Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better

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French psychologist Emile Coue famously promoted the curative powers of repeating a daily mantra: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”. Apparently, those who repeated this to themselves many times each day saw greater improvement than those who didn’t.

Whether this is true or not, and without debating the rationale behind it, I think we can agree that the more frequently we do something designed to improve our skills or knowledge, the more likely it is that we will see improved results.

If you want to become a better writer, for example, it’s better to write every day than it is to write sporadically.

The reason is obvious. It is the compound effect of your daily effort.

When you do it every day, you don’t start each day at zero. You have the previous days’ experiences to draw on. If you write only once a month, on the other hand, every month you start from scratch.

To become a better speaker, every day, even for a few minutes, study the advice of good speakers and practice what you learn. Work on your timing, add better stories, seek feedback from others, and make continual adjustments, however small.

As you get better at speaking, you will gain more confidence. As your confidence grows, you will get better at speaking.

And so on. Success creates more success, through the power of compounding.

Whatever you want to improve, work on it daily, even for just a few minutes.

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You know the answer, you just need someone else to say it

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I heard from an attorney who has been practicing for 15 years and is thinking of leaving his job with a law firm where he feels like he’ll always be the low man on the totem pole.

“I want to start out on my own. My wife [an attorney] is against this; we have 4 kids and a mortgage and she makes considerably less than I do.” He’d read my blog post about the costs of opening your own office but wanted to know more about actual costs. “I need a business license, insurance, an office, and a decent computer system. What’s your estimate for starting up?”

Here’s what I said:

“Okay, setting up the office is the easy part and it’s not expensive. You can get a furnished executive suite or take a spare office from another attorney in return for appearances or overflow. If you have a laptop computer that does what you need, you’re in business. If you don’t, you can finance one for next to nothing from Dell.

Insurance can wait. (That’s not legal advice). So can a lot of other things. One nice thing about low overhead is that it doesn’t take much to stay afloat.

The hard part is the family. You have to work that out. Your wife is scared and perhaps she has a right to be, but most people don’t understand “the itch” and aren’t willing to scratch it. So you have to have a long talk. Or a series of talks. And if you can’t get her on board and you still want to do this, you may have to do it without her permission. And then work your butt off to bring in lots of business.

Sometimes, when I’ve taken big scary leaps in my career, I first asked myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Will I die? End up in prison? Lose my house? Lose my wife? End up homeless, penniless, on drugs and wanting to die?

When you think about the worst case scenario in all it’s overly dramatic splendor, you realize that most of this is highly unlikely, and whatever does happen is probably something you can survive. Bad things may happen, but you probably won’t die, and as they say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Whatever you decide, don’t second guess yourself. Stay or go, but don’t look back.”

He wrote back and said he’s going to talk to his wife and will keep me posted.

But here’s the thing. He’s a smart guy and surely knew I couldn’t give him an estimate of how much he would need to open his own office. But that’s not the real reason he contacted me. He was reaching out because he’s nervous about the whole idea and wanted to hear a friendly voice who had been there and done that.

Here’s the other thing. I’m sure he also knew the part about making the leap with or without his wife on board. He knew it but needed me to say it.

We all know more than we realize we know, don’t we? But we don’t always trust what we know.

Sometimes we use logic to guide us to the right decision. Sometimes we throw logic out the window and let our gut get us past the fear so we can do what we want to do.

When you face big a decision like this, it’s good to talk to someone who’s been down that path. They can provide information and encouragement and ask you questions that allow you to sort things out. You could also pray on it, write in a journal, talk to experts, and do a lot of research.

But while these might be the mature way of handling things, sometimes you just have to jump and see what happens. As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.”

I’ve made many leaps in my legal career and with businesses I’ve started. Things didn’t always work out but I never wound up homeless and I always learned something about myself and about the world I was able to use down the road.

So am I saying you should do what you want to do even when there are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t?

No. I’m not saying that. You are.

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If I could save time in a bottle

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You know the wisdom of putting money into a saving account or retirement account each month, and not touching it. In five or ten years, or twenty, you’ll have a sizable nest egg.

If you’re not doing this already, the easiest way to start is to have your bank automatically deduct a certain amount each month and move it to a savings account. When it’s done automatically, you don’t think about it.

