Don’t wonder what will happen next, decide what happens next

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Life is a series of decisions. You decide on your career path, your school, your job, your first client and your next. This morning you decided which suit to wear, what to eat for breakfast, and what time to leave for work.

You decided which file to work on first, which message to return first, and what to work on after that.

Most of the decisions you make are not very important or difficult to make. Some are critically important and gut wrenching.

But everything is a decision. Letting a boss, a parent, or a spouse decide for you is a decision. Leaving your fate to God is a decision. Not making a decision is a decision.

Things will happen that you couldn’t have anticipated. But when they do, you decide how to respond.

It’s your life and you get to decide what happens next. As someone put it, “Don’t wonder what will happen next, decide what happens next”.

Don’t let the immensity of your power overwhelm you. You don’t need to plan out the rest of your life or even the rest of the year. You only need to decide what’s next.

When you’re done reading this, what will you do?

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What are you, chicken?

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What are you afraid of? C’mon, you know there are things you should be doing to grow your practice that you don’t do because of fear.

You don’t ask clients to help you, for example, because you’re afraid of appearing weak. You don’t approach prospective clients at a networking event because you’re afraid of rejection. You don’t delegate enough of your work because you’re afraid nobody can do the job as well as you.

You can overcome your fears if you want to. The first step is to imagine yourself doing the thing you fear.

See yourself clicking the button and sending your clients an email asking them to forward it to a friend, or to share your new post with their social media contacts.

See yourself in the physical act of doing the thing you fear and you will be on your way to overcoming that fear.

The second step is to imagine the results. See yourself getting new clients as a result of your email, and see the big smile on your face as you realize that you made that happen.

Nice.

Now, the third step. Do the thing. Send the email, make the call, talk to the person.

Mark Twain said, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”

At first, your knees may tremble. You may need to hoist a pint or two. You may do it poorly. But you can do it, at least once, and if you can do it once you can do it again.

Eventually, your fear will either be completely gone or so diminished that you can do the thing at will.

Now, here’s the thing. The things we fear are often the very things we need to be doing. The things that allow us to grow quickly and reach our full potential. So don’t ignore your fears. Hear their message. Acknowledge their value. And then show them who’s boss.

How to get your clients to send you referrals

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Developing the marketing habit

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When an activity become a habit, it becomes automatic; you do it without thinking about it. Eventually, through repetition, you get better at it and you get better results.

That’s true of the exercise habit, the reading habit, and the marketing habit.

In James Clear’s recent article, The Scientific Argument for Mastering One Thing at a Time, he offers some observations about developing new habits, based on research:

1. You are 2x to 3x more likely to follow through with a habit if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you are going to implement it. This is known as an implementation intention.

2. You should focus entirely on one habit. Research has found that implementation intentions do not work if you try to improve multiple habits at the same time.

3. Research has shown that any given habit becomes more automatic with more practice. On average, it takes at least two months for new habits to become automatic behaviors.

Conclusion: it’s best to focus on one specific habit, work on it until you master it, and make it an automatic part of your daily life. Then, repeat the process for the next habit.

I have long preached the value of working on marketing every day for 15 minutes. I’ve said that you should schedule those minutes in your calendar as an appointment and keep that appointment. I’ve said, “you can use that time to do anything related to marketing, even if you’re only reading about it or thinking and making notes”.

But Clear suggests that you have a specific plan for working on your new habit. Is doing “anything related to marketing” specific enough?

When you are first establishing the habit, I think it is. Blocking out the time and doing something every day is the new habit. Being able to do anything gives you the flexibility to be bad before you get good.

Once the 15-minute habit is firmly a part of your routine, however, your plan should become more specific.

If you want to develop the habit of finding and reaching out to professionals with whom you can network, for example, work on that during your 15 minutes.

And only that.

Clear’s other points tell us to work on one new habit only, for at least two months. Once you have established your new habit, you can move onto others.

When I committed to writing daily emails, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Now it is automatic. It’s a part of me. I don’t have to think about it, I just do it.

My new habit has paid me many dividends, so, once you have developed your 15-minute marketing habit, if you’re looking for another habit to work on, you might want to work on writing.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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You don’t know what you don’t know

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New computer arrived and it’s faster than hell. I had no idea that apps and sites and pages could load that fast.

The hard drive is faster, the processor is faster, and it has twice the RAM. I’m sure being new also has something to do with it.

The last time I saw this happen was the last time I got a new computer. “So this is how the rest of the world lives,” I thought.

Anyway, this isn’t about why you should consider replacing your old equipment with something new. It’s about not knowing what you’re missing in your life until you actually experience it.

Like the first time you hire someone who is really good at their job. I once hired a temp who was so fast and competent I begged her to work for me full time. She didn’t, but she set the standard for everyone who followed.

Or the client who is scared to death to hire a lawyer and finds out you’re not scary and you can truly can help them and they are so relieved they want to cry.

We don’t know what we don’t know and the only way to find out is to try a lot of things.

