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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Planning 2015 and beyond

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What do you want to accomplish this year? Be specific. Next year at this time, if I ask you, “Did you do it?” I hope you’ll be able to answer in the affirmative, but what is “it”?

You have many options. You must decide what you want and be very clear about it. What’s the number? What’s the outcome?

Do you want more clients? How many? Do you want better clients? How do you define better? Do you want fewer clients who pay you more? How many and how much?

Start with the big picture–where do you want to be five or ten years from now?

Do you want to expand into a new market? Branch out into a new practice area? Attract different types of clients?

Do you want a big firm, with lots of employees and offices, or a small firm with low overhead and low(er) management requirements?

Do you want to build a war chest to finance something new, or passive income so you can retire?

Before you make a plan or take action, you must know what you want. But there’s something else you need to figure out.

Why?

Whatever it is that you want, you have to know why you want it. You want more income? Why? What will you do with it?

When you think you know your “why” take it deeper. You say you want more money to pay off debt, start a college fund, or hire some new staff. Fine. Why do you want that?

Ah, more staff will allow you to earn more and work less. Okay, why do you want that?

It will give you more time with the family you love. You won’t miss soccer games and ballet recitals. You’ll be able to pursue music or art or travel the world.

Okay, but why do you want those things?

Keep asking yourself “why” until you get to the emotional core that is driving what you want. That core will be fueled by one of two emotions: love or fear.

Your love of your children will keep you going when you hit an obstacle. So will your fear of disappointing them.

It is our emotions that drive us and unless we access those emotions, it’s too easy to get distracted, procrastinate, or give up.

When you have emotional clarity about what you want, nothing will stop you from getting it. Without that clarity, anything can stop you.

Get clear about what you want, and why you want it.

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Wrestling out of your weight class

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In high school, I joined the wrestling team. I thought it looked like something I could do. Okay, I thought I could meet some cheerleaders. Turns out, the wrestling team didn’t have any.

Anyway, the coach told me that with my height and frame, I should be in a certain weight class and suggested I drop some weight before the weigh-in which was two weeks away.

Off I went, running, lifting weights, dieting, and drinking gallons of water, determined to get down to the lower weight class.

I missed it by two pounds.

There I was, forced to wrestle bigger guys, exhausted by my efforts to lose weight, and not particularly good at wrestling.

I lost every match.

Turns out wrestling wasn’t my thing. And I’m fine with that. I found other things I was good at and enjoyed.

Author Richard Koch, in one of my favorite books, The 80/20 Principle, says

Everyone can achieve something significant. The key is not effort, but finding the right thing to achieve. You are hugely more productive at some things than at others, but dilute the effectiveness of this by doing too many things where your comparative skill is nowhere near as good.

High school is a place to try things. I’m glad I tried wrestling, and I’m glad I found out it wasn’t for me.

In college, you try more things, and find your career path, or at least a place to start.

In law school, and your first legal jobs, you narrow things down further. You find the practice areas that appeal to you, and the ones that don’t.

When you start your own practice, you learn more about what you’re good at. Or you find out that practicing law isn’t for you and you move onto something else.

If you’re lucky, you find your “thing” early in life. You find what you love and do best and eliminate the rest.

But the quest doesn’t end with the choice of careers. You try different partners, employees, and office locations. You try different niche markets, and different marketing techniques, continually searching for things where you are “hugely more productive”.

If you get it right, you are happy and successful. Things click for you because you’ve found the right path. If not, you keep looking.

I’m glad I found the right path. Because God knows, at my age, I would not look good in tights.

Are you ready to take a Quantum Leap in your law practice? Here’s how.

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