This week, I’ve been speaking with academics who have been targeted as victims of online conflict so that I can incorporate their stories, lessons learned, and wisdom into my current book project.

They have been bullied, called names, trolled, flamed, and every other negative online tactic that you can imagine.

They have had their core values questioned, ridiculed, and abused by colleagues and strangers.

They have been made to defend themselves for embodying identities that other people fundamentally devalue.

And they are some of the coolest people I have ever met.

I feel so fortunate to be having these conversations and so much gratitude to these colleagues for sharing their stories.

But I also realize that without this book, and without me admitting that I needed help with this topic, I probably wouldn’t have met these people.

And what a missed opportunity that would have been.

This week, I also got to chat with two new podcast guests for a show I host on behalf of Oregon State University Ecampus called Research in Action.

The majority of the guests for this podcast are strangers to me. I cold email them because they are recommended to me for the show or I’ve read a book they wrote and liked it. Of all the strangers I email, 97% of them say yes to coming on the show.

Because the podcast is meant to cover a broad range of topics and issues related to research in higher education, I get to learn about diverse research projects like researching in the arctic or research on homeless veterans.

Again, another situation in which I get to talk with very cool people for my job.

There’s really just one main strategy that I use to get to talk with these cool people:

I ask.

This week, I encourage you to make a list of three people that you don’t know, but whose work you admire. Maybe you’ve read a book they wrote. Or you follow them on social media. Or you listen to their podcast. Or you love an article they wrote.

Ask one of them if they are willing to have a 30-minute Skype or phone conversation with you to share their experience. If they say no, move on to person # 2. If they say no, move on to person # 3.

I bet out of the three you ask, at least one will say yes.

I’ll even provide an email template you can use:

Dear X,

I’m reaching out because I have really come to value your work. In particular, I admire A, B, and C.

I’d like to learn more about X, Y, and Z related to A, B, and C. Would it be possible for us to schedule a brief Skype or phone call?

If you’re willing, here are some 30-minute windows that work for me in the coming weeks:

Option 1
Option 2
Option 3
Option 4
Option 5

Thanks in advance for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

XX

You never know what will come out of this conversation. If you decide to take me up on this challenge, I hope you’ll let me know how it goes.

To think on:

  • Who are the three people that you don’t know, but whose work you admire?

(This year, I’m hosting monthly presentations about nine different topics on writing and publishing. Learn more and register at howtoacademia.com and don’t forget to use code tac20 for a special discount.)