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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Turn your goals into problems and then solve those problems

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Lawyers are good at solving problems. We can look at a situation, decide what needs to be done, and take action to solve the problem. That’s what we do all day long for our clients. We know the objective–to win the case, to negotiate the contract, to protect the client’s business or assets–and we able systematically proceed towards solving the problem.

Why is it, then, that we’re often not very good at achieving our goals? Isn’t a goal really an unsolved problem?

Let’s say you have a goal of earning x per month by the end of the year. Your goal is also a problem: you’re not currently earning x per month. Now, how do you solve that problem?

When we solve problems one of the first things we do is look at the obstacles. If you want to win the case, you look for ways to eliminate or minimize your weaknesses. If there is a eye witness who hurts you, for example, you look for ways to challenge their sight line or establish bias.

Why aren’t you earning x right now? What are the obstacles? And what can you do to eliminate or minimize them?

Start by scrutinizing the elements. Look at your fee structure, practice areas, average fee, and number of cases or clients. You may discover that the weakness is simply that you’re not bringing in enough new clients. Fair enough. You have a new problem to solve.

Or perhaps you realize that your practice area is waning. You need a new one. You knew this but only now are you able to admit it.

But knowing the solution to the problem is only half the battle. It doesn’t mean you’ll do what you need to do.

You’re good at solving client problems because you want them to pay you and return and send referrals, and because your reputation (and bank account) are at stake. You are accountable to your clients. If you mess up, they’ll tell others. They may report you to the state bar. They may sue.

That kind of accountability ordinarily doesn’t exist with our goals. When nobody knows about your goal but you, if you don’t make it, oh well.

Tell your spouse, your partner, or your mastermind group about your goals and ask them to hold you accountable. If a lawyer friend knows about your goal, you won’t want him to know that you didn’t achieve it, or that you dropped the ball and didn’t even try. You’ll do what needs to be done to solve that problem.

Accountability is a bitch, but she loves you and wants you to succeed.

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Reba McEntire: “To succeed in life, you need three things. . .”

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In the “I wish I said it” category comes this quote from singer, song writer, and actress, Reba McEntire:

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”

Good advice for everyone, but especially lawyers.

We need to dream big to make it big. You can’t “play” at this profession, you have to go for it. Make big plans and take bold action. Another quote, author unknown, sums it up: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, ‘Holy shit… what a ride!’”

We need a backbone to survive and thrive. Competition is tough, clients are demanding, and the ponderous rules we swore to abide by often make us want to bitch slap someone. Practicing law may be worth all the blood, sweat, and tears, but only if you can hang in there long enough to reap the rewards.

Most of all, we need to lighten up. If you don’t have a sense of humor, if you can’t laugh at the world and have some fun on this journey, you’re doomed. Bob Newhart said, “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.” Robert Frost said, “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” Groucho Marx said, “Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.” C’mon now, that’s funny!

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Would you advise your kid to go to law school?

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Would you advise your kid to go to law school today? I wouldn’t. Not unless they were passionate about it and could think of nothing else they wanted to do. And then I’d make sure they did it with open eyes.

You know the drill. You’ve seen the articles about the lack of jobs for newly minted lawyers, $200,000 student loans, and the huge number of lawyers afflicted with depression and substance abuse. Lawyers are leaving the profession in record numbers, either because they can’t find a job or because they hate their job.

If you’re making it as a lawyer, if you’re earning a living and not ready to slash your wrists, if you’re reasonably successful and happy, thank your lucky stars. There’s nothing better than helping people and being well paid to do it.

Isn’t that why we went to law school? To help people and make money? That’s why I went. And I’m proud to say I accomplished both of those objectives.

So why did I retire? I practiced for over twenty years, but I was still young. I could have gone for another twenty. Why didn’t I?

There were other things I wanted to do. My priorities changed. I got bored.

Yes, the profession changed, too. There were things I liked about those changes, but many more things I didn’t like. Let’s just say that for me, the thrill was gone. It was time to move on.

How about you? You may be successful and happy, but is there something else that might lead to even greater success and happiness? Perhaps something you toyed with once but rejected because you didn’t have the time, contacts, experience, capital, or nerve?

No, I’m not going to suggest you pull up stakes and start something new. Unless. . . you want to. If you want to do something else, do it. No matter what you lack in resources, no matter what the risks. Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.”

