Why “Be Yourself” is NOT Good Advice

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“Be yourself,” we are told. There’s just one problem. What if we’re not good enough?

Whatever you are right now, whatever it is that defines you, was created by you. You took what God gave you and made yourself into the person you see in the mirror.

As long as you continue to be that person, you will continue to produce the same outcomes.  Be yourself only if you don’t want anything to change in your life.  If you want something better, however, you need to change.

If you want to be a better lawyer, you need to improve your skill set. If you want a bigger income, you need to change your habits and attitudes and activities to match the income of someone who earns what you want to earn.

You can’t say, “When I earn more I’ll change.” It doesn’t work that way. Change comes first. You can’t change your future until you change your present.

How do you change?

You read good books. You study them. You apply what you learned.

You associate with people who have what you want. You listen to how they speak and look for insights into how they think. Most of all, you watch what they do and you emulate it.

You get help. A mentor, coach, or accountability partner. A mastermind group.

You master the mundane. You practice. You get better and better at what you do.

As you become better, you attract better opportunities. Because you have grown, you’re able to capitalize on them.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t go from earning six figures to earning seven figures in a few months. But in a few years, you can accomplish just about anything.

But only after you stop being yourself and start being the person you want to become.

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Removing the obstacles to success

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Instant manifestation. You think it and it appears. You write it down and it becomes reality. Sound good? Actually, it would be a nightmare. Your life would be a jumble of confusing and conflicting thoughts and you would be continually fixing mistakes and apologizing for transgressions.

Thankfully, there is a buffer of time between first thought and manifestation that protects us and keeps us sane. We want something, we think about how to get it, and then we do the work. It takes time and reason and effort to get from first thought to fruition.

And it’s a messy process. There are lots of failed attempts, unsolved problems, and abandoned ideas along the way. That’s part of the buffer, too. These obstacles help us clarify our objectives and ultimately, get better results.

But sometimes these obstacles get the better of us and stop us from getting what we want. How do you overcome obstacles that keep you from achieving your goals?

You could power through the problem. Drink another cup of coffee, burn the midnight oil and do what needs to be done.

When we do this, we acknowledge the obstacle and then defeat it by refusing to give up. When we do, we’re often the better for it. Tired, but victorious!

But there’s another way and it’s a lot less taxing. Instead of fighting the problem, eliminate it.

Make a list of obstacles that are keeping you from achieving your goals. Your list might look something like this:

  • I don’t know what to do/don’t know how
  • I’m not good at [whatever]
  • I don’t have enough time
  • I don’t have enough money
  • I don’t like doing what I have to do
  • I lack confidence
  • I procrastinate (actually, this is a symptom; the obstacle is one of the other things on this list)

Then, make a list of ways you could remove those obstacles:

  • Get help doing the things you’re not good at or don’t like doing
  • Money: Sell something, save, use credit, find vendors who will barter
  • Eliminate or postpone other tasks and projects to free up time (prioritize/learn to say no)
  • Talk to someone who has done it and get their advice
  • Read, take a class, and learn how to do it or how to do it better
  • Hire an expert to advise you
  • Outsource all or part of it
  • Change the rules. Modify the goal or objective to suit your present situation
  • Ignore the problem and let your subconscious mind solve it while you’re doing something else

You can either work harder (power through the problem) or work smarter (eliminate or dilute the problem).

And if neither of these works, you can confess your sins to your wife, mom, partner, or client and have them make you do it.

Hey, whatever works.

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You’re not thinking big enough

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If you’re not wealthy, there’s a good chance you’re not thinking big enough.

In, 10 Ways in Which Wealthy People Think Differently About Money, the author says, “The wealthy think big”:

When you focus on just surviving through retirement or paying the mortgage, you will just survive through retirement or pay the mortgage. Your brain needs something big to dream about. You must aspire to be something huge. Stop dreaming of only a million bucks. Write down the biggest dream you can think of and multiply it by 10. That’s thinking big.

I agree. You get what you focus on, big or small, good or bad, so you might as well focus on the biggest and best.

Money may not be your primary motivation in life. I get that. But let’s put aside that debate for now and continue to use money as a metaphor for success because that’s how we keep score and because more money means you can do more of whatever else it is you want to do, even if that means giving away most of that money.

