The Care And Feeding of A Brain Trust

brain trust

I’m going to tell you how to get past that problem you’re having. Or maybe the one you’re about to have.

No matter how expert you are at what you do, you will occasionally run into a roadblock that stops you cold, causes you to get that ‘deer in the headlights’ look on your face, and tangles your synapses in knots.

And there’s a reason for it.

You May Have Have Expertitis
The good news here is that it’s not fatal, but it can be fairly unpleasant – what with the shakes and profuse sweating and all.

Too much exposure to a particular field, project, or problem can actually lock up the wheels of the creative process.

I call it Expertitis…because I make up words.

It works like blinders on a horse. Whatever you focus on the most eventually dominates your field of vision. Then when a problem comes up that requires looking at the situation from a completely different angle, we get confused and panicked because we can’t see that angle.

Think of any organization you have ever been a part of – or any governmental body you have ever observed. At some point, you have noticed a big glaring organizational problem.

To you it looks like a flashing red beacon that just screams, “Fix me! Fix me! I’m right here in your face destroying your work, man! Look at me!”

…and yet for some reason, the people in charge seem oblivious to it.

“Well…That’s ‘cause they’re idiots, Gary.”

Maybe so in some cases, but more often than not it’s because they’re too close to the problem.

You Can’t Do It Alone

I get it. You’re smart, you’re capable, and you’re creative. You want to take care of things on your own. The truth is that comes a time when you need others to make the next leap or reach the next level.

You alone can’t catch everything. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you are not a super-human infallible being. You can’t comprehend everything that is going on around you at all times. Swallow that pill.

You can have only one perspective at a time. While you may be a master at empathy and have a real gift for seeing things from other people’s point of view, you need to realize that you are still only seeing through your own eyes. This is why connection and collaboration are such valuable and crucial tools. We need outside perspectives.


So What Is A Proud, Ambitious Person To Do When They’re Stuck?

Create a Brain Trust of people you believe in and whose abilities you are confident in.
If you’re the boss, then maybe your Brain Trust members are your employees or department heads. Maybe your Brain Trust is a group of friends or co-workers. If you’re a solopreneur, then maybe your Brain Trust is the network of contacts and confidants that you have created over time.

(Yes. I used a buzzword in that last paragraph. And I assure you, I’m kicking myself for it.)

A Brain Trust is simply a group of people who consult and advise each other. You need one of those. We all do.

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 Brain Trusts Work If You…

1. Have regular meetings with your Brain Trust.
Whether it’s a regular face-to-face meeting over coffee, regular email contact, or even an online forum group – make sure you regularly engage these people. I personally am fortunate enough to have all three of those types of Brain Trusts and I cannot tell you how valuable they are to me.

2. Swallow your pride, throw it all on the table, and stand there naked.
Woah, woah, woah….not literally. You people. I swear.

What I mean by that is that once you are part of a Brain Trust, you must take full advantage of it. There is no time for worrying about your pride, your ego, or asking stupid questions. Share all the details about your issue: What the problem is, why you think it’s a problem, and how you think it should resolve itself. Leave no stone unturned. I guarantee you that someone in your Brain Trust will have a perspective you never thought of…but you have to openly share first.

 3. Act on sound advice when you get it.
When someone takes the time to give you the advice you asked for, the ultimate slap in the face to them is to see you not act on it. You obviously can’t act on every piece of advice that everyone gives you, but when someone makes an effort to help you they want to see you moving forward with the issue. Even if it’s in a different direction than they suggested.

4. Return the favor whenever possible.
Be there for your Brain Trust when they need you, too.

A lot of people online talk about The Law of Reciprocity.
Most of those people describe it like this…

“The Law of Reciprocity means that if you do something nice for someone, they will feel obligated to do something nice in return.”

I think they’re missing the point. The Law of reciprocity is more profound than that.
You should help people and do nice things for them because that is the right way to live. You can’t help everyone all the time, but you should help where and when you can.  When you do something nice for someone else, they do tend to do nice things in return. But I like to think they do it because they want to – not because they feel obligated.

Kindness begets kindness. It’s a way of living. Not a tactic.


