I’d rather be eating pizza and binge-watching Netflix

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I was out for a morning walk and saw a car with a license plate frame that read, “I’d rather be riding horses”. I thought about the work I had waiting for me at home and it made me think about what I’d rather be doing.

I like my work, but I don’t want to do it 12 hours a day. I don’t live to work. Never have. I’ve always had other things that were important to me and I always made time to do them.

How about you? What would your license plate frame say? What would you rather be doing right now? Not just at this moment but in your work this year and for the rest of your life?

You may be one of the lucky ones who love what you do and can’t imagine doing anything else. Or you might be like many people, reasonably content with your work because you’re good at it and it provides you with a good living but in your heart of hearts, you’d rather be doing something else.

Imagine that you had money out of the way and that you never had to work again. Would you suit up every day and head down to the office or would you put on your sandals and head to the beach?

If you’d rather be doing something else, it’s okay to admit that to yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll drop everything and start over. But you might start thinking about the next phase in your life and take some steps to prepare for it.

The other day I thought about someone I went to law school with but hadn’t spoken to in over 30 years. I wondered what he was up to these days and searched for him online. Was he still practicing? Was he still doing family law? Was he retired? In another line of work?

I couldn’t find his website, nor any links on social media. I couldn’t find anything about him, which I thought was weird. But I knew him before “the Internet” and shrugged it off, thinking he was just another dinosaur who had refused to evolve.

“Surely he has an email address,” I thought and went to the California bar website to find it. That’s when I learned that my old friend was deceased.

He was my age and now he’s gone. Had he had a successful career, I wondered. A happy life? Did he always love his work? Or would he rather have been riding horses?

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What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

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One of my favorite quotes is from the late Dr. Robert Schuller, who, in his books and in his sermons often asked, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

Asking yourself this question forces you to think about what you really want instead of what you think you’re supposed to do. It helps you to bypass your doubts and fears and speak the truth. It asks you to temporarily suspend your logical left brain and listen to your creative right side.

When I’ve mentioned this quote in the past, it has always been in the context of the big picture. Major career changes, for example.

If you asked me this question about my work right now, my answer would be completely illogical. It’s something creative, something I’ve never done before and, as far as I know, something I have no innate talent for. But if I knew I could not fail, it’s exactly what I would do.

Unfortunately, I know I could fail. So I’m not going to do it. Not now, anyway. I’ve got too much other stuff on my plate. They say, “trust your gut,” for a reason, and right now, my gut is telling me to wait.

Odd, isn’t it? My gut is telling me what to do if I knew I would not fail and also telling me to wait? I think God likes to mess with us.

Anyway, this morning, I was thinking about this question and I realized that we can also use it to make smaller decisions.

If you are scheduled to deliver a presentation, for example, and you’re not sure which topic to choose, asking the “cannot fail” question might guide you towards choosing the ideal, albeit not obvious (or logical) choice.

When I say ideal, I don’t just mean something you would prefer to do but are allowing other factors to stop you. I mean ideal in the sense that it might lead to superlative results.

One topic might get mild applause. Another topic, the one you would choose if you knew you could not fail, might attract someone in the audience who is so affected by your presentation that they invite you to deliver it again to a bigger and more influential group.

What if you’re wrong? Yes, that might happen. But what if you’re right?

How to get more referrals from other professionals: go here

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Your clients think you’re getting rich at their expense

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Your clients have no idea how expensive it is to run a law practice. Is it any wonder that some clients shake their heads at $400 an hour? Can you understand why a $10,000 retainer might be incomprehensible to someone who earns $40,000 a year?

How do we get clients to understand that we’re not getting rich at their expense?

Should you tell your clients how much you actually earn? No. It’s none of their business.

Besides, you want your clients to think that you earn a very good living.  Nobody wants to hire a lawyer who is struggling to pay their rent.

But perhaps you could help your clients to understand that running a law practice is expensive, and that what you bill out in no way approximates what you take home.

