How to quickly learn a new skill

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Not long ago, my wife decided she wanted to learn how to bake bread. Today, she makes a damn fine loaf.

How long did it take her to learn? A lot less time than you might think.

According to a TED talk I just watched, it takes around 20 hours to learn a new skill. That’s around 45 minutes a day for a month. Not long at all.

You probably won’t reach world-class level but you can get good enough to make a difference.

What would you like to learn that you’ve put off because you thought it would be too difficult or take too much time?

Follow the 4 steps to rapid skill acquisition in this talk and you may surprise yourself at how good you can get in a matter of hours.

If one of the skills you’d like to acquire is learning how to do an effective presentation, watching this video is a good place to start.

The speaker keeps things simple and interesting, illustrating his points with stories and graphics. He also demonstrates the new skill he recently acquired, proving his premise in an entertaining way.

Check it out and tell me what you think.

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5 keys to creating a new habit

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Let’s say you want to get in shape. For exercise, you’ve chosen walking. You want to make this a habit and stick with it long enough to see results.

Here are 5 things you can do:

  • Choose a goal you know you can meet

You’re trying to create a new habit, not set any records, so your initial goal should be something you are almost certain you can achieve.

Walk three days a week, for example, for 10 or 15 minutes.

Establish the habit first. Once you’re done that, you can increase your target or goal. That’s how I started my walking habit.

  • Commit to a fixed period of time

Some studies show it takes 21 days to establish a new habit. Other studies say it’s 66 days. Choose a period of time, in advance, and commit to it.

  • Make it visible

Put your planned activities on your calendar. Use an app to receive a daily prompt. Put sticky notes on your computer.

Keep the habit in front of your face where you will see it often.

  • Document your progress

Check off each day you complete your activity. You can do this on your calendar or in a “habit-tracking” app.

Once you’ve started, don’t break the chain.

  • Get a workout partner or accountability partner

Find someone who wants to do what you’re planning to do and do it together. Or, check-in at the end of each day or week to share your progress.

Another option is to announce your new habit/goal to someone who will hold you accountable if you don’t stick with it. A spouse, a child, someone at work.

One more thing.

If you find yourself missing a day or breaking the chain, don’t beat yourself up, just start again. I’ve had to do it, more than once.

It’s okay.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and a good day to start (or re-start) a habit.

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Your most important client

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When I was writing my first marketing course, I did my best to work on it every day. I’d eat a quick lunch and work on it for 30 or 45 minutes, I worked on it after work and weekends, and sometimes I worked on it in the office between appointments.

I probably averaged one hour a day (over 3 years) working on my course.

I could have used that time doing more legal work, or anything else, but this project was important to me and I was willing to invest the time.

I thought about this as I was reading a blurb about a biography of Warren Buffett, The Snowball, where he tells a story about his partner, Charlie Munger:

Charlie, as a very young lawyer, was probably getting $20 an hour. He thought to himself, ‘Who’s my most valuable client?’ And he decided it was himself. So he decided to sell himself an hour each day. He did it early in the morning, working on these construction projects and real estate deals. Everybody should do this, be the client, and then work for other people, too, and sell yourself an hour a day.

Do you have a side-project? Investing, writing, another business? Do you work on it every day?

If you don’t have a side-project, you could be that side project.

What would happen to your practice if you invested one hour a day “sharpening your saw”–improving your personal and professional skills?

I encourage you to ‘sell yourself’ an hour a day to work on your project. Because you are your most important client.

Learn how to use email to build your practice

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The One Thing

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I just re-read The One Thing, the book that asks you to ask yourself, for each area of your life, this “Focusing Question”:

“What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary.”

The book, and the movement it has created, makes the case for drilling down through all of the possible things you could do, to find the one to do first.

I just asked myself that question about a new project I’m starting. It’s big and important and a bit intimidating and I don’t know where to begin.

In asking myself The Focusing Question, the answer I gave myself was this: research. It’s the one thing I can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary.

I’ll see my options, identify available resources, and get lot’s of ideas, all of which will help me gain perspective.

And that’s what I’m doing.

Reading, studying, learning, and making notes. When I’ve done that for a while, I will ask the focusing question again and see what to do next.

This is a much better approach than what I might otherwise have done: start anywhere and see what happens. As long as I don’t spend too much time learning and not enough time doing, I should be in good shape.

As you know, learning never stops for a professional. We continually invest in our business and ourselves. I buy a lot of books and courses and read every day because I’m all I’ve got and I want to be the best I can be. I’m sure you do, too.

If you want to be the best you can be in terms of marketing your practice, you owe it to yourself to check out my course, The Quantum Leap Marketing System which I’ve just re-released.

For taking your practice to the next level, it could be your “one thing”.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System

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I messed up

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Confession time. I’ve missed some of my daily walks lately. I could tell you it’s been hot or I’ve been busy but the reasons don’t matter. I need to get back on the consistency train.

How about you? Is there something you’ve stopped doing, or something you haven’t started you know you should?

A project, a person you need to call, a decision you need to make?

We all have these. The question is, what do we do about them?

The first step is to identify the problem. Sometimes that’s hard to do but you can’t fix a problem you don’t know (or won’t admit) you have.

Identify what you’re not doing and write it down in a place where you’ll see it. If you need a little more, talk to someone who will hold you accountable and confess your sins.

The good news is that this one step–being honest with yourself (and others) about a problem is often all you need to fix it. All that was needed was to remove it from the recesses of your consciousness and bring it front and center.

There will be other things we resist starting (or re-starting). As coach Don Shula once said, “It’s the start that stops most people.”

More good news: starting is easy.

