally, who I spend time with and invest in on a regular basis. I take that seriously and it is difficult to add to that right now. While it mas many positives, social media has also created an intriguing sense of entitlement that often complicates this mix even more.

    I’m also discovering the importance of balancing the time I spend getting poured INTO by others and the time I spend pouring OUT into others. It’s a tightrope walk at times. Both are important, but balance is essential. When I spent more time giving, investing and pouring out than I do allowing myself to be mentored, invested in and poured INTO, it completely exhausts me.

    I’m not anywhere in the zone of being able to charge for my time, nor am I interested to. However, the theme of guarding your time and properly managing where and how you invest is crucial.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Grant Jenkins, Thanks, Grant. Again a powerful quote about this new day that we live: “social media has also created an intriguing sense of entitlement that often complicates this mix even more.”

      So true.

  46. Josh Avatar


    Thanks for posting. There appears to be two veins of thought here: sincerity and value.

    You’ve seen at times the lack of sincerely with people trying to ‘connect’, when really they are trying to use you.

    You’ve seen at times people trying to gain access to your knowledge, wisdom, and experience without the turn-key of relationship.

    I’m sorry that’s what you’ve seen, but please don’t give up on ALL of us “brain pickers”! I recently tried to meet up with the top five ppl who have influenced me the most over the past year, and I got ahold of all of them. We talked, ‘connected’, and I walked away with invaluable life wisdom and some new friendships.

    Your wisdom and time could really impact someone because you have a lot to offer, the question I have is ‘how do you filter’.

    So, let me “pick your brain”: What does your filtering system look like? How do you determine who you will invest in? What indicators do you pay attention to when someone sends a cold email wanting to connect?

    Thanks again for posting. Let’s connect! :-)


    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Josh, That is indeed a great idea for a future post. Thanks, Josh.

      I do have a system for people to be able to meet people like “you.”

      But my guess is that you were very up-front with your goals for the meetings with these “top five” people and they intuitively sensed your intent.

      Thanks for joining this intriguing conversation.

  47. Gary Molander Avatar

    Thought-provoking post. When people want to do coffee, or pick my brain, or connect, etc., I always go into it with high hopes. 99% of the time, I walk away feeling a little slutty – like they really should’ve paid a lot more for that one, but they got it for free. My problem is that I’m a people-pleaser, so it’s really difficult for me to give them an hourly rate up front. But I’m learning.

    And great pic you choose for the article thumb. Perfect.

    Thanks for putting in writing what so many of us are already thinking.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Gary Molander, Gary, what a perfect way to describe it: “When people want to do coffee, or pick my brain, or connect, etc., I always go into it with high hopes. 99% of the time, I walk away feeling a little slutty.”

      That is EXACTLY how this fellow “people-pleaser” feels and I’ve never been able to verbalize it.

    2. Martin Allen Avatar
      Martin Allen

      @Gary Molander, I always love hearing your perspective, Gary.

      1. Randy Avatar

        @Martin Allen, Ah, I’m putting two and two together now…this Gary. thanks, Martin.

  48. Maren Hogan Avatar

    I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one. At one point, I asked out a very prominent female executive to lunch and she flat out told me she wasn’t interested in becoming anyone’s mentor and what business did I have wasting her time. I was offended at the time, but much later when I was the one being asked out to lunch (in one case to actually build a strategy this guy could SELL!!) I completely understood her point. I got stronger and started to say no.

    On the other hand, you never know when you will need “free” help. Because I have invested time in people (judiciously chosen mind you) now during my own job search, people are ridiculously kind to me. In some circles I’m known as an HR expert but when I needed an executive coach I got one for hours because three years ago I was willing to share what I knew about social media. I got my entire house cleaned because I told a friend how to market his business. I receive books, clothes, food and trips because people know that I will help them or because I have.