It’s a simple way to “pay yourself first”.

Start small if you must, with an amount you won’t miss. Even $25 or $50. You can increase the amount down the road.

Saving money isn’t difficult when you pay yourself first. You just have to start.

Now if it were only possible to do the same thing with time.

What if you could put away an hour or two each month, to be used at a later date? You wouldn’t miss those hours, and in five or ten years, you’d have enough time saved up to be able to take major vacations, retire early or spend time with someone you love.

Okay, that’s not possible. But you could do the next best thing.

What if every month you invested a few hours in yourself? It’s called personal development. The more you do, the more valuable you become. If you do it regularly, in a few years you may be good enough to earn fifty times what you earn now. A few years more and you may have enough money and passive income to be able to do whatever you want with your time.

If you do it regularly, in a few years you may be good enough to earn twenty times what you earn now. A few years more and you may have enough money and passive income to be able to do whatever you want with your time.

But first, you need to invest time to work on yourself. The easiest way to do that? Automatically.

Use your calendar to schedule time for personal development. You can schedule 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week, but whatever you do, you should do it regularly and automatically.

Without thinking about it.

If you calendar an hour every Friday at 4pm for personal development, you must keep that appointment with yourself.

Read, watch training videos, learn something new. Spend time with people who can teach you things about business and life. Learn from them and observe them so you can model their attitudes and behaviors.

If you do this regularly, the time you invest in personal development will have a tremendous payoff down the road. Five years from now, you’ll look back at the person you were when you began your journey and you’ll be glad you decided to pay yourself first.

Get good at getting referrals

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By the inch, it’s a cinch

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I saw a quotation the other day that is a testament to the value of personal growth. It said, “You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller but by making yourself better”.

Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish for fewer problems, wish for better skills”.

If we want to achieve more, we need to become more because we don’t necessarily get what we want, we get what we are.

As we increase our skills and knowledge, we can handle bigger problems and achieve bigger goals. But is personal growth the only path to success? Are there no shortcuts, no ways to bypass the rigors of personal growth?

I think there are. I think we really can overcome challenges by making them smaller.

If you have a big problem right now, break it down into a series of smaller problems that are easier to solve. Break down your big goals into a series of smaller goals that are achievable now.

Let’s say you have a goal to double your income in the next two years. Traditional thinking says that to earn that kind of income you must first become the kind of person who earns that kind of income.

But maybe you don’t.

Maybe you could double your income by getting some better-paying clients or bigger cases. Maybe you could partner up with another lawyer who’s better at marketing than you. Maybe you could change practice areas, open a second office, or finally take the plunge and do something about that website of yours.

Am I saying we don’t need to work on personal growth? Not at all. For long-term success, it’s imperative. Think about the many lottery winners who go broke in a few years because they weren’t millionaires on the inside, they simply had millions of dollars in the bank.

What I’m saying is that while you’re growing and developing, look for ways to break up big problems and big goals into smaller ones. Because by the inch, it’s a cinch.

Attorney marketing made simple

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How to make yourself do something you don’t want to do

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I know about that thing you’re supposed to be doing. I also know it’s not getting done. No, I didn’t speak to your wife, I just know. You’re dilly dallying. Avoiding it. Procrastinating.

You know you should do it, but you don’t want to. So you don’t.

No worries. I’m here to help.

The first thing I want you to do is to write down this thing you don’t want to do. Former CEO and author Max de Pree said, “The first job of a leader is to define reality,” so get busy and put it in black and white. You don’t have to show it to anyone, but if we’re going to get this thing done, we need to know what it is.

Have you written it down? Good. Now look at it and imagine being able to put a check mark next to it, or crossing it off your list.

What’s next?

Well, you know it’s important, and you know you’d like to get it done. But you need some convincing to do it.

Maybe you should hire a lawyer.

Wait, you are a lawyer. How about hiring yourself to argue the case for “doing it”?

You’re an advocate, so advocate. Write a demand letter to your other side (the side that doesn’t want to to it) and demand that it be done.

Present the arguments, the facts, the logic. Describe all of the benefits of getting it done. Describe the negative outcomes if you don’t.

Make the case for going to a networking event once a week, starting a newsletter, or adding content to your website. Tell yourself why you should, and give it all you’ve got. Your client is depending on you.

