Your life’s purpose

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According to Wikipedia, Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a Japanese word that roughly translates as ‘a reason for being’ or ‘life’s purpose’. It’s similar to the French term “raison d’être” or “reason for being.”

It’s also been described as the secret to a long and happy life.

According to this article, you can find your Ikigai by answering 4 questions and seeing where the answers intersect:

1. What are you good at?

2. What do you love?

3. What does the world need?

4. What can you get paid for?

I thought this was an interesting exercise for someone starting out in life or thinking about a career change, but find it also helpful for those of us who have been around a while and have found our path.

Answer these questions and see what you think.

You might find that you’re right where you need to be, doing work you love and are well paid to do, or realize there’s something else you’re good at and would enjoy even better.

You also might give yourself permission to spend more time on a project or side business that ticks all the boxes, until you can make it the next chapter in your life.

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MVTs vs. MITs

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You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Or so we’re told.

We’re also told we should prioritize our day by importance, meaning tasks that contribute to meeting our responsibilities and achieving our goals.

Which is why we’re advised to put our MITs (Most Important Tasks) at the top of our list.

Generally, I agree with this and prioritize that way. But I just heard about a slightly different method.

Prioritize by value instead of importance. Put our MVTs (Most Valuable Tasks) at the top of our list instead of our MITs.

What’s the difference?

Our most important tasks are often determined by urgency—deadlines, due dates, promises we made—and focus on the short-term. They solve an immediate problem or meet an immediate desire.

These are clearly important. And valuable. But they don’t necessarily deliver the most value.

What does?

Spending time with loved ones, taking care of our mind and body, our faith, our friendships, and other things that give us joy.

Building our reputation and career. Building relationships with clients and professional contacts.

Long-term, at least, these are more valuable than the boxes we tick off day to day.

We need to prioritize and make time for them.

Tomorrow, when you prioritize your list for the day, prioritize your MITs, but not at the expense of your MVTs.

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Better than digging ditches

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A lot of lawyers love what they do. A lot don’t. A lot of the ones who don’t love it (or like it) do it because they make a decent living and don’t know what else to do.

If you find yourself in the latter group, if you’re okay with the job but aren’t passionate about it, one thing you might do is let go of the need to love everything and focus on the parts you do.

Love the money? That’s fine. Love helping people? Great. Love being able to use your brain and not get your hands dirty? That’s a win in my book.

But what about the things you really don’t like but feel you have to do?

You have a choice. You can find other ways to get the job done. Change your practice area, market, or clients. Change your marketing methods. Change your worklows and habits. Delegate the work you don’t like or aren’t good at.

Your other option is to change your mindset. How you feel and think about what you do. Maybe you don’t want partners or employees, but maybe you could make that work.

Reframe the boring parts or cringy parts by seeing them as a small but necessary means to an end. An end you truly want and are willing to make sacrifices to get.

And then focus on the things you do love and do more of them.

There will always be parts of the job you don’t like. You might not like getting up early, fighting through traffic, and arguing with people all day.

But some things are worth it.

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Don’t let your daddy take your T-bird away

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Is practicing law fun for you? Do you enjoy what you do and look forward to coming to work every day?

My guess? You like some things, but not everything. Sometimes, you can’t believe you get paid to do what you do; other times, you think you should have your head examined.

That’s life.

Hey, if everything was easy as pie and your days were filled with nothing but sunshine and lollipops, you probably should have your head examined because you’re living in the real world.

There are good parts and bad parts to being a lawyer (or any occupation) and they go together. You can’t have one without the other.

Problems, challenges, disappointments, losses—they’re part of the deal. You can’t change that. Nor should you try because your very existence depends on it. People don’t hire lawyers when everything is hunky dory.

But one thing you can do, should do, is to have more good days and good moments than bad ones.

Because if you don’t, why bother? Do something else with your life.

Okay, let’s assume you’re going to stay. Now what?

Now you focus on the good things. The wins, the big paydays, the smiles on the faces of the people you help.

Focus on the fun.

Because what you focus on grows.

You want more good times? Think about the good times you already have.

Start by taking inventory. Make a list of what you like about your job. What do you appreciate? What do you love?

Write them down. And, as good things happen, write those down too (in six-minute increments—because that’s fun, isn’t it?)

Find the joy in what you do and you’ll get more of it.

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Playing hooky

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Fun times. Skipping school, going to the movies, eating junk food, goofing off—with nobody around to tell you what to do.

Remember?

What? You never did that? You should have. Everyone should do it once in a while, even big kids like us.

Hey, how about tomorrow? Take the day off and do something non-billable.

I know, you’re busy. Do it anyway. It’s good for you.

The work will be there when you come back. If it won’t, because you don’t have enough work right now, then you really need to play hooky, but instead of going to the movies, write your own movie—a visionary tale of your future.

What do you want that future to look like?

