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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How to be more creative

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You’re in a rut. Every day you do the same things. The spark is gone. Your creativity machine has become rusty.

What if you played a game where you used your imagination to come up with some fresh ideas?

It’s called, the “What if?” game and it will help you be more creative.

Let’s play.

What if you were marketing used cars instead of legal services. What would you do to get more people to your showroom, sell more cars, or earn more from each car sold?

Well, you might hold a big sale. “An extra $500 off on any car this weekend only”. You might have elephant rides on your lot and encourage people to bring their kids. You might take your sales people on a retreat and have a trainer teach them some new techniques. You might also have that trainer consult with you on how to motivate your sales team with bonuses, trips, and other incentives.

Okay, that was fun. It was nice to think about things you could do if you weren’t constrained by law and propriety. You discovered that you can still be creative.

But so what? You can’t really use any of these ideas.

What if you could? (Yep, still playing. . .)

You’re probably not going to hold a sale, but perhaps you could put together some kind of limited time offer. “Book your appointment this week and get free document updates for life.”

You’re not going to have elephant rides in your building’s parking lot, but how about adding a toy chest and coloring books to your waiting room so clients can keep their kids occupied?

What about that employee retreat and sales trainer idea? You actually could do that. Bring in someone to teach your employees how to work with clients, to keep them happy and stimulate referrals.

If you want to be more creative, look at things from a different perspective. Think about the question or problem as if you were a different person, or under a different set of circumstances. Imagine you had different tools or different skills.

In other words, think like a kid.

Kids don’t settle for the way things are. They use their imaginations. They think about the way things could be. They ask, “What if?”

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A simple daily habit that could change everything

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I read an article that offered suggested daily habits that could help us 5 years from now. One habit stood out, not just because it has marketing implications, but because I think it could bring immediate benefits.

The habit:

Talk to one stranger every day.

Think about the possibilities. The stranger you speak to could be your next client, a marketing joint venture partner, or a source of referrals. Or they might introduce you to someone who fulfills one or more of those roles.

Talking to someone new can give you ideas for articles and posts, for marketing or managing your practice, or for doing something new and exciting.

Practicing the habit of approaching strangers also helps you develop your networking and interpersonal skills.

And it could be a lot of fun.

You could approach people by design–professionals and centers of influence in your target market or local community, for example. Or, you could make it a serendipitous adventure and approach people at random. How about the person immediately behind you in the line at Starbucks?

Strangers represent opportunities, the article notes. True, most opportunities don’t pan out. With many strangers, you won’t get to first base.

But you never know when the next person you meet might be the one who opens doors to great new adventures. Or, turn out to be a new friend.

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The foundation for all abundance

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Eckhart Tolle said, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

Tolle is probably right. It might be The Law of Attraction. I can’t give you a cite, but I’m sure it’s a law somewhere.

It might be religious. Giving thanks to God is a good thing.

It might be a subconscious mind thing, where when we think about good things we instruct our mind to help us get more.

So let’s do it. Let’s acknowledge the good.

Get to a place where you won’t be disturbed, get quiet and think. Think about your life, right now, and note all of the good things. Write things down if you want. Consider the 7 areas of life:

  1. Mental/personal development
  2. Career/business
  3. Financial
  4. Family
  5. Social
  6. Physical
  7. Spiritual

Give it ten minutes. Think about the good in your life: what you have, what you’re working towards, where you’ve been, and where you are going. Note whatever comes into your mind. You don’t have to touch on all 7 areas.

If you notice a negative thought, replace it with something that’s true and feels better. So if you think, “I’m not making the kind of money I want,” replace that with: “I’m earning more than I did before,” or “I’m learning about marketing and on my way to earning more this year.”

Whatever your beliefs about the efficacy of appreciating the good in your life, you can’t deny that thinking about the good feels good. And that is it’s own reward.

I appreciate you. Namaste.

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The power of one: getting things done for procrastinators

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Are you a black-and-white kinda guy or gal? I mean, do you have things you’d like to do but haven’t started because you’re not ready to give them your full attention?

You know what I mean. You either do things full force, or not at all. You don’t want to start a newsletter or blog, write a book, or join a networking group because of the perceived immensity of the task or the ongoing commitment.

You’re a perfectionist. And you aren’t getting things done.

Of course you know that by not doing certain things, you’re losing some great benefits. How many new clients, new cases, and new opportunities are you missing out on by putting off these things?

But what can you do?

I’ll tell you what you can do. You can stop thinking about the big picture (and avoiding it) and just do “one thing” to advance the project.

