Let me say something if you’re thinking about emailing someone for advice.
I’m sure you’re emailing them because you value their advice. You want to know what needs to be done achieve goals similar to theirs.
Here is my advice to you before you hit send.
Don’t waste someone’s time if you’re not going to to anything with their advice.
I’m not talking about asking for their advice which color is the best.
I’m talking about advice for steps you need to take to get from point A to point B.
And if you’re not even going to take time to reply back and say thanks after you get their advice, don’t even bother writing in the first place.
That last part is just basic manners.
I’ve got to get some things off my chest. I’m going to call out those people who sit in front of the computer, hoping someone has the answers for them, and do nothing more than that.
They just fill up someone’s inbox and waste their valuable time.
It’s Not Everyone
As you can tell, I get frustrated sometimes when dealing with emails.
It’s not all the time. I enjoy the emails. I love hearing from people. I love it when someone writes to say thanks or how they loved my ebook. Sometimes they just want to write about their problems and have someone listen. I can be that person. Sometimes they ask for my opinion. I’m more than happy to give it.
There’s just some people that fall into another category.
When someone asks for my advice, I take it seriously. I reply to every single email I get. If people are asking for my advice, I think they want to hear what I have to say. I take my time and craft an email that I hope can help in some way.
When I think about it some more, I think maybe I’m just wasting my time. Maybe I should write shorter emails first. Maybe I should just dip my toe in the pool before jumping in.
Maybe my advice sucks. I’m not trained life coach or the guy with all the answers, but I can share my experiences and lessons I’ve learned.
But I know most of my advice goes to waste. I don’t even get a thanks most of the time.
I have no idea why people can’t say thanks, but I can figure out why my advice goes to waste.
I don’t come out of lamp
They’re hoping I’m a genie and I’m going to snap my fingers and grant them three wishes that’ll come true.
They’re looking for a free pass. They want me to have all the answers to their problems. They’re hoping I say, “Do A, B, and C” and everything will be perfect. They want me to say it’s so easy even a caveman can do it.
They want to buy a $1 lottery ticket and win millions.
It’s happened more times than I can remember. I haven’t thought much about it until just recently when I got one particular email that got me frustrated.
Then I started to think about the emails I’ve written to people looking for advice about blogging, iPhone apps, and just life.
I never hear anything more from the majority of those people.
I’ve gotten emails from bloggers who are just starting out or have been blogging awhile with no success.
They want to know how to get more readers, more comments, more retweets and Facebook likes.
Of course I’ll go to their blog and see it needs work, but nothing that cannot be fixed. I was once there.
I truly try and help so I don’t fire off a quick email or point them to search results I found on Google. I’ll tell them exactly what I’ve done. I’ll go into detail and it’s pretty comprehensive I think. I like talking about that kind of stuff anyways and I’m willing to help others since others helped me when I started.
I hit send and a couple things will happen. Either I hear nothing back at all, or they reply with how appreciative they are that I took the time to write back.
I saved some of these emails just because I wanted to check and see how the advice worked for them.
Most of the time what I see is a blog that looks pretty much how it was the first time I saw it. They haven’t taken any of my advice and put it into action.
Why even ask if they don’t do anything with it?
I didn’t think much about it. I gave them my advice, and that’s all I can do.
But this is a recurring theme.
It’s not just with blogging, but with app advice too.
I remember one guy desperately wanted to know how to get more downloads for apps. He worked for some app company overseas and I guess his job was marketing. I don’t remember the exact email now, but I remember it was really long.
I replied back with everything I’ve done to market my app and get more downloads. Actionable steps he could do. Not hard at all.
Never heard back from the guy.
The Email that Inspired This Post
This year I’ve been getting more emails looking for advice about how to get unstuck in life, achieve goals, or find some direction in life. With more readers, come more responsibility.
Again, I take my position very seriously and do everything I can to help.
However one recent email got me to write this post.
This person said he fears everything. He fears his boss. He fears messing up. He fears making the wrong decision. He fears looking stupid. You name it, he fears it.
He knows it’s a problem, but can’t shake it off. He was desperate for help.
He asked very nicely for my advice at the end of them email.
Like anyone who tells me about their problems, I sympathize with them. Often I can relate to their situation and feelings.
I know you can’t just tell someone to not be scared of failure. The cliche of “just do it” isn’t going to work. A quote from a famous person isn’t going to make him overcome all his fears.
That’s not how it works. Nothing is going to give him confidence other than doing something that scares him.
So I challenged him.
I told him to think of something he fears doing. It could be anything. It didn’t have to be huge. It could be small. I wanted him to reply back with some ideas. We would narrow it down until we could agree on one challenge.
Then I would become his accountability partner. I told him he would have to do this one thing he fears just once. I wasn’t asking for much. I didn’t ask him to go walk on hot coals.
My idea was to tackle a small fear one at a time and hopefully help him realize it’s not that scary. In fact, it could be very exciting to do something that scared him. I wanted to slowly build his confidence.
Before I hit send, I doubted he would take action and accept my challenge. I even told him to not bother replying to me if he didn’t want to do it. That might sound harsh, but I wanted to see how he’d respond.
But this guy replied! I thought this is great.
