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Failure is an option

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Nobody likes to fail so most of us tend to avoid doing things we’re not good at, things we’ve failed at before.

Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, said that’s the opposite of what we should do:

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

I don’t think he meant we should literally increase our “rate” of failure, meaning the percentage of mistakes or failures. I can’t see how intentionally doing worse would help us to become more successful. I think he meant we should double the “number” of failures, meaning the number of times we “attempt” things we’ve failed at.

The more attempts we make, the better we get. We’ll rack up more failures but each failure brings us closer to success.

What are you avoiding that you’re not good at it or don’t like it but know you need to do?

Instead of avoiding these things, increase your knowledge, work on your skills, and forge ahead. Screw up more, embarrass yourself more, bitch and moan more, and eventually, you’ll have a breakthrough.

Because failure is an option and it’s not a bad thing.

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The art of scaring clients

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I  heard an ad for a tax remediation firm. It did a lot of things right, including telling business owners the bad things the IRS can do to you if you don’t pay.

It was a long list of scary things, and very aggressive. They can do this, they can do that, they can even take your business.

What, they don’t pull down your pants and spank your tushy?

Anyway, you’ve heard me prattle on about the importance of scaring prospective clients. You know that “fear of loss” is more powerful than “desire for gain.” And you know that you are doing clients a favor if, by putting the fear of God in them, you get them to (finally) take action that is in their best interests.

You scare them to get their attention. You scare them to get them to take your message seriously. You scare them to get them to call or fill out a form or download your report.

But sometimes, you can scare them so much they don’t do any of those things. They shut down and stop listening.

A little context.

A business owner who hasn’t paid Uncle Sam knows that bad things happen. They’ve gotten the delinquent notices and notices of intent and seen the penalties and interest accrue. They may even know that they can lose their business. But they think they have time. Or they’re in denial about how bad things really are.

They rationalize, procrastinate, and compartmentalize, and when they hear your message of doom and gloom, it’s too much to handle so they tune it out.

What should you do instead? You should provide some relief.

Yes, the ad talks about getting rid of liens and paying off the debt with pennies on the dollar. But it doesn’t tell them how they will feel to finally get this monkey off their back.

The ad should get them to see, in their mind’s eye, how good they will feel and what they’ll be able to do once this problem is taken care of. Tell them about other clients who have been in their shoes and are now sitting pretty.

Give them some hope. Give them something to look forward to. Show them the light at the end of the tunnel.

So you need a mix. A warning and a promise. Pain and pleasure. Blackness and light.

You also have to let them hear your compassion and understanding. Talk to them like a fellow human being who wants to help them, instead of blaring at them like Big Brother.

 

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Posture

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Yesterday, I talked about how some lawyers are afraid of their clients. They bend over backward to give them whatever they want, even if they don’t deserve it, because they’re afraid of losing the client or having them say bad things about them.

They try to please everyone, thinking they’ll attract more clients, but all they do is drive clients away.

When you’re too eager to please, too available, or too generous, you project an image of neediness. Clients can sense it.

When clients see you as needy, they get nervous. It’s like pulling up to a restaurant at 6 pm and seeing an empty parking lot. Nobody wants to eat where nobody else is eating.

People want to hire attorneys who don’t need their business. True or not, that’s what you want them to think.

Don’t be so quick to give them what they want. Make them wait a day or a week to book an appointment. Have them speak to someone on your staff or fill out a form on your website before they get to speak to you.

To pull this off, you have to believe that they need you more than you need them. If you don’t believe this, you need to work on that. For starters, make your services different and better than what other lawyers offer, or at least package and present them that way.

It’s called posture and the most successful attorneys have it in spades.

Have you seen attorneys who accept new clients “by referral only”? That’s posture.

You want to attract clients, not chase them. You want them to see you as the best choice, not just another pretty face in the crowd.

On the other hand, don’t do what some attorneys do. Don’t overplay your hand. Some attorneys come off as cocky, expensive, and too unavailable. Hey, if a client wanted that they’d hire a doctor, not a lawyer.

How to get clients to see you as the one they want

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Are you afraid of your clients?

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I heard an interview with an expert on international affairs. He was asked why Europe was the way it was. (I’ll let you fill in the blank about what that means.)

