‘Tis the season of goodwill.
It is also Ebeneezer Scrooge’s time in the limelight.
So I’m going to play the grumpy old man part for a couple of posts. Too much Christmas cheer becomes a bit galling after a while.
Before I went on my first expedition I had so much to learn. I needed to learn from people who had already done the things I wanted to do. So I read as many books, magazines and websites as I could. I filled notebooks with lists, tips and “To Do” pages. I emailed people who could teach me things. I wrote letters to those whose advice I sought. I bought beers for a long distance cyclist and interrogated him in a pub in Oxford.
It is now fourteen years since my first big trip, since I left home to spend a year in Africa. I’ve been on the road solidly for more than five of those years. I’ve spent the last three years making my living from this stuff.
So now I am in a position to be able to help other people on their way. I receive quite regular emails, asking for advice and information or asking me to meet up for a coffee and a chat. I am really happy with this. It’s my way of thanking those who helped me get going. It’s rewarding to be able to encourage other people.
But some things about the way a few people seek assistance really rile me. So here are my Top Seven Ways to Annoy Someone who is giving up their time to help you:
– spell my name wrong. This sounds really petty. But I hold it massively against someone if they don’t take the time to read over what they have written, nor take a moment to check the spelling of a name. It’s a tiny detail, but the tiny details sometimes tell you all you need to know.
– ask for answers that are readily found on my site.
– ask questions that Mr Google can answer perfectly well. I’m doing you a favour; I am not your secretary.
– asking crazy open-ended questions such as “please suggest a route for me to cycle round the world (including distances, timings and where I can stay along the way)”. This is a verbatim quote from an email I received recently.
– take, take, take. I’m not asking for anything in return. I am happy to help. But some people give the impression of being on a simple mission to hoover me dry, to grab every piece of information, every contact, every introduction, with a really greedy gleam in the eye. Think a little bit about how can you give something back. How can you pass the help on? Not to me, but to somebody.
– turn up late for meetings. My time is valuable too.
– not emailing to say “thank you for your time” after meeting. Didn’t your mum teach you anything?
This has been more of a negative post than I like to write, but I hope somebody will use it positively.