Anyway, if you haven’t already done so, before reading further, do the exercise. Pick a big number and multiple by ten.

Got it? Let it roll around in your brain for a few seconds. Imagine yourself in possession of that amount. That’s your annual income. Or your total assets.

Now, don’t think about whether or not it’s possible or how you could do it, just answer this question: When you think about that number how do you feel?

Does it feel good and proper or does it feel like an impossible dream? Does it feel exciting and make you smile or does it make you nervous or fearful?

If it feels good, great. Continue thinking about that number (or a bigger one) and use it to pull you forward towards a wealthier future.

If it doesn’t feel good, we need to talk.

Okay, no lectures, and no psycho-babble about self-esteem or about negative money messages that were drilled into you at an early age. But if the thought of big money scares you or makes you feel anything bad, it means something.

For one thing, it means you’re not on a path towards wealth. Your subconscious won’t allow it. It doesn’t want you to feel bad, it wants you to feel good. Pick a smaller number. Keep going smaller until you feel good about the number. Your subconscious mind approves of that amount.

So now what? If your logical brain says you want big(ger) money but your subconscious brain says you can’t have it, do you give up and surrender to your inner fears and limitations?

No. What you do is forget about the dollar amount for the time being and find a thought about money that feels better when you think it. If thinking about earning ten million dollars makes you nervous, reach for a thought you can accept. You might think, “There are things I could do to earn more than I earn now,” for example.

How does that thought feel? If it feels good, move forward. Think more thoughts that feel good about the subject, and keep doing that until you feel good about the subject most of the time.

What happens is that over time you’re subconscious begins to accept those increasingly positive thoughts about money as truths and good for you, not something it needs to protect you from. It will then guide you towards activities that lead to results that are consistent with those thoughts.

In other words, don’t try to force yourself into thinking big. It’s not about will power. Simply reach for a thought about money that feels better and continue doing that. Before long, you will find yourself thinking big about money, or at least bigger than you did when you started.

The process needn’t take a long time. Practice thinking thoughts that feel good (about money or anything else) and in thirty days or less you will see demonstrative changes in your attitude towards the subject.

Your attitude guides your activities, your activities determine your results, and your results determine your happiness. (Cue Pharrell.)

There’s the bell. Class dismissed. Open book test on Friday.

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You think you’re so smart. Good!

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Lawyers tend to have big egos. Mostly, that’s a good thing. It’s what allows them to be successful. Imagine what it would be like if you constantly doubted yourself and your abilities.

In 10 Things Highly Productive People Don’t Do, item 4 caught my attention:

They are not realistic when it comes to their abilities

When it comes to your own skills and expectations; it’s better to be an illusionist than being modest or realistic. Successful people and high achievers are overconfident of their abilities. They believe that they can achieve anything and expect the very best to come. This is very important in order to be productive.

Holding such beliefs about yourself will make you (even if you are the laziest person on earth) tend to take actions in order to justify your own beliefs. It will lower your resistance against hard work.

If you feel incompetent, simply ask yourself if holding such a belief has ever helped you. If not get rid of it and get a new belief because at the end of the day a wrong belief that makes you feel good is far better than a more realistic one that makes you feel incompetent.

Now before you can say this is a recipe for malpractice, it doesn’t mean you should take on work you’re not competent to do and blindly do it. It means believing you can get the work done and that you can figure out how to make that happen.

In the early days of my practice, I often took cases I was nowhere near ready to handle. I believed that if some of the attorneys I’d met could do it, I could too. I spent long hours in the library. I hired experienced secretaries and paralegals. I asked other attorneys for advice. And when I was truly over my head, I associated with bigger firms, watched, learned, and earned.

If I didn’t believe in myself, I would have turned down the business and perhaps never learned what to do.

Successful people start with vision. They see themselves where they want to be, doing the things they want to do. They believe that they are able to do it, and that’s how they become able to do it.

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Judgments about trustworthiness are made in less than a second

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According to new research, “people only need to meet someone for less than a second before they decide how trustworthy they are.”

Yikes.

When you meet a prospective client they make up their minds about you instantly. In a single glance, the jury decides whether or not to trust your client or witness. When you are networking or speaking, you are judged before you say a single word.

