Dear founder, you\’re never too busy to help these callers

Q. I get a lot of calls asking me to help. Do I pick up the phone?

-Busy founder

Dear Founder,

This is such a good question. We are all faced with a lot of incoming requests—an inordinate amount! And there is a vast spectrum, from things that matter to meaningless spam. It’s always disappointing when I answer the phone to hear a robot tell me that to extend the warranty on a car I don’t have or delivering the news that there is a warrant out for my arrest.

But, if you’ll indulge me, let me tell you about something serendipitous that just happened when I did pick up the phone. It was the CEO of company calling for help with an introduction. I could have helped with the intro, which I did, but as it turned out I was able to address something even more important. He was going through a horrible situation with his granddaughter in hospital with E. coli. It turns out I went through this with my own daughter when she was a toddler and we were able to talk about it, and I think it was helpful. I’m glad I answered the phone and was able to offer support and assistance. I felt terrible for the family, but I felt blessed that I could offer encouragement based on my life experience. The family needed to know there was hope. And I was reminded that spending time doing good things that makes others feel good made me feel good too.

The best thing we can do is to be of service to others. Always act with graciousness. Always treat people well. When people call on you asking for help, try to grant it. Pulling someone up lifts all of us to new heights. And the easy way to do this, often enough, is simply to answer the call.

But how do you really put this into a practice? What do you do with so much incoming to make it less overwhelming and to enable you to help with mote purpose? I try to mentally file my incoming requests to make it easier to deal with—and direct me to know how to respond. Email and texts are easier to manage because they are asynchronous, and I can address them when I have time. I find the phone call to be a relic of the past and I will not interrupt a meeting to take a phone call unless it is from a family member or source or situation that makes it urgent.

My quick checklist to handle incoming phone calls:

• Any spam: Delete or ignore—it’s just noise.

• If it is a spouse or child: always pick up the phone.

• If it is a family member who needs advice: pick up the phone if not in a scheduled meeting.

• If it is an acquaintance: probably pick up the phone if you are available.

• What do you do when you hear from a looser acquaintance: I have decided that although it is not as easy or obvious, I try to help as many legitimate requests as I can.

Why do I do this? Helping others gives us a higher purpose. You never know what will happen when you are there for someone else. And serendipity—a very underestimated meaningful part of life—happens when you leave an opening for it.