This is your movie. You are the writer, producer, director, and star. Write the movie of your future the way you want it to be.

Don’t hold back. This is a fantasy, not a drama, and you can be, do, or have anything.

Set your movie 5 years from today. Are you still practicing or have you moved on to something else?

Where do you work? What are your hours? Who do you work with, or for? Do you have people working for you? How many? What do they do?

Do you do client work? Handle cases? What type? How big? How many? Or do you do corporate work? For what kinds of clients?

Speaking of clients, how do you get new ones? What marketing strategies do you use? How much revenue do you produce? How much do you net?

What does a typical day look like? What time do you start work? How many appointments do you have? What do you do all day?

Do you do all the legal work? Some of it? None of it?

Do you spend your day writing? Seeing clients? Negotiating deals? Supervising your team?

In this movie, anything is possible. Anything. No matter what your current situation, level of experience, resources, or lack thereof. Pretend you have a magic wand and when you wave it, your dream comes true.

If you’re a little too linear in your thinking and find it difficult to imagine your ideal, think about someone who has what you want and use their life as a model for your own.

Okay, you have a picture. How does that feel?

If it feels good, you’re doing it right. If you have doubts or fears or any negative feelings at all, something’s not right. Get out your magic wand and make it right.

Okay, yes, there is a point to this exercise. Actually, two points.

The first is to help you decide what you want, something we don’t always allow ourselves to do. We usually let our current reality tell us what’s possible, but that’s what is, not what could be..

If you’re happy with all aspects of your current reality, great. But if you want something different, let your imagination tell you what that is.

Which leads to the second point to doing this exercise—to help you create a plan of action. A list of what you need to learn, acquire, change, or do.

A mighty list, wouldn’t you say? Worth taking the day off to create.

Nicely done. Now, choose something from your list and get to work.

How to grow bigger, faster

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Marketing shouldn’t hurt

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Let me guess, marketing isn’t your favorite thing and if you were being honest, you would admit you’d prefer not to do it.

Ask me how I know.

It’s marketing’s fault, not yours. You can’t be blamed for wanting to “just do your work” and not be smothered by mountains of information and endless lists of things you have to do.

Marketing is vitally important, and it can be challenging, but it shouldn’t hurt.

You should be able to be easy about it, do what you want to do, and do it at a comfortable pace.

Marketing should be an extension of who you are and what you do. It should feel natural, easy almost, and never be something you dread.

And it can be if you focus on the basics.

The basics?

Internally, that means serving your clients well, making sure they know what else you do, and staying in touch with them. It means building relationships and getting to know the people they know.

Repeat business and referrals. Just like Dad used to do it.

What about externally? With people who don’t yet know, like, and trust you?

Also the basics.

Get your name in front of people. It doesn’t matter whether you do that via ads, blogs, networking, public relations, producing content, social media, or anything else—it’s all good.

But whatever you do to get your name in front of people, build a list so you can keep your name in front of them.

You don’t have to do everything. One or two “reaching out” strategies can be enough. Find something you’re good at and enjoy and do that.

And do yourself a favor. Don’t worry about everything the experts tell you is a “must do”. In a perfect world, they might be right, but in the real world, a lot of what they say will simply distract you from the basics.

Unless you want to do more, stick to the basics and keep it simple.

And do something every day.

Make a call, write an article, send an email, learn something, meet someone.

Do what feels right for you. Don’t force yourself to do anything that doesn’t.

And don’t worry about getting everything perfect.

You can be “sloppy” and build a big practice. As long as you get the basics right.

The basics

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Burned out and loving it

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You’ve got way too much to do and you’re overwhelmed. You’re stressed out, perpetually tired, making mistakes, and alienating clients or staff, or you’re bored out of your mind and wondering why you’re still doing this.

It’s called a sign. A signal that something’s not right and you need to do something about it.

The good news is that when you do, there’s a very good chance you will come out the other end much better off. Productive, happy, centered, and far more successful.

So, when you get that signal, what should you do?

I don’t know. But you do. Or rather, your body and mind do and they will guide you. But whatever it is they want you to do, don’t do immediately, reflexively, impulsively.

Don’t be rash.

Write it down and see what you think and how you feel about it. Talk to people who care about you, or a pastor or therapist. Tell them what’s going on with you and let them help you work through it.

And then explore your options.

At various times of my career, most of the following have helped me get unstuck and go on to bigger and better things, and I’ll bet they can help you do the same:

  1. Exercise, get more sleep, eat better, take some time off; you will feel better and be able to think more clearly and that might be all you need to reset.
  2. Delegate more. If you’re like most lawyers, you do too much yourself. Give more work to others so you can focus on what you do best and enjoy.
  3. Get help. Hire a business coach to help you sort things out, focus on what’s important, let go of what isn’t, and hold you accountable. Or team up with another professional to share ideas, progress, encouragement, and accountability.
  4. Get a hobby. Or a girlfriend. Or a side business. Something else you can focus on that makes you happy and gives you something to look forward to.
  5. Follow the plan. After you get some rest, sort out your goals and your process, developed some new habits or jettisoned some bad ones, get back to work. Action is almost always the cure for what ails you.

