Think bigger, run faster, work harder


We’re often told that hard work is the answer. I say hard work can be a path to success, but it’s not the only path. Just look at how many people bust their butt every day but make little (or no) progress. 

Some people are successful by showing up consistently over a long period of time. Objectively speaking, they don’t work hard or run fast. They do a little every day, do it well, and keep doing it. They improve their skills, deepen their relationships, and allow their efforts to compound. 

Slow and steady wins their race, while others burn brightly and burn out. 

Some people have good business connections and leverage them effectively. Some have money to burn. Some people are smarter than average, some have more charisma, and some happen to be in the right place at the right time. 

There’s also the “passion” factor. Some people love what they do and their enthusiasm and joy for doing it attracts people and opportunities that allow them to leapfrog others who are just doing a job.

Here’s the good news. We get to choose our path. Some choose to work hard, some choose something else. 

We need to give ourselves permission to choose the path that’s right for us, and remind ourself to focus on our strengths instead of trying to run fast enough to overcome our weaknesses. 

When we do, we can not only get where we want to go, we can enjoy getting there. 


You’re not going to want to do this (but you should)


Have you ever stopped to think about how much more you could accomplish if you just had the time? The projects you could finish (or start and then finish), the skills you could learn or improve? 

You want to take a course, learn a new language, build a second brain, or finish that book that’s gathering dust on your hard drive. You want to learn how to get more referrals, better clients, more leads, more subscribers, or more people registering for your seminars. You want to expand into a new practice area or open another office. 

But you’re busy with work and don’t have the time. 

That’s the problem. The solution is to do it anyway. Take some of the time (you don’t have), and dedicate it to doing things that allow you to “level up” your practice and, eventually, allow you to buy back that time. 

It’s an investment in your future. 

Specifically, block out one hour on your calendar every weekday. Call it your “power hour”. Or your financial freedom hour. Or don’t call it anything, just do it. 

I know, it’s too much time. You’re not sure how you’ll use it. You think I’m crazy for even suggesting this nonsense.

Block out the time even if you don’t know if you should or how you’ll use it. You will use it. And be glad you did.

You’ve heard me talk about calendaring 15 minutes a day for marketing. 15 minutes is a great place to start and create a daily habit, but imagine what you could accomplish if you used an entire hour for marketing. 

It’s your power hour. Use all or part of it for marketing if you want to. I did that when I was struggling in my early days and it changed my life.

If you’re still having trouble wrapping your head around using that much time for non-billable work, start with 30 minutes. Use your lunch hour. Or do this early morning before you start your regular day. 

But do it. Because it can change your life. 


3 things you need for success in private practice


What does it take to make it? A lot of things can help. Cash, for one. Because if you can put it to work wisely, you can get things off to a good start or more easily move to the next level. But cash isn’t one of the 3 things you need. 

How about mental toughness? Also good. But also not essential. Even for litigators. 

Knowing a lot of influential people? Excellent. But not on the list of must-haves.  

Charm? Good looks? Being smarter than the average bear? 


So, what then? What are the 3 things you need for success? 

At the top of the list, far above the other two, is desire. You’ve got to want it. So let’s call it, “burning desire”. 

But not necessarily the desire to be a successful lawyer. The desire to be, do, or have something that being a successful lawyer makes possible.

Something that’s important enough to you to get you out of bed in the morning and do things you might not feel like doing. 

For some, that might mean being able to move their family to a safer neighborhood or helping their older parents (finally) retire. For others, it might mean helping to save humanity. 

Something you are passionate about. Something you might be brought to tears when you think about not getting it. 

That kind of desire. Not ego-driven desire. 

Desire is at the top of the list because that’s what will see you through the tough times, disappointment, and sacrifice that often go hand-in-hand with building a successful practice. Desire is the key to everything else.

What’s number 2? Willingness to learn. But not just legal knowledge or your core legal skills. 

There’s a lot to learn about marketing, hiring and keeping good people, budgeting, productive work habits, and all the paperwork. 

Most of all, there’s a lot to learn about yourself. Your personal and interpersonal skills. Because success means becoming the kind of person who is successful. 

As Jim Rohn put it, you need to work on yourself more than your business. 

Which leads to number 3. Willingness to do the work

You may have the desire and be willing to learn, but if you’re not willing to show up every day and do the work, and keep doing it, you’re not going to get to the promised land. 

I’m not saying you have to continually burn the midnight oil, never take breaks, or do things you hate doing. You needn’t work till you drop. You can (and should) look for shortcuts, and create systems and habits that make things easier and better.

You can have a life while you’re building your business. 