It has to do with the human face and how our brains process the image. I’ll spare you the scientific details behind the research but the process occurs at a subconscious level, and quickly.

We used to think that people make up their minds about us in the first minute or two, giving us time to make a good impression. You know, smile, make eye contact, show people you are interested in them. Now we know that by the time we do that, people have already made up their minds about us.

Now what? We can’t change our appearance. Our face says “trustworthy” or it does not. All we can do is move forward with the things we’ve always done to make a good impression and earn trust. We’ll thus reinforce the person’s first impression of us as trustworthy, and thus strengthen it, or we’ll counter their first impression of untrustworthy and, one hopes, overcome it.

But then I’m assuming it’s possible to overcome a bad first impression. It has to be. If it were not, it would mean there are people walking around with a face that tells everyone, “you can’t trust me,” and there’s nothing they can do to change that impression. I know life isn’t fair but I think that’s going too far.

How to improve your trustworthiness. Click here.

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Happiness is a choice

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Yesterday, I had one of those moments. You know the one I mean. It’s when you’re having a bad day and you are convinced that you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not good at anything, and you should probably give up and go do something else.

Yeah, that kind of moment.

But then I paused and thought about it. I thought about things that were going well, things that had amazing potential, and things that I was really good at, and the cloud of doom over my head floated away.

Just like that, I went from near despair to being excited about the future, and with that, I got back to work.

Do we really have that kind of power? Can we really just think ourselves into being happy?

You betcha.

Dale Carnegie said, “Remember, happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think.”

Yes, you can work your way through a funk. But had I tried to suck it up and work my way through my malaise, I’m pretty sure I would have simply found more “proof” of my inadequacies and justification for feeling sorry for myself.

Eventually, I would have forgotten about what was bothering me and returned to my regular chipper self. But instead of having an entire day being down, I was able to get back to “me” in just a few seconds.

When you are feeling blue, or experiencing any kind of negative emotion, instead of charging ahead despite those feelings, “change the subject”. Think about something that feels better when you think it. I might have thought about walking on the beach. That would certainly have felt better and my mood would surely have improved.

I chose another way. Instead of distracting myself from the issue (not being good enough), I found some aspect of that thought that felt better (thinking about what I was good at).

Either way works.

When we are unhappy, we can wait until our circumstances improve and then be happy. Or we can choose to be happy now and use that feeling to improve our circumstances.

Because happiness is a choice.

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Visualizing success

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There’s an oft cited experiment by Australian psychologist Alan Richardson. The objective was to see if and to what extent visualization could improve sports performance.

Richardson tested three groups of twenty student basketball players shooting free throws and recorded their results. For the next 20 days, he had the first group practice free throws for twenty minutes each day. The second group spent 20 minutes each day visualizing themselves making free throws, without actually practicing. The third group was the control. They did no practicing or visualizing during the twenty day period.

On the twentieth day the three groups were tested again. The group that practiced every day improved their shooting percentage by 24 percent. The control group’s results were unchanged. The group that did no physical practice but merely visualized shooting free throws improved by 23 percent–nearly as much as the group that actually practiced.

In his paper about the experiment, Richardson wrote that best results occurred when the subject used their imagination to “feel” the ball in their hands, “hear” it bounce, and “see” it go through the hoop. The more vivid the experience, the more likely they were to improve.

When I was studying for the bar exam, I routinely visualized myself writing the exam. I pictured myself writing freely and easily, fully in command of the material. I even took a self-hypnosis class to help the process. I don’t know how much (or even if) this helped me pass the bar (the first time, thank you), but I remember going into the exam relaxed and confident.

Lawyers can use visualization to prepare for a speech, an interview, a trial, or a meeting with an important prospective client. If all it does is give you confidence, it’s worth it.

In the basketball experiment, we are asked to believe that visualizing alone provided improvement nearly equivalent to that achieved through actual practice. I understand that this was a test of a relatively simple activity and not on a par with studying for an exam or practicing a closing argument, but it is intriguing, isn’t it? It makes you wonder what else we could improve with the power of our imagination.

Most of  what we do in our work probably can’t be improved by thoughts alone. I wasn’t about to go into the bar exam without studying and doing practice exams. But I’d sure like to know if my visualization contributed to my results in any material way beyond helping me relax.

