A lesson from the clean-cut men in white dress shirts

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When I started practicing, it was well known that IBM had some of the best salesmen in the world. I say salesmen because as far as I know, they were nearly all men. They all wore the IBM uniform–white dress shirt, dark suit and tie, short hair, and neatly polished dress shoes.

You know the look. Yeah, like Mad Men.

They were well-groomed and well-trained and they sold a lot of IBM products. From the moment that salesman walked in my door and began his presentation, there was no doubt that he was going to walk out with an order.

For many decades, IBM sales people continually outsold their competition. Records were set and records were broken, helping make the company one of the top brands in the world.

But it wasn’t just good products, easy financing, and great training that did it. I just learned a surprising reason why IBM salesmen sold so much more than anyone else. It was because they had low quotas.

You would think it would be just the opposite: best products and training, highest quotas, right? If you are the best or aspire to be the best, why wouldn’t you set the bar high?

But IBM didn’t do that. They set the bar low and allowed their sales people to flourish organically, without feeling intimidated or pressured to meet a goal that seemed out of reach.

Tim Ferris echoed the value of setting smaller goals when he was asked about his daily writing goal. “Two crappy pages a day,” he said, when clearly he wrote far more.

Most people set short term goals that are too big. Smaller goals make it easier to succeed. Anyone can write two “crappy” pages. When you do, you feel good about hitting your goal so you keep going and write more.

No pressure. You do it because you want to. And once you start, it’s easy to continue.

Whether writing or selling typewriters or marketing legal services, the daily discipline of “two crappy pages” or “15 minutes” gets you started, and starting is the hardest part. If the goal was too big, you might not start at all.

Set smaller goals and hit them. No white shirt required.

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Let me help you achieve your goal

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Think of a goal you would love to accomplish. Something important, perhaps something you have wanted for a long time.

It could be a monetary goal, a weight-loss goal, or anything else that would make a significant difference in your life.

You’ll know it’s a good choice because when you think about the goal, you get excited. You feel a little tug in your gut that makes you say, “This is it; I’m doing this!”

Make sure your goal is S.M.A.R.T. — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based.

It might be a huge stretch but it should be realistic, possible for you to do by the deadline you set.

Got it? Good. Would you like me to help you achieve your goal?

Before you answer, let me tell you the rules.

If you want me to help you, you’ll need to send me an email and describe the goal and the deadline. I’ll hold onto your email and wait to see whether or not you hit the goal.

I’m going to hold you accountable to your goal.

When the deadline date arrives, send me another email and tell me if you hit the goal. (If you don’t email, I will assume you didn’t make it).

If you hit the goal, I will congratulate you. Get excited for you. Do a happy dance for you.

A good time will be had by all.

If you don’t achieve the goal, however, I will tell my entire email list that you didn’t make it.

I’ll tell them your name and city, your goal, the deadline, and your results.

That’s what I mean by holding you accountable.

You’ll either make it and wear a smile all day long, or you won’t and you will suffer the embarrassment of having lawyers all over the world know it.

Yeah, the pressure will be on.

But that’s the point. The pressure will help you to do what you’ve always been able to do but didn’t. It will prevent you from giving up. You’ll do whatever it takes to reach your goal. No excuses, no backtracking. You’ll reach the goal because you must.

In your email to me, make sure you acknowledge your understanding of the rules. Give me permission to hold you accountable and, if you don’t make it, to reveal to my list your full name, city, and your results. If you want me to report your results if you do hit the goal, so that we can all celebrate with you, please state that as well.

Here’s what I predict.

I predict that most people who read this won’t respond. They won’t take the chance. They’ll either keep their goal to themselves or they won’t even bother setting a goal.

I also predict that the few who do respond and ask me to hold them accountable will succeed. They will achieve their goal and be very glad they took the risk.

If you’re not prepared to accept my offer, consider asking someone else to hold you accountable. Accountability is strong medicine. It can make you do things you long for, dream about, but otherwise never accomplish.

If your goal is to get more referrals, this will help

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More about goal setting (and goal getting)

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Last week I talked about breaking up your big, long-term goals into short-term activities. You can’t “do” a goal, you can only do the activities that help you achieve it.

But sometimes, you find yourself intimidated by the immensity of a project and you procrastinate. Or you start but find it taking too long and give up.

If you’ve ever planned to update your website, create a new presentation, or start a new marketing campaign, for example, and found yourself putting these on the back burner, you know what I mean.

