I’m a professional quitter

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In eighth grade, I joined the wrestling team. I gave it a semester and quit when I realized I wasn’t good enough and didn’t like it.

But isn’t quitting for losers?

Everyone says

  • Work harder
  • Give it time
  • You’ll get better with practice
  • You’ll learn to like it
  • If you quit, you’ll never know how good you could be
  • Do it anyway, it’s good for you

Well-intentioned advice, I’m sure, but is it right?

Ozan Varol says that sometimes quitting might be the best thing we can do:

I’m a professional quitter. After serving on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, I quit rocket science and went to law school. After practicing law for a few years, I left to join academia. Most recently, I decided to quit that as well and give up the security of tenure to double down on popular writing and speaking.

I quit things I don’t enjoy. I give up on ideas that fail to live up to expectations. I jettison projects that no longer serve me or my mission in the world.

He acknowledges that many people quit too soon and never find out what they might have accomplished. “Yet many people persist when they should quit,” he says.

If you continually fail at something, or resist doing it, it might be a sign that you should stop doing it.

Varol notes that when we continue doing things that aren’t working for us, aside from being unhappy, we pass up the opportunity to do something else, something we might be great at and love.

Those of us who have changed careers and found success doing something else know this is true.

And what’s true for careers can also be true for work projects, marketing methods, and marriages. Quitting may not only be a viable option, it might be the best one.

So, what would you like to quit today?

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3 things that make habits sticky

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Writing my blog post/newsletter is a well-established habit for me. I’ve been doing it for years and never have to remind myself, it’s just something I sit down and do.

It’s a sticky habit.

I have another habit that was sticky but has come unstuck.

For a long time, I took a walk 6 days per week. Then I missed several days and had trouble getting back to it.

I’m back to doing a short walk a few days per week, but I want to work my way back to my regular schedule.

James Clear, author of the best-selling Atomic Habits, tells us there are three things that help habits stick:

1) Repetition. Habits form based on frequency, not time.

2) Stable context. If the context is always changing, so is the behavior. You need a reliable environment.

3) Positive emotions. If it feels good, you’ll want to repeat it.

My thoughts:

1) Repetition

I started writing my blog/newsletter once a week. I increased this to thrice weekly, and for several years now, I write a post every weekday.

Repetition clearly made a difference.

What really got this habit to stick, however, was announcing my schedule to the world.

The world held me accountable.

Even today, when I might feel like taking the day off from writing, knowing there are people waiting to hear from me keeps me on schedule.

2) Stable context

The main issue with my walks is the weather. When it’s cold, it’s harder to get out the door, especially in the morning.

My context isn’t stable.

The solution might be as simple as getting warmer clothes, sweatpants and sweatshirt, instead of the shorts and t-shirts I usually wear.

3) Positive emotions

I enjoy writing my newsletter. I also enjoy the results it brings me.

I enjoy my walks. I get exercise, time to think and time to dictate notes.

So, how about you? Are your (positive) habits sticky? If not, now you know what to do.

Ready to up your marketing game? Here’s how

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How much time do you spend on marketing?

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I’m talking about time you designate exclusively for marketing and nothing else.

The time you spend calling or emailing former clients, to say hello or share information you think might interest them.

The time you spend reading about marketing, sales, advertising, psychology, or personal development.

The time you spend connecting with professional contacts, to discuss helping each other with referrals, list building, or to share ideas.

The time you spend writing articles, blog posts, or presentations, or creating videos, or reviewing content created for you by others.

The time you spend reading other lawyer’s blogs or newsletters, to find ideas you can use in yours.

The time you spend researching your niche market and the centers of influence in it.

That kind of time.

Look at your calendar for the last 30 days. How much time did you schedule to do things like these?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I know, “busy” is your middle name, but you don’t need a lot of time for marketing. Consistency is key.

Start by scheduling 15 minutes on your calendar each weekday, exclusively for marketing. If that seems difficult, start with ten minutes. Or 5.\

When that time arrives, do something, anything, that could be considered marketing, even if it’s scribbling down ideas or questions, reading a few pages in a book, outlining a new blog post, or re-organizing your notes.

If you’re stumped, sit quietly for ten or 15 minutes and do nothing. Eventually, you’ll get bored and do something.

And from there, great firms have been built.

Start today to build yours.

This will help

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Do your clients like you?

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The prevailing wisdom is that, “all things being equal, clients prefer to hire lawyers they know, like and trust.”

How do they know they’ll like a particular lawyer before they hire them?

They read reviews and testimonials that attest to the lawyer being “nice” or having a great personality or going out of their way to help them.

They get feedback from someone who referred said lawyer.

Or they size up the lawyer when they meet them networking, via a free consultation or by hearing them speak.

Sometimes, a client doesn’t do their homework, or is fooled by what others say, and they hire someone they don’t like. Or they get along with the lawyer in the beginning and something happens to change things.

They may stick with the lawyer out of convenience or because the lawyer is very good at their job, but. . . all things being equal, I’d rather have my clients like me, wouldn’t you?

