Do something, even if it’s wrong

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Yesterday, I pontificated about how much information is “enough” to make a decision. Subscriber John S. agreed with my message and told me that his high school football coach used to say, “Do something, even it’s wrong”.

Coach wanted them to move, not just stand there. John said that if they waited too long, analyzed every option, the opponent could run by them and score.

If you’re like me (and you are,) you are often guilty of over-thinking, over-analyzing and procrastinating while you figure out the best thing to do and the best way to do it. It goes with the job.

But let’s face it, while our analytical tendencies are valuable in many contexts, they often keep us from doing things that could dramatically improve our lives.

As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.”

So, yeah. My new motto is, “Do something, even if it’s wrong”.

Nobody is ever going to describe me as impetuous, but I’m putting the habit of taking action at the top of my list. Okay, number two. Maybe three. Gotta keep it real.

So thank you John S. And, if you ever see your old coach, thank him for me, too.

Do something about your website

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When you should trust your gut and when you shouldn’t

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One thing that always bothered me about legal research was knowing when to quit. How do you know when you have enough citations or enough arguments to win?

If you are exhaustive, you risk turning off your reader. If that reader is a judge (or law professor if you’re still in school), you’ll hurt your cause instead of helping it.

How much is enough but not “too much”?

Unless there are rules dictating the length of a document, you don’t know for certain. All you can do is use your best estimate. Fortunately, that usually works. Your instincts and experience tell you when you have enough and usually restrain you from including too much.

Why don’t we have that same Spidey Sense when it comes to making important decisions?

Decisions about marketing, managing, and building our practice. Financial and health decisions. Decisions about the direction of our life.

Instead of using our best estimate, we often procrastinate. We tell ourselves we need more information because we’re afraid of making a mistake.

But we often do have enough information. We don’t need to be 90% certain. According to Jeff Bezos (in a 2016 letter to Shareholders), 70% is enough:

“Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”

In an article referencing Bezos’ comments, it was noted that Colin Powell also weighed in on the subject:

“You should make a decision when you have between 40% and 70% of the possible information… Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.”

Powell said that if you have less than that, you’re likely to make the wrong decision. But he agrees with Bezos: “If you wait until you have more than 70%, by the time you make the decision, it will be so late that you will have missed the opportunity.”

How about that? Actual numbers.

Now, if we could just figure out how much 70% is.

Here’s more than enough information about how to get more referrals

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The hidden costs of every decision

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Everything you buy or do comes at a cost. You pay the price with your money, your time, or your energy. Some costs you pay without thinking because you believe you have no choice. You pay the rent or the mortgage, for example, because bad things will happen if you don’t.

But you may have other options.

You might negotiate a lower rate. You might move to lower-cost digs. If you never consider these options, you might pay more than necessary. Over time, a lot more.

Decisions come with another hidden cost. The opportunity cost.

The opportunity cost is what you give up when you decide to buy or do one thing instead of another.

When you spend a dollar to buy something, that dollar cannot be spent on anything else. Similarly, when you spend an hour doing an activity, you can’t spend that hour on any other.

What you give up by doing one thing instead of another could eventually cost you a fortune.

An hour spent on a client file might bring you hundreds of dollars. That same hour spent on attracting a new client, however, might ultimately generate hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

Yes, you have to do the work. But don’t do it–or pay your rent–without considering the hidden costs.

How to get more traffic and build your list: click here

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Practice makes pregnant

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I took drum lessons for several years. I loved playing but I didn’t love practicing. Maybe you can relate.

Our parents and teachers meant well when they told us that it was important to practice. Funny thing, they were right.

It’s called “spaced repetition”. It’s how we learn and how we improve our skills. You can’t expect to get good at anything without it.

“Practice makes perfect,” we were told. But when you’re a kid, especially a teenager, practice is the last thing you want to do. (Unless it’s the kind of thing that makes babies.)

And that’s why many of us no longer play the drums.

As adults, practice is also required. If you want to improve your writing, your oratory skills or anything else, you need to practice. As a kid, we could say, “I don’t want to” and often (eventually) get out of doing it. We can’t do that as professionals.

And yet many do. Nowhere is this more evident than with marketing.

Lawyers start networking, for example, and give up because they don’t like it or because they’re not getting results fast enough. They start a newsletter or a blog or a video channel and give up because it takes too much time.

If they stuck with it, they might find themselves getting good at it. With practice, it gets easier, takes less time, and brings enough results to make it all worthwhile.

They might even learn to like it.