The key to doing a big project is to break it up into small tasks.

Let’s say your goal is to write a book. The first step is to break up that goal into a series of mini-goals: brainstorming topics, writing an outline, completing the first draft, and so on. Each mini-goal is less daunting and more doable. As you complete each mini-goal, you take a step closer to achieving the bigger goal.

Okay, you know this. No doubt you do it. You put the big goal at the top of the page and write a list of tasks or mini-goals underneath. But if you’re like most busy professionals, you still may find yourself procrastinating, or starting and abandoning projects.

The solution is to take each of your tasks or mini-goals and break it up into even smaller parts. The smaller the task, the more likely you are to do it.

Instead of a goal to write a 2,000-word chapter, for example, break it up into four 500-word sub-chapters or sections. Writing 500 words on a narrow aspect of the chapter’s subject is much easier than writing an entire chapter. If you know your subject, you can probably write those words in a matter of minutes.

Smaller tasks are easier to start because you can see the finish line. You won’t be as likely to procrastinate when you know you can complete the task in fifteen or twenty minutes.

But here’s something else: Smaller goals allow you to achieve more goals. You don’t have to wait until you finish a chapter to feel good about your progress, you can have that feeling each time you finish a sub-chapter. Each time you do, your brain gives you a shot of endorphin, you feel good and are motivated to write the next section.

Mini-goals also motivate you to continue working when you find yourself getting tired or distracted. You’ll push yourself to write “one more section” because you know it will only take a few more minutes.

This is how you build momentum and get the project done.

Whatever the project or goal, break it up into smaller parts or mini-goals, the smaller the better. When you have a few minutes between appointments, you can check off another mini-goal and take a step closer to accomplishing the big goal.

How to get referrals, step-by-step

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The goal setting conundrum

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So much has been written about goal setting it can make your head hurt.

Many say you should set big goals because they fuel your passion and drive you to reach great heights. Small goals aren’t inspiring, they say. Without big goals, you won’t accomplish big things.

They also point out that if you fall short of achieving your big goal you’ll still be ahead. “Reach for the sun, the moon, and the stars, and you might get the sun and the moon,” they tell us.

But if you’ve ever set big, hairy, audacious goals, and not come close to reaching them, you know there’s something missing in this equation.

Have you ever put up posters with affirmations declaring your big goal, or vision boards resplendent with the goodness that awaits you when you achieve it? It’s exciting at first, but when years go by and you’re not even close to reaching your goal, your goal isn’t inspiring you, it’s doing just the opposite.

What then? Should you set lower, more “realistic” goals? If you aren’t close to a goal of $500,000 per year in income, for example, should you change the goal to $150,000?

No. Don’t lower your goals. That’s no fun at all.

Keep the big goals because they really are inspiring. When you go through a rough spot, your big goals give you a reason to keep going. They remind you that what you’re doing may be hard but it’s worth it.

So what you do?

First, see your big goal for what it really is, a dream, something you’re working to achieve some day. Forget about “when” you will achieve it, or “how”.

You can’t make a dream come true by simply choosing a “due date” for it. Nor is it possible to know how you will make it happen. There are too many variables and unknowns and trying to figure it all out in advance usually leads to anxiety and disappointment.

Instead of “when” and “how,” focus on “what” and “why”.

Think about what you want to be, do, or have, and why this is important to you. Think about how you will feel when you get there, and enjoy that feeling.

By acknowledging what you want and why you want it but remaining flexible about when and how you achieve it, you give emotional power to your dream, allowing it to continue to inspire you, instead of putting soul-crushing pressure on you to make it happen.

But you need something else.

You need to set short-term goals related to the big goal that are likely to move you forward towards achieving it. But whereas your long-term goal is about results, your short-term goals should be about activities.

Again, you can’t predict or control results. You don’t know when (or if) something will happen, or how.

But you can control your activities.

If your long-term goal or dream is to hit the $500, 000 income level, one of your short-term activity goals might be to contact two new prospective referral sources each week. That’s an activity you can control and it is almost certain to increase your income.

Establish a series of small, short-term activity goals that will move you towards your long-term goal. Hitting those goals is how you’ll make your dream come true.

How to find and approach new referral sources

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What’s stopping you?

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Think of something you want. A goal, an accomplishment, an acquisition, or anything else that’s important to you.

