Experts Are Not Free
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.
Just because I have experience with something and can readily give it doesn’t mean I have to or that I should. That’s hard, considering that my life purpose is to share my experiences, but there’s a reason for this pattern and I think I’ve finally gotten the lesson in it after talking to my personal Yoda.
This is a trend I’ve seen in my life over the past 2 months, many times. I can say I’m attracting this to me, but it seems to be coming in an indirect manner that gets my attention, catches my focus so I can make changes I otherwise would not. This is the way change sometimes manifests for when there’s a better way I need to explore.
The way this particular pattern is shaped is this: I am working with a local group. Maybe it’s a spiritual group. Maybe it’s a writers’ group. Maybe it’s a group focused on abused women. Maybe it’s my homeowner’s association. But a question comes up among a group where I’m present as a volunteer or socially. This does not occur when I’m acting in my professional capacity—ever.
So a question comes up. It’s in an area that no one else there has worked with before. I could sit back and be quiet and watch the group shrug their shoulders or I can offer up information that I’ve come by the hard way, through my own experiences. Half the people are eager for free advice and the other half are eager to tell me I’m an idiot and don’t know what I’m talking about, even though I have personal experience with it and they do not.
Real-life recent example: A group of 25 writers are discussing how best to set up a series of books they want their group to publish as a joint venture. I’m there as a volunteer to help with something else and get caught up in listening to their fretting. One of the guys says, “Hey, does anyone know the best way to get into [a certain wholesaler’s catalog]?”
What am I to do? I can give him—and the group— that information, for free, in 5 minutes. It’s something that took a lot of time for me to learn and some hard falls. But I’ve always believed in sharing abundantly, not in withholding information when it will help someone. This goes back to my old mindset of ideas coming easily to me, so much so that I feel that ideas are free and should be freely exchanged. But I’m just a listener and no one’s asked me specifically for help.
The request for help is from anyone who can offer up information so I wait for anyone who’s an established member of the group to speak up. They don’t. In a few minutes, I see them going off on a path that’s going to cost them a lot of money. My old need to fix things hits me hard and I hate to see them really screw themselves over when I have the answer on the tip of my tongue. So I can’t resist—I speak up. I explain the experience I’ve had and what’s the absolute easiest way to get to where they want to be. I give them the secret back door that isn’t advertised. I can even give them my point of contact and her direct phone number, but it doesn’t get that far.
It doesn’t get that far because someone who’s never published jumps in to tell me something he’s read on the wholesaler’s web site that directly contradicts what I’ve said (the official story for the general public). He has no idea what my level of experience is or anything about me, yet he likes to be the expert among the group. He’s caustic. Pretty much calls me stupid in front of the entire group. After all, if I really knew what I was talking about, I’d be bottling it and selling it. Since I’m not, I’m not an expert; I’m an idiot.
I really enjoy helping people but it seems lately that every time I give hard-earned info for free, I get ridiculed. And most of the time this happens, it’s when I see a costly mistake coming up and I want to help. I can list at least 20 times this has happened in the past two months, and it’s always in a place where help is specifically requested, sometimes begged for, as in “Please, if anyone— anyone—has any tips or any idea of how I can get out of this mess, please God, tell me now!” And someone I’ve never met before, someone with no solution and no attempt at a solution, ridicules my suggestion—and me— publicly.
Tonight, after discussing it with Yoda, I do understand why this is happening and what I’m to get out of it. It’s like the Universe is yelling, “STOP GIVING THINGS AWAY FOR FREE! THIS IS YOUR FUTURE INCOME YOU’RE GIVING AWAY!”
This is the first of two conversations with Yoda that have a big impact for me. People don’t value what they get for free. If they must pay for it, then it has value. Anybody can give free advice—that’s the impression—but you have to pay for good advice.
One of the things that I’ll be doing this month is pulling most of my freebies offline, with the exception of some excerpts, articles, and upcoming podcasts. That includes pulling older blog entries, free ebooks, and free ecourses. I’ll have some freebies out there, but far fewer than ever before. I’m also closing down my involvement in several of my local email loops and communities, too, because they all seem to be about where and how to get a freebie and I don’t feel I’m getting anything in return but consternation. As for the rest, with one to two exceptions, I’ll be going into lurker mode. Receiving, not transmitting. I’ll still be available to my friends, but it’s time to tighten down, to pull in and focus after years of expanding.
It’s hard to swallow but goes down a lot easier when I realize that I’ve given away thousands of dollars of free advice in the past couple of months alone. Not that all of them would have paid for the information on a consulting or coaching basis, but it’s time for me to become more than just someone else’s “Great resource.”
My intention, for the next 3 months, is to not give advice (outside of friendships) unless I’m paid to give it. Let’s see how that works…