The work is usually not that difficult. Boring, perhaps, outside our comfort zone, but not difficult. Practice a few minutes a day, keep doing it, and eventually, you can master just about anything.

What’s tough is getting our heads right and making the choice to not give up. Whatever it is you want to improve, tell yourself, “I will until” and keep at it until you do.

Want more clients? Practice the art of getting referrals

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The list’s (still) the thing

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Many moons ago, I told you about the lists I kept for my boyhood coin collection. Yeah, the one I sold buy furniture and pay the first month’s rent on my first law office.

Anyway, I had two lists: one for “want” and one for “have”. I kept these in my wallet so that when I visited the Kennedy Coin Club in suburban Chicago, I would know which coins I needed for my collection and extras I had to trade or sell.

I’ve also written about the value of having lists for running your practice. These can be lists of steps, instructions or checklists, to make sure you don’t forget anything, or to train new employees or temps.

Examples:

  • File opening/closing procedures
  • Investigating/background checks
  • Drafting pleadings/discovery
  • Form letters/email templates
  • Experts/vendors (stenographers, investigators, arbitrators, mediators, interpreters, repairs, etc.)
  • Supplies: quantities, where to order
  • How to use software, apps, online services

How about for marketing:

  • Prospective clients
  • Bloggers/editors in your niche
  • Publications that accept guest posts
  • Organizations/groups where you can speak/network
  • Ideas for blog/social media posts/videos/articles
  • Social media posting schedule/process
  • Lawyers you know and what they do (for referrals)
  • Business owners/professionals who sell to your niche market

And a ho lot more.

We can’t be all work and no play (even if we’re not named Jack) so how about some personal lists:

  • Movies/books that interest you
  • Your bucket list
  • Packing checklist
  • Vacation ideas
  • Writing prompts
  • Health metrics (blood pressure, weight, etc.)
  • Exercise routines, workout schedule
  • Retirement planning
  • Investments
  • Debt reduction schedule/journal
  • Jokes/stories/quotes/
  • Recipes
  • Routines (weekly review, inbox zero, computer updates)

And the list goes on. And on and on.

You can keep lists of just about anything, as reminders, as a way to measure progress, or as a way to memorialize your journey.

You might start with a “list of lists”–ideas for lists that can make you healthier, more productive, or more profitable. Or lists that sound like fun.

(Lawyers are still allowed to have fun, aren’t we? Well, as long as there are no witnesses.)

I keep my lists in Evernote

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A few questions to help you get what you want

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Think of something you want to be, do, or have. Something that puts a smile on your face and makes you all tingly when you think about it.

Got it? Good. Let’s see if we can help you get it.

Start by answering a few questions:

  1. Is it possible? If anyone has ever done it, the answer is yes.
  2. Is it possible for you? Be honest. If you’re 50 years old and 5’2″, you’re not going to play in the NBA.
  3. Is it possible for you right now? Do you have the money to buy it or do it? Do you have the skills, contacts, and experience to make it happen?
  4. If you have what you need, why don’t you have what you want? What else do you need? More time? More practice? More help?
  5. If it’s not possible for you right now, what has to happen first?

Look at the list of things that have to happen first. Everything you need to learn and do. Still want it or have you bitten off more than you can chew?

If you still want it and you’re willing to do what you need to do to get it, congratulations. You have a goal and a plan.

All you need now is get to work.

Get this if your goal is to get more referrals

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What’s your favorite failure?

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Imagine you’re a guest on Tim Ferriss’s podcast. He’s interviewing you about your success, you’re sharing your brilliance with his big audience, things are going well. Then he asks his favorite interview question: “What’s your favorite failure?”

Not your biggest or most unusual. Your favorite. He assumes that you failed at something that taught you something important or led you to something much better.

Because failures do that.

They reveal your weaknesses, errors in judgment, and areas you need to improve. So you can improve them. They teach you what doesn’t work, making it more likely that you’ll find what does. And they steer you towards different options, leading to better ideas and bigger results.

Ferriss told the story about how the failure of one of his books eventually led him to starting his podcast which has turned out to be one of his most remunerative and satisfying accomplishments.

Failures rock! Especially the big fugly ones.

When you experience a costly or embarrassing failure, the pain you feel motivates you to change. Without that pain, you might forget your mistakes and repeat them.

Don’t bury your failures, cherish them. Investments that went bad, projects that were dead on arrival, marriages that didn’t last. They taught you something you needed to learn. They prepared you for the next step.

But don’t dwell on your failures. Respect them and move on. Until you’re being interviewed and someone asks, “What’s your favorite failure?”