But if nothing you do seems to work despite your best efforts, start looking for the next chapter in your life. I did that, too, and I’m very glad I did.

If you need someone to talk to, let me know

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Pick two?

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I don’t know who first said it, but people are still saying it today. “You can get the work done quickly, you can get it done well, or you can get it done cheaply.” “Pick two,“ they say. “Because you can’t have all three”.

We’ve heard that said about all manner of products and services and undertakings. We may even say it ourselves.

But is it true?

Who says we can’t have all three?

In our world, the practice of law has three areas:

  1. Core legal skills: research, writing, presenting, strategizing, negotiation, etc.,
  2. Managing: hiring, budgeting, supervising, productivity, etc., and
  3. Marketing: bringing in the business, client relations, etc.

Who says they can’t be good at all three?

Clearly, they can. Many lawyers are excellent at all three.

But there are also many successful lawyers who are good at only one of the above.

They may be good at lawyering, all thumbs when it comes to running a practice, and clueless about marketing.

They may be good at running their practice (and making the most of what they have), but only “okay” in the other two areas.

They may be good at marketing but only adequate or reasonably competent at doing the work and running the practice.

So, I’m calling BS on the adage that you can only pick two. I say you can be good at all three. I also say you can be successful when you’re good at only one.

Now, something else they say. They say that we should focus on our strengths and not worry about getting good at everything. They say we can hire our weaknesses. They say we can be good enough at what we’re good at that we can succeed despite our weaknesses.

And to that, I’m going to agree.

Don’t ignore your weaknesses. But don’t spend a lot of time improving them (unless you want to). Get better at what you already do well, and everything else will take care of itself.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Better today than yesterday

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A legal career is a long journey. You start out as a new puppy, trying to find your legs and learn about the world. Everything is exciting and new, and nothing is easy.

I remember those days. Figuring out the forms, learning how to talk to clients, negotiate, write documents, litigate, and do all manner of important things for the first time.

It was difficult, but I only had a few clients and plenty of time to figure things out. I was young and hungry and scared, but I enjoyed the newness of it all.

If you’re at this stage, cherish this time for what you are learning and who you are becoming.

As I got busier, I entered another phase, with bigger problems to solve, more clients to juggle, and much longer hours. I was busy, but I wasn’t making much money. I still had a lot to learn, especially the business of practicing law.

I got serious about marketing, made changes, and brought in more clients and bigger cases. I was able to hire more help and while I was busier than before, I no longer “lived” at the office.

If you’re at this stage, appreciate all that you’ve done to get here and the many discoveries and adventures that lie ahead.

One day, I realized things were just working. I had money, lots of work and lots of help, and I knew what I was doing. I was busy but not busier than I wanted to be, and I was happy that I could continue doing it without the struggles of days gone by.

If you’re at this stage, congratulations. You made it to the top. Your career is in high gear and you have options. You can continue to grow and take things to an even higher level or you can re-direct some (or all) of your resources into other things—business, investments, philanthropy, writing or speaking, or fun.

Wherever you are right now, whatever phase of your journey, you are precisely where you’re supposed to be. Appreciate where you are and where you’ve been, and get excited about where you’re going.

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Your core work

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Yes, you perform legal services that deliver solutions and benefits to your clients. That’s your core work. That’s what you’re paid to do.

But that’s not the whole picture.

You can’t deliver those solutions if you don’t have clients who are willing and able to hire you.

So your work necessarily includes marketing.

Even if you aren’t required to do any “outside” marketing, you are responsible for keeping your clients happy so they will return and refer. You must invest time and other resources to do that. And while you can delegate some of it, you can’t (shouldn’t) delegate all of it.

You also have other responsibilities. You may not have to do the billing, bookkeeping, compliance, and other admin work, but you have to know what needs to be done so you can supervise the ones who do.

Here’s the truth some lawyers don’t want to admit: the practice of law isn’t just a profession, it’s a business.

Unless you work for someone else, or have partners that take care of the business side of the equation, you can’t practice your profession without building and maintaining the structure and systems that make the business run.

Your “areas of responsibility” include other things besides your core work.

As you sit down to plan the remainder of this year and the beginning of next, I urge you set goals for each of your areas of responsibility, choose appropriate projects that will help you achieve those goals, and schedule tasks you are committed to doing to move those projects forward.

Spending a little time thinking and planning will help you focus and do the work that matters most.

You’ll be able to run your business, so you can practice your profession, maximize your income, effectively use your time, and enjoy peace of mind, knowing you’re on top of everything.

How to create a simple marketing plan that really works

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