The principle of accelerating acceleration


In “The Slight Edge,” Jeff Olson talks about the power of doing “the little things” over and over again, consistently, over time, until the compounded effect of those small efforts produces dramatic change. Brian Tracy, in “Create Your Own Future: How to Master the 12 Critical Factors of Unlimited Success,” calls this same phenomenon, “the principle of accelerating acceleration.”

Tracy, who sees the principle as a corollary of “law of attraction, says, [page 48], “Whatever you are moving toward [i.e., a goal] begins moving toward you as well.” His characterization of how the principle operates should be given to every attorney who is about to start their own practice:

“When you first set a new, big goal and begin moving toward it, your progress will often be quite slow. You may be frustrated and think of giving up. The bigger your goal, the further away it will seem. You may have to work on it for a long time before you see any progress at all. But this is all part of the process of goal attainment.”

“The 20/80 rule helps to explain the principle. . . . For the first 80 percent of the time that you are working toward your goal, you will only cover about 20 percent of the distance. However, if you persist and refuse to give up, you will accomplish the final 80 percent of your goal in the last 20 percent of the time that you spend working on it.

“Many people work for weeks, months, and even years toward a big goal and see little progress. They often lose heart and give up. But what they didn’t realize is that they had laid all of the groundwork necessary and were almost at the take-off point. They were just about to start accelerating toward their goal, and their goal was about to start moving at a great speed toward them.

“This principle of accelerating acceleration seems to apply to almost every big goal that you set for yourself. You must therefore decide in advance that you will never give up.

So, as you contemplate how you might create your own future in the new year, start with your long-term, visionary goals. Decide now that they are worth the effort you are about to make. Get used to the idea that you probably won’t see most of the results you seek for a long time. And then, and only then, when you tell yourself (and anyone else who will listen) that you won’t give up until you get what you want, you might actually believe it.


Please don’t wait twenty years like I did


A friend of mine says, "When you love what you do and you do what you love, you’ll never work another day in your life." We’ve heard it so many times, it must be true: The key to success and happiness in your working life is to find something you are passionate about.

A study of 1,500 people over twenty years shows how passion makes a significant difference in a person’s career:

At the outset of the study, the group was divided into Group A, 83 percent of the sample, who were embarking on a career for the prospects of making money now in order to do what they wanted later, and Group B, the other 17 percent of the sample, who had chosen their career path for the reverse reason, they were going to pursure what they wanted to do now and worry about the money later.

The data showed some startling revelations:

  • At the end of 20 years, 101 of the 1,500 had become millionaries.
  • Of the millionaires, all but one–100 our of 101–were from Group B, the group that had chosen to pursue what they loved! [Kriegel and Patler, If It Ain’t Broke. . .Break It!, p. 259, cited in Talent is Never Enough, p. 35, by John C. Maxwell]

But what if you’re not pasionate about your career? What then? It seems to me you have three choices.

  1. Change careers
  2. Change roles
  3. Live with it.

The third choice, living with it, should be unacceptable, but this is the choice I believe most people make. It is a recipe for unhappiness and illness and an unfulfilled life, and it is also the most difficult way to prosper (according to the above noted study), but it is certainly understandable. Lawyers have so much invested in their careers–time, money, energy and ego–it is difficult to contemplate significant change. "What would (fill in the blank) think?" "I don’t know how" and "I don’t have time" are common reactions.

Changing careers is becoming more common. I read recently that the attrition rate for new attorneys is at astronomically high levels. I changed careers (more than once) and I’m glad I did and very happy where I am now. I truly am passionate about what I do! But while changing careers may be the ultimate answer for an individual, it shouldn’t be the first choice.

Changing roles is the "best first option".

You can change roles by changing jobs. If you don’t like the people you work with, look for another environment. It might be that simple. If litigation isn’t where you want to be, perhaps you can draft documents.  And so on.

You can also change roles by finding some aspect of what you do that you are indeed passionate about. It might be only a small part of what you do, but if you focus on it, it might be enough to make up for everything else you have to do.

I know an estate planner who was an excellent draftsman but was all thumbs when it came to finding clients. He partnered with a rainmaker who did not possess the technical skills (or patience) of my friend, and now, the two are happy and making more money than each of them ever made on their own.

We’ve all known people who say they are "burned out". In reality, they probably weren’t on fire in the first place. I realized this was true for me very early in my law career, but it took me a very long time to give myself permission to change, and two decades before I allowed myself to make it permanent.

The purpose of life is joy, and if you are not passionate about what you do for a living, you are shortchanging yourself. As you comtemplate your career and goals for next year and beyond, my Christmas wish for you is that you will be honest with yourself about where you are and where you would like to be.

You can be happy and fulfilled and successful. You can have it all. The first step is slowing down long enough to think about this, and then accepting it. Only then can you begin the process of working towards it.