I read his email and as expected he decided not to take action. He made no mention of it. He wrote something about writing down everything he fears and reply back to me.
That’s not what I asked for!!! I got enough of that in the first email.
Instead he asked me for advice AGAIN because he’s too scared to make a decision about a career choice. He went into detail about the two choices he has and he’s fearful he’ll make the wrong choice. He wanted me to choose.
I wanted to scream!!!!
Why why why?
Their problem is they want the quick fix. They want me or someone else to solve their problem for them and make the tough choices. They’re hoping that one email will give them all the inspiration and motivation they need. They want to skip through all the hard work and enjoy the rewards.
They expect someone to tell them how to make $1000 a day, working only one hour, with no experience, no website, and no stress.
They want someone to hold their hand and do everything for them.
While working on this post, I noticed this tweet from Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness.
I willing to bet if Steve replied to emails like that, it’d be a waste of time.
The first give away is “but don’t have any ideas”.
That’s a bullshit excuse.
Don’t have any ideas?? If he would read Steve’s great blog, I know he can find ideas.
What about using Google? Yahoo? Bing? The library? Come on!
We live in a time when information is at our finger tips. I hate it when someone says they have no idea how to start or don’t have any ideas.
What it really means is “I’m too lazy to look myself.”
If they’re’re too lazy to research, I guarantee they’ll be too lazy to do the work. The research is the easiest part!
Those people who email Steve wants what he has, but if they knew that it’s taken him many years to get to this point, they’ll likely be disappointed.
When the secret is revealed, all intersest is lost. They don’t want to do all that work. They’re not willing to do the mundane. They aren’t willing to sacrifice.
They still want the end results, but aren’t willing to put into the effort.
So the great advice goes wasted.
The Lazy Magician
I’ve been guilty of this. I have always loved magic. I grew up watching David Copperfield’s magic specials on TV.
I’ve been on websites that sold magic tricks and when I saw the demos, I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I wanted to get that same reaction from others when I performed it.
When I couldn’t resist anymore, I would order the magic trick. I was so eager to find out the secret.
When I found out the secret, I realized it was pretty hard. I knew I could get that amazing result I saw in the demo, but It would take a lot practice and work. Work that suddenly I wasn’t willing to put in.
I would give it a shot anyways and practice, but soon lost interest. Then I would quit. I was too lazy to do what was needed to perform the trick well like the guy in the video.
I wanted to perform cool magic tricks, but not if it was going to take that much practice.
Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time because I have a drawer with some magic tricks in them.
So I know that feeling of wanting to know what I should do, but not doing it.
I’m older and wiser so I know whatever result I want is going to take work. Not just a little bit, but a lot of work if I want to be successful. There is no shortcut to success.
Nothing came easy to those, like David Copperfield or Steve, but now they are enjoying the benefits of their hard work.
I did learn my lesson though. I haven’t bought a magic trick in years.
Do Something With That Advice
If you do ask for advice from anyone, the best thing you can do is to take any kind of action, and follow up later telling that person what you did and how it’s helped. Trust me, people love to hear that.
Those are the best emails that I get.
A recent person emailed me and thanked me for the free ebook. She lived in near a big city on the west coast. She listed her accomplishments thus far. A very successful business woman, but something was still missing.
We exchanged emails. After digging some more, she told me she’s always wanted to be an actress. She doubted she could be an actress, but hasn’t really tried.
I asked her about acting opportunities where she lives. Turns out her clients work in the entertainment industry. Her friend is an assistant to a famous actress. She lives near a big city in California with lots of acting opportunities.
Then she said the famous line, “I just don’t know how to start.”
I’m thinking “What??” She tells me all the connections around her and she has no idea how to start?
So I gave her some tough love and convinced her she has so many resources around her to find out how to get her foot in the door. I told her she loved the idea of being actress, but didn’t want it bad enough to do anything about it. I knew that was true even though I knew very little about her.
A couple weeks later I get a great email, telling me that the butt kicking (she called it empowering her) helped and she took action. She’s going to be training to be a television host with a coach coming soon.
She was so excited to have taken action and because she did, she found this great opportunity. Now she may not ultimately stick with television hosting, but at least she’s doing something.
I loved the enthusaism in her words and happy to know I could help in some way.
That’s the kind of person I enjoy helping! That’s the result anyone who offers their advice wants to read.
The reality is not everyone is like her.
I’m still going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and continue to give my all when someone asks for advice, unless it’s a repeat offender. I’m going to do everything I can on my end to help. After that it’s up to that person to decide what they want to do.
Stop Thinking It’ll Be Easy
If you expect things to come easy for you, then don’t waste someone’s time asking for advice.
Think about if you’re willing to do make sacrifices to get what you want. If they tell you it’s going to be hard, but it’s possible, will you do it?
Think about that before you hit send.
Time is valuable. The time it took to them to write you an email is time they can never get back.
If you ask for my advice, and it’s not what you expected or realize it’s more work than you thought, then that’s fine. That’s up to you.
But at least please please please hit reply and say thanks. Think about that other person taking the time to answer you. They didn’t have to.
If you’re not even going to say thanks to me or anyone else, don’t send that email in the first place.