Guaranteed to fail

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Want to know how to succeed? Figure out how to fail and do the opposite. That’s the premise of a process called Inversion Thinking. And while it sounds simplistic, I think there’s a lot to say for it. 

Especially if you have too many options and can’t decide what to do or the best way to do it. 

For example, let’s say you have a goal to increase your firm’s revenue by 50% in the next six months, but you’re not sure how. You brainstorm ideas, strategies, workflow improvements, and search for new marketing methods, but you still don’t have a plan. With inversion thinking, you might ask yourself, “What would I do if I wanted to guarantee I would FAIL to achieve my goal?”

Ridiculous? Yes. And that’s the point. By identifying guaranteed ways to fail, you identify things to avoid and also things that you should specifically focus on (i.e., the opposite.)

So, you make a list of ways to guarantee you would fail to hit your revenue goal: 

  • Ignore former clients and prospects; they know where to find me if they need me
  • Immediately start as many new marketing projects as possible
  • Check social media constantly
  • Rely on “brand” advertising to build name recognition
  • Do everything myself (don’t delegate or outsource anything)
  • Do nothing myself (hire expensive consultants and have them do everything)
  • Make sure everything is perfect or don’t do it at all
  • Wing it; I’m smart, I don’t need a plan or schedule

And so on. 

Go a little crazy. Then, do the opposite: 

  • Prioritize staying in touch with former clients and prospects because they already know you, can provide repeat business and referrals, and there is no cost to find them
  • Focus on only one or two projects at a time
  • Limit social media to 20 minutes per day
  • Set up a schedule for working on these projects, put this on my calendar, and set up reminders
  • Progress is better than perfection; get started, make it better over time

You may not always know what to do to succeed, but you can usually figure out how to fail. Then, do the opposite. Or at least don’t do anything you know is guaranteed to fail.  

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Winning

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Okay, maybe you’re not the best lawyer in town. Other lawyers have better skills, more experience, a better track record, deeper pockets, more charisma, and better connections. They look better, smell better, and have a boatload of energy. 

How can you possibly beat them?

By working harder than they do? Maybe. But that gets old. 

You beat them not by outworking them, but by out-marketing them. 

That doesn’t mean your marketing has to be amazing. Just better. You do a few things well and do them more consistently and enthusiastically.

It means knowing your market—what they want and need—and committing to helping them get it. 

It means providing great “customer” service to all of your clients, and building strong relationships with your key clients and referral sources. 

It means making marketing your top priority. Something most attorneys are unwilling to do. 

They go through the motions. Or believe they only have to do good legal work and the growth of their practice will take care of itself. 

You know, the ones who say, “I didn’t go to law school to become a salesperson…”. Who don’t understand that the legal work is only one part of building a successful practice. Or think marketing of any kind is unprofessional and beneath them.

You can beat them. 

Because you understand that a law practice is a business, first, and job one is bringing in a steady stream of clients and keeping them happy. 

When you do that, you might not be the best lawyer in town, but you might be the wealthiest. 

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Study success

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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.

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Scaling up

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You’re doing okay. Making six-figures or multiple six-figures, but you want to hit seven- or eight-figures (or more). 

You can. And you can get there in less time and with less effort than it took to get where you are now. 

The hard work is at the beginning. 

In the beginning, you had to learn the law and the law biz. You learned how to bring in clients and keep them happy. You learned how to build a network, become a better speaker or writer, manage cash flow, find your niche, and find your stride.

You made mistakes and learned from them. You had successes and know what you like and are good at and what isn’t your cup of tea.

You went from raw and inexperienced to making a living as a professional. 

It was hard. You had no momentum. Now, you do. You have a base to build on and getting to the next level will be easier. 

But you’ll also have bigger challenges. More expenses, tougher competition, additional responsibilities. You have people to manage, offices to upgrade, and a lot more at stake. You have to let go of some people, jettison old habits. You have to become the kind of person who earns what you want to earn. 

And it will be hard. But it will also be easier.

It’s easier to go from six-figures to seven, seven to eight. Because you know more and can do more things, and do them better. And you have momentum and momentum compounds. 

You will continue to grow and reach new levels.

As long as you don’t mess up. 

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Why should I believe you? 

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You’re in the convincing business. People either believe you (and hire you, rule for you, agree with you, etc.) or they don’t. Your success depends on getting more people to believe you and your clients. 

You can always use logic and reasoning, and you should. But “telling” people and reasoning with them may not be enough. 

That’s why you should also share:

  1. PROOF: Copies of checks or documents, show them your awards, show them the statutes, let them hear eyewitness testimony, show them diagrams and photos of the scene, practice with them for depo or trial, show them your content, and offer free consultations so they can see for themself what you do and how good you are.
  2. STORIES: Sare the words and experiences of people (like them), by showing them testimonials and reviews and thank-you notes from clients, telling them success stories about cases you’ve handled, and stories about people who didn’t hire an attorney (or waited too long).

Logic and reasoning work. Proof and stories (usually) work better. 

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Marketing quiz for attorneys

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Where’s the best place to invest $1000 in your law practice? 

  1. Lead generation and list building: Ads, mailers, SEO, etc.
  2. Hiring a part-time marketing assistant to help create content, do follow-ups, and assist with other marketing projects
  3. Name recognition, e.g., sponsoring a golf tournament or charity, public relations, signage, handouts 
  4. Starting a YouTube channel or podcast

What do you think? What will give you the most bang for your buck?

The answer is… “None of the above”. 

Yes, each of these might bring you new business. But if they do, you have to continue doing them. If they don’t, it’s not the end of the world. $1000 isn’t a lot of money. But the question was, “What’s the best place to invest $1000?” The answer: personal development.

Books, courses, training, coaching—to improve your skills and develop new ones.