He said, “They’re afraid of their people.”

Europe has a history of revolutions and uprisings. Monarchs have been dethroned (and beheaded), corrupt leaders have been convicted and jailed, and the current heads of state are simply fearful of a similar fate.

Interesting. Explains why they outlawed guns, doesn’t it?

Anyway, my question for you is, “Are you afraid of your people?”

Do you operate out of fear of what your clients may say or do? If they ask for something, do you give it to them even if they don’t deserve it or you can’t “afford” it, because you’re afraid of losing them or offending them or being accused of something untoward?

If you do, stop it. Person up. (That’s how they say toughen up in Europe, y’all.)

Your job isn’t to make everyone happy no matter what. Your job is to do your job, and you get to choose for whom you do it.

You also get to choose to give more value to your best clients, the ones who deserve it, because it’s smart for you to do that, and not to every client because you’re afraid of losing your head.

How to make your clients happy

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Doing the impossible

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If Alexander Graham Bell had been a professional electrician, he would never have invented the telephone. He would have know that it was impossible.

What aren’t you doing because you know it’s impossible?

If you’ve ever wondered why lawyers with half your intelligence and charm and none of your good looks seem to get more clients, make more money, and lead a charmed life, it may be because they don’t know what you know. They’re able to charge forward, unburdened by the knowledge that what they’re doing isn’t supposed to work.

Mark Twain said, “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

So maybe you’re too smart for your own good.

You can’t unlearn what you know. You can’t ignore what you know can go wrong.

Or can you?

Sometimes, I put what I know in a mental lock box and charge ahead in self-imposed ignorance. I don’t think, I just do. I don’t edit, I just write. And I remind myself that it’s okay to make mistakes.

My motto: “progress, not perfection”. I give myself permission to write crap or mess up royally. Only when I’ve gotten far enough along do I stop and take a look at what I’ve done.

I’m often pleasantly surprised. But then, what do I know?

How to get more referrals without really trying

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How to conquer fear

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Fear is a bitch. It stops you from doing things you need to do and things you want to do and it makes things you do more difficult.

I’m not talking about big scary stop-in-your-tracks kind of fear. They don’t crop up that often and when they do, it’s often better to give in to them. If you’re afraid of sky-diving, for example, don’t do it. Do something else on your bucket list.

No, I’m talking about micro-fears, little nagging worries that make you avoid situations or people, doubt your process, procrastinate, abandon half-finished projects, or move so slowly that you miss the opportunity.

You may not see what these fears do to you because they are small and familiar but they add up and make for a poorer quality of life.

What can you do?

You can do more research. You can delegate the task. You can do something else that makes the original task unnecessary or easier. Or you can get someone to do “it” with you–yep, hold your hand as you take your first steps.

I’ve done all of these at various times in my life. I’m sure you have, too.

But there’s something else we can do to defeat our fears or to get the thing done despite them.

Do it anyway.

Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Easier said than done? Maybe. But here’s something that can make it easier.

It’s called “the five-minute rule”. Whatever it is that you’re avoiding, do it for just five minutes.

You can do just about anything for five minutes. When you do, you will have done the hard part–you got started, and getting started is the antidote for what ails you.

How to get better at delegating

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An easy way to show your clients some love

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It’s been crazy around here the past week. We’re close to the fires and concerned about them spreading our way. Every day, the sky is filled with smoke and helicopters and planes buzzing overhead.

We’ll probably be okay but you never know.

Our credit union sent us an email that was on point. It said, “In the Wildfire Zone?” They wanted us to know that we are their number one priority and they hope we are safe. They offered some tips for being prepared in case we’re ordered to evacuate.

Things like planning where we’ll go (and making sure they take pets), having a “go bag” of clothes, supplies, credit cards, meds, and extra cash, making sure the gas tank is full, and gathering up important documents to take with us.

They also provided a link to ready.org, which has more information about evacuation planning.

Most of the emails we get from them are about “business”. It’s nice to know they are thinking about us and providing helpful information on an important topic. It’s important even for those who aren’t in the fire zone.

Note that they didn’t write the underlying information about what to put in a go bag, which papers to include in an “important papers” file or evacuation planning, they simply provided links to existing websites.

