What would Steve do?


I was reading an article remembering Steve Jobs more than a year after his passing. The author provides “Ten Life Lessons” from Mr. Jobs that we can all learn from and apply in our lives. A lesson like, “You don’t beat the competition at their game. You redefine the game,” reminds me that Steve Jobs was an incredible leader. He defined the future, where things should go, and then he took us there.

Jobs thought differently, and he encouraged us to do the same. Even Apple’s advertising at one time encouraged us to do so. So when you’re faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem or you’re looking to redefine your game, ask yourself, “What would Steve do?”

If you’re having an issue with one of your employees who isn’t doing his or her job, you might ordinarily give them some time to see the light, offer some additional training, or have a heart to heart talk. If you ask yourself, “What would Steve do?” however, you might berate them and/or fire them on the spot. The lesson, “Don’t tolerate bozos around you,” confirms what most people know about Steve’s lack of patience with under-performing employees.

Am I saying you should chew out your employee? No. But you should consider why Steve would have. It might serve to warn you that the problem is potentially more serious than you think. The employee might improve, but they also might do irreparable harm if your other employees see them getting away with less than excellent performance.

Thank you, Steve, for reminding me to think about the problem from a different perspective.

One of the benefits of reading biographies about successful people, in business, sports, politics, and other fields outside of our own, is that they allow us to see our problems through different eyes, and thereby, find solutions we might otherwise never find. Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Einstein also said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” so use your imagination for a moment and think about this: If Apple had acquired your law practice, what would Steve Jobs have told you to change?

Steve never read The Attorney Marketing Formula, but I imagine he would approve.


Getting started with mind maps for notes, outlines, and brainstorming


Mind maps are a non-linear method of organizing information. I use them to take notes, to create outlines for presentations and projects, and to brainstorm ideas. If you have not used them, I suggest you take a look at this excellent overview.

I usually create mind maps on paper. I grab a legal pad and put the basic idea in the middle. As ideas come to me, I quickly add them as branches and sub-branches. In a minute or two, I can outline a complete presentation or project.

As the overview clearly shows, the advantage to the mind map is that it allows you to capture ideas as they occur to you, “out of order” so to speak, which is how the mind works. One idea leads to another and that leads to another, and so on, which is very different from the linear outlines we’re so used to. Once you have captured those ideas, however, it’s easy to re-write them into a formal outline.

I also use mind map software. Freemind is simple and easy to use and, well, free. There are many other choices. I don’t use the software often, but I do use it for bigger projects.

I’ve downloaded a few mind map apps on my iPhone but find them difficult to use. The “canvas” is too small, at least for me, and I find myself spending too much time working with the app rather than capturing ideas. Some apps do integrate with their desktop counterparts, however, so you could create the mind map on your computer and view it on your mobile device.

Some people create very detailed mind maps, with many sub-branches. They might outline an entire book (or legal case) on a large white board or fill several pages in a notebook. I usually keep things simple, using the map to get a general picture, but I have also used them to outline bigger projects.

If you’ve never tried a mind map you may be in for a pleasant surprise. Not only are they a practical way to discover and capture information you may otherwise overlook, they are a lot of fun.

I used mind maps to outline portions of The Attorney Marketing Formula. If you want to see how my mind works, download a copy today.


Put your contact list on a diet


I’ve written before about the value of creating a “Focus 30” list–a list of your most important clients, best referral sources, and other people to whom you want to give your time and attention.

Keeping that list in front of you will remind you to call, write, and engage with the people who contribute most to your success.

I didn’t say so then, but I should mention that you can include on your Focus 30 list people who are important to you outside of your professional life. Friends, spiritual leaders, and others you influence you in positive ways also deserve your attention.

If your Focus 30 list is the cream of the crop, the tip of the top, there are undoubtedly people in your life who are just the opposite.

You know the ones I mean.

  • People you don’t like
  • People who waste your time
  • People who are abusive to you and others
  • Takers/users

You get the idea.

Your relationship with these people does not serve you. You should take steps to either reduce the amount of time you spend with them or completely eliminate them from your life.

Of course some people (i.e., clients, close relatives) you may have to put up with to some extent. But this should be a conscious choice you make, not something you do merely out of habit or a sense of duty.

The easiest way to put your contact list on a diet is to go through the list, one name at a time, and rate each person. If you don’t recognize a name, or you don’t communicate with that person often enough to matter, you can skip them. For everyone else, assign a number based on how you feel about them:

1 = Positive
2 = Neutral
3 = Negative

That’s a lot quicker and eaiser than trying to figure out why you don’t like someone. Trust your gut.