You may be bright and ambitious, but you are not an island. If you don’t have a Brain Trust – or if you have one and you don’t utilize them…get on the ball. They may just be the best thing that’s ever happened to your career.

Thank you to my online and offline Brain Trust. You know who you are. I appreciate you!

Now You. Talk  to me. Be my Brain Trust.

How do you get unstuck?

Who is your Brain Trust?

How did you meet them?

How do you use them?

Photo Credit: Lovelornpoets

About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

27 Replies

  1. Gary, you are SO busted using a buzzword! 😉 I love how you put the mea culpa in light gray font as if you were whispering.

    I have two Brain Trusts, one live and one online. My live Brain Trust is a group of five women who are all psychotherapist colleagues of mine. However, we’ve gone beyond collegial relationships to being a very bonded, loving group. We call ourselves The Tribe. I can go to these women with anything. Work issues, personal issues, a funny video to share, stories about pets, you name it, we talk about it. They are invaluable to me.

    The second Brain Trust is the one both you and I utilize at the A-List Blogging Bootcamps. Mary Jaksch is a wonderful leader and the information I get from people like you and other bloggers not only helps me with problems, but inspires me as well.

    1. Yes, Bobbi. Mary and the whole crew at A-List Blogging Bootcamps are wonderful people – and a valuable resource. YOU have also helped me a great deal. Thank you.

      I have a few Brain Trusts, too. Other than ALBB, I have an old college buddy who is now a CEO, Leadership Coach, and speaker. We get together at least monthly for coffee (or perhaps a beer) and I always come away with great ideas and clarity. (Thanks, Mark)

      And of course, I have a handful of digital friends who I met online and have regular contact with through email who also give me perspectives I would have never thought of on my own.

      Not only does it feel good to have someone to go to, it is SO productive!

  2. Jim Bessey

    Great post, Gary.
    Your site is really looking good, and I find myself noticing and enjoying the way you “assemble” your post.
    This topic is extremely interesting to me for an odd reason: I’m reading “Think and Grow Rich,” written just after the Great Depression. The author asserts this same advice, and insists that no one can succeed on their own.
    Like Bobbi, I have a small group I meet with monthly in person and a larger one online that certainly includes YOU (because you always impress me and I trust your opinion), Mary and a number of other A-Listers, plus a team of writers I’ve worked with since 2007 (originally at
    I’m learning to listen more, and to ask for help sooner. I’ve suffered from Expertitis and other related maladies in the past, and am often guilty of beating my head against the wall until the thought “suddenly” occurs to me — “I know PEOPLE!”
    I look forward to continuing to include you in my Brain Trust, Gary. Well done and very helpful post.

    1. Thank you Jim!

      First, since you brought up the site, a tease: Big changes are afoot, all.

      Look for something in the next month or so. No details just yet, but rest assured it will be bigger, better, and even more of what you’ve become accustomed to here.

      With that…I really appreciate your kind words, Jim. And wow! I’ve read Think and Grow Rich several times and the Brain Trust thing being in there didn’t even occur to me while I was writing this. Looks like I need a re-read.

      I absolutely will participate in your Brain Trust any time. Thanks again!

  3. Hey Gary,
    I call my Brain Trust a “Lifeline Group.” The term comes from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Who’s Got Your Back and I’ve been a part of this group for about four months. It’s awesome to have essentially a board of directors for my solopreneur business and to be able to reciprocate for them.
    The five of us met in the online forums of the Puttytribe run by Emilie Wapnick of Puttylike. Initially we just had a group that commented on each others blogs, but that turned into a Lifeline Group that meets every other week over Google Hangouts for two hours. It really is something to behold when a bunch of peers come together to try and help each other out in ways large and small, professional and personal. So whenever I get stuck, I reach out to my Lifeline Group (or the many, many supportive family members and friends who won’t see me give it anything but my best). I’m a lucky dude.

    1. Very cool, Joel.

      I spend some time here and there consuming information on Puttylike, too. Emily’s clearly a really bright person.

      And I love that you all get together on Google Hangouts. That’s a great idea. (Wheels are turning)

      You are a lucky dude. Thanks for sharing all that. Good stuff!