When it comes to marketing and practice management, read everything you can get your hands on and try as many things as time permits. One idea, one technique, one tool, one contact, could change everything.

But you’ll never know unless you try.

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The hidden cost of every decision

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Every decision you make–big ones like whether to go to med school or law school, to little ones like whether to work on the Smith case this morning or work on marketing instead–require an investment of time, energy, money, and mental focus.

You consciously or unconsciously calculate these costs, along with the possible return on your investment.

But there’s a good chance you are omitting something from your calculation. It’s a cost that most people don’t think about, but should, because it might be your biggest cost. Deciding to make that investment might also result in a much bigger payoff.

It’s called the “opportunity cost”–what you give up by taking on project A, for example, when you could instead use that time, money, and energy, to do project B.

Project A might require less time. But when you factor in the cost of losing the benefits of project B, you might decide project B is the better choice.

Savvy investors understand the need to calculate the opportunity cost of their investment decisions, and so must we.

Of course we must also consider the opportunity cost of turning down one project in favor of another. I’ve turned down invitations to speak because I had other things I could do that offered a better return. But in so doing, I lost the opportunity to get my name in front of new people, which, long term, might have had the bigger payoff.

Every decision to do something includes a decision to not do something else.

Look at your task list and see what you have flagged to do next. Ask yourself what you might be giving up if you do it. But also consider what you might be giving up if you don’t.

You invested a few minutes reading this post, minutes that could have been spent reading something else or doing something else. Did your investment pay off? Was it worth it to be reminded about the importance of considering the opportunity costs of your decisions?

If it was, then I made the right decision to write about it.

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Are you riding an emotional roller coaster?

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You’re excited. you’ve got a new client or a new project and you love waking up in the morning and getting to work. Life is good.

And then it happens. You discover a flaw. Or something isn’t working. It looks bad. Real bad. And now you are discouraged.

Then you figure out how to solve the problem. Or you get another new client. And you are excited again.

Until the next time something goes wrong.

And there you are, excited one day, ready to stay in bed in the next. You’re riding an emotional roller coaster, up and down and up and down, and you’re about to get whiplash.

You’re heard that you must get off that roller coaster. If you don’t, you’ll get burned out. You’ve heard you need to even out the highs and lows and achieve a state of equanimity and balance.

But is it that true?

Clearly, you don’t want to be discouraged or depressed. But what’s so special about equanimity? Why can’t every day be exciting?

Is that even possible?

Yes.

I know, crap happens. We have problems we can’t solve, we’re human beings and we have bad days.

True. But just because we feel down and discouraged doesn’t mean we have to stay that way. We can turn a terrible day into a great day, and we can do it in a matter of minutes.

Not by ignoring our problems. By changing how we feel about them.

You’ve got a problem and it feels bad. You’re discouraged, unhappy, angry, frustrated. You’re at the low end of the emotional scale. How do you get to the “high” end–excited, happy, positive, optimistic, etc?

You do it incrementally, one thought at a time.

Think about where you are emotionally. Let’s say you’re discouraged. Things are bad, you don’t see any solution. You’re down in the dumps.

Now, think about the situation a bit and see if you can find some aspect of it that feels better. Even just a little.

Maybe you realize that the worst case scenario is highly unlikely. You know from prior experience that there has to be a solution, even if you don’t know what it is.

You feel a little better. You’re no longer discouraged. Your life isn’t over. You’re hopeful, and hopeful feels better than discouraged.

Now, reach for another thought that feels even better. Perhaps you remember a similar problem from the past that eventually got fixed. You realize that this solution may also work for the current problem. Or you realize that if you solved the former problem, you can probably solve this one.

You still may not know how you’re going to do it, but now you’re optimistic. And that feels better than hopeful. Which feels better than discouraged.

So you reach for another thought that feels even better. You realize that you have many resources available to you: tools, friends, ideas, experience. And you realize that the problem doesn’t need to be solved immediately, you have some time to figure things out.

Okay. Now you’re feeling even better. You know you can solve the problem. You might even be feeling enthusiastic. You’re on your way to being excited.

And that’s how you do it.

You reach for a thought that feels better when you think it. And then you reach for another thought, and another, moving up the emotional scale, continually improving your emotional state, until you feel excited.

You don’t have to settle for feeling bad or sad or down or discouraged. And you don’t have to settle for equanimity. You can move up the emotional scale any time you want to. You can make every day exciting, one thought at a time.

 

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Don’t ignore the bad news but don’t dwell on it, either

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There is evil in the world and we must acknowledge it. But we shouldn’t let it destroy our quality of life.

So let’s change the subject. I have a question for you that I was thinking about this morning:

If you had to, could you run your practice without computers and the smart devices in your pocket? Could you do everything with just pen and paper?

When I started practicing, some lawyers had computers but most did not. Very few had mobile phones. And there was no Internet.

My office had paper files, real law books, and a land line. I did have electronic typewriters, and a copy machine, but no fax.