If you’re not sure about someone, give them a 2.

Anyway, don’t agonize over anyone and don’t spend a lot of time on this.

When you’re done, go back through the list. 1’s and 2’s are okay. (You may see some 1’s you want to add to your Focus 30 list).

You need to do something about the 3’s.

Some you’ll stop seeing and taking their calls. Cross them off your list. Eliminate them completely from your life.

Others, you’ll reduce the amount of time you give them. If they are a client worth keeping, give the task of dealing with them to someone who works for you. Get away from them as much as possible. If that won’t work, you’ll need to decide if the negative feelings you get from being around these people are worth the money they pay you.

Or, look at it this way: How much more would you earn by getting rid of your negative, anxiety-causing, slow-paying, trouble-making, pain-in-the-ass clients?

Now, as for your relatives. . .


The magic of practicing law


I live in a gated community and this week the streets are being re-paved. Our community is a labyrinth of cul-de-sacs and there is only one way in and out. Our street is partially blocked right now and we have to take a circuitous detour to get to and from the front gate.

The contractor has had to coordinate the closing of alternating streets to allow egress and ingress. There was a resident meeting explaining the schedule and a color coordinated street map and the schedule for paving them is posted on our community’s web site.

One street is finished and it is beautiful. The worn pavement and faded markings have been replaced with a smooth, deep black finish and crisply drawn lane lines and cross walks. Everything is new and pristine, a first class job through and through.

I enjoy watching the work being done almost more than the finished job. I grew up in a newly developed community and as a kid, loved watching the construction workers and their machines. Part of it was knowing that the workers were doing things I couldn’t do. I marveled at how they took truckloads of raw materials and out of chaos created finished buildings. As an outsider, I could only watch and appreciate the magic.

I had some of the same feelings as I watched the workers and machines paving our street. They poured the asphalt, rolled and smoothed it, and painted the white and yellow lines. I have tremendous respect for the professionals who planned and are executing this job. It is as much art as engineering. And yet to them, it’s just another job. It’s what they do every single day and there’s nothing artistic or magical about it.

I couldn’t help thinking that most people don’t know what attorneys do or how we do it, and that while few want to watch us at work, what we do is indeed magical. We are artists, engineers, and builders. With our words and ideas, we change minds, we help people prosper, we fight for freedom. Without us, the wheels of civilization would stop turning.

Never take your skills for granted. Most people don’t know what we do or how we do it, but what we do is magical.


Why you might be procrastinating (and how to stop it)


cure for procrastinationWhen I was a kid in school, I usually waited until the last minute to write papers or study for exams. Actually, there were times when I took the exam without studying at all.

In college, I went through entire courses without reading the text books. I went to the first couple of classes and showed up for the final.

There were times when I paid dearly for these habits. Usually, I did just fine.

Years later, I figured out why I procrastinated. By waiting to the last minute to study or start a paper, I had the perfect excuse in case I didn’t do well.

“Yeah, I got a B, but hey, I didn’t really study.”

Stupid? Yep. But that was my way of coping with being a perfectionist. I couldn’t accept the possibility of getting less than a top grade so I gave myself an excuse in case I didn’t.

As I began my professional life, I hate to admit that I still had the tendency to procrastinate. But while I could get away with this in school, I quickly realized that as an attorney, it was unacceptable to deliver anything less than my best.

Losing cases was difficult for me. I often took it harder than my clients. I never did get used to it. How did I learn to cope with less than perfect results? By not focusing on the results at all, but instead, focusing on the process.

We can’t control the verdict. There are too many factors outside of our control. We can’t promise results. All we can do is put our best efforts into our work.

If you focus on the outcomes in life, you will ride an emotional roller coaster. If you focus on doing your job and giving it your best, you are successful no matter what the outcome.

I am successful today because instead of focusing on perfect results, I focus on making progress. Because I do that consistently, I have a lot of successful outcomes. When my results are less than optimum, I accept it because I wasn’t focused on the outcome, I was focused on my work.

If you are a perfectionist (or otherwise emotionally attached to outcomes), change your focus to the work in front of you. Get busy with “the next step” and do your best. When you’ve done that, focus on the step after that.

And when you’re done with a project, don’t dwell on the results, get started on the first step in the next project.