Personal development provides an enormous ROI that can not only bring in business today, but for the rest of your career. It doesn’t just work, it compounds. You get smarter, develop better habits (and jettison bad ones), work more productively, become more attractive and referrable. 

Becoming a better writer or speaker will make you a better communicator. More people will understand your message and be persuaded to act on it. 

Learning the latest legal strategies and how to use them can help you win more cases and build your reputation. 

Mastering client relations—getting more people to like and trust you and want to work with you and tell others about you—these are marketing superpowers that can attract better clients, bigger cases, and more opportunities to meet influential people and become a part of their inner circle. 

Shall I go on?  

Clearly, the best investment you can make in your practice is an investment in yourself. 

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Think big. Really big.

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Are you growing as fast as you’d like? Or do you want to get bigger results? Much bigger. So big, every day is exciting?

It’s up to you. 

If you want to earn a lot more this year than last year, you can but you have to change how you think and what you do. 

Because nothing will change unless you change. 

The first thing you need to change is your goal. It has to be bigger. So big, it sounds impossible. So big, it scares you. 

Because that’s the kind of goal that will excite you enough to get you to do the things you need to do to reach it. 

A goal to grow 20% this year might sound good, but you can do better. Change it to 200%. 

Impossible? How would you ever achieve that? You’re right. Forget it. You’ve got too much work to do to waste time daydreaming.

Or…. maybe…

If a goal makes your heart beat faster just thinking about it, it might be exactly what you need to do.

Because a goal like that forces you to make different decisions. Do things you haven’t been doing. In ways you might never have considered. 

You’ll make different plans. Instead of thinking about creating a new presentation, you might think about buying another lawyer’s practice, tripling your ad spend, or hiring a marketing firm. 

You might not do those things, but at least you’ll think about them, and that’s precisely the kind of thinking you need to get where you want to go.

Or, you can stick with your 20% goal, focus on getting your work done, putting our fires, and using the same marketing and business strategies you’ve been using.

It’s up to you.

It’s true, thinking bigger might lead to bigger mistakes. You might not come close to achieving your bigger goal. 

So? 

Set a goal to grow 200% and miss it by 50% and you will still double your income. Miss it by 75% and you’ll still be ahead of the original goal. 

Think big. Really big. So big that when you tell someone about what you’re doing this year, THEY get excited. 

The Attorney Marketing Formula will help you

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Look for the pony

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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.

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Quitting doesn’t make you a quitter

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You messed up. You’re not making progress on a project or goal. You can’t seem to stick with your diet or stop doom scrolling on your phone. 

You’re frustrated and want to give up. 

Do it. Giving up might be the answer. This might have been a bad time to start. You didn’t have enough information, or you were busy with other things you also need to do. 

Give yourself permission to quit. You’ve given up on things before, haven’t you? Dropped a case or client or moved a project to “someday/maybe”? Walked away from a relationship or let go of employees?

Maybe you’ve changed careers. Maybe you’ve done that more than once. 

It wasn’t the end of the world. It might have been the best decision you ever made.

It doesn’t matter how much time or money you’ve put into something. Quitting is a viable option.

But before you quit, consider starting again. You started the project for a reason. Maybe that reason still exists. 

Take a break and come back to the project or goal with fresh eyes. Things might be different this time.

That’s how life works, isn’t it? You try something and when it doesn’t work, you try again. There are no rules that say you can’t. So, let it go for a few days or weeks, or a few hours, and start again. 

You’ll use what you’ve learned and do it better this time. Do more research or get some advice. Put in more time or try a different angle. 

Or you might start from scratch, with a blank page and beginner’s mind. 

How do you know what to do?

The answer might be in your notes, but it is more likely in your stomach. Logic is good, but how you feel is usually better. 

Start again if that feels like the right thing to do. Throw it out and choose something else if it doesn’t. 

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Managing expectations

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Years ago, each January, my wife and I attended an “expectation” party which took place at a friend’s home. Everyone found a seat and wrote a letter to their future self, to be read the following year. Instead of writing our goals, we wrote our expectations for the upcoming year, supposedly because expectations are more realistic than goals. They’re based on what we’ve been doing and thus, what we expect to happen—not just what we want.

The next January, we would gather again and read our letters, out loud if we wanted but usually to ourself. And then, write our expectations for the next year. 

Unfortunately, most years I usually didn’t achieve what I expected. Probably because I wrote what I wanted, not what I expected. You want big things to happen in your life. So naturally you set lofty goals (expectations), even if they are unrealistic.

Think big, we’re told. Aim for the sun, the moon, and the stars. If you fall short, you’ll accomplish more than you would if you hadn’t thought big. 

But that’s not the best advice because we usually set goals that are too high (and long term) and continually fail to reach them. We fall short and thus condition ourself to expect to be disappointed. And unhappy. And too often, that’s what happens.

Charlie Munger, said, “If you have unrealistic expectations, you’re going to be miserable all your life.” 

Better than setting big goals and continually failing to meet them is setting small goals and continually reaching them. When we do, we condition ourself to expect to succeed, which is a much better place to be.

If you expect to bring in 5 new clients each month but only bring in 2, you’re disappointed and frustrated. If that happens enough, you start to believe you can’t get more. 

Instead, lower your expectations. Stop trying to accomplish more than what’s realistic and failing. Choose a goal you are reasonably certain you can reach and succeed.

You’ll feel better about yourself and what you can do. You’ll be successful and feel successful, and that’s what will allow you to accomplish more.

Setting and reaching goals, albeit lower goals than you really want, is a recipe for success because you gain confidence in yourself and what you can do. From that platform, you can set incrementally higher goals and realistically expect to reach them.

Taking a gigantic leap sounds good, but you are more likely to get to the top by taking one step at a time.

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