Study success


Jim Rohn said, “If you want to become more successful, study success.”

How do you do that? By studying successful people. People who have accomplished what you want to accomplish. People who inspire you. People you would like to learn from and emulate. 

Lawyers who have done what you want to do. Entrepreneurs. Business leaders. Great speakers and writers and philosophers. 

You can find successful people in your city or on the Internet, in biographies and the pages of history, and even in fiction.

Read their books. And books about them. Listen to their presentations and interviews. Most of all, watch what they do because their actions will tell you more than their words.

Reflect on what you learn. Ask yourself, why are they successful? What are their philosophies? What are (or were) their daily habits? What advice would they give you if you spent an hour with them?

Think about them often. When you have a problem, ask yourself what they would do about it. If you have an important decision to make, ask yourself what they would advise you to consider.

But don’t just read and think about them, write about them, in articles or in your journal, and talk about them and their philosophies in your presentations. Tell others their story and why you admire them.

If you want to be more successful, study success. And successful people.


Look for the pony


There’s an old joke about a boy who fell into a big stinky pile of dung. Instead of trying to escape, he dives headfirst into it and stays there, splashing around. When he finally extricates himself, he’s asked why he did that.

“With all that horse poop, I figured there had to be a pony.”

Dumb joke, but it illustrates an important point about maintaining a positive attitude in the face of a mess. 

When you have a problem or crisis, you might want to ignore it, curl up in a ball, or run away, but no matter how bad the problem is, there’s always something you can do.  

At least that’s how you should think about it. 

You can’t control what happened. You can control your response. 

Stay calm. You can’t panic yourself out of a crisis. Take 5 minutes for a pity party if you must and then take a deep breath and focus on what you can do.

Problems have solutions. Ask yourself “What happened?” “Why?” and “What can I do about it?” You might not enjoy revisiting the problem, but asking questions like these, and answering them, allows you to get clear about your situation and find a solution.

No matter what the solution, it will require action. You have to do something and it will almost always be something you haven’t been doing. That might mean getting out of your comfort zone and if that’s something you resist, consider that the discomfort it causes might be a lot less than what you will feel if you don’t fix the problem.

Take action, continue to do that, and fully expect that you “can fix this”. Because you are unlikely to fix it if you don’t believe you can.

While you’re at it, look for something good about what happened. Maybe you learned an important lesson. Maybe you explored some new ideas you can use in good times and bad. Maybe you lost something but gained something even better. 

When you fall into a pile of dung, look for the pony.


Why read books when we have so much other options?


I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s important and worth mentioning again. I thought about the subject recently when I realized I wasn’t reading enough books. 

I buy them. But don’t always read them. And I feel bad about that because I know I’m missing out. 

Articles are fine. So are videos and podcasts and courses. Good information is good information. But there’s something special about books. 

Books have room to provide the “why” behind the “how,” elaborate on the arguments and counter-arguments, tell us the background and history, and provide more examples and stories to illustrate the author’s points and make those points relatable and memorable. 

That’s why. 

One good book can change your worldview, persuade you to change your habits, and inspire you to do things you might never have considered possible. 

They can also take you on adventures to faraway places like nothing you can see on a screen.

Yes, books take a long time to read. Which is why we don’t read as many. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe we wouldn’t feel the need to read as many articles and blog posts or watch as many videos if read more books. 

Most of those articles say pretty much the same thing, don’t they? One good book can give us new ideas, because the authors of those books have spent a lot of time thinking and researching and interviewing other people who have spent a lot of time doing the same.

But that’s a good book and sadly, so many books don’t qualify.

So, we read reviews and talk to people who have read other books on the subject and point us towards the best options.

And we take speed-reading courses and learn how to get through more books and find the ones that are good enough to be read again. 


How to make the right decision


Yes or no? This or that? Now or later? How do you figure out what to do? 

Yeah, it depends. 

What’s at stake? What’s important to you? Are you trying to solve a problem or achieve a goal? 

And, what else is on your plate right now? 

Here are some options to help you decide:

  1. Trust your gut. Your first impulse is often the right one. 
  2. Research. Read, talk to people, see what others have done and how it worked out, and see what they advise for you 
  3. Think on paper. Brainstorm ideas, write down what you know, what you want, what you could do, the risks and the rewards. Writing fosters clarity and focus. 
  4. Do a little. Start, see what happens, and how you feel about it. Do you like what you see? Did you learn something? Get other ideas?
  5. Give it time. Get away from the idea and let your subconscious mind work on it. And then, trust your gut. 