And we did fine.

But then we didn’t know what we were missing.

We had what we needed to do our work, and we didn’t know what the future might bring. We felt good about what we had and what we could do.

Today, we can practice law from a device that fits in our pocket. We depend on this tech and if we had to give it up and use pen and paper, knowing what we were missing, it would be difficult. And sad.

But unless we get hit with an EMP or there is a zombie apocalypse, we won’t have to give it up. God willing, we never will.

And for that, we should be thankful. We should be thankful for all of the good things in our lives, because there are a lot of them, and there are more to come.

Don’t ignore the bad news, but don’t dwell on it. Because you get what you think about, think about the good things in your life and get excited about the good things to come.

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Why I get high at work and you should, too

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Think about all of the projects you’ve started but didn’t finish. All of your unrealized goals and forgotten dreams. When you think about them, or look at the unfinished documents on your hard drive, it’s not a good feeling.

You failed. You weren’t good enough. You didn’t do what you said you would do.

Ugh.

Now, think about the things you did finish. The projects you completed. The cases you settled. The documents you pushed out into the world.

Different feeling, isn’t it?

It feels good to finish things because doing so validates your abilities and value. Getting things done might mean more revenue, or simply the affirmation of a job well done, but whatever it is, there’s no question that it is enjoyable.

One reason it feels good is that finishing causes the pleasure centers of your brain to experience a rush of chemicals that literally make you feel good. You get high on finishing, so you are compelled to do it. And start the next thing on your list so you can finish that and enjoy the feeling again.

It’s a positive addiction and I encourage you to become a junkie.

Give in to your cravings. Finish what you start and feel the rush.

You need to know when to abandon projects that don’t “pencil out,” of course, but when you do that, use the reclaimed time to start and finish something else.

Something else that feels good: referrals

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Is that the best you can do?

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Does it ever seem like there’s an invisible ceiling over your head that limits your ability to earn more income? Do you ever wonder if you’ve hit a plateau in your career?

Wonder no more, my friend. If you believe you’ve reached your peak, you have, because your beliefs determine your reality.

Your limitations are all in your head. They’ve probably been there a long time. Parental messages probably had something to do with it, and a whole bunch of other things. But what’s important isn’t how you developed your current beliefs but how you can change them.

Because if you don’t change your beliefs about yourself and about what’s possible, those beliefs are going to continue to hold you back.

How do you do it? How do you change your deep-seated, long-held beliefs?

Hypnosis? Therapy? Visiting a sweat lodge? Can you read your way to a new self-image? Take courses? Hire a coach?

To some extent, all of the above have some value because doing them, even thinking about doing them, signals your self-conscious mind that you want to change.

But I have another option for you: get some new friends.

Yep, one of the best things you can do to change your life is to spend time with different people. People who have done what you want to do and people who have what you want to have.

While you’re at it, spend less time with, or completely disassociate from, people who don’t.

The so-called “law of association” says that we become like the people we associate with most. If you hang out with people of one political persuasion, for example, the odds are you are on the same side. If they work hard, you probably do, too. If they exercise and eat well, you are more likely to do the same.

If your friends and business associates read a lot, you’re more likely to do that, and more likely to read what they’re reading. If they invest their money wisely, you are more likely to think twice before buying into the latest fad.

When we associate with people, we tend to adopt their way of looking at the world. We learn their “language”. We adopt their habits. We share many of the same beliefs. Those beliefs influence our attitude towards what we do and don’t do, and those activities determine our results.

And let’s not forget that the people we know can introduce us to other people like themselves, and open doors to new opportunities. If you want new opportunities, you need to know some new people.

Think about the people you spend the most time with right now. Your closest friends. Your colleagues. Your professional contacts. The odds are that your income and lifestyle are on a par with theirs. If you’re happy about that, great. If not, if you want to achieve more, you should probably find some new friends.

Here’s how to find and meet new professionals who can send you referrals

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How to bring out the champion inside you

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Last night, The Warriors clinched a spot in the NBA finals by beating OKC. After being down three games to one, watching them come from behind to win the series was a beautiful thing to behold.

The message? Never give up. No matter how bad things look, champions never give up. That’s what makes them champions.

But there is another message.

After The Warriors won game six and evened the series, Charles Barkley said, “Your flaws show up under pressure”. That’s true. But what he might have also said is that it’s the pressure that makes you into a champion.

Whether it’s professional basketball, building a law practice, or doing anything else that requires skills and determination and hard work, it’s the struggle that allows us to reach our potential. If it was easy, there would be no growth and no greatness.

Don’t fear your problems, embrace them. Don’t lament your mistakes, learn from them.

Do you want more income and greater success? Solve bigger problems. Take bigger risks. Fight bigger battles.

Your flaws show up under pressure and show you where you need to improve. Every battle, every loss, every adversity you overcome makes you stronger and better.

Don’t hide from pressure, go look for more of it. It turns a lump of coal into a diamond and a rookie into a champion.

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