If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right

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Do you enjoy practicing law? Do you look forward to going to work every day? If you do, great. If not, we need to talk.

The purpose of life is to experience joy. At least that’s what I believe. We’re not here to suffer or sacrifice endlessly, we’re here to experience our time on earth as the blessing it is meant to be.

Your work, your marriage, your social life, even your faith, should be fun. Or at least gratifying. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.

I’m not talking about the little things you have to do to keep the wheels spinning. You may have to plunge out a toilet every once in awhile. Marketing may not be your favorite thing, but you have to embrace it to some extent because without it, you won’t be able to do the work you love.

Okay, I said “work you love” but I don’t really mean it. You don’t have to love your work to be successful at it. You just can’t hate it.

For some, work is an expression of their joy and their purpose in life. It defines them and pulls them forward towards a better future. For others, work is a means to an end. They enjoy it, but it’s not who they are.

And that’s fine.

There will always be things you don’t want to do. There will always be parts of your work that you would rather not do.

As long as most of your time is spent doing things you enjoy, you’ll be just fine.

My law practice wasn’t my life’s purpose. There were a lot of things I didn’t enjoy. But I focused on what I did enjoy: helping people (who appreciated it) and making money. That’s what I focused on. That’s what kept me going.

I delegated the things I didn’t like, or put blinders on and accepted them as part of the deal.

Eventually, though, the negatives outweighed the positives and I knew it was time to move on.

Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Starting my practice was, at the time, a daring adventure. When the thrill was gone, I found a new adventure.

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Mr. Spock was only half right

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As a kid, I loved Star Trek. I watched the original series and thought that Mr. Spock’s unemotional, logical approach to problem solving was the way to go.

Examine the evidence. Calculate the probabilities. Make your decision.

I even took a class in logic in college. It was one of my favorites. My professor noticed my enthusiasm for the subject and wrote me a letter of recommendation to law school.

Anyway, I started my legal career with a penchant for logic. I calmly reasoned my way through problems to find the best solutions. I did my best to keep my emotions in check.

And it’s a good thing I did. Those first few years were awful. I didn’t know how to bring in clients and, oh yeah, I barely knew how to do the legal work. Every month was a struggle to survive and if I had let my emotions out of their box, I would surely have fallen apart. Logic got me through some tough times.

Later, when I had turned things around and had a thriving practice, logic only took me so far.

At one point, I had an important decision to make. I can’t recall the subject but I remember having a terrible time deciding what to do. I had a paralegal who saw my consternation and offered a suggestion. She told me that I was more intuitive than I realized and that I should trust my intuition to provide me with the right answer.

I listened to her. And then I listened to the voice inside me that told me what to do.

Whatever the issue was, my intuition provided the solution and the problem is long forgotten.

We should remember that Spock was half-human. Somewhere inside him was a reservoir of intuition and human emotion. We saw flashes of it when he made illogical decisions to save the life of Captain Kirk.

We all have great intuitive powers and we shouldn’t ignore them. There is a voice inside us that wants to guide us but most of us (men) don’t listen.

Feelings, who me? I’m a lawyer. I don’t let my feelings tell me what to do.

Maybe we should. Maybe we should listen to how we feel about things before we make decisions.

I do that now. When I think about choosing A or B, for example, I ask myself how I feel about those options. More often than not, I choose the option that feels better.

I also do that when charting my future. I look at the pantheon of options available to me–all of the projects I could work on, all of the tasks on my master list–and do the ones that I feel pulled toward.

I have one such project I’m working on right now. It’s something I feel good about and I can’t wait to get back to work on it. Isn’t that how our work should always be? Mostly doing things we enjoy?

Look at everything on your plate right now, and everything on your list of ideas. Which one calls to you? Which one feels good when you think about it?

That’s probably what you should do next.

Mr. Spock might not approve, but he’s at the Science station and you’re in the Captain’s chair.

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Can you be successful doing work you don’t love?

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Can you be successful doing work you don’t love? If you define success in material terms, I think you can. But success is not just about money. To be truly successful, you have to be happy.

And here’s the thing. When you are happy, when you love your work, financial success is much easier to achieve.

You don’t have to push yourself to get up early. Mondays are your favorite day of the week. You can’t wait until your next speaking engagement, trial, or networking event.

When you love what you do, the work is almost effortless. Problems seem smaller and easier to resolve. You don’t have to work hard to find clients, you attract them, in droves.

When you love what you do, you are happy, and when you are happy, you love what you do.

What if you don’t love your work? What if it’s just okay?

You eliminate or marginalize the things you don’t like and do more of the things you enjoy.

You can delegate, outsource, and partner. You can change practice areas, client types, and target markets. You can get rid of the marketing techniques that make your stomach churn and replace them with things that come naturally.