    But none of this happened overnight. I learned to say no to coffee and yes to Skype, no to “picking my brain” and yes to “how we can help each other”, no to free work and yes to service trades. In short, when someone asked to go to coffee or lunch I said “Usually I charge over $70 an hour with a five hour minimum for lunch. Is there a way we can arrange for that?” The good people stick around, the smart people come up with a way to make it happen and the tire kicker moochers get out of my way.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Maren Hogan, Yes. Very wise advice.

      I have also chosen a small group of people to mentor regularly pro-bono. People that I really have got to know and that reciprocates their life knowledge. I also provide pr-bono work, and hopefully when I can’t, I handle it a bit more gently than your prominent female executive. Yikes!

      I applaud your comment and your spirit of selflessness.

      Thanks for making this conversation richer.

  49. Lindsey Nobles Avatar

    I totally get the need for this. I am in a season where I have a growing number of people who want to do “coffee”…and as much as I want to invest in people, sometimes it just leaves me feeling drained. I think the world of social media has made it a little difficult to decipher how close we are to people and given us the boldness to make the “ask” without making the proper investment.

    You have given me a lot to think on. How valuable is my time? Who are the people I am intentionally investing in? Where do I divert the other folks? Hmmmm….

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Lindsey Nobles, Powerful quote, Lindsey: “I think the world of social media has made it a little difficult to decipher how close we are to people and given us the boldness to make the “ask” without making the proper investment.”

      This is so true.

      It is a new and large learning curve, this social networking world…

  50. Kip McDonald Avatar
    Kip McDonald

    Randy, we do not know one another but we each follow the other on Twitter. I hear what you are saying. I am not much on networking. From what I see on Twitter, you have a fascinating life. As I follow you, I have wondered what your story must be. If we ever have the opportunity to meet and break bread, I will be one who is interested in the story of the man. Your perception is right on. Your experiences and “network” are worth something. I wish you luck as you figure a way to graciously deal with this situation. God Bless.

  51. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RoryMcManus, Keith Stancil and Randy Elrod, Randy Elrod. Randy Elrod said: New thoughts: Why It Costs To "Connect With Me" and "Pick My Brain" — https://www.randyelrod.com/NW […]

  52. deb Avatar

    THANK YOU Randy for posting this! This is a major pet-peeve of mine. Because of my line of work over the years, I’m someone who has quite a few friends whom others would love to get close to – so I am a “connection”. Humph. This is not flattering people. I even had a guy “ask me out” only to spend the evening “picking my brain” on how he can get his music before so and so When I wasn’t forthcoming with the information he wanted – dinner became dutch. I will refrain from using the superlatives still running through my brain at the memory.

    Upon writing this I just realized that I don’t really even know what you do Randy – so your brain is safe with me. I just like to read your blog, view your art and get your cooking and wine tips. And you seem to be offering those for free. :) Hopefully I can contribute a little in return.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @deb, Yes, Deb, your story is so sad but so often true. We do not need people like that guy as our friends.

      And yes, I consider this blog pro-bono at this time. I am happy to offer content that is of value.

      However, the entrepreneur in me knows that when you provide value, it will soon result in monetary reward.

      It is the beautiful thing about free enterprise.

  53. Nate Avatar

    Thanks for the post, Randy. The concept of ‘picking my brain’ really clicked.

    I also find it really sad that it seems so many have used the disguise of building friendships (something intimate and vulnerable, requiring hard work) for completely selfish motives. Burns like that definitely give us callouses. Especially when it happens over bread & wine.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Nate, Yep. Thanks, Nate.

  54. Brett Avatar

    I always wonder how a few of you folks who are so generous with your knowledge and connection through blogging handle what has to be a mind-numbing number of requests for guest post spots, lunch, coffee, free suggestions regarding books, music, etc, etc, etc.