There are things we can do to increase our likability. Becoming a better listener, for example, is a skill that can be learned and is an important factor in likability.

But sometimes, we tick all the boxes and some people still don’t like us.

It happens.

I’ve said things to clients I regretted saying, and apologized, but felt my words had tainted the relationship.

Sometimes, it’s just bad chemistry. Maybe you’re aggressive and they want someone who is gentle and understanding.

What can we do to improve our likability?

We can ask for feedback and conduct surveys, but clients may not be honest with us, or it might be too late.

We can ask our employees if they think the client is happy with us and if there’s anything we should work on, but they might be wrong.

We can self-assess. Think about our conversations with our clients, give ourselves a grade and make notes about ways to improve, but that might not be enough.

We can work ourselves. Read books and take courses on personal development and practice our interpersonal skills.

We should do all of these things, and more. We must be ever-vigilant and continually seek ways to keep our clients happy and make ourselves likable.

If we don’t, we’ll have to rely on our ability to consistently deliver good results and I don’t think any of us should take that for granted.

There are many ways to improve likability (and trustworthiness) detailed in The Attorney Marketing Formula.

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Tiny habits — for the win

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I haven’t read BJ Fogg’s best selling book, Tiny Habits, but was intrigued by a quote from it:

“Celebrating a win–no matter how tiny–will quickly lead to more wins”.

Reading the sales page and some reviews told me the premise–that we can effect great change in our lives by making small changes to what we (repeatedly) do–our habits–and when we celebrate our “wins,” it leads to more of the same.

Ostensibly, that’s because it triggers the release of dopamine, causing us to crave more of the same.

We feel good so we repeat the behavior.

Which is, of course, what happens each time we check a task on our list as “done”.

What areas of your life would you like to improve? What are some tiny habits that will help you do that?

If you’re trying to improve your health, tiny habits might include drinking more water, walking 3 days a week, and eating smaller portions of food.

If you’re working on building your practice, your habits might be to write a blog post or newsletter article once a week, check in with 1 professional contact each week, and to smile more when you’re speaking to someone (on camera, etc.)

Okay. You’ve identified some habits you want to develop. How do you celebrate your wins?

A few ideas:

  • Chart them. Every time you do them successfully, note this on your calendar or in an app.
  • Congratulate yourself. Just say, “Well done” or “I did it again”.
  • Write about it in your journal.
  • Share your progress with your spouse or workout partner.

It might help to gamify it. “If I walk around the block 3 times per week for 90 days, I’ll treat myself to a new [toy of your choice].

What tiny habits do you want to develop? And how will you celebrate your wins?

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How to choose your priorities

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Someone once said, “You can be, do, or have anything, just not everything, because there isn’t enough time.”

So, what will it be?

What’s most important to you? What are your highest values? Your biggest goals?

Yes, we’re talking about your priorities.

With so many options available, how do you choose?

The best way to do that is to look at all of your options and compare them to each other.

We don’t make decisions in a vacuum. We look at everything in the context of everything else.

At one point in your life, you could have chosen medical school or law school or some other career path. In making your choice, no doubt you looked at your other options and compared them.

You may have fallen into your practice area or areas, but at some point, you examined your other options and compared them to what you were already doing.

You have followed a similar process with other aspects of your work and personal life.

You didn’t choose your spouse randomly, did you? When you met them, you compared them to other people you had met or dated. You may have loved other people, but the odds are you loved the one you chose even more.

Prioritizing is about making choices. This instead of that, these things more than those things.

Sometimes, your priority is clear. Sometimes, you like a lot of things and have difficulty choosing.

This article suggests a way to make choosing easier. It describes an exercise for groups or teams but there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself.

The basic idea is to examine each option and compare it to another option. You may like both options but decide you prefer one “even over” the other.

For example, you might like getting clients via referrals and via search, but decide you like referred clients “even over” clients who find you via search.

Knowing your priority will inform your marketing decisions–what you do, what you don’t do, how you allocate your time and resources.

Sure, you can use both marketing methods, and others. But knowing your priorities gives your clarity and allows you to focus on doing things that matter most.

Ready to take a quantum leap in your marketing?

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Whelmed

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You’re underwhelmed when you have too little to do or a list of nothing but chores and other boring, unrewarding tasks.

Not fun. No way to live.

If that’s you, do something new and challenging. Read a book you don’t normally read, get out of your comfort zone, do something that scares you. Or start working on your new side-business or your book or another adventure.

What’s more common, especially for high achievers and perfectionists like us folk, is being overwhelmed.

We often have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Or we don’t know where to begin. Sometimes we’re paralyzed by indecision. Sometimes we don’t want to do anything.