Unfortunately, the basketball experiment wasn’t complete. In my view, there should have been a fourth group tested. This group would have been asked to both practice and visualize. What might those results have told us?

Today, my wife is reporting for jury duty. I’ve told her to visualize being excused early in the day. Of course I’ve also reminded her to emphasize her husband’s background. Hey, it couldn’t hurt.

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A little less planning, a little more action

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How much planning is enough? Less than you think.

You don’t need to plan out the entire case. There are two many variables. You need a plan to get it started. Your experience and instincts will take you the rest of the way.

You don’t need to plan all of your marketing. You need to know what you want to accomplish and a few ideas that might help you get there. Your results (or lack thereof) will guide you towards next steps.

You don’t need to plan your entire career–when you will retire, and how. It’s impossible to know how much you will need or calculate specific rates of return. Start putting something away and periodically take inventory.

Planning is good, but too often it is an impediment. Either we procrastinate because we haven’t yet perfected the plan, or we miss opportunities because they aren’t consistent with the plan. Detailed plans never foster creativity, they stifle it.

We accomplish more by taking action. It’s simple. The more we do, the more we accomplish. Yes, more action also leads to more failure but we learn from those failures. Those experiences help us make adjustments and grow. They help us improve future results.

Plan just enough to get the project started. Then do the thing until you get some results. Review those results and make a new plan.

Plan. Do. Review.

For a simple marketing plan that really works, get this

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Slaying the perfectionism dragon

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A short article on the Entrepreneur.com website caught my attention. In “Start Before You’re Ready, Really,” the author urges us to launch our new business, project or idea before we are, or it is ready.

You can set up a quick Facebook page instead of a website, or a simple (ugly) web page just to get something “out there”. Run the idea up the digital flagpole and see who salutes it.

The author started her new business with just one strategic alliance partner (referral source), who sent her enough business to help her get her business off the ground. Had she waited until she had ten or twelve referral sources, she may still be waiting.

No matter what you do, you can improve it later. Even if you do wait before you launch, there will always be things to improve. So why wait?

Get something out there now and fix or improve it later.

I salute this idea. Hard as it is to show your ideas before they are fully formed, edited, vetted, and groomed, you must. If you wait, you’ll never be ready. In your lifetime, you will produce only a fraction of what you could.

I’ve done this many times. I’ve put up terrible web pages. Announced businesses and books when they were merely ideas. Advertised courses before I was finished writing them.

Some of my best stuff came because I put it out for the world to see before I was ready. Turns out, they were closer to being ready than I had thought. What’s a few typos among friends?

There’s nothing like a deadline to get you crackin’. Once you announce or launch or publish, you’ve got a deadline. You’re committed. You’ve got to finish it, or fix it, and you do.

The alternative is to pay homage to your perfectionism and wait until everything is right. That’s how so many people die with their music in them.

The most important part of any project is getting started. Whatever it is you want to do, do it. Give yourself permission to do it badly. You can fix it later. You can make it better. Or you can cancel it start something else.

There is greatness in you. Slay the dragon and let your ideas soar.

For a simple marketing plan that really works, get this

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Earning the right to ask for help

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A lot of people ask me for help. They want me to promote their event, link to their site, or donate to their cause. I do what I can, but I can’t help everyone with everything.

But when my friend Mitch Jackson asked for help with his Rotary Club’s fund raiser to end polio, I didn’t hesitate.

I made a donation and then posted this on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Anyone who sees my post is invited to donate. I’m asking you to do the same. Just go to http://MonarchBeachRotary.Club. Their goal is to raise $20,000. With our help, I know they can reach it.

Polio has almost been eradicated, but still exists. If you have known someone afflicted with this horrible disease, as I have, you know it’s time to wipe it out once and for all. So please help. Make a donation. Any amount will help. And promote this cause to your contacts.

Now, why did I agree to help Mitch and his cause? Because he’s earned the right to my help. He has supported me and promoted me over the years and this is one small way I can reciprocate.

And that’s the lesson for the day. If you want people to help you, your practice, or your cause, become worthy of their help. The more you do for others, the more you can ask others to do for you.

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