If you think it will help, sweeten the deal by offering a bonus. Promise yourself the rest of the day off, for example, if you get this thing done. Put a deadline on accepting the deal, and a non-negotiable start date and time. Add liquidated damages in case of default.

This may sound silly, but it’s not. Not for something important. You already know the reasons why you should do this thing. You just have to talk it through. No more hiding from it, burying it on a to-do list and moving it from week to week. It’s time to do it.

So yeah, hire yourself to advocate and negotiate the deal. You’ll be the best client you’ve ever had, and if you win this case, you might earn the biggest fee you’ve ever received.

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Why you should always assume the sale

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Whether you’re talking to a prospective client, speaking to a jury, or negotiating any kind of deal, you should always assume that you will get what you want.

Assume that you’ll win the case or get the best deal. Assume that the prospect will sign up, and not just for your entry level offering but for your “full package”.

Always assume the best possible outcome because assuming the sale will help you close it.

Aren’t you setting yourself (and your client) for disappointment? I didn’t say you should tell the client what you expect. In fact, you should do just the opposite. Do your best to lower their expectations, so that (a) if you get what you want, you will exceed their expectations and made them very happy, and (b) if you don’t get what you want, they won’t think that you blew it.

Okay. But shouldn’t you also lower your expectations? Don’t you need to be realistic?

No.

Assume the sale. Assume great things will happen. Assume you will win. Because when you do, you’ll “act as if,” meaning you’ll act the way you would if you knew you would be successful, and that makes it more likely that you will be.

When you act as if you expect to win, you’ll have more confidence. You’ll say things that would be said by someone who expected to win. Your decisions, timing, and body language will be consistent with closing the deal.

Your believe in a successful outcome will help you create that outcome.

Your confidence will influence the parties with whom you are dealing. Even the most hardened negotiator or judge will perceive the spring in your step and the gleam in your eye, no matter how subtle those cues might be, and they can’t help but be affected by it.

Consider the alternative. Consider what a judge might think if you come into his courtroom with body language that bespeaks a lack of confidence in your argument.

Am I saying you should lie to yourself, tell yourself things are going to work out a certain way, even if the facts and logic tell you otherwise?

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Because assuming the sale helps you close it.

Don’t be reckless. You have to have contingency plans in place and be prepared to respond to other outcomes. But once you’ve done that, put on a happy face and go out and conquer the world.

Always assume your clients will give you more referrals. Here’s how to get them

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Owning your future without breaking any laws

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I met a law student once who told people she was a lawyer. I explained to her that she could get herself into trouble that way, that it’s illegal to tell people you’re a lawyer when you’re not. Why she didn’t know that is beyond me.

I don’t think she had any nefarious intent. I think she was trying to own her future, to motivate herself and take a step closer to making her dream come true.

I see other people who go too far in the other direction. I read an article this morning by someone who described herself as an “aspiring writer”. I’ve got news for her, she wrote the article I was reading, ergo she is a writer.

She may not be getting paid for her writing but she’s still a writer and she should own that.Telling her subconscious mind she is an aspiring writer might keep her “aspiring” and make it less likely she will get paid.

How about you? Do you aspire to fame and fortune or do see yourself already on that path? If you aspire to it, you might not be owning that future. If you already see yourself as the person you are working to become, you’re closer to making your dream become your reality.

Or are you?

You’ve heard people say that we should envision our desired future, in detail. See yourself with lots of zeros in your bank account and lots of clients in your waiting room, if that’s what you want. But if you believe that there is some truth to the Law of Attraction, as I do, telling yourself you’re something you’re not might help you create a future that’s just the opposite of what you want.

Why? Because when you think about yourself raking in the dough, or whatever, or you use affirmations to tell yourself that you are rich and successful and you’re not, your current reality intrudes and tells you otherwise. You start thinking about all of the reasons why you’re not the success you envision, the obstacles in your way, and so on, and your focus is then on “not having” and you attract more of that.

It comes down to the fact that deep down, you don’t (yet) believe that you can achieve that dream.

Since our beliefs create our reality, you’re better off envisioning something you can believe.

Instead of thinking about the results you want (e.g., new clients, money, fame, etc.) think about doing the activities that will bring about those results. See yourself in court, for example, delivering a closing argument. See yourself talking to prospective clients and telling them how you can help them.