There are many ways to get out of the funk and back on track. Here are some that work for me:

  1. Do a brain dump. Get everything out of your head and write it down. Everything you can think of that you have to do or remember or decide. Clear your mind of what weighs on it and you’ll feel better, more in control. And, by writing it down, you’re taking action, which helps build momentum towards getting the next thing done.
  2. Schedule it. Go through your list and note anything that has a due date or an important start date and put those on your calendar. More control, more peace of mind.
  3. Tidy up. Do something relatively mindless but useful, like dusting your desk, organizing digital files, or uncluttering drawers and closets. While you’re doing that, your subconscious mind is working on your todo list, figuring out what’s important and the best way to approach it. When you come back from your journey to Marie Kondo Land, you should have some clarity on what to do next.
  4. Choose three. Go back to your list, quickly scan it, and choose no more than three tasks or projects. Put those three on a sticky note or somewhere else you can see them and put everything else out of sight. Work on those three things until you finish them. Progress!
  5. Work on one thing at a time. Single task. I know, it’s difficult to work from home and simultaneously watch your kids, but you have to make space for yourself to do your work. Even one or two hours of uninterrupted quiet time can make a difference.

So, there you have it. A few thoughts on settling your mind and re-establishing control.

AKA, achieving whelment.

How to write a simple marketing plan. Here’s how

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Hit pause and take inventory

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Many people are feeling lost right now, uncertain about their future and what to do about it. Out of desperation, some are considering major career changes, thinking they have no choice but to start over.

If you know someone in that position, you might suggest that they stay put. Remind them that no matter where they are right now, they’re probably in a better position than they’d be in if they started from scratch.

They’ve got skills, experience, contacts, and a reputation. They’ve worked hard to get where they are.

Instead of jumping ship and working on a new career, they might be better off working on themselves.

That’s what Sue Hawkes, founder and CEO of a consulting firm, did when she had hit bottom.

“My life was in a deep, dark hole at age 42. I was living in a friend’s second home, I was working through my divorce, the economy and my businesses were in a shambles. It was 2008 and all areas of my life were challenged. I made a resolution to mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and financially intentionally improve myself by the time I was 50 by making long term, consistent and incremental improvements. I learned to say no to anything misaligned with my plan which included: learning to delegate without guilt, prioritizing my time and sticking to it, journaling my gratitude for a positive attitude, surrounding myself with supportive people who are champions of possibility, finding clarity in my purpose and personal values, and giving back to others. Over time, adding these small changes and practicing them changed my focus and my life.”

Sometimes, changing careers is the right decision. Before anyone takes that leap, they consider building on what they already have.

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Work on your strengths

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Tennis champ Roger Federer once said:

“In your professional life, I think it’s far better to be very, very good at one or two things and just marginal at the rest than to be merely good at lots of things.

“Working on your weaknesses makes you a complete player, but you won’t be dangerous anymore. That’s why I work on strengths.”

What are your strengths? What do you do best? Where would you consider yourself an expert?

Whatever it is, if you want to be ‘dangerous,’ continue working on improving your strength.

If you’re good at building rapport with people, for example, if that’s one of your strengths, you should work on mastering that skill.

Practice it. Research it. Study it. And talk to others who share that skill.

You may do this already. But are you totally committed to it?

When you come across information you know relative to your strength, do you dismiss it? Or do you revisit it, think about it and add it to your notes, with comments and links and questions to answer?

When you wake up, do you think about the mundane work tasks for the day, or do you think about what you’ve learned in the books you’re reading or the courses you’re taking that will help you get the extra edge?

Have you scheduled time today, and every day, to work on your skill?

If you want to be world-class, if you want others talking about you, interviewing you, writing profiles about you, and hiring you when there are so many others they could choose, if you want to be the Gerry Spence of your practice area, identify what you’re good at and commit to becoming even better.

Are you good at getting referrals? This will help you get more

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Is THIS the secret to getting everything you want?

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Entrepreneur and author Jennifer Cohen recently gave a TEDx Talk called The Secret to Getting Anything You Want In Life. Her premise: “Boldness is more important than intelligence”.

“Smart people think of all the negative things that can happen when things go wrong,” she said. “But, bold people think of all the good things that will happen when things go right.”

I don’t know if boldness and a positive outlook necessarily correlate but I agree with the idea that intelligent people tend to think about things that can go wrong.

Especially attorneys.

We’re paid to do that, and we’re good at it, but when it comes to managing our career and personal life, it can get in the way.

Starting a new marketing initiative, for example, is more difficult when you focus on all of the things that can go wrong.

Cohen says that boldness is a skill, meaning it can be learned and developed. She often practices that skill in restaurants, asking the server for a meal that’s not on the menu.

Annoying, yes. Like your fussy aunt who repeatedly sends her food back because something isn’t right.

Cohen does this because, “When you’re comfortable asking for the small things in life, it gives you the skills, habits, and confidence to ask for the bigger things.”

Cohen also makes a habit of asking for things she wants ten times. “If you make ten attempts at anything, I guarantee one will be successful,” she says.

I seem to remember my daughter employing this tactic when she was a lass.

I’ve never had a problem asking for things on behalf of a client; if you look up the term “ad nasuem” in the dictionary, you might find my photo. But when it comes to asking for things for myself, I could use some practice.

Maybe I need to eat out more.

How to get more referrals without asking for referrals

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