  4. Patti

    Gary, the thought of connecting with a Brain Trust (I like that term!) has been rattling around with me for awhile. I need it for both my accounting practice and my online business. I have just begun to work on active involvement with the AList Blogging group and feel that there is excellent potential there. I’m learning a lot from the involvement – it’s a great group.

    Jim had commented on Napoleon Hill’s assertion that everyone needed such a group. I believe Hill’s term was a Mastermind group. Napoleon Hill also introduced the idea that one could mentally call up their own group and have regular meetings, a sort of meditation where you let your imaginary characters take on their own personalities and give their own input. Now that is taking the Brain Trust idea to a literal level!

    You make so many excellent points here … love the term “expertitis,” and agree that it is a real issue in business. I really enjoy the way you present it.

    Do you think, though, that sometimes it can be hard to assemble just the right group for your Brain Trust? Especially for someone who is a little introverted?

    1. You’re right, Patti. Napoleon Hill did use “mastermind group.”

      And I would agree that assembling a Brain Trust is difficult. I’m inclined to think, though, that while it may have something to do with being introverted or extroverted – but I’d say it has more to do with time and effort. While it can be faster to meet people online, offline is a different story. It took many years for me to find my people.

      Thank you for speaking up. You made some great points!

  5. I love the terminology! Besides Alister, I also a really awesome “accountability” group, and a couple of Facebook groups, it is great to bounce ideas and have the support when you need it.

    1. I agree. It’s awesome to have people to consult.

      You make a good point: Just like with anything else in life, a bit of diversity helps. When three different groups tell you the same thing, it’s a safe bet they’re on to something.

      Thanks, Lori!

  6. saraholeary

    Such important info here Gary – and very entertainingly presented I might add (and I do think that is a real word.., well maybe). I have a few brain trusts too – large and small, including A-List and a couple of online masterminds that meet at various frequencies. They are invaluable for support and information, but you’ve got me motivated to get on putting a live brain trust together. I now live in a city where I might actually find a few like-minded entrepreneurs. Thanks for the motivation on this!

    1. Thank you, Sarah. I’m glad the post got you thinking about getting an in-person group together. Even if it’s only one other person who you connect with, It’s a great resource to have!

  7. Priska

    Without support I would have thrown the towel in long ago as I am always running into road blocks which stop me dead in my tracks. Even if a solution isn’t immediately available the simple act of sharing helps unblock the overwhelm.

    1. Very true, Priska about how sharing can help unblock you. Jim gave me a friendly ‘slap upside the head’ just today that straightened out my thinking.

      Thanks for chiming in!

      1. Jim Bessey

        If I recall correctly, Gary, I merely grabbed your horns and shook a bit. -grin-

        1. Potato, Pot-ah-to, Jim.

          I appreciate it wither way.

  8. daverowley

    You had me at “well … That’s ’cause their idiots, Gary.”!

    I have a couple of brains trusts that I go to, in the form of online forums. The great thing is that the culture on each board is very different so I get a rich variety of feedback when I put stuff out there. I know I would have given up long ago without the support and advice from other people.

    1. Ha. Well, you know…I like to flower it up and beat around the bush whenever possible, Dave! 🙂

      So true about how a good brain trust keeps you going. I’m not sure if you read Priska’s comment, but she said nearly the same thing. It appears if we’re not too proud to accept it, we all need support and help!

  9. Very interesting perspective to look at the matter. I like your writing style!

    1. Thank you, Ani. I appreciate that.

  10. Jane Robinson - Art Epicurean

    Love to read your post – not only do they deliver great information/perspective but your writing style is great. I have a brain trust group but we call ourselves ” E.F. Hutton” because we succeed, people listen. We meet every 10 days or so, support, give advice, unstick each others, bounce off ideas, refer, promote and laugh a lot. Feels good not to feel so alone sometimes.

    1. It sure does feel good to have a support system – and resources to draw from. And the E.F. Hutton thing made me smile, too.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Jane and thank you for visiting!

  11. Yup. We don’t call ourselves brain trusts (just friends who listen to each other), but without them… I would never be where I am today. I ignore most of their advice, but those one or two nuggets, which I never would have thought of from my perspective… those nuggets are golden.

    1. Great point about gleaning only the tidbits that work for you. A different perspective surely can open ones eyes. Thanks for stopping in, Amit. Good to see you here.

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