If You Want Something From Someone, You Must Do This First

A cautionary tale from inside my inbox.

I received an intriguing email a little while ago. It began like this:

How to Stop Obsessing Over "What If"?

Great setup. The subject line spoke directly to me, and the opener was fun — who doesn’t love 100% nuts?

I was ready to read more. And that’s when… things went sour.

This email was a pitch — the sender wanted to be on my podcast. That's normal; people pitch me all the time. But in this guy's effort to get what he wanted, he made a classic mistake. And he's not alone.

We all make this mistake, whether we recognize it or not.

Sometimes we do it by email, but sometimes we do it in person. And when we make this mistake, we diminish our chances of getting what we want.

So, what's the mistake?

That’s why I’m sharing this email with you now — so you can see the mistake in action.

Here’s what came next in the email:

If You Want Something From Someone, You Must Do This First

The honesty was a little charming, but what followed was a damning insult.

This guy was basically saying, "I put no effort into learning about you."

Then, when he asked me to send him three episodes of my show, he basically said: "Even though I spent zero time on you, you should spend a lot of time on me."

Remember, I said this is a mistake everyone makes. So, what's the mistake?

It's this:

We expect other people to invest time in us, but we aren’t willing to first invest time in them.

When have you done a version of this? How about this: Have you applied for a job without studying the company? Have you asked someone for advice, without showing why you're worth spending time on? Have you tried to sell something to a customer without first understanding their needs?

We keep telling people: You do the work first.

And we do it because, well, we’re so blinded by our own needs that we forget other people have needs too.

We assume that our needs justify other people's actions.

For example, look at what came next in this guy's email.

After telling me that he didn't listen to my show, and that I should spend time educating him on my show, he wrote, "We could talk about whatever interests you." Then he listed off a bunch of random stuff, starting with:

If You Want Something From Someone, You Must Do This First

And on and on. It was a long list.

I understand what he was trying to do here: He wanted to offer up a buffet of information, so that I could pick whatever I liked.

But again, this creates work for me!

He is the one who wants something in this exchange. That means he should be doing the work first!

So, what should he have done better?

He could have done what we all should do:

Don't ask for an opportunity. BE the opportunity.

That starts by investing time in other people, so that you can understand exactly what they're looking for. Then you can deliver it.

For example, what am I looking for? I don't really care if someone listens to my podcast, and I'm not in need of flattery. But if someone is going to pitch me, I do need them to explain exactly how they'll be valuable to my audience. Otherwise, what's the point of talking with them?

So, how can someone figure that out? Do a little research! Listen to a few episodes, understand the purpose of the show — whatever it takes for them to say, "Your audience is looking for X, and here's how I can deliver it."

Whenever someone pitches me like that, I always pay attention. Because at that point, they are delivering value to ME! Not the other way around.

Want something from someone? Simple: Invest in that person first.

Know what they want. Know how you can deliver it.

Show how an investment in you will be an investment in themselves.

Then they will invest back.

The Commute From Hell

I just wrapped up a crazy week of travel, with speaking engagements at Rowan, Penn State, and Furman Universities. But the wackiest commute was definitely Penn State.

State College, PA, is about a four-hour drive from my home in Brooklyn — not totally insane, but considering how early our kids get us up in the morning, I didn't feel safe doing all that driving myself, much of it in the dark. And there were no direct buses, trains, or planes.

So, what to do? Watch above for what I stitched together!

Also, intriguingly: The above video got only 2,500 views on Instagram — and as of this writing, it has 498,200 views on TikTok. I've experienced this before: A video blows up on one platform and is totally ignored on another. Other times, things have done well on IG and died on TikTok.

If anyone has any theories to explain this, I'm all ears!

Good Things Are Coming...

A quick programming note, for those who follow the newsletter industry:

As you may have seen in the news, Facebook is killing off the Bulletin newsletter platform that I'm currently using to write you. I'll be transferring to a new hosting platform next month, and have some fun plans to expand this work.

All you have to do is... nothing! The transition will be seamless, the newsletter will keep coming, and I think you'll love what's next.

I'll share more on all this soon!

Let's Connect!

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Cover credit: Getty Images / We Are