One way to do that would be to take new clients on a tour of your office. Show them how many desks and chairs there are. Show them your conference room and library. Point out the computers and copy machines and other equipment. Introduce the people who work for you and describe their function.

You might also want to explain, perhaps in a letter in their “new client welcome kit,” what you and your staff will be doing for them. You might point out that at any one time, there are at least three people working on their case. You could also provide a soup-to-nuts description of the major steps you take to do what you do.

Let them know how you investigate a case, conduct research, prepare pleadings and motions and discovery, and get ready for trial. Mention something about the costs you incur on a typical case. If your work is handled on contingency, remind them that while you are good at what you do and selective about the cases you accept, there is no guarantee that you will win every case and if you don’t, you will get paid nothing.

In your newsletter, talk about the things you do to hold down costs. Talk about how the forms and templates you have developed over the years allow you to save your clients money, for example. Let them see that while you don’t cut corners, you don’t spend money unnecessarily.

At the same time, unless your clients are wealthy, don’t talk about your new Mercedes, your lavish vacation, or expensive new toys. Don’t “dress down” — you’re expected to do well — but don’t give clients cause to believe that you are indeed getting rich at their expense.

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Why I stopped collecting coins

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I was a coin collector as a kid. My grandfather got me started. I subscribed to Coin World, and read it every week. I belonged to The Kennedy Coin Club, where I where I met with other collectors to buy, sell, and trade.

I always had my Want/Have list in my wallet–a list of coins I needed to fill in gaps in my collection and duplicates I was willing to sell or trade.

I remember how much fun it was to go through my pocket change (or my father’s pockets) and find silver coins or rare coins from the past. Sometimes, I’d go to the bank and “buy” a bag of coins so I could go through it to find the one or two coins that were worthy of saving. I’d replace them in the bag and exchange it for a new one.

Collecting coins was a fun hobby. But eventually, there came a time when you could no longer find rare coins or silver coins in your change, and I stopped doing it. It wasn’t fun anymore.

You know what? That’s a good metric for everything in life. If it’s not fun, don’t do it.

If you don’t enjoy practicing law, do something about it. Change your practice area or your clients, get good at marketing, or go do something else.

I said as much in an interview I did yesterday for a podcast. “What’s one piece of advice you could share that we haven’t talked about,” I was asked at the end of the interview. “If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right,” I said.

Of course it’s not all black or white. There’s lots of gray. You may not like networking, for example, but you love the results so you keep doing it. That’s actually a good way to look at it. Focus on what you like, not what you don’t like.

Don’t forget, everything is relative. Maybe you don’t like marketing, but you don’t like getting calls from bill collectors even less.

Find some aspect of what you’re doing that’s fun. Because otherwise, why do it?

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Are you getting stale?

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You’ve been a lawyer for more than a few years and you’re good at what you do. So good, you could do most of your job in your sleep.

You know the forms to use and the words to say. You know the best places to park at the courthouse. You know the judges and other lawyers, and they know you.

Your job has become routine. Easy. Life is good.

Don’t get too comfortable. Before you know it, some rookie lawyer will come along and eat your lunch.

They may not know what you know or be able to do what you can do, but they’re fresh and hungry. Everything is new and exciting. They’ve got energy and drive and something to prove.

And let’s not forget that they have been using computers since pre-school.

If you’re not careful, as their practice grows, you may see yours diminish.

But you can stay ahead of them by re-inventing yourself and your practice. Become a new lawyer again. Look at everything with fresh eyes.

Imagine that you have just opened your doors and you don’t have any clients. Get hustling and bring some in before the end of the month.

Take classes in your practice area and also in practice areas you know nothing about. Take classes in business, marketing, sales, writing, and speaking.

Take some cases you’ve never handled before. Find another lawyer to associate with you or mentor you.

Start over, from scratch, and build your practice again.

In the military, for a day or for a week, a unit will periodically stand down and review all of their operations. You should do the same thing. Examine all of your office management procedures and forms, look for holes that need to be patched, find expenses that can be reduced or eliminated, and processes that can be improved.

