If you want to make everyone happy, sell ice cream

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John C. Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” By that definition, you are a leader.

People listen to you, not necessarily because of your title, skills, or experience, but because of your character, compassion, and strength.

People look up to leaders. They want to associate with them, learn from them, follow them. As a leader, you set the destination and the pace of the journey.

“This is where I’m going,” you say. “I hope you’ll join me.”

You show the world the path to a better future and some people choose to follow.

As a lawyer, you may be able to persuade them to follow. As a leader, you let them persuade themselves.

That’s influence.

Others will choose not to follow. You have to let them go. You can’t change the destination or compromise your values because of the whims of a few. You can’t slow down for the stragglers, they need to keep up with you.

You’ll disappoint people. You’ll face criticism. Your willingness to accept this is part of your strength, part of what makes others want to follow.

You can’t be an effective leader if you try to please everyone. You have to stay the course and be willing to accept the casualties.

As Steve Jobs said, “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.”

Leaders build their influence through regular communication

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Getting nine women pregnant

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How long does it take to build a successful law practice?

It takes as long as it takes and you can’t rush it.

As Warren Buffett said, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”

It also takes focus.

You may have heard this Buffett story:

One day, Buffett’s long-time pilot asked him for career advice. Buffett suggested he make two lists.

First, make a list of your top 25 career goals, Buffett told him. Once he’d done that, Buffett told him to circle his top 5 goals.

His pilot then had two lists and told Buffett that he would begin working on his top 5 goals. Buffett asked him about the other list, the 20 items he didn’t circle.

The pilot said those goals were also important to him and he would work on them intermittently, as and when he could.

Buffett told him that was a mistake. “Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

Buffett knows a thing or two about focus. In his long career, he has achieved extraordinary investment returns investing in a handful of companies at a time.

“Diversification is a protection against ignorance,” Buffett said.
“It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.”

So, if you know what you’re doing as an attorney, if what you’re doing is working, even though it may not be working as quickly as you’d like, stay the course.

Be patient. Stay focused. Your baby will be here when he gets here.

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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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Spinning your wheels

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Did you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere? You’re putting in time and effort but not making progress towards your goals?

Of course. We’ve all been there at some point in our life. Probably more than once.

What happened? What did you do to move forward?

Did you improve your knowledge or skills? Get some advice or help from someone with more experience? Work harder or invest more capital?

Maybe you did. Or maybe you just gave it more time and eventually figured things out.

Some would say that continuing to do the same things over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

I don’t buy it.

For one thing, the more you work–let’s say at your legal career–the more opportunities you have to “get lucky”.

To meet the one client or business connection that becomes a turning point for you. Or to win that one case that provides you with enough capital and confidence to take you to a higher level.

These things happen. Hang around long enough and they can happen for you.

But there’s something else going on.

As you continue to work, whether you see it happening or not, you continue to learn and improve your skills. Every time you do what you do you get feedback that allows you to make small changes.

Those changes might be as minuscule as using a few different words when meeting someone or changing the order in which you deliver a presentation or a closing argument.

Tiny things that don’t seem to matter. Tiny things you don’t know you’re doing.

Those tiny things combine with other tiny things, compound, and eventually change you. As you change, so do your results.

So, take some classes or get some help if you want to. Or, keep riding the painted pony and let those spinn‘ wheels spin.

Either way, you can get where you want to go.

How to get more referrals

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Freedom’s NOT just another word for nothing left to lose

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Last weekend, I went to my first Amazon bookstore. Yes, I got out from behind my computer and actually walked into a real store. 

It was nicely laid out, clean, and had an ample supply of books, considering the store’s small footprint. 

I didn’t find any of my books on the shelves, however, nor did I expect to. The store primarily carries books from major publishers and I am a self-publisher. 

I was approached by a legal publisher once. I submitted an outline but my heart wasn’t in it and the deal was never consummated. 

It would be nice to have a “real” publisher publish my books.  Give me a lot of exposure and prestige. Maybe even get the book into bookstores. So why did I turn it down?

Freedom.

As an indie publisher, I control everything. And I get the lion’s share of the royalties.

In other words, I turned down a publishing deal for the same reason I’ve never worked for a big firm or considered having partners. I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do or paying me what they thought I was worth.

We all have options in life. And we all tend to gravitate towards those options that align with our highest values and most important goals.

In my case, that means freedom.

Freedom can be a double-edged sword. Being free can be painful. So said Kris Kristofferson who wrote the song with that lyric.

Yes, freedom isn’t free. It comes at a price. I’m glad I was willing to pay it.

I built my practice with referrals

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Winging it

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We’re told that before we start a project (or a career) we need a plan and we need to know what we’re doing. Otherwise, we’re being reckless and inviting failure.

Sure. Only that doesn’t work for all of us, at least not all the time.

How many times have you just fallen into something, with no plan or reason to believe you will succeed? You took a leap and built your wings on the way down.

That’s how I started my practice, my brother.

I rented an office, bought some furniture, a typewriter and some supplies, and opened my door for business.

I didn’t know how to build a practice, or run a practice. I knew slightly more than jack squat about practicing law. I had no clients, no money, no clue.

If I had been a patient in the ICU, you would have said I was terminal.