What do you want to be, do, or have?

Got it? Good. Now, answer this: why don’t you have it already?

Write down everything you can think of that’s stopping you from being or having or doing what you want.

It could be anything:

  • Not knowing what to do or how to do it
  • A lack of capital
  • A lack of skills
  • Not knowing the right people
  • Not enough time
  • Fear of failure or fear of success
  • A lack of buy-in from partners
  • Physical limitations
  • Inferior market
  • Anything!

Keep thinking and adding to your list. When you’re done, ask your spouse or a friend or your law partner for their input. Why do they think you don’t have X? Add their thoughts to your list.

Next up, take another sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. In the left column, write “Obstacles” at the top of the page. Re-write your list of obstacles. Skip a line between each one.

In the right-hand column, at the top of the page, write “What can I do about it?” Then, for each obstacle, write down what you can do.

If the obstacle is “Not knowing what to do,” your “can-dos” might include doing research, taking a course, and asking someone you know for help. If you don’t know anyone who can help you, your can-do would be to ask people you know if they know anyone with the requisite knowledge or experience, and would they introduce you?

If you don’t have any “can-dos” for a given obstacle, cross that obstacle off of your list. Why dwell on something you can’t do anything about?

Ah, but there is almost always something you can do. Keep thinking. Keep adding to your list.

Congratulations. You now have a list of things you can do to remove the obstacles to having what you want.

Go through your list again and choose an obstacle. Then, choose one or more “can-dos” for that obstacle and transfer them to your regular task list or project planner.

Get to work and remove the obstacle. Then, go back and tackle the next obstacle.

The point of this exercise is to get clear on what you want, what’s stopping you, and what you can do to change that dynamic. In other words, to focus on solutions.

You have a plan. You have things you can do. Go do them.

Here’s a plan to get more referrals

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If you know what to do to reach your goal, it’s not a big enough goal

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A friend of mine, a successful lawyer, business owner, and speaker, frequently tells his audiences, “You’re not thinking big enough”. He says most people set goals that are too small and quit when they hit the first obstacle.

Small goals may be achievable but they’re not exciting. They don’t motivate us to overcome our fears or to keep going in the face of defeat. Only big, seemingly unachievable goals have that power.

Bob Proctor says, “If you know what to do to reach your goal, it’s not a big enough goal”. He says,

“Set a goal to achieve something that is so big, so exhilarating that it excites you and scares you at the same time. It must be a goal that is so appealing, so much in line with your spiritual core that you can’t get it out of your mind. If you do not get chills when you set a goal, you’re not setting big enough goals.”

Grant Cardone, author of “The 10x Rule,” makes the same assertion. He says that the biggest mistake people make in life is not setting big enough goals. We should set goals that are 10X greater than what we believe we can achieve, he says.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this is a dream, not a goal. A goal is something we have some basis for believing we can achieve.

Dream? Goal? I’m not sure it matters what you call it. All I know is that if we’re not excited about it, we’re not going to give it much energy. And we need a lot of energy to achieve anything great. Cardone says that we should take action that is 10X greater than what we believe is necessary to achieve our goal.

I don’t know about you but if I’m going to work that hard, it better be worth it.

A marketing plan gives you a place to start. Here’s the one I recommend

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Dream big, start small. Or big.

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Are you the type of person who jumps into the deep end of the pool or do you dip your toes in first?

Deep-end divers usually say the water may be cold and jumping in is the quickest way to overcome the shock. Toe-dippers say they prefer to become acclimated to the cold and go all in when they’re ready.

This isn’t a referendum on swimming habits, of course. It’s a metaphor for how you handle change.

If you have a big goal you want to accomplish or a big project with lots of moving parts, do you throw yourself into it with everything you’ve got and sort it out as you go along? Or do you create a detailed plan, study and prepare before you take the first step?

Either way is fine. What’s not recommended is “none of the above,” that is, sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing. Don’t do that. Better to do something and back away if you’re not ready or you decide it’s not worth the effort.

Every experience is a learning experience and the more of them you have, the better. Half-finished projects, abandoned ideas, and unfinished first drafts are all fodder for your creative brain. Try lots of ideas and you’ll surely find some winners.

It’s also okay to use different approaches for different projects. You might start some projects by diving in and splashing about. With others, you might check the temperature before you decide what to do next.

In either case, do something. Read something. Make some notes. Talk to someone. Great accomplishments often start with very small steps. Big steps are okay, too.