Instead of writing an entire book, write one page a day.

Instead of becoming a networking ninja, set a goal to meet one new professional this week.

Instead of putting off calling all of your former clients to say hello, make one phone call today.

One is a powerful number. It is the difference between not doing and doing.

You can do one.

One page, one idea, one phone call. Progress, not perfection.

So figure out one thing you can for each of your important projects and do it. One thing a day, one thing a week, one thing a month, or just one thing for now.

If you can do that one thing, even once, you can do it again. Before you know it, the project will be complete or, if it’s an ongoing project, well underway.

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The first step in effecting change is admitting that you need to change

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Yesterday’s post was about being chronically late. I said that you’re late because you want to be. Being late serves you in some way. You have free will and you can change by choosing to change.

A reader wrote, said he agreed, and asked how he could tell his wife that she’s late because she chooses to be, “without inspiring the death stare”.

Ah, the stare.

The answer: you can’t. I’m guessing that not only does being chronically late serve her in some way, so does being in denial about it.

But maybe not. Maybe she will admit that she’s chronically late. Good. That’s step one. You can’t fix a problem unless you admit you have a problem. You can’t effect change if you don’t admit you need to change.

Perhaps being chronically late is a running joke in your house and she will cop to it. Good. Onto step two.

Step two is admitting you want to do something about it. Does she? Would she like to not always be late?

If she doesn’t want to change things, you aren’t going to get anywhere. Not without a formal intervention, anyway.

If she admits that she would prefer not being late, you have an opening. A place to start.

Now what?

Bring on the expert witnesses.

Don’t offer any advice. The people we are closest to never listen to us. You need “third party” information. Get some articles and books about the subject.

Start with tips (like setting two alarms in the morning, for example). Maybe one of the books or articles will say what I said, that being chronically late is a choice. She won’t listen to you. She might listen to a third party expert.

The other thing you can do is suggest an exercise you heard about (from me; I’m telling you about it now). Sit with her with paper and pen and write a “can do” list. Draw a line down the center of the page. On the left side, she writes down all of the situations where she is commonly late. On the right side, she writes down everything she can think of that she can do about those situations, e.g., setting two alarms in the morning.

Again, this isn’t you offering suggestions. She has to come up with the solutions herself.

Every solution she comes up with reinforces the idea that she is not powerless, there are things she “can do”.

And. . . you haven’t “told” her anything. Because you can’t. That stare is lethal.

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Are you chronically late? Here’s why and what to do about it.

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Are you chronically late? Late to court. Late for appointments. Late getting home for dinner. If you are, there’s a reason.

You’re late because you want to be.

Being late serves you in some way. You may not be consciously aware of this, but it’s there nevertheless. How do I know? Because showing up on time is completely under your control.

I’m not talking about the things that happen to everyone from time to time. A traffic accident, a judge who keeps you late, an emergency at home. Stuff happens and everyone is occasionally late. But if you are frequently late, it’s because you want to be.

You choose to be late. You can choose to be on time.

You can schedule appointments far enough apart to give you enough time to get from one to the other. You can set alarms and reminders on your devices to let you know when it’s time to leave. You can get apps that provide traffic alerts. You can ask your staff to help you get out the door.

So why don’t you? I don’t know. All I know is that you don’t have to be.

I read an article that offered several “reasons” why people are chronically late. To my eye, they aren’t reasons in the sense that you don’t have control over them, they are excuses. They are HOW you CAUSE yourself to be late.

Sleeping late is the first on the list. You sleep late because you’re not getting to bed early enough. That’s how you cause yourself to be late. The question is why. You have free will. You can decide when to turn off the lights. You don’t because sleeping late serves you in some way. Perhaps it allows you to excuse less than excellent performance at work. Perhaps being late is merely a part of the process, or a byproduct.

In Eighth grade, I had to deliver a report in front of the room. I wasn’t ready and asked the teacher if I could have another day. When I was told I could not, I told him I didn’t feel well. That was true. I felt like crap because I was going to have to deliver a report I wasn’t prepared to give.

The teacher sent me to the nurse. Called my bluff, he did. The nurse did what nurses do, she took my temperature. Surprise–I had a fever. The nurse called my mother and sent me home and I had another day to prepare my presentation.

Our minds are powerful instruments. They can make us sick when we want to be, and they can make us late when we want to be.

You don’t have to be chronically late. Just like you don’t have to smoke, overeat, or watch too much TV. You can change your habits any time you decide to change them. So the next time you’re late, don’t make excuses, and don’t feel bad about it. You’re late because you wanted to be.

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