Are you getting all the referrals you want? This will help

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2 easy-peasy techniques to stop procrastination

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You’ve got something you need to do but you’ve been putting it off. Maybe it’s unpleasant. Maybe you’re not ready. Maybe you’re not sure you can do a good job.

It doesn’t matter why you’re procrastinating. All that matters is that you’re not doing something you know you need to do.

There are many techniques for dealing with procrastination but one is about as simple as it gets. It’s called the ‘5 Second Rule’ and it goes like this:

As soon as you have an urge to do something or the recognition that you need to do it, start doing it within the next 5 seconds.

It’s like pulling off a bandage. Don’t think about it, do it and get it over with.

Since this is a habit you’re trying to develop, you might need a little help. Try a “five-second countdown”. As a kid, when I was tired and didn’t want to get out of a warm bed on a cold morning, I would do a countdown–5, 4, 3, 2, 1-and then spring out of bed.

What can I say, it worked.

Another technique for dealing with procrastination goes by a similar name. It’s the ‘5-minute rule’. Here, you commit to doing the task for just 5 minutes.

You can do just about anything for 5 minutes. Then you can turn your attention to something else. “I’m just going to work on this file for 5 minutes; then I’ll watch that new cat video”.

What frequently happens, of course, is that once you begin (and see that it’s not as bad as you thought and it feels good to make some progress), you’ll want to continue. 5 minutes turns into 15 or 30.

Use the 5-second rule and 5-minute rule together and you might be amazed at what you get done.

How to use your website to make your phone ring

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Hanging with the big dogs

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“Who you know is more important than what you know”. It’s a law. The Law of Association.

We tend to be like the people with whom we associate most. If your personal and professional contacts consist primarily of smart, successful, and well-connected people, you are probably smart, successful, and well-connected.

We tend to share many of the same habits, attitudes, and opinions of the people in our inner circle. We read the same types of books, talk about the same subjects, and know many of the same types of people.

Your life would be different if your contacts consisted primarily of lazy people with bad habits and a poor work ethic.

Your task is clear. To continually upgrade your associations.

On a scale of 1 to 100, we are all 50s. There are people we look up to–the 80s, 90s, and 100s, and there are people who look up to us. To upgrade your associations, you’ll want to seek out and associate with the 80s and above.

It’s not easy to meet the top people in any field, let alone convince them to invite you into their world.

But you can do it.

Start by eliminating the bad influences in your life. They’re holding you back.

If you now associate with 20s and 30s, people with bad habits, bad attitudes, and poor motivation, stop spending time with them. If it’s difficult to remove them completely from your life, perhaps because they are family or co-workers, spend less time with them.

Then, start filling the void with people who are a little higher up the scale from you.

You’re a 50, right? So find and meet some 60s. People who have more experience, better skills, or more success than you.

Get to know them. Bring value to them. Eventually, you’ll become like them.

Then, as a 60, seek out some 70s.

Work your way up the scale, in increments. Eventually, you’ll be associating with 90s and 100s.

Maybe then I’ll take your call.

How to get referrals from lawyers and other professionals

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Where are you thinking about?

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I’m at the Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, CA. It hasn’t changed much since the last time I was here but I feel a bit strange because I’m not wearing a suit. My wife was called for jury duty and I’m keeping her company.

One thing that has changed about the civic center is the scope of the homelessness problem. Outside the third floor window, I see a massive encampment. It’s like nothing I’ve seen before.

I’m not going to think about that right now, however. Right now I’m thinking about the words I’m typing for this post and about the book I’ll be finishing up after that.

I do my best to focus on things I can control. I think about where I want to go and what I need to do to get there. If a negative thought arises or a problem occurs, I deal with it appropriately and then push it aside.

I hope you do the same.

Earl Nightingale urged us to think about what we want, not what we don’t want. He said, “. . .the man who has no goal, who doesn’t know where he’s going, and whose thoughts must, therefore, be thoughts of confusion and anxiety and fear and worry, becomes what he thinks about. His life becomes one of frustration and fear and anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing. . . he becomes nothing.”

So, what are you thinking about?

Are you worried about how you’re going to make overhead this month or are you planning your next big project? Are you frustrated by problems at work (or outside your window), or are you excited about the many opportunities at your feet?

If you’re like most people, you spend a lot of time focused on the work you have to finish today and very little time thinking about your future.

That allows you to survive, not thrive.

If you want a brighter future, you have to think about that future. Because we become what we think about.

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