    My feelings are that until I have the resources to pay for consulting or any other services that some of my favorite bloggers provide in real life, then I should be satisfied with the information I can glean from the free stuff they post. If I feel like I really want to… pick a brain (now that I’ve seen that phrase so many times, I can’t seem to think of a more suitable replacement), then I try to be up front about my intentions and provide ample opportunity for the other person to decline politely. I have a ‘for instance’, but have taken up enough comment space.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Brett, You, Brett, are a rare breed and it is people like you who receive my pro-bono work.

      My discernment gift is unfortunately off the charts, and so I tend to be able to see through BS very fast.

      But an attitude like yours shines through.

      Yes, I have so many requests for my time that it is at times numbing. But I do want to help. AND, most importantly, I’ve found that the people that pay for my services ultimately are the ones that really want my help-not my connections.

      It is like anything in life, You appreciate what you pay for!

      My Dad made me pay for my first car and all subsequent ones-so I suppose I’m old school like him. You get what you pay for.


      1. Brett Avatar

        @Randy Elrod, I also appreciated one of the thought that asking to ‘pick a brain’ equates to asking for your Mac. I often fail to see what I do as more than selling pieces of paper (property/casualty commercial insurance). I’ve built up some knowledge that is worth something and don’t need to be embarrassed about being paid. I have a seminary and ministry background (and worked in restaurants throughout my education), so I tend to think in terms of giving things away and bending over backwards to serve. Knowledge has value and I have a family. Can’t give it away for free.

  55. Rory Mac Avatar
    Rory Mac


    Thank you for hearing the silent cry of most artists/creators out there.

    If I may focus on one key part to me- the “easy access to my “network” of relationships.” This is the part of peoples intentions i find to be the most disgusting… Under the guise of forming a relationship with me, they truly seek to hack my network of true relationships that I have taken years to form and nurture. The intent is to use these relationships (that I find so valuable) to further yourself and toss away. Thanks… but no thanks.

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Rory Mac, Yep! Rory, your sentence,
      “they truly seek to hack my network of true relationships that I have taken years to form and nurture,” rings all too true!

      1. Rory Mac Avatar
        Rory Mac

        @Randy Elrod, thanks man… sometimes its hard to say no… People have no problem playing the “Christian Card” as i like to call it.. I think it is very important that they know that just because we are “Christians” that doesn’t mean you have the right to take advantage of me. In the professional realm as well, I may only be 26 but my creativity and insight is not free to just anyone. If you wish to access those attributes of mine you either need to A) have a relationship with me. or B) have a business relationship with me. The act of “picking my brain” is also known as consulting… :)

        1. Randy Elrod Avatar

          @Rory Mac, So true, Rory. I believe there is no such thing as “Christian” business, there is only business.

          1. Rory Mac Avatar
            Rory Mac

            @Randy Elrod, Agreed and agreed.

  56. Rocco Capra Avatar

    So, can I have your Mac? ;)

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Rocco Capra, Ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As they say in the Westerns, “Them’s fightin’ words!”

  57. Vince Avatar

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have a lot of churches, organizations and people who want to ‘pick my brain’ in the areas that I’m starting to see that I am looked at as an expert.

    On the flip side I feel that maybe I haven’t paid my dues and it may be too soon to make that ask.

    Decisions. Decisions…

    1. Randy Elrod Avatar

      @Vince, Vince, I appreciate your struggle. But many times it is a psychographic decision-not a demographic one.

      You have to make the call. Do you have knowledge that you KNOW will create a win for someone else. If so, that is worth money.

      1. Vince Avatar

        @Randy Elrod, “Do you have knowledge that you KNOW will create a win for someone else?”

        …this is what I needed to hear. Now it’s time to formulate a plan.

        1. Randy Avatar
  58. Doug Avatar

    Randy this is a GREAT post. I honestly cannot imagine the amount of “connection” requests you get and I do deeply and sincerely thank you for those times you have allowed me to “pick your brain”.

    To answer your question, “What do you really want?” .. a friend to share a glass of wine, a bite of good food and allow the dreams to flow with. I think you have blessed me with that time and time again for the past several years!