You can also give it time. You may learn to love your work eventually. As you hear sad stories about friends who have lost their jobs and can’t find any work, for example, you might start appreciating things you previously took for granted.

Or you might see your current situation as a stepping stone to something else.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t dwell on the negative aspects of your work. Focus on the things that make you feel good.

Think about the things that are going well and come easily to you. Think about your accomplishments and victories. Think about how good it is that you are paying your bills and that you have the time and space to turn an okay situation into something great.

Focus on the things that make you happy in your work because what you focus on grows.

Success is easier when you have a plan

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Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

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What do you do when a client doesn’t follow your advice?

I was discussing this with a subscriber-friend via email recently. He said: “You fire them. . . I can get clients who make me happy. If a client makes me unhappy for an hour, I can’t get that hour of my life back.”

Yes, but, if the check clears, I’m happy. If I can say, “See, I told you not to do that. Maybe you’ll listen to me next time,” I’m happy. If I can charge them even more to fix the problem they created by not following my advice, I’m happy.

Okay, it’s not that clear cut.

Clients can make us unhappy in so many ways. And they do blame us when things go bad, even when it’s not our fault and we have the CYA letter to prove it. And clients do make us want to tear our hair out when they post nasty-grams about us on social media.

So yeah, we should be prepared to fire difficult clients, and replace them with clients that make us happy.

Fortunately, most of our clients are decent and follow our advice most of the time.

But it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little more time explaining the reasoning behind our advice, making sure the client understands that reasoning, and agrees to do what we recommend.

And maybe we should be a little more tolerant when they don’t.

As long as the check clears.

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If it’s Tuesday, it must be clients

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You have a lot on your plate. This morning, you have to review pleadings and get them filed and served. Then you have a meeting with your office staff. After that, you’re off to a hearing. When you return to the office, you have a new client to see. Before you go home, you plan to catch up on some billing.

If you get interrupted in any of these tasks, you lose momentum. It takes time to get back in the groove and, therefore, you’re not nearly as productive as you’d like to be.

Is there a better way?

One idea is to do what Twitter founder Jack Dorsey does. He gives each work day a “theme,” so he always know “what to focus on that day, and what to return to when [he gets] distracted.”

So perhaps you use Mondays for paperwork and Tuesdays you see clients. Wednesdays might be for administrative tasks and meetings with office staff. Perhaps you will schedule depos and arbitrations on Thursdays. Fridays could be for planning, marketing, and working on big projects.

Or, you might reserve mornings for court appearances and paperwork, afternoons for clients and meetings.

However you do it, the idea is to schedule your work in blocks of time so that you always know what you’re doing and you avoid multitasking.

Think about how you could create theme days (or half-days) in your practice. Look at your calendar for the last month or so and look for patterns. Also consider your energy levels at different parts of the day.

Or. . . maybe wait and do this on Friday. It’s Tuesday and I think you’ve got some clients coming in this afternoon.

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The problem with being self-employed

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Being the boss is a double-edged sword. I love being the master of my destiny but sometimes the weight of responsibility wears on me.

You too? Do you ever get anxious thinking about how many people depend on you or how much work remains to be done?

You’re not just cranking out widgets, after all. You do important things, with important consequences. Every day you make decisions that affect the lives of other people. You can’t let your guard down. You have to keep your eye on everything, and everyone.

It can be difficult doing our best work when we have so many other things to think about.

Yes, that’s the gig we signed up for and most of the time, it’s worth it. But if you’re like me, it gets to you sometimes.

Sometimes I think, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone would tell me what to do today so I could do the work and go home?”

I remember when I didn’t have clients of my own and did appearances for other lawyers. I enjoyed just showing up and doing the work. Argue the motion, take the depo, do the arbitration. I didn’t have to worry about anything but the assignment. When it was done, I went home.

When I started getting my own clients, I had responsibilities, overhead, employees, and things got very complicated. I grew into the role, of course, and would never work for anyone, but sometimes I look back fondly at the time when I could just do the work.

If you ever find yourself overwhelmed with the burdens of running a law practice, wishing you could just show up and be a lawyer, I have a suggestion.

Go get yo’self two hats.

First thing in the morning, or at the end of your day, put on your “boss” hat and make a list of assignments for your “employee”. Map out the day, and include contingencies in case something comes up that requires the bosses attention.

Then, take off the boss hat, put on your employee hat, and get to work.

When the first assignment is done, look at the list your boss gave you and do the next assignment. When all the work is done, take a break, put your boss hat back on and make a new list.

Well, that’s it for me today. The boss told me I could home.

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Is “attorney” the right career for you?

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I don’t know what you think about the Myers-Briggs personality test, based on Carl Jung’s work, but according to a new infographic on career choice, I should have been a college professor instead of an attorney.