Do the same thing with your marketing. Find ways to make it better. Eliminate things that aren’t working, do more of  the things that are, and find new ways to bring in business you’ve never tried before.

Examine every piece of paper in your office and every electron in your computer. Resolve to get organized, eliminate clutter, and streamline your workflow.

And from this day forward, do something new every week. New ideas, new projects, new people, will keep you fresh and alert and sharp and open new doors for you.

Get excited about the future you are about to create and then go eat someone else’s lunch.

Get your marketing plan here

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Goals are a bitch

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Goals can be a demanding and unforgiving bitch. You do what you’re told, or rather what you said you would do, or there’s hell to pay.

Who needs that?

Yes, you want what you want, and yes, you’re willing to do the work to get it, but who needs an overseer? Who needs the pressure of “do or not do” when you might only want to try?

I write down my goals, but more and more I focus on something else. Something that helps me reach my goals without making my life miserable along the way.

Instead of focusing on the goal, I focus on the process. Instead of focusing on the results, I focus on the activity.

After all, it’s the activities that bring the results.

But to do the activities long enough (and get good at them) you have to find peace with the process. Or else you won’t stick with it. Or if you do, you might get the results but come to hate what you’re doing and burn out or get ulcers or ruin your marriage.

You can’t say, “Once I get what I want, I’ll be happy”. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be happy, first.

Author James Clear said,

“. . .if you look at the people who are consistently achieving their goals, you start to realize that it’s not the events or the results that make them different. It’s their commitment to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice, not the individual event. . . If you want to become significantly better at anything, you have to fall in love with the process of doing it. . . Fall in love with boredom. Fall in love with repetition and practice. Fall in love with the process of what you do and let the results take care of themselves.”

And they will take care of themselves. Or they won’t, but you’ll be happy nevertheless because you’re doing something you love.

Use this to create a simple plan (i.e., one that you will do)

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Everyone is an entrepreneur. Including you.

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It doesn’t matter whether you’re employed or self-employed, you are an entrepreneur.

Deal with it.

You are an entrepreneur because every day, you take risks with your career. You may get fired today. Your partnership may break up. Your biggest client may leave you.

You are in sales, too. You sell your services (and yourself) to an employer or to individual clients. Every day, you sell or re-sell yourself on getting and staying hired.

But every day you also have the opportunity for gain. You may get a raise. You may get a big case. You may start to embrace marketing and double your income.

Risk and reward. The yin and yang of the entrepreneur. The only question is, how much risk are you willing to take?

You do know that a job doesn’t mean safety or security? In fact, it means just the opposite. You don’t control your fate. Others do. Just ask people who lost their job two years ago and are still unemployed.

Starting your own practice or business isn’t risk free, of course, but if you fail, you will at least have a skill set that allows you to start over.

In fact, the very act of failing makes you more likely to succeed the next time. The greatest risks are often borne by those who have never failed.

Venture capitalist Ben Narasin says that he sometimes funds startups run by people who have never failed at anything. He says,

Sometimes these prove to be the founders most likely to fail. They’re likely to fail exactly because they are afraid of doing so. They’re so used to winning, so used to the orderly, structured, achievable goals… conquerable by brain power and effort alone, that they are ill-prepared for the entirely messy reality of entrepreneurship.

Being an entrepreneur is messy. You might fail. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Building a law practice is easier when you know The Formula

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When was the last time you were scared?

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I was pretty cocky about starting law school. But I was also scared.

It was new, it was different, and it was intimidating. I didn’t know if I was embarking on a great adventure or I had made a big mistake.

I can say the same thing about opening my practice and about many other milestones in my life. I’m sure you can, too.

It’s not the fear of failure so much as the fear of not knowing what’s next. H.P. Lovecraft said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

But the flip side of fear is excitement. Not knowing what’s about to happen can be thrilling. So can the notion that you might be about to accomplish something great.