Any one of these could help you decide. Try one or try them all. And, if you don’t know which one to try first, I suggest the last one: give it time. 

Because you may already know the right answer and just need time to give yourself permission to do it.


What do you plan to do with this information? 


Best-selling author Ryan Holiday said, “When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information?” 

That’s the reason we read, isn’t it? Yes, we also read for entertainment and to learn about subjects that interest us, but the primary reason we consume content is because we want to do something with the information. 

We have projects to complete and goals to achieve. We want to grow our business and improve our life and we use the information we gather to help us get better results. 

Holiday seems to suggest that deciding what to do with the information is best done before we read it, or at least while we’re doing it. We get more out of it that way because we see the information in the context of our work or an important area of our life.

So, when you buy a book or bookmark an article or video, think about what you want to get out of it. What do you hope to learn? To which project or area of your life do you think it will apply? 

By considering this in advance, when you read the material, you’re more likely to pick up on things you might have missed, and ask yourself more probative questions that can improve your understanding and use of the material. 

Then, when you read the material, take notes and put those notes in your own words. Don’t merely record the facts or ideas, write down what you think about those facts or ideas and how you can use them.

Do you agree with the author? See a better way? Think of additional ideas? 

Add tags or labels to your notes  to make them easier to find. Add links to your other notes to make them more useful. 

And decide if the information is good enough to read more than once.

Finally, if you realize that the material isn’t what you hoped it would be, don’t hesitate to skim the remainder or close the book and find something else to read. 

Because information is only as good at what you can do with it. 


4 ways to learn (anything)


Most formal learning occurs through reading, watching videos, listening to presentations and interviews, and taking courses. Learned knowledge is the most common way we acquire information, but it’s just one way we learn. 

We also learn by doing activities—trying out the information, practicing the skills—and we often learn more because we’re using more of our senses and getting feedback about our activities.

You can learn how to how to improve your closing arguments by reading books, but you learn more by practicing the skills and techniques in those books. 

Taking notes on what we read or hear is also activity knowledge. As we process the information we’ve seen or heard, and record our thoughts or questions about that information, we internalize our learned knowledge, give it context, and make it more likely we will remember it. 

But there’s a third way we learn—by modeling others. 

You can learn how to get more referrals by reading blogs and books and getting ideas and tips. Then, you might rehearse what to say, say it, and thus get better at it. You’ll get better still by observing someone who is good at talking about referrals with their clients or colleagues, because you can watch their body language, observe their timing, and see how they handle questions and objections. You can also ask them questions and ask them to observe you and provide feedback. 

Finally, there is “teaching” knowledge. We learn the most by teaching others what we know and do. Want to learn how to get better at negotiating? Prepare a presentation on that subject or teach a CLE class. 

Learned knowledge, activity knowledge, modeling knowledge, and teaching knowledge. 4 ways to learn new information and improve your skills. 

Learn how to get more referrals from your clients


Going on a research diet


If you’re like me, you never know if you’ve done enough research. There’s always more to look at and, God bless us, we can’t help ourselves—we keep looking. 

In school, in business, and in a law practice, due dates and deadlines come to our rescue. We “call a lid” because we have to get the work out the door—or else.

When there is no deadline imposed by a teacher, a client or court, however, it’s a different story. 

How long have you been planning and researching that book or business project?. Exactly.

You never know when you’ve done enough research so you keep doing more, just in case.  

Perfectionism? Self-doubt? Imposter syndrome? Call it by any name, but it boils down to our fear of making a mistake. 

But we can’t spend our life in perpetual research. At some point we have to say, “enough”. 

But how? 

One way is to redefine the project or goal. Instead of doing enough research to write the book, for example, the task is to do enough research to START writing the book. 

But that’s only a partial solution because you will inevitably see something that calls for you to do more research. 

What then? How do you know when you’ve done enough? 

You don’t. Not by any logical metric, anyway. You’re better off trusting your gut. When you feel pulled towards the finish line more than you feel pulled to doing more research, you go with that. 

It’s your only option. Unless you’re prepared to hold yourself accountable to someone else. A partner, spouse, or friend—someone who won’t let you get away with endless research. 

Someone who will kick your butt for you. Like your teacher, your client, or the court. 