The other day I was supposed to start a project that involved some research and writing. It’s not difficult, it won’t take more than an hour or two to do everything, but I still found myself procrastinating.

I opened a new tab in my browser, entered a a keyword phrase, and came up with 7 or 8 sites that had the information I needed.

I didn’t read everything, I simply saved the urls into a new note.

I’ll have this thing done today or tomorrow.

Baby steps, for the win.

Speaking of steps, I need to go take some right now.

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The market is boss

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It doesn’t matter how good your services are, how much value you deliver to clients, or how good you are at marketing. . . if there’s no demand for your services, you’re not going to sell any.

The good news is that the converse is also true.

If you offer services your market wants and is willing to pay for, you don’t need to do a lot of selling. You just need to get your message in front of the right people.

In One More Customer, football great turned mega-entrepreneur Fran Tarkenton said, “Look, if your big idea needs super-salesmanship. . . it’s not so big after all. Steven Jobs didn’t sell the iPad; he announced it. If you’ve got a truly great idea, you’ll only have to announce it and inform people about it.”

When you offer legal services people want and need, your job is to identify the people who need those services (or know people who do) and keep your name and message in front of them.

As a business partner of mine used to put it, “You don’t have to be good, you just need to be busy”.

Tell prospective clients how you can help them. Give them ways to learn more, e.g., information, seminars, consultations, etc. And stay in touch with them.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to improve your skills, your “customer service,” and your marketing. You do, because your competition is doing all of the above and you need to stay out ahead of them.

You will always need to work on personal and professional development. But if you offer something people want, you don’t need to obsess about it.

The easiest way to stay in touch is with email

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It’s now or never

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We often tell ourselves things that aren’t true. We tell ourselves that we have to do something, right now, or we’ll never get another chance.

We tell ourselves we have to go “all in” or we can’t possibly be successful.

We tell ourselves we shouldn’t take certain risks because there’s too much to lose.

Too often, its just our fears talking.

Recently, I spoke with an attorney who is at a crossroads in his career. He was considering some strategies for growing his practice and wanted my opinion. Which strategy? What’s the best way to go about it? What other things could he do?

A few days later I heard from again. He decided he wasn’t going to do the one big thing he had been considering. In fact, he was thinking about retiring.

He had enough investments and income to do that but he wasn’t sure he was ready to walk away from a career that he identified with for so many years.

And he didn’t know what he would do with his time.

We talked about some of his options. I could see he was feeling pressured to make a decision but was worried about making a mistake.

I told him he didn’t need to decide immediately. I suggested he give a little time to several ideas and see how he felt about them.

He would have figured that out himself, but sometimes it helps to have someone talk you through it.

The next time you have a decision to make and you keep hearing those little nagging voices telling you what you “must” do, ask yourself what you would tell a client who came to you with that decision.

The odds are you’ll give yourself some good advice.

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What are you excited about?

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My daughter is about to start a new job and move halfway across the country. My wife and I are excited for her and love hearing all the updates about the job, the move, and her new home.

We’re also excited because she’ll be living much closer to us.

It’s exciting to have something to be excited about.

Big or small, a new job or a new book to read, something that puts a smile on your face is a good thing.

So, what’s new and exciting in your life right now?

If you can’t think of anything, go get something.

Get a new client. Plan a vacation. Sign up for a cooking class or start outlining your novel.

Do something that makes you feel good when you think about it.

You know you’re got the right thing when you get busy with other things for an hour or two and then remember “it”.

Of course, it’s not the thing itself that gives you joy so much as the anticipation of it. Christmas morning is more exciting than the day after.

And, excitement is contagious. When you’re excited about something, the people around you pick up on the feeling. They like being around you.

Being happy is good for business. So go buy something that makes you happy. You can probably write it off.

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Intellectual incest

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If you’re smart and work hard but aren’t reaching the levels of success you want, one reason might be that you’re not meeting new people.

You may feel you don’t have to. Or that you don’t have time. Or you prefer to spend your time with the handful of folks in your inner circle.

Let’s face it, meeting new people isn’t everyone’s definition of having a good time.

But spending all of your time with people you already know limits your ability to grow.

You and your friends or close colleagues share similar ideas. You may have similar habits and access to the same types of opportunities.

According to the Law of Association, we become like the people we associate with most, which means that your associations might be holding you back.

Sounds like I’m saying you need some new friends.

Maybe friends is too strong a word. How about some new acquaintances.

People who aren’t so much like you. People with different backgrounds and different ideas. People who can lead you to new opportunities.

You don’t need a lot. One is a good number to start with. If it’s the right one, they can lead you to others.

So, here’s the plan.

Go some places you don’t usually go (in person or online, if you must), and talk to people you don’t know.

It’s a small step but it may be a big step towards getting to the next level.

How to get more referrals from other professionals

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Don’t get your panties in a festival

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Life is short. And messy. It’s easy to get worked up about little things that don’t amount to a hill of beans. 

Most things don’t matter. As John C. Maxwell put it, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

So my message to you (and myself) is to let it go. Whatever’s bothering you, put it in a helium balloon and let it float away.

(That’s the image I use sometimes. You’re welcome to use it.)

A few things do matter. Maybe 20%. Maybe less. Probably less. These few things, “the precious few,” account for most of your results and are worth most of your effort.

But they’re not worth any of your worry. Nothing is, because worry is a useless emotion. 

When you feel yourself starting to worry about a problem or poor results, use that feeling as a signal to review what you’re doing (or not doing) and make adjustments.

Ask yourself, “What can I do about this?” If there’s something you can do, do it. That’s your plan. If you don’t know what to do, your plan is to find out what you can do.

And if can’t do anything about the problem? Yep. Let it go.

Marketing made simple for attorneys

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