I often talk about how I like to learn from other people. The primary way I do that is by just studying them.
In most cases, you don’t even need to contact people to learn from them. That’s why people write books and blog posts. That’s also why entrepreneurs speak at events or create courses.
It’s far more effective to use a medium that allows you to reach a lot of people to spread ideas. Otherwise, people would spend their whole lives to do 1-on-1 conversations and emails.
When someone writes a book, they can reach everyone who is interested.
And yet, a lot of people believe they should randomly email people and ask for advice. Why? You can get most of the advice you need by reading the person’s book or blog.
And that’s how I study people. It goes like this:
- Read their books.
- Read their blogposts.
- Google if they’ve done interviews or podcasts. Listen or watch it.
- If you want to do the same as them, study how they do it, and copy it.
If you want to know more about learning from others, please read Austin Kleon’s awesome book Steal Like An Artist.
That book was recommended to me by Ryan Holiday. He’s one of the writers I learn from.
And only if you’ve studied them, and have a question, try to get in touch. Don’t get in touch after reading one article because you want free advice. That’s lazy.
Ryan puts it well:
“There are fundamentally two types of people in this world: 1) People who think they are entitled to other people’s time and 2) decent, civilized human beings. The latter are those who respect time (because they understand that time is finite). The former ask indiscriminately to chat or meet.”
People are not sitting and waiting for you to email them a list of questions. Don’t expect that people will drop everything and answer your email or have coffee with you. They have lives of themselves.
If you’re trying to get in touch with people you admire, just try to keep that in mind.
Here are some things that helped me to have email conversations with busy people:
- Be brief. Very brief. Like two or three sentences brief.
- Don’t ask for something big (anything that takes time) in your first email. Simple questions are ok.
- When you’ve built a relationship, and you’ve also demonstrated value to the other person, and you want to ask for something, be clear on the CTA. What do you want? “Let me know what you think” is not clear.
- Be human. Email is a conversation. Not a formal job interview.
- Don’t send “follow-up” emails after two days. If you didn’t get a response, try a different angle after a while.
When you are respectful of other people’s time, you will find that people will take time for you. At least, that’s my observation after emailing people I didn’t know.
An email also shows the actual character of a person. When people email you and only ask, ask, ask for things without caring about you, they are selfish.
That’s why I recommend everyone to read How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
― Dale Carnegie
One thing is sure: Selfish people don’t get far in life. Take an interest in people, learn from them, study them, get in touch.
Whatever you do, it’s great as long as you also think about them. Otherwise, it’s a waste of your, and the other person’s time.