A strange way to make people like you


This is going to sound weird. It’s a psychological concept named after Ben Franklin, who used it to get a rival legislator and powerful political enemy to put aside his ill will towards Franklin.  

His foe didn’t like Ben and had been making negative speeches about him. Ben was determined to win him over. But instead of offering to give something to his rival, or do something for him to show him he was a good guy, Ben did the opposite. He asked the man to do something for him. 

Yep, he asked his enemy for a favor. 

He knew the man owned a rare book, and Ben asked if he would loan it to him. When he returned the book, Ben thanked him profusely and found that his old enemy became his friend. 

Ben had triggered what we now know as cognitive dissonance. 

Our brains find it difficult to hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time. To resolve this conflict, we tend to alter one of our beliefs. 

His rival didn’t like Franklin, which contrasted with his belief that you don’t do favors for people you don’t like, something he had just done. To resolve this conflict, he was forced to back away from his negative feelings towards Franklin, and that’s how these enemies became friends. 

Today, it’s called The Ben Franklin Effect and you can use it to win friends and influence people.

If you want someone to like you, get them to do you a favor. 


I was a dumb kid


I’ve told you that when I was a kid, I hated pizza. But I had never eaten any. There was just something about it I was sure I wouldn’t like. 

Yeah, dumb. 

You know what happened. You know my parents told me to “try one bite” and if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to eat any more. 

Of course I loved it.

On the other hand, my grandfather told me that beets were good for me and I would like them. Nope. 

So, parents and grandparents aren’t right about everything. But they’re right about one thing. You won’t know until you try it. 

We know this is true as adults. Or do we? 

More than a few attorneys tell me they don’t like (take your pick of marketing activities). So they don’t do it. Even though they never tried it. 

More often, they have tried it. They just didn’t try it enough. Or learn how to do it properly. So they don’t do it again.

I’ve done this. I’m sure you have, too. We think we know better. We’re stubborn. And we tell ourselves that something isn’t for us.  

My message to you, and to myself, is to not only try things that might be good for us, but to give them a fair try.  

One time might not be enough to determine that networking isn’t your thing. Maybe it was the wrong organization for you, or you met the wrong people. Try again.

Advertising? Yes, you might lose money and decide it’s not for you. But you could also learn from your first experience, improve, and go on to earn a fortune. 

One time being interviewed on a podcast or giving a talk (and messing up) doesn’t mean it will always be that way. 

Giving things a fair a fair try also means being willing to learn more. You might try something you read about in a book, for example, and get poor results. But you might read another book that gives you another way and that might be just what you needed.

You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t read that other book. 

But what if you give something a fair try and hate it? What then?

Don’t do it. Don’t continue doing things you hate, even if they work. Delegate them or outsource them, or do something else that works that you enjoy. 

I tried beets and hated them, even if they were good for me. 

Pizza was an entirely different story. 


What to focus on this year


What are you grateful for right now? Yes, I know it’s been a rough year for a lot of people. But there were some good things, too.

And it is the good things that we should focus on, even if they are small and the bad things aren’t.

Think about something in your life you appreciate. Something good, however small.

Because what we focus on grows.

When you focus on things you appreciate, you get more things to appreciate. Gratitude floods the brain with dopamine. It feels good (and supplants things that aren’t), and we want to feel it again so we do things and find things that create more dopamine.

The more you express gratitude, the better you feel and the more you have to feel good about.

Gratitude is a recipe for better health. More energy, less stress, better self-esteem, better sleep, and fewer negative emotions.

The more gratitude you feel, the happier, healthier, and more successful you become.

Science says it is so.

This year, starting from this very moment, think about things you appreciate. Your big wins, surely, but also the new baby in the house. The look in your dog’s eyes when he greets you. Something kind someone said about you. Finding the last parking space. Last night’s delicious spaghetti dinner.

It could be anything. Anything that feels good when you think about it.

Remind yourself that you have a lot to be thankful for, about yourself, your work, your life, and even the world.

Open your computer or phone and appreciate how much it makes your day more productive. Keep a gratitude journal and write in it every day. Pray or meditate and say thanks every day.

Look in the mirror and think of something you like about yourself. Thank someone for something. Think about your family, your clients, or your staff, and give thanks for having them in your life.

Focus less on what’s wrong with the world and more on what’s right.

Because what you focus on grows.