But the patient lived.

So, here’s the thing.

Whatever you’re contemplating, be it project or career, plan if you must but don’t beat yourself if you feel like winging it.

I met my wife without a plan. Built businesses without a plan. Wrote books and courses without a plan. And started a law practice (twice) without a plan.

You know what? If I had forced myself to create a plan before I started the things I’ve done, I’m not sure I would have started most of them.

Oh yeah, what you just read? No plan.

Want more referrals? I wrote the plan for you

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Taking inventory

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Today is a holiday for a lot of people. If it’s a slow day for you, you might want to spend some time taking inventory of what’s going on in your life.

Reflect on what you’ve worked on recently and how it turned out. Think about what you’re working on now and what you have to do to complete it. Look at the list of tasks and projects you plan to start soon and identify the ones that look most promising.

Look in the digital mirror and tell yourself what you see.

Are you taking massive action to achieve important goals or are you just trying to get through the day?

Yes, you have to draft the documents, make the calls, see the people, and settle the cases. That’s what keeps the wheels turning and the people fed. But if that’s all you do, if you never think beyond what’s on your calendar for today, you make it more difficult to realize your potential.

Jim Rohn said, “A lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things.”

Is that you?

We get paid in proportion to the size and complexity of the problems we solve and the assets we create. If you handle small problems all day, you earn small fees.

If you want to build a multi-million dollar practice, you need to bring in clients with bigger problems.

As you take inventory, consider not only your current caseload or list of clients but the kinds of cases or clients you want attract. Who? How many? How big?

And then ask, What am I doing to attract them?

If you don’t like the answer, you have some work to do.

Start here

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When your goals are bigger than your gonads

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If you ever feel down about how little you’ve accomplished this week/this year/this lifetime, you’re not alone. We all feel that way from time to time. 

We set goals that are beyond our current capabilities. We take on too many projects at the same time. Or we let our fears get the better of us and stop us in our tracks.

Hey, we have big appetites. Big plans. And that’s good. So what if we don’t hit all our targets? We tried. We didn’t wimp out and settle for what’s easy, we took a shot at something great. 

So don’t beat yourself up for what you haven’t done. Even if you didn’t come close to hitting your goal, the odds are you’ve done a lot more than you realize. 

Look at your calendar for the last six months. Look at all the tasks you’ve crossed off your to-do list. Think about all of your works-in-progress (cases, client work product, projects, etc.) and reflect on the progress you’ve made. 

Celebrate what you’ve done and how far you’ve come. 

Really. You need to celebrate your awesomeness. 

Take a selfie and show the world your best stink-eye. Take a day off the diet and get you some Rum Raisin. Sing along with some stadium rock and wave your foam finger. 

Because you ARE a champion. A bad-ass, foam finger waving, Superbowl-quality champion.

Just make sure your windows are closed and the shades are drawn. Your neighbors are worried enough about you. 

If you’re not into football, here’s something else to watch

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What does success look like to you?

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What does success look like to you? Fame? Fortune? Raising your kids to be good people? Leading a long and healthy life? Loving relationships? Changing the world? Seeing the world?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer. It’s your life, after all. Nor are you limited to choosing any one thing. (You can make a boatload of money and raise great kids.)

If I had to choose one thing, one metric for defining and measuring success, I would probably use the following definition that just arrived in my email: 

“The standard of success in life isn’t the things. It isn’t the money or the stuff — it is absolutely the amount of joy you feel.”

This takes care of everything, doesn’t it? If you are happy about your income, for example, doesn’t that mean you are successful? 

Now, if you’re happy about something like your income, it doesn’t mean you can’t increase it. In fact, I believe that being happy about your income is the very thing that will allow you to increase it. 

Why?

Because we get what we focus on.

Focus on the joy you feel about your income (or whatever), and you’ll get more of it. Focus on “not enough” income, however,  and you’ll get more of “not enough”.

Is this The Law of Attraction? Our subconscious mind and reticular activating system at work? God’s will? 

I’m not sure. But it’s what I believe. 

Thing is, we don’t have to understand how this works. We don’t even have to believe it. We just need to do it. 

And, even if I’m wrong about all of this, if we don’t get what we focus on and joy is just a three-letter word, there’s nothing wrong with feeling good about your life, is there?

It feels good to get more referrals

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Taking inventory

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If you want to make this year better than last year, a good place to start is by taking inventory. 

What do you have in terms of cases or clients, relationships, and hard assets? 

Go through your calendar and apps and note how you spent your time. Similarly, go through your financial apps and note how you spent your money. 

As you examine last year, write down the positive experiences–victories, successful projects, good decisions, areas of growth.

Also write down the negative experiences–mistakes, failed projects, unresolved problems, unrealized plans. 

What did you do well? What can you improve?

As you do this, consider the people in your life. With whom did you associate most? What value did they bring you? How might your relationships be improved? Is there anyone you need to spend less time with or remove completely from your life?

Finally, go through your notes and write down the opportunities you see for this year. Projects, new habits or relationships, areas for improvement. 

To create your future, examine your past and learn from it. 

But don’t dwell on it. 

Don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes or missed opportunities, but don’t rest on your victories, either. 

The past is prologue. Use it to write your future.

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