And so I ask you, when was the last time you were scared?

Because if you’re not scared from time to time, if your career or your life are boring and routine, it means you’re not taking enough risks, or big enough risks, and you’re not growing.

Former CEO of Evernote, Phil Libin, said recently that one of the reasons he stepped down from the company was that he was bored. He’s now with a venture capital firm and thrives on not knowing what’s next. “It wouldn’t be the best time if it wasn’t scary. When we started Evernote, it was terrifying,” Libin said. “I don’t think I’ve ever embarked on anything great without being scared.”

Of course too much fear can be paralyzing, so you have to find balance. You have to find things to do that challenge you and frighten you but also excite you and pull you forward.

What might that be for you career-wise?

Take on a partner? Go out on your own? Start a new practice area? Revamp your marketing?

Or are you ready for a new career?

Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.” Do something that scares you. Find your next daring adventure.

If you’re ready to revamp your marketing, start here

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Are you excited about practicing law?

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Are you excited about practicing law? I was, when I started. But it didn’t take long before the thrill was gone.

I liked helping people and I liked the challenge of building something from scratch. But I didn’t love what I was doing.

Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.

I kept going because I had invested so much into my career, how could I walk away?

How could I not? How could I wait twenty years before finally giving myself permission to do something else.

Successful people are passionate about what they do. Monday morning can’t come soon enough. They can’t imagine doing anything else.

Successful people don’t need to push themselves, they do what they do because they love doing it. Steve Jobs said, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

That’s what I want for you.

I’m not saying you need to leave the law, although that may be the right thing for you at some point. I’m saying you need to find a way to get excited about your work.

How?

In The One Thing You Need to Know, Marcus Buckingham distilled years of research about personal success down to one thing: “Find out what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.”

Get rid of the things you don’t love about your practice so you can do more of what you are good at and enjoy.

It sounds simplistic but imagine if the things you don’t like about your work were gone. Handled. Not something you need to think about.

It would be liberating, wouldn’t it?

Is this possible? Could you delegate or outsource all of the things that cause you stress? Probably not. When you’re in charge, there are always burdens on your shoulders. But if you could get rid of 80% of the things you don’t like, you might smile a lot more.

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Two six-month vacations per year

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Hey there. I’ve got something to share with you. But it will have to wait. I’ll be back in an hour. . .

Okay, I’m back.

Where did I go? What did I do? I didn’t go anywhere, and I didn’t do anything. I took the hour off because I wanted to prove a point.

My point is that we can all choose how we spend our time. If we want to take an hour off, we can. If we want to take the rest of the day off, we can. If we want to take Friday’s off, we can.

Who says you can’t? Your boss? Your spouse? Your clients? Your creditors? Okay, so you have obligations. I’m not suggesting you shirk them, just that you don’t have to be enslaved by them.

You have free will.

So the question isn’t, “Why can’t you?” it’s “How can you?” How can you take off Friday afternoons if you want to, and still meet your responsibilities?

Come in a little early? Work a little later on Thursdays? Do some work on the weekends?

Think. There are solutions. You can find them.

Once you’ve mastered taking off Friday afternoons, you can work towards taking off every Friday, if that’s what you want to do.

There are solutions and you can find them.

I know professionals who take off an entire week every month of the year. Why couldn’t you?

I know some who take two months vacation every year (and they’re not European). Are you interested?

I know people who have the ultimate goal of taking two six-month vacations every year. Yes, it’s a joke, but for some people, it’s a very real goal. If you have enough cash or income-generating assets or passive income, it can be done.

Start with the end in mind (the goal) and work backwards. What would I have to have? What would I have to do first?

You may have a tough time right now accepting the idea of taking even an hour off in the middle of the day, but you can. Once you get used to it, you can go for two.

It’s your life and you can live it on your terms.

You may have some ‘splainin to do to the people in your life, and you should probably start small and not announce you’re taking the rest of the year off just yet, but you can (eventually) spend your days on Earth any way you choose.

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