If you believe you can do those things, you will attract cases that require you to go to court, and prospective clients who want to know how you can help them. And that’s how you will create your successful future.

Own your future. Just make sure you don’t break any laws along the way.

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Is multiplying your income simply a matter of time?

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Okay, so your practice is a well-oiled machine. You have the staff you need, your marketing is working, and your income is growing. It’s only a matter of time before you reach your bigger goals, right?

Not necessarily.

You may see incremental growth–going from $100,000 to $300,000 over five or ten years, for example–but to go from $100,000 to two million dollars will probably require something more than the passage of time.

It takes a different set of skills, attitudes, and resources to develop a much bigger practice and while experience is a great teacher, it’s usually not enough. If it were, you would consistently see the majority of lawyers who have practiced for twenty years earning significantly more than the lawyers who have only practiced for ten.

We’ve all seen lawyers who rise to to the top of the earning pyramid in a few short years. How do they do it? They started out with, or developed, the skills, attitudes, and resources that made this possible.

If you want to grow, you have to do the same.

You can’t expect to “get big” if you essentially do the same things over and over. Repetition doesn’t necessarily lead to expertise.

You have to do things differently. And do different things. You have to get out of your comfort zone, and you have to be prepared to fail. In fact, failure is a big part of growth because if you’re not failing some of the time, you’re not taking enough chances.

Make a habit of embracing change. Continually ask yourself, “What can I do that I haven’t done before?” and “How can I do this differently?”

Because if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.

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What are you reading?

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Aside from legal matters what do you usually read? What videos or audio content do you consume? What information or ideas do you regularly put into your brain?

I hope that you dedicate at least some of your time to reading about the lives of people who have done what you want to do. It doesn’t have to be a lawyer. You can learn a lot about building a successful law practice by reading biographies of people who built great businesses or led great armies. You can learn a lot about leading a successful life by reading about people in any field or calling.

No matter what you want to learn or accomplish, there is someone in the world who has already accomplished it. As Tony Robbins put it:

Many great leaders have proven that the fastest way to master any skill, strategy or goal in life is to model those who have already forged the path ahead. If you can find someone who is already getting the results that you want and take the same actions they are taking, you can get the same results.

As a young lawyer, I read biographies of successful lawyers and their remarkable careers. I also read novels and and watched TV shows about lawyers. (Earle Stanley Gardner, author of nearly 100 Perry Mason novels, was a lawyer before turning to fiction.) Aside from learning what they did and how they thought, their stories inspired me on my chosen path.

How about you?

Go find something written by or about a lawyer you would like to emulate. If they have written a “how to” book, even better. If you already do this regularly, go find books written by or about other accomplished people who can guide you towards becoming a better leader, speaker or writer, or leading a better life.

Learn from people who have done what you want to do. Let them show you, from the printed page, what they did and how they did it, and let them inspire you by showing you that you can do it too.

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What are you working on?

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What are you working on right now? I’m not referring to your regular work–cases, client work, or the daily activities of running your practice–I’m talking about something else: a project or group of projects designed to take you or your practice to a higher level.

So tell me, what are you working on?

You might be updating your website or expanding your advertising. You might be working on a new office procedure manual, updating your forms or form letters, or writing a series of emails to former clients. You might be putting together a list of names of professionals in your market you plan to call and invite to lunch. You might be working on a new presentation, an ebook, or a video.

You should always have a project you’re working on, and when someone asks, you should immediately know what it is.

There’s always something you can do to improve your marketing or the operations in your office. You can always improve your speaking, writing, negotiation, and sales skills.

So, what are you working on?

Are you learning how to get more referrals? Are you watching training videos about software you bought but haven’t used? Are you planning a meeting with your staff or partners to discuss ways to streamline the workflow in the office, lower costs, or increase profits?

You should always be working on at least one project designed to advance your skills or improve your results. And you should always have time scheduled during the week to work on that project.

You are are a professional but you also run a business. That business has many facets, many moving parts that need to be coordinated and maintained. Your business competes with other firms who do what you do and you need to stay at least one step ahead of them.

Delivering quality legal services isn’t enough. Most lawyers do that. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to do more.

So tell me, what are you working on?

Are you working on your website? This is what you need

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