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You’re (still) not thinking big enough

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When you sit down to set some goals, you probably look back at the previous month or year and use that as your guide.

That’s okay, but every once in awhile, you need to think bigger.

Instead of always setting “normal” goals, think up some big, hairy, audacious ones. Goals that stretch your imagination and condition your subconscious mind to reach for much bigger and better outcomes.

A goal to bring in one additional new client per week is a fine goal, but it’s so ordinary. What if you could bring in one additional new client per day? What if you could bring in five additional new clients per day?

What if, instead of increasing your income by 20% this year you “allowed” yourself to think about increasing it by 200%?

That’s the kind of thinking I’m talking about.

If you always think ordinary thoughts and set ordinary goals, you can’t expect to achieve anything but ordinary results. If you let logic determine your future, you may never discover what’s possible.

Logic be damned.

Giant leaps are possible. We’ve all seen people who accomplish amazing things in just a few years.

Why not you?

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” Napoleon Hill said.

I’m not suggesting living in a fantasy world or suspending common sense. I’m saying it’s a good thing to regularly ask yourself, “What if?”

Have some fun with this. Brainstorm and write down lots of ideas. Say to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be nice if. . .” and let your inner child come up with ideas. Crazy ideas, impossible ideas, but exciting ideas that put a smile on your face.

Questions like these can stimulate your imagination and plant seeds for future growth.

Just start throwing out ideas and see where it takes you:

“Wouldn’t it be nice to work only four hours per day, or four hours per week?”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to do litigation any more?”

“Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to build my practice with only 10% of my current overhead?”

“Wouldn’t it be nice to practice law without any clients?”

Go crazy. Tickle your funny bone with wild ideas. Write down as many silly questions as possible.

Because you’ll never know what’s possible unless you think big enough.

For a simple marketing plan that really works, get this

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You are more powerful than you may know

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As you think about your New Year’s resolutions and goals for the coming year I feel compelled to remind you that you are more powerful than you may know.

Fear not. Great things await you. You can have what you want, do what you want, and be who you want.

The world might seem to be upside down right now, you may at times despair for the future, but everything you need is within your grasp. You can create your own miracles and in so doing, you can save the world.

You may not be comfortable with that power, but you have it nonetheless. It is in each of us and we should not hide from it, we should embrace it.

As Marianne Williamson, in “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of ‘A Course in Miracles,'” elegantly put it:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Think bigger. Reach higher. Get out of your own way and allow your dreams to become your reality.

You are a child of God and He doesn’t want you to play small.

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Are you getting stale?

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You’ve been a lawyer for more than a few years and you’re good at what you do. So good, you could do most of your job in your sleep.

You know the forms to use and the words to say. You know the best places to park at the courthouse. You know the judges and other lawyers, and they know you.

Your job has become routine. Easy. Life is good.

Don’t get too comfortable. Before you know it, some rookie lawyer will come along and eat your lunch.

They may not know what you know or be able to do what you can do, but they’re fresh and hungry. Everything is new and exciting. They’ve got energy and drive and something to prove.

And let’s not forget that they have been using computers since pre-school.

If you’re not careful, as their practice grows, you may see yours diminish.

But you can stay ahead of them by re-inventing yourself and your practice. Become a new lawyer again. Look at everything with fresh eyes.

Imagine that you have just opened your doors and you don’t have any clients. Get hustling and bring some in before the end of the month.

Take classes in your practice area and also in practice areas you know nothing about. Take classes in business, marketing, sales, writing, and speaking.

Take some cases you’ve never handled before. Find another lawyer to associate with you or mentor you.

Start over, from scratch, and build your practice again.

In the military, for a day or for a week, a unit will periodically stand down and review all of their operations. You should do the same thing. Examine all of your office management procedures and forms, look for holes that need to be patched, find expenses that can be reduced or eliminated, and processes that can be improved.

Do the same thing with your marketing. Find ways to make it better. Eliminate things that aren’t working, do more of  the things that are, and find new ways to bring in business you’ve never tried before.

Examine every piece of paper in your office and every electron in your computer. Resolve to get organized, eliminate clutter, and streamline your workflow.

And from this day forward, do something new every week. New ideas, new projects, new people, will keep you fresh and alert and sharp and open new doors for you.

Get excited about the future you are about to create and then go eat someone else’s lunch.

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