I’ve taken the test more than once, and got different results each time, so I’m not sure, but today it looks like I am an INTJ. That comes with the shorthand label, “Independent Scientists” and while the independent part fits, I’m not sure sure about the science part. College professor, maybe. Depends on what I’d be teaching.

I found “attorney” listed under ENTJ, which isn’t too far off. Of course there are many different types of attorneys, each with our own styles and leanings. I don’t see how trial attorneys and tax attorneys could possibly be in the same category.

Anyway, it’s kind of fun to see what the “experts” think about our choice of career, and I think the graphic does a good job of describing the different types. If you want to see yours without taking the MB test, job on over to this page and check it out. You can learn more about the 16 personality types on the Myers-Briggs website.

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What’s on your bucket list?

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What are you not doing because it’s too risky, too expensive, or takes too much time?

What are you not doing because you are afraid?

We all have them. Things we would love to do but talk ourselves out of doing. Or postpone until it’s too late.

I’m too old. I’m not good enough. It would take too long.

But do them we must.

Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so.”

What’s on your bucket list? What do you want to do at least once before time runs out?

Something fun? Something daring? Something you’ve always wanted to try?

Pick something and do it now. Don’t wait until the time is right. Don’t avoid doing it because it is difficult. Jim Rohn said, “There are two types of pain you will go through in life, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”

It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay if you don’t know how. You’ll figure it out. “Leap, and the net will appear,” said John Burroughs.

Start with something small if you want. Then do something bigger. Make “trying new things” a habit, until you find yourself doing great things, things you’ve always wanted to do.

Twenty years from now, look me up and tell me all about it. Tell me how your life changed because you took a chance.

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Why I didn’t earn millions of dollar per year in my law career

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By most people’s standards, I had a successful law career. I helped a lot of people and earned a lot of money. Looking back, however, I realize that I didn’t help as many people as I could, or earn as much as I could.

One reason is that I didn’t want to work that hard. I wanted free time to spend with my family and do other things. I didn’t want to work all day every day and burn out (or die) at an early age.

But there may have been a way to earn a lot more without sacrificing quality of life. In fact, doing this one thing may have made my life more interesting and gratifying.

An article in Forbes has the answer. “According to multiple, peer-reviewed studies, simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success,” the article says.

An open network is where “you are the link between people from different clusters”. A closed network, on the other hand, is where “you are connected to people who already know each other.”

In other words, the best predictor of career success is continually meeting new people, outside of your usual haunts. Most people, myself included, associate primarily with people they already know.

I’d much rather spend time with people I know, in familiar surroundings, doing things I am comfortable doing. The big boys, it seems, regularly get out of their comfort zone and “go hunting” in unfamiliar territory.

One of the studies showed that “half of the predicted difference in career success (i.e., promotion, compensation, industry recognition) is due to this one variable.”

Oh my.

Practically speaking, an open network means getting away from your regular bar association and chamber of commerce meetings, at least periodically, and attending other functions, even if they seem to be wholly unrelated to your current career path.

In his early life, Steve Jobs pursued many diverse interests that had nothing to do with business. Those experiences, and the people he met in exploring them, not only helped mold his creative eye, they introduced him to opportunities he was later able to capitalize on in his career.

In view of this, if I was building my law career today, I would spend more time pursuing things that fascinated me and meeting people who share my interests. I would be a kid again, exploring the world and all it had to offer, something Jobs did throughout his life.

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What to do when you don’t feel like working

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It happens. You look at your calendar and your list of tasks for the day and you don’t want to do any of it. You don’t want to work, you don’t want to talk to anyone, you want to take the day off.

But you’ve got obligations. You have work to do and bills to pay. You can’t abandon your responsibilities.

Yes you can. It’s just one day. The work will still be there tomorrow.

Give in to your whim and take the day off. Sneak off to the movies or to the mall. Go sit in a coffee shop and read. Get back in your jammies and order in.

When you come back tomorrow, batteries recharged, you’ll plow through the work and get it done.

Before you take off, have someone contact your appointments and re-schedule them. And go through your task list for the day and prioritize everything so that when you return you can jump right in and knock out the most important tasks first.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes, giving yourself permission to take the day off is all you really need, not the actual time off. Knowing that you could play hooky provides the relief you sought. Once you have it, you realize that the work isn’t so bad and you’re ready to get back to it.

Remind yourself that you’re in charge. Even if you work for someone else, even if you have demanding clients, with demanding deadlines, you’re the boss. It’s your life and you get to decide how to run it.

If you really need a break, take it. Don’t feel guilty about it, do it. And enjoy yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s that? You want to know what to do if tomorrow you still don’t feel like working? Don’t ask me. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

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