Step back and look at the big picture

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Yesterday, after my walk, I was cooling down in the park, and saw a bird perched near the top of a tree. I watched him move higher until he was sitting on the highest branch where he sat and actively looked around.

I wondered what he was looking at, or for. His mate? Scouting for predators? Searching for food? Or was he just enjoying the view, naturally climbing higher because his instincts told him that this was the safest place?

From his higher perch, he could survey the land and decide where to go and what to do next. I thought this was an apt paradigm for a human life, that is, the value of periodically stopping and looking at the big picture.

We need to get our nose out of books and away from our devices. We need to hang up our phones. We need some time and some distance from our routines so we can assess where we are and where we want to go.

I do a lot of thinking on my walks. But they aren’t long enough to explore much more than my day or my week–what I’m working on now or what I need to do next.

No time to asses what I’ve done this year, or contemplate what I want to do next year or in the years to come.

Maybe a longer walk would help. Maybe a retreat. Or a few days off at a resort (with room service) where I can think and plan.

I know some folks who take a couple of days off every year to decide on their goals for the coming year. It gives them clarity, they say, and allows them to focus, plan and manage their future.

“The Getting Things Done” methodology talks about the need to look at your life from the 50,000-foot level, and all the way down to the “runway” level where we work and live day-to-day. Other methodologies do something similar, having you first determine your long-term vision and then working backward to map out your yearly and then monthly goals, and finally your daily activities.

However you go about it, it comes down to stepping away from the minutia of daily living, to look at the horizon, asses the threats and the opportunities, and decide where to go next.

Make sure you also have a marketing plan

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A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client?

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Is it true? Does a lawyer who represents himself have a fool for a client?

Some people say that if you represent yourself in a proceeding or negotiation, it’s too easy to compromise your power and invite your emotions to get in the way.

I think they might be onto to something.

I can be tough as nails when it comes to representing a client’s interests but I’m not so good when it comes to representing my own.

If we have a contractor over to the house to bid on something, I’ll read the contracts but do my best to avoid talking to the contractor. I’m afraid I’ll either give away what I’m willing to accept or piss the guy off and have him take a walk.

My wife doesn’t have these issues. She’s nice to people. Level headed. So she talks to contractors and salespeople for us. I look at the bid and tell her what I think and she gets the deal done.

Okay, but you can’t hire an attorney or hide behind your wife for everything in life. And I don’t. I can and do ask for lots of things, like asking vendors to honor an expired coupon, for example.

The other day, I was looking at some software and reading some reviews. I saw a bunch of coupons offering discounts, including a few for 80% off, but all of the coupons were expired. I contacted the company and asked if they had any current coupons or promotions. A representative got back to me this morning and said they didn’t, that the ones I saw online were part of their ‘kickstarter’ phase.

So sad. Too bad. (Don’t tell her. I’ll probably buy anyway. At least I tried.)

And then she said, “But I can offer you 10% off; just use [coupon code]”.

What did I accomplish? I’ll save a few bucks and that’s nice but I gained something far more valuable. I imprinted on my brain a successful ‘negotiation’ on my behalf. I asked for something and I got something. Yay me.

I know, some lawyers are reading this and thinking, “What a wuss. I’d go back and ask for 80%, maybe settle for 50%. It’s not over until I win!”

Okay, settle down.

Anyway, if you’re like me and you are sometimes reluctant to negotiate on your behalf or ask people for favors, do what I did and get in some practice.

Practice asking your clients for referrals or to share your content. Practice asking website visitors to sign up for your newsletter. Practice asking seminar attendees to make an appointment. Practice asking prospective clients to sign up.

It never hurts to ask. And who knows, you might actually get good at it someday. If not, talk to my wife. Maybe she’ll help you out.

You can ask for referrals without talking to your clients. Here’s how

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The secret to my success

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Want to know the secret to my success? The secret is simple. I do a few things well.

That’s it. A few things. The “precious few” in 80/20 parlance, that deliver the majority of my results.

I run three businesses. In each business, there are only a few things I focus on to keep the wheels turning. Well, actually, one business is nearly 100% passive income and requires almost none of my time anymore. The other two businesses are flexible enough that I can work at them when (and if) I choose. So for me, at this stage of my life, my precious few are “writing, learning, and marketing.”

How about you?

If you run a law practice, your precious few probably include, “marketing, management, personal development, and work product”. Am I right?

[Sidebar: Don’t be one of those lawyers who foolishly boasts that they don’t do any marketing. Everything you do is marketing.

Every time you speak to a client you’re showing them why they should remain your client and refer their friends. Every time you give someone your card or mention your website you’re inviting them to learn more about you do. Every time you talk to a prospective client or fellow professional you’re showing them why they should do business with you. It’s all marketing. All of it.

Okay, back on the record.]

Let’s start with “areas of focus”. You run a law practice, you have a personal life. That’s two. You might also do charitable work, be active in your church, or have a hobby or outside interest that’s important to you.

What are your precious few areas of focus?

Next, for each area of focus, think about the precious few things you focus on (or need to).