How difficult would it be for you to send your clients an email like this? About what to do in case of fire or flood, earthquake or hurricane, or other disasters?

Not difficult at all.

But your clients will appreciate you for thinking of them, nevertheless.

In fact, there are plenty of consumer-related topics you could write about: insurance, credit, crime prevention, retirement, refinancing and many more.

Ten minutes of research and some links to other people’s websites will do the trick.

For extra credit, interview some subject matter experts. Here’s how I did that and turned it into a book.

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The only lawyer for the job

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Instead of targeting niche markets, the average lawyer holds themselves out to “everyone” who has a legal issue they’re qualified to handle.

That’s why they’re average.

Unless they’re in a small town and are literally the only lawyer for the job, this is a poor strategy because they wind up being one of thousands of lawyers who say the same things and offer the same services.

They have no leverage. No edge. They spend way too much time and money getting their message out into the world and have a difficult time standing out.

Why do they do it? Fear. They’re afraid that if they hold themselves out as “specializing” in one type of client or target market, they won’t appeal to anyone else.

It gets them every time.

So, if you’re taking notes, write this down: it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a minnow in the ocean.

When you target a niche market, you can own that market. Be seen as the only lawyer for the job.

One reason:

You can immerse yourself in the niche, learning the issues, studying the culture and networking with the centers of influence. Your subconscious mind will synthesize this information and provide you with laser-focused ideas for articles, blog posts, videos, ads, reports, emails, presentations, and other content.

In your content, you can use examples of people in the market whom you have helped. When prospective clients and referral sources consume your content, they see you as someone who truly understands their market and is uniquely qualified to help them.

You can’t do that when you try to appeal to “everyone”.

Just saying.

This will help you choose the right niche market(s) for your practice

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This isn’t important so read it later

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Another day, another study. This one says that we have “an urgency bias” meaning that “our brains pick urgency over importance, wanting the immediate satisfaction of a quick payoff”.

We prefer to do the quick and easy things on our list because important tasks are (or appear) more difficult and take longer to complete. “People want to finish the urgent tasks first and then work on important tasks later.”

I get that. I do that. I like to sprint through my email inbox first and get it out of the way before tackling more important work.

The researchers say one reason we tend to prioritize urgent over important because we find comfort in appearing busy. I get that, too. Who doesn’t like checking things off our list?

If we’re getting the important stuff done, however, does it matter when we do it? Kinda. We have more energy at the start of our day and should use that time for work that requires more focus.

If we’re not doing the important work, however, if our day is filled with putting out fires and reacting to what’s put in front of us instead of doing things that bring us closer to our most important goals, that’s a problem.

What’s the solution? The researchers say we should remind ourselves of the value of the bigger tasks we’re avoiding or postponing. Okay, but how? The article doesn’t say. But I will. It’s something I wrote about before and it’s about as simple as it gets:

Next to each task on your list, write down why you need to do it. In other words, write down the benefits it delivers.

This forces you to think about what each task is worth to you. Is it short-term and relatively low-value or something that advances your career? Is it urgent but otherwise not a priority or is it an important factor contributing to your success?

As you write down why, consider the price you pay for not doing the task. What do you give up if you don’t get it done?

We need to prioritize tasks that provide more value over those that are merely urgent. By consciously considering the benefits each tasks offers, we can be more intentional about what we do and when we do it.

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Are you making money reading this?

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I’ve never watched “Shark Tank” but I read an article about Kevin O’Leary, one of the investors who appears on it. It was about how he gets so much done.

One thing he suggests would drive me crazy. “Prioritize every 15 minutes of your day,” he says.

Nope. Too confining for me.

On the other hand, there’s something he does to defeat procrastination I like. When he finds himself getting side-tracked, “I think to myself, ‘Am I making money doing this?’ That makes it easy to snap out of it.”

Kinda explains why he’s got so much money. Not sure how much fun he is to be around.

But asking that question is a good idea, at least while you’re working. If you’re honest with yourself, the question can get you back to work. I’m going to try it.

Problem is, when you do what I do, what might otherwise be considered goofing off, i.e., reading, watching videos, surfing the interwebs, is part of the job. But when I’m playing Words with Friends, it’s an excellent question.

Earn more without working more

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