If you don’t want to completely change course, look for ways to dip your toe in the water. Spend a little time each week dabbling with your secret interest. Read about it, meet some people who do it, and imagine what it would be like if you could do it all the time.

Two things might happen. One, you’ll find that you’re not as interested in the subject as you thought. It’s a passing fancy. This happened to me with real estate investing.

The other thing that might happen is that you discover something that excites you more than you ever imagined. It stirs your creative juices. It makes you feel like a kid again. It makes your heart beat faster just thinking about it.

From this, you might discover a new hobby. Something you enjoy doing on the weekends and in your spare time. It doesn’t take anything away from your law career. In fact, it might add to it. It might allow you to meet new people or develop new skills.

On other hand, you might discover a new calling and you’ll be on your way to a new career.

Has your life thus far been a daring adventure? If not, don’t wait another twenty years. Jump in. The water is warm and it’s time to play.

Marco.

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Why lawyers should make their beds every morning

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I have tremendous respect for our military. What they do to protect us in an increasingly dangerous world is awe inspiring. If you have every served, I sincerely thank you.

Military training is about a lot of things, the most important of which, I believe, is learning to be a leader. Leadership starts with self-discipline, courage, commitment, and honor. It is nurtured by compassion, good habits, and a hell of lot of hard work.

You can’t lead others, however, until you learn how to lead yourself. That’s the lesson I got from the commencement address delivered by former Navy SEAL, Admiral William H. McRaven, to the UT Austin class of 2014. It was brilliant. I hope those who had the honor of hearing this 20 minute talk got as much out of it as I did.

I was directed to this page after reading elsewhere one of Admiral McRaven’s lessons about the importance of making your bed every morning:

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

Navy SEALS candidates are challenged to do things few people will ever be asked to do. Their physical training is astonishingly rigorous. But their training does far more than mold their bodies and prepare them for service, it molds their minds and their character and prepares them for life.

Broadly defined, leadership means showing people a better future and then helping them get there. As lawyers, we need to remember that we are more than warriors or scribes, we are leaders. Our clients and our community depend on us to guide them to a better future.

We don’t need military training to learn how to lead, but the military has no doubt turned out more leaders than any other institution. Listening to Admiral McRaven’s stories about some of the lessons he learned in basic SEAL training and his advice to the class of 2014 show us why.

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Grow your law practice by training your creative muscles

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If you’re like me, you don’t finish every project you start. Not even close.

On your hard drive or in a box in your closet lie countless half-written articles, outlines for seminars that have never seen the light of day, and volumes of clippings related to things you thought you might do someday.

It’s okay. You don’t have to do everything you think of, or finish everything you start.

At some point, though, you have to finish something. Not just because it might be useful to you in your work or another aspect of your life, but because finishing things is the cutting edge of growth.

I know you finish things every day. You settle cases, you draft documents, you produce. But most of what you do in your work is routine and unlikely to lead to anything more than incremental growth.

If we want to take a quantum gigantic leap in our personal and professional life, we need to do things we’ve never done before. We need to create.

Creating strengthens your creative muscles. The more you do, the more you will be able to do. In time, you’ll be able to take on bigger projects, the kind that can create fortunes.

You will also train your subconscious mind to find new ideas to tackle. The more you say “yes” to the ideas your mind serves up, the more ideas it will bring you.

Eventually, you will have an abundance of big ideas, and the capacity to bring them to life.

Go through your electronic notes and physical repositories and find something you can finish. Start with something small, something you can finish today. Then, do something bigger.

It doesn’t matter if what you create is any good, or even whether you use it. What’s important is that you get in the habit of taking on new creative tasks and finishing them.

If you want to grow your law practice, start by growing yourself.

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Contingency plans

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What would you do if you suddenly discovered you could no longer practice law? Don’t scoff. Many physicians are leaving medicine right now and many others are reconsidering their future.

You have to have contingency plans.

You might get sick or injured and find that you can no longer practice. What will you do?

You might find that market forces have made your practice area unprofitable. (You can now purchase legal services at Walmart in Ontario, Canada. What’s next?)

You might get laid off tomorrow and not be able to find another job at the same pay level.

You might find that you are no longer passionate about practicing law and need to find something else.

What will you do?

Last weekend, the service provider that delivers my emails was shut down by a major DDOS attack. It looks like they’re back online and you should now be caught up with Monday’s and Tuesday’s posts (I took yesterday off).