For your practice, what are the precious few things you do for marketing?

You may focus on a few types of clients, niche markets, or practice areas. Your strategies might include client referrals, professional referrals, and driving traffic to your website. If you advertise, your precious few might include a group of niche publications, keywords, or offers that deliver the majority of your results. You might create content, build a social media following, or speak or network in the “real world”.

What are they? What are precious few in your marketing?

For work product, you might derive most of your income from a certain type of case or client or a certain type of work. What are your precious few?

For management, you might focus on new client intake procedures (although that’s also marketing), billing, and document management. You might focus on hiring the best people, training, or building culture. What are your precious few?

For personal development, you might work on building a new habit, improving a particular skill, or acquiring a certain type of knowledge. What do you focus on? What are your precious few?

In the end, success comes from doing a few simple things. It can’t be any other way. You can’t do 100 things and expect to do them all well. You can’t focus on 100 things you can only focus on a few.

I built my practice with referrals. It was one of my precious few.

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I wanted to change the world

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You can’t look at the world today without wondering, “How did things get this bad”. Everywhere you turn you see evil and hatred, bad people and bad ideas. You want things to change. You want the world to change. What can you do?

When we are young and foolish, we think we can change the world. We soon learn that the world is big and we have very little power to change it. Eventually, we give up and get on with our lives, hoping someone else will lead the charge.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Wanting to change the world has been around for a very long time. In 1100 A.D., an unknown monk penned this poem:

I Wanted To Change The World

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

Change yourself and you can change the world.

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What’s in your “done” column?

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You plan your day before it begins. During the day, you “do”. At the end of the day, before planning tomorrow, you review what you did today to see what you did well and how you can improve.

A good way to examine your day is to review the things in your “done” column or list. As you do, ask yourself these four questions (and write down the answers):

  1. What did I do well today?You want to focus on the positive. Train yourself to focus on your strengths and your progress. Reinforce this by giving yourself credit for a job well done.
  2. What can I do better?Be honest with yourself. What would do differently? What would you avoid doing? What could you improve?
  3. What problems did I encounter?Identify stumbling blocks, distractions, or barriers that slowed you down or threw you off track. Note when they occurred and how you can prepare for the next time.
  4. What did I learn?What did you discover about yourself or about your work? Did you get any ideas for future projects or for improving your current systems? Did you find a new method or tool?

Asking and answering these four questions about your day, and periodically reviewing your notes, will help you continually achieve better outcomes. Over time, the effect will compound.

Schedule time each day to plan, do, and review.

Schedule time to get more referrals

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Is this a new definition of success?

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How do you define success? Here’s the definition I’ve used for a long time: being able to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want.

Under this definition, success means having the freedom to choose how you want to live your life. You can use your time and your money as you see fit. You can be altruistic, self-indulgent, or anything in between.

Bottom line, you can spend your days on earth doing what you love all day, every day.

Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

How do you get there? Well, this morning I read a somewhat different definition of success that may give us a clue.

YouTuber Casey Neistat said, “What’s the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.”

I like the sound of that. How about you?

If you hate traffic, changing your work situation to eliminate your daily commute would clearly be a measure of success. If you’re like me and you’ve had your fill of work travel, not having to do it anymore would also have to go in the success column.

Hmm, I think we have a plan.

Instead of looking for ways to get more of what we want and thus adding more work to our already busy schedules, we should first get rid of the things we don’t want. The things that make us uncomfortable, waste our time, distract us, enervate us.

Each time you do this, you score a double victory. You get rid of something that sucks the life out of you and simultaneously free up time and energy to do the things you love.

Don’t put more on your plate. Clear your plate to make room for more.

Yes, there will always be things you can’t eliminate. But maybe you can find ways to do them quicker or less often. Or make them less unpleasant.

So, yes, we have a plan. Make a “don’t do” list and start checking off the boxes.

What will you eliminate first?

Does your website regularly bring you new business? Here’s how to make it so

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The simplest way to build self-confidence

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Ever see those folks who, no matter where they are in life, are brimming with self-confidence?

They may be lacking in fundamental skills or knowledge. They may have a spotty record of achievement. They may not be charming or good looking or have a pleasant personality. And yet, somehow, they always have a “can do” attitude about life and it serves them well.

What’s their secret? How did they develop this self-confidence? More importantly, how can we?

The answer is simple. Do hard things.

Getting up early to plan your day is hard. Exercising is hard. Opening your own practice is hard. Giving up time with your family so you can network is hard.

Doing hard things leads to confidence.

Confidence means knowing that you can rely on yourself. That you’re good enough, strong enough, worthy enough to do the job and get what you want.

One of the reasons we go to school is to develop self-confidence. We learn that if we can do math and chemistry and learn a foreign language, if we can try out and make the team, if we can ask someone out on a date, if we can do these things we can do anything.

Are you more confident about your work today than when you first started practicing? You got there through hard work, overcoming challenges, and learning from your mistakes.

Doing hard things provides a reservoir of experiences to draw on, reminding you that no matter how difficult the task, you can do it.

