Dealing with the“Can I pick your brain?” question once and for all!

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I had started getting miffed when I discovered how much I was giving away to innocent “brain pickers” for free. It isn’t their fault. THEY valued what was in my head, that’s why they asked. The problem was, I didn’t. So I did a little “chest beating” to think through what’s actually in my brain and if I could attach some value to what it houses. I not only do this to clarify things for me, …but to show YOU (that for most seasoned professionals), if you go through the chambers of your own life you will discover that your brain could be a stream of income you are overlooking.

Let the “chest beating” begin.

The things in my brain, include over 20 years in Corporate America in 4 major industries, most in the C-Suite, sitting at the table with millionaire leaders, movers & shakers. It includes the wherewithal to show up at meetings in pantyhose & pumps and be the only one there that looks like me…be it a woman OR a woman of color. My brain includes training and certification in leadership and management from Harvard University.

It holds my experience and graduation from Leadership Detroit of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. It houses my involvement at over 100 business and development conferences. I have everything attended from the Mackinaw Policy Conference to the World Economic Forum. My brain holds every event I have managed from small workshops, weddings, expos, summits, and parties in Michigan to the retreats on the slopes in Vail, Colorado and international conferences in the UK.

Sidenote: I decided against putting all of my relationship experience on the table. I unique as it was, it really wasn’t unique. So onward..

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My brain includes my years in the spotlight as an international Pageant Queen and my experience as a two-time author. It has my community work with the Junior League on a local and state level. It includes my business experience in London, St. Albans, Paris, Mexico, Pune India, Canada, and about 20 other states domestically…My brain also includes…uhh just launching and running a few businesses, developing a corporate and personal brand. It includes making MILLIONS of dollars for other CEO’s that I have worked for thru grants, proposals and plain “good ideas”. It includes ghostwriting their content, standing in for them in meetings and picking up their lunch. My brain houses my memories as an entry level worker and the tenacity it took to do a job I hated, every day, for years. Picking my brain covers my days on the assembly line for an automaker, coming home dirty and greasy to 5 waiting kids.

My brain houses my memories as an entry level worker and the tenacity it took to do a job I hated, every day, for years.

By the way, my brain includes raising 5 kids as a single/divorced mom. My brain holds the information on how to go to college, church, the grocery store, the mall, NYC, Chicago etc.. with all 5 kids, cleaned, dressed, fed and in tow.

Sidenote: Like seriously. I gave my final English speech with my newborn son on my hip because he wouldn’t stop crying. Tooting your own horn is tiring..but on I go…because you should only have to do this once and it’s important.

My brain houses my experience as a wife and a divorcee..and a wife again. My brain has held memories of losing houses, cars, fires, theft, mistreatment and burying my daddy. Pick my brain and you will find info on the friend of the court and step parenting. You will also find every victory from quitting corporate America and finally starting and running my own businesses.

But my brain also houses EVERY SINGLE LESSON in defeat.

Sidenote: You guys HAVE to do this exercise. It will show you what’s actually in your brain. Beware, it may show you that as my grandma would say “you aren’t so suchy much”. Gaining more experience that people (including you) could learn from may serve you well, before you look to go into being “brain picked”. It’s like someone teaching parenting skills that does not have an adult child yet. How do you even know if your tactics, strategies, or advice even work long term? You don’t have a finished product in that area.

But anyway as for me, you know what I discovered? My brain kinda rocks. I ignored it and treated it like it was a bag of Doritos. In actuality, It’s one of my most valuable assets.

Q. So you want access to ALL of that, the lessons learned and advice… for the price of a Tall Caramel Macchiato?

A. (again) NO….ish.

Yes, as a leader, a CEO, a friend, a colleague and just an all around nice gal I don’t mind answering a question or two. I think you owe it to yourself to be generous, giving and gracious. Develop FREE content such as blogs, videos and articles. Steer brain pickers to relevant content that you have already given out on a particular subject. However, if you expect a deep dive into the how, what strategy did you use, what formula, what is the template or give me your insight on [pick a subject]..that’s gonna cost you. WHY? BECAUSE IT COST ME!

So, be mindful of what you are REALLY asking someone for when you state that horrific question “Can I pick you brain, over coffee?” …or “I just need 20 minutes of your time” (that turns into an hour & a half, plus drive time and gas). If they don’t have a “CDJ Brain Pickin’™ package like me, then at least give them a monetary gift that is indicative of what they are pouring out to you. I guarantee you that they will go out of their way to help you or at the very least you will get more information than a typical brain picker.

On the other side of the coin, I love this perspective by Marie Forleo. If you are consistently being asked to have your “brain picked” ask them to “pick an appointment and method of payment”!


Camille D. Jamerson is a global speaker, author & entrepreneur. She is the Senior Consultant and CEO of CDJ & Associates a boutique management consulting firm. As a former AA, EA, Chief of Staff and Head of Global Offices she lends her years of experience and expertise as the founder and admin of the LinkedIn Chief of Staff-The New C-Suite Leader group.

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