You can also go quickly or slowly and take the path that’s right for you. But you have to do the work and that means you have to keep moving.

Because there’s a lot to learn and even more to do. 

The Quantum Leap Marketing System (if you’re ready)


Revenue generating activity


Business advisors of all stripes talk about the primacy of revenue generating activity for sustaining and growing a business. They tell you to should spend most of your time doing this because it is the only thing that brings in income.

“Everything else is an expense.”

Literally, that’s true. If you spend most of your time and resources on creating value for your clients, your business will be profitable and grow.

So, how do we define revenue generating activities? 

For lawyers in private practice, anything you do that allows you to bill a client clearly qualifies. Admin tasks might be necessary for managing the people and processes for creating and collecting that revenue, but don’t qualify as revenue generating by themselves.

Okay, so you want to spend most of your time doing billable work. But how much?

If you spend 80% of your time doing billable work, is that enough? Is spending 20% of your gross income (and time) on admin too much? 

Ultimately, this is the debate we have with ourselves, our partners and advisors.

But it doesn’t only come down to doing the work vs. the cost of getting it done. There are other activities that come into play.

Continuing education, personal development, and business development, for example. 

These aren’t revenue generating in the classical sense, but they can create significant revenue, arguably with significantly less effort than it takes to do the billable work. 

It’s true. 

When you improve your marketing skills, you can get more leads and prospective clients, attract bigger cases and better clients, expand into additional markets, and increase profits by being able to hire more help and/or open more offices.  

When you improve your personal skills, e.g., sales, networking, speaking, writing, productivity, etc., you can attract even more prospects and close a higher percentage of them, get more repeat business, streamline your workflows, and build deeper relationships with other professionals who can lead you to additional opportunities to develop your practice and career. 

And when you improve your core legal skills and knowledge, you can increase your value to your clients, allowing you to bill higher rates. 

Revenue generating activities, to be sure.

I can’t tell you how much time to spend on these activities, only that if you want to grow, you should consider spending more. 

When you’re ready to take a quantum leap in your practice, here’s what to do


It’s not supposed to be easy


Practicing law. Marketing. Building your career. None of it is supposed to be easy.

Sometimes it is easy. But not always. Don’t expect it to be.

If it was always easy, if everyone you talk to wants to sign up, if everything you write goes viral, if everything you sell is purchased and clients keep coming back for more, you’re playing it too safe and limiting your growth.

Don’t do that.

Don’t make it your top priority to please everyone or avoid offending anyone. Don’t avoid all risks or wait until you’re 100% sure before you begin.

Don’t sell cheap. Don’t give it all away.

Be nice, but don’t be a pushover.

When you lose, accept the loss and keep going. Loss, rejection, struggle, pain—are part of the process. And you should welcome this because the more you lose, the more opportunities there are to learn and grow and do bigger things.

On the other hand, it’s not supposed to be unbearably hard. Don’t believe it, or accept it.

There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Success is truly just around the corner. Things do get better.

Assume that everything is always working out for you. Because it is.


I quit! 


I start a lot of books, articles, and videos, I never finish. I start a lot of projects and abandon them. I download a lot of apps and delete them in seconds.

I guess you could call me a serial quitter. 

If you do, I’ll say ‘thank you’ because quitting is smart. A productive use of our time. 

When you try things, you get ideas for other projects that are quicker or easier or a better fit. I get a lot of ideas for content that way. 

Trying lots of things helps you confirm that what you’re already doing is “good enough” and you don’t need to spend more time on something new. I do that with apps all the time.  

You learn things you can use with the things you currently do. You may find a better way to organize your notes or tasks, for example, by watching videos about other apps or what others do with them.

When you start a project, you learn whether you enjoy working on it, or whether it will succeed. If you don’t try, you may continue thinking about it when you would be better off moving on. 

You may start something, like it, but realize that now isn’t the time to do it and put that project on hold for the future, giving you time to plan and collect more information you can use when you’re ready to dive in. 

Trying new things can also be a pleasant distraction from your regular work. It may or may not lead to something, but it is a productive use of your time because it might. 

In fact, I just read about a productivity expert who makes “quitting” his default. He starts a lot of things with the express intention of not finishing them. 

By quitting a lot of things, he has time for the best ideas. Sometimes, he finds them right away. Sometimes, they stick with him after he’s quit, and he goes back to them. 

If you’re still not convinced of the value of quitting, think about what would happen if you never quit. You’d be overwhelmed with projects and ideas that eventually go nowhere. 

Quit fast and avoid the mess. 