If you want to be more confident, go do hard things. Lots of them. The harder the better. Do something you’ve never done before or do something you’ve tried and given up. Do something hard and prove to yourself that you can do anything.

One thing that’s not hard: getting referrals

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What do you do when you don’t want to do something?

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We’ve all got things in our lives we don’t want to do. We usually do them anyway, because they have to be done. But some things are particularly unpleasant and we procrastinate or look for excuses to get out of doing them.

Have you ever had to make a phone call about an especially difficult subject, or to a person you really don’t want to speak to? Sometimes, you rip the bandage off and make the call. Sometimes, you keep avoiding it, dreading it and worrying about it until you have to do anyway.

You hear that “old school” voice in your head. It says, “Quit stalling. Stop whining, you have to do it so man up and make the call. Get it over with. It probably won’t be as bad as you think.”

Sound familiar?

“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain,” said Mark Twain. Do the thing you don’t want to do and you’ll feel better once you do.

And that voice is right. Perfectly logical, dammit. So, you make the call. Before you know it, it’s done and, guess what? It wasn’t as bad as you thought. All that worry for naught.

But there’s another school of thought. “New school,” or “new age”. This school says that instead of doing the thing you don’t want to do and then feeling better, feel better first.

Feel better before you act. If nothing else, you’ll be less fearful or stressed out about what you have to do.

Something else happens when you go for the feeling first. You often find yourself doing things that make a better outcome more likely.

In the case of the phone call, your better feelings may cause you to greet the other person with a different tone or phrase your request in more agreeable terms. You may think of additional points to make in your favor.

Which way is better? They both work, of course. In the end, most things turn out okay. But if you usually worry and avoid doing things you don’t want to do and then do them anyway, you might want to try it the other way and spare yourself all that suffering.

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If your mom managed your law firm

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When we were kids our moms made sure we followed the rules. We ate our peas, did our homework, studied for tests, and told them if we were going to be late for dinner. Our parents wanted to protect us and get a good start in life so they made us follow the rules. Or else.

If your mom managed your law firm, she would do the same thing.

She’d make sure you did your work, calendared every date, filed every document, and billed every client. If a client didn’t pay, she’d be on the phone, reminding them and threatening to call their mom.

No doubt, she’d also make you tidy up your office at the end of the day.

You would be more productive and profitable but nobody wants their mom telling them what to do, or telling everyone embarrassing stories about something we did when we were six.

Besides, we have administrators to do most of the things our mom would do.

The problem is, an administrator does what you tell them to do, not the other way around.

So you need self-discipline. Which is loosely defined as doing things you need to do whether you feel like doing them or not.

Self-discipline means conquering procrastination and developing consistency. Not because your mom made you but because you made yourself.

One way to develop self-discipline is to start small. If you find it difficult to do marketing 15 minutes a day, start with 5 minutes. Or one minute. Or start doing it once a week.

Develop the habit of doing it consistently, first, and go from there.

Another way to develop self-discipline is to first develop it in other areas of your life. If you are undisciplined about following your task management system, start by getting self-disciplined about reading every day or going to bed 30 minutes earlier.

Someone said, “How you do anything is how you do everything,” and if that’s true, when you develop discipline in one area of your life, it helps you become disciplined in others.

A good place to start is with physical activity. Taking a twenty-minute walk three days a week, for example, is easy to do and easy to measure. You’re either doing it or you’re not.

Walking will not only improve your health and give you more energy, it will help you to become more disciplined about doing more cerebral activities like writing, personal development, or marketing.

Walking is also good for getting ideas. Where do you think I got the idea for this post?

Does your website need more content? This will help

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How to start a conversation with a stranger

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Being able to approach and speak to strangers is a valuable skill to have in your marketing quiver. Like any skill, you can get better with practice.

Yesterday, after my walk, I was at the park cooling down and saw a mother pushing her two youngsters on the swings. The boy, who looked about three, was chattering on about reaching the sky and asking lots of questions about outer space and rocket ships. His mother didn’t dismiss his questions, she patiently answered them.

After listening for a couple of minutes, I asked the woman if she was a teacher. She said she was before becoming a stay-at-home mom and asked me how I knew. I said, “Because you are so patient with all his questions, plus, you had some really good answers!”

Question asked. Conversation started. Compliment thrown in for good measure.

It really is (can be) that simple.

In this case, I learned something I could use to start the conversation by listening to her talk to her son, but I could have just as easily told her she had cute kids or asked how old they were.

If I wanted to continue the conversation I would have asked another question. At some point, I would have made sure to mention “my wife” and “my daughter,” however, to let her know I’m a family guy and not some stalker. Situational awareness is your friend.

Anyway, if you want to improve your conversational skills, start practicing. The next time you’re in line for coffee or sitting next to someone in a waiting room, talk to the person next to you.

If you can’t think of anything to say, ask them if they have the time. When they pull out their phone to respond, ask what model it is and if they’re ready to upgrade.

Sure fire conversation material. Maybe even better than kids.

How to get Maximum Referrals 

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