Why You Need a Brain Trust (And How to Create One)

Join the ranks of leaders with a dedicated brain trust by your side.

Have you ever found yourself stuck on a problem that even Google couldn’t help you solve? That’s where a brain trust can come to your rescue. So, what exactly is a brain trust, and why should you consider building one?

Originally, a brain trust was a team of advisors who assisted a political leader in making crucial decisions. The concept dates back to the 1930s, with the first brain trust surrounding US President Franklin Roosevelt. Today, a brain trust is essentially a circle of your accomplished peers. Their fresh perspectives can offer you insights that might otherwise take years to discover on your own.

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In this article, we’ll delve into five effective methods to assemble your own brain trust. This will also enable you to join a broader network of knowledgeable professionals who offer mutual support.

1. Leverage Your Existing Connections

Begin by connecting with people you’re already acquainted with. Strengthen your bonds with fellow freelancers, designers, writers, or marketers, and consider including their friends and colleagues as well.

Another excellent source for potential members is your college or university’s associations. Whether it’s alumni networks, fraternities, sororities, or clubs focused on athletics or the arts, these are all fertile grounds for finding like-minded individuals.

People networking at an event

Keep in mind that you’re not just expanding your professional network. You’re seeking individuals who may not have the same career but share a common life vision. These are people who are ambitious and desire a supportive community to help them achieve their goals.

2. Express Gratitude Through Thank-You Notes

It may sound old-fashioned, but sending thank-you notes can be a potent tool for networking. A simple, heartfelt note can go a long way in making someone feel appreciated. Whether it’s someone who has inspired you or helped you in some way, a thank-you note often receives a warm response.

It takes very little time to send a thank-you note, but its impact can be significant. This simple act can be one of the most effective ways to build your brain trust.

Handwritten thank-you note

Even if you haven’t been in touch with the person you’re thanking for a while, the gesture is usually well-received. People are less likely to respond positively to sudden requests for favors, but everyone appreciates recognition and praise.

3. Build Relationships, Not Just Connections

While it might seem counterintuitive, your goal shouldn’t be to merely extract knowledge and experience from others. High-achievers can sense when you’re only taking and not giving. As you build your brain trust, it’s crucial to be someone others can also rely on.

People maintaining contact

Think of building a brain trust as supercharged networking. To maximize its benefits, become a master connector. Introduce friends and acquaintances to others who can help them, thereby creating new collaboration opportunities for yourself as well.

4. Seek Guidance, Not Just Help

This point complements the previous one. Aim to offer value rather than just taking it. Avoid being self-centered or exploitative; it’s not all about you. Consider how you’d like to be approached and offer the same courtesy to others.

Person seeking guidance

A good practice is to provide at least three valuable contributions to someone before asking for something in return. Interestingly, asking for advice can be a form of giving value. People enjoy offering guidance, especially when they know their advice has been valued and followed.

5. Invest Time and Effort

Building a robust and effective brain trust isn’t an overnight task. It requires months of consistent effort to not only assemble but also maintain your network. Your contributions of knowledge and advice are equally important.

The long-term benefits to your career are invaluable. If you’re looking to escape the negative or critical influences in your life, it’s up to you to find a new circle of supportive individuals who are genuinely interested in your professional growth.