But what if they went down for good?

It would be a big inconvenience, but it wouldn’t put me out of business. I have contingency plans. My income doesn’t depend solely on my attorney marketing business. If I lose one source of income, I have others.

How about you? What do you do, or what could you do, to bring in other sources of income? Start a business? Write? Consult?

And then there’s the subject of retirement. I started another business because I knew that I was not putting away enough income for retirement. My business now provides me with passive income and I could retire at any time.

I didn’t do this because I’m super smart or responsible. I did it because I was scared. The thought of being too old to work, or not wanting to work but having to do it to pay the bills, scared the hell out of me.

Take some time to think about your future. Create a Plan B and maybe even a Plan C.

The Attorney Marketing Formula comes with a free marketing plan. Go here.

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Being good isn’t good enough. Or is it?

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Being good isn’t good enough is a stunningly beautiful song about determination and greatness, a personal anthem for anyone who has ever wanted to be the best at something, like the athletes in the forthcoming Olympic games.

For most of us, however, the lyric, “I’ll be the best or nothing at all,” is inspiring, but hardly practical. Who is the best singer, football player, or lawyer?

Besides, we don’t have to be “the best” at what we do to be happy or successful. In fact, we don’t even have to be good.

We can hire people (or take on partners) who are good at things we don’t do well or don’t enjoy. You don’t like research? You’re not good at networking? It doesn’t matter. You’re good at something and that’s what you should focus on.

Speaking of focus, I was reading a review of Daniel Goleman’s book, Focus, about what it takes to achieve excellence. It’s not as simple as “10,000 hours of practice” or intelligence. There are a lot of factors, one of the most important of which is determination or grit.

Think about the successful people you know, especially the ones who aren’t particularly gifted, disciplined, or hard working. How did they make it big when so many others in their field did not? Often, the answer is simply that they wanted it more, and believed they could have it. Their desire, and refusal to settle for anything less, made the difference.

You don’t have to be the best at what you do. You just need to know what you want and keep going until you get it.

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What’s your I.Q.?

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What’s your I.Q.? If something doesn’t work out for you, how quickly do you say “I quit”?

I’m sure you’ve hired someone who didn’t work out. You’ve tried software systems or apps that you ultimately rejected. You’ve tried new marketing methods and didn’t stick with them.

How much are you willing to put up with before you say “no mas” and move on?

Of course this is a rhetorical question. Everything is different. It depends on the cost (time and money), the potential return, the complexity, and market conditions. And it depends on you–your knowledge and skills, your finances, your goals, your work ethic.

And so there is no right or wrong answer. But clearly, we have all tried many things we have abandoned that might have produced the desired result had we given them enough time. As Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Successful people have a long term perspective. They are willing to invest today for a return that might be a long time in coming. Unsuccessful people want instant gratification. And yet nobody wants to do something that’s not working and not likely to do so. When should you continue and when should you admit defeat and try something else?

One thing you can do to answer this is to find someone who has successfully done what you are contemplating and do what they did. In other words, find models and model them.

Because if they did it, there’s a very good chance that you can do it, too. Just knowing that will keep you going when you otherwise might quit.

Don’t necessarily compare yourself to others. When they started, they may have had more skills than you do, or a bigger network. It may take you longer to accomplish what they accomplished. It may be harder.

I’ve found this to be true in my life, and I am okay with this. If what I am attempting promises benefits that I truly want, it’s okay if it takes me longer. What I care about is knowing that I can do it. If I know that it’s possible, based on what others have done, I’ll keep going. In this case, I have a very high I.Q.

I admit, this is not always true. Sometimes, along the way, I discover something about myself or about the journey and change my mind about what I want or what I’m willing to do. But having that model at the beginning allows me to get started and keep going long enough to make that discovery. As a result, I’ve done more than I ever would have done had I waited for the right time or conditions.

What about innovation? Highly overrated. Most inventors will tell you that what they do is look at something that already exists and see it doing something different. Or, combining two things into something new. Entrepreneurs do the same thing.

If you want a successful law practice, find successful lawyers in your field and study them. Find out what they did to become successful and do that. It may take you longer and you may have a bumpier journey than they had. But at least you know that if you follow the same road map, there’s a very good chance that you will get to the same destination.

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