Slow down to speed up


Yesterday, I talked about the advantages of following a non-linear workflow, that is, working when and how your body and brain tell you is right instead of slavishly following the calendar. 

Among other things, this means taking breaks when you feel you need them, and not feeling guilty because you’re doing that “too often”. 

Taking breaks also gives you the opportunity to evaluate what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it, and make improvements. You’ll be able to see things you might not have seen because you’ve been too busy doing the work. 

If you continually run from one project or case to the next one, your practice or business is running you instead of the other way around. 

You want to go faster and grow bigger, but you can’t do that if you’re constantly running. You need breaks so you can evaluate what you’re doing, make improvements, or change course. 

Maybe you need to do something different on that project, or put it aside in favor of another. Maybe you need to let go of doing everything yourself and get some help so you can free up some time and energy for projects that are more in line with your goals and purpose. 

Periodically slow down (or stop). Go through your projects, your cases, your client list, and your plans. Stand down for a day or a week and figure out what you can do better or instead.  

When you get back to work, you’ll be able to go faster.

Success isn’t just about doing the work to the best of your ability. It’s also about doing the work that best serves your future. Sometimes, you need to back away and figure out what that means.


How was your day?


I didn’t do much work yesterday. I meditated, wrote a blog post, took a walk, helped my wife set up a cabinet, watched a couple of videos (and took notes), read a few pages in a book, and not much else.

Because I didn’t feel like doing anything else.  

Some call this being lazy. You won’t get anything done if you don’t do the work, whether you feel like it or not. Breaks are for after work, weekends, and vacations, not when you feel like it. Get more sleep if you need more energy. Stop goofing off. 

Conventional “wisdom”. 

But not everyone agrees. 

Some describe this as an effective way to structure your time. It’s “nonlinear,” meaning flexible and in sync with what your body and brain tell you. If you’re getting things done, it doesn’t matter how or when you do them. 

9 to 5 is for suckers. 

According to one study, people with the highest “brain health scores,” which include memory, focus, sleep, mood, productivity, and creativity, are those who follow a flexible schedule. 

Yes, I know this isn’t conducive to trial work or being available to see clients when clients need to be seen, but even the busiest of lawyers can work around those limitations, at least some of the time. 

And they should. Because, according to the study, not only is this better for your brain, it’s a better predictor of overall happiness. 

And I’ll take happiness any day of the week. 


I’m working


One of the nice things about being a writer, or an attorney who does a lot of writing, is being able to indulge our other interests.

When we watch videos about something that interests us, for no other reason than because we enjoy it, we not only give our brains and bodies a brief respite from our busy schedules, we learn things we can use in our writing.

Examples, stories, new ideas or new ways of looking at old ideas help us illustrate our points and make our articles and posts more interesting. 

They can also stimulate us to be more creative and productive. Seeing how others do presentations, structure their articles, or make their points can give us new ways of doing what we do. 

Reading books about history can make us better leaders and problem solvers. Reading about entrepreneurship can help us get better at building our practice or business. Reading mysteries or doing crossword puzzles can make us better problem solvers and keep our brains from getting rusty.

Read widely. Every day, even if just for ten minutes. Take notes, even if it’s just a quote or one sentence about what you read.

Follow your curiosity. Go for walks and think about whatever is on your mind. 

And don’t feel guilty about taking time to do this. 

What you read can teach you, inspire you, and help you become better at what you do.

You may not be able to bill for the time you spend doing something other than your core work, but you’re still getting paid.


The power of clarity


We all know the value of focusing as a mechanism for creating successful outcomes in our life. The more we concentrate our time and resources on something, the more likely we are to be successful at it.

In law school, we focused on learning the law. When we started practicing, we focused on bringing in clients, doing the work, and running the business side of things.

What we focus on grows. Which is why it is important to choose what we want to focus on instead of aimlessly doing whatever might be in front of us.

The first step is knowing what you want.

When you know you want something, you activate your Reticular Activating System (RAS), the part of your brain that helps you notice things that are important to you and filter out things that aren’t.

When we lived in caves, what was important to us was finding food and staying safe from enemies. Our RAS helped us stay alert about the strangers we encountered and notice the berries that were safe to eat.

Today, if you’re interested in buying a red car, you suddenly notice red cars everywhere. And tend not to notice ones that are green or blue.

If you want to build your practice, your RAS will help you notice things that will help you do that. Articles, people, ideas, and opportunities you might not have noticed before are seemingly everywhere.

How can you use this to your advantage? By getting clear on what you want. Decide what’s important to you—your goals, your purpose, your values—and let your RAS go to work.

When it does, pay attention. The things it helps you notice are consistent with what you said you wanted.