The older you get, the less you know

What? Really. What I mean is that as you gain experience you realize how much you don’t know and become (hopefully) more comfortable admitting it. We all experience conversations where the other person tells you they know about something or someone, but is or becomes clear they don’t. You see this more in younger or less experienced people, but anyone can do it.

Most times it comes from inexperience and insecurity. We are not supposed to know everything and everyone. We can be in a position at any age, where we are learning something new. Ask the extra question. How else can you learn? If you act like you know it all, you never will, and it will catch up to you. You want to be an expert, but Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule is real in that if you don’t put in the time you never will really be the expert you want to be.

You may be thinking it is okay to “fake it ’til you make it.” But this is a cliché, and needs to be taken with a dose of reality. If you want to become an expert in anything, especially professionally, you need to spend time and invest in yourself, i.e. the 10,000 Hour Rule. Faking it only can take you a short distance whereas investing in yourself and being a lifetime learner will continue to move the needle in the direction you want.

So be honest when you don’t know something and see what you learn.

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Focus on doing good work, not money

You are saying “What? But I want to work to make money.” We all work to be able to support ourselves. What I mean is if you focus on doing the best you can, the money likely will follow. If you only focus on money you will try to close deals that shouldn’t close or sell something to someone that they don’t need. If you are okay with that and the bad karma you deserve, you should take a look in the mirror and see if you honestly  like what you see.

The point is we generally all are selling something, whether to consumers, other businesses or internally, such as at a large company. If you only are about the sale, you will lose in the long run and may never know. Sell someone something they don’t need or have them pay too much and it will come back to haunt you. As they say, do a good job and the person will tell a few people, but do a poor job and they will tell a lot of people. Reputation is everything and you should care what people are saying about you.

A smart person I know, who is in sales, told me long ago that by focusing on the deal being win-win, as opposed to forcing a deal that shouldn’t close, success has followed with exponential referrals over the years. And then the money follows with happy clients or customers who tell others and will come back to you in the future.

If you work the scorched earth policy of doing as much business as possible instead of doing good business well, you will lose both opportunities you will learn you lost and opportunities you will never know you lost.

If you do this the right way it will allow you to escalate the level and type of work and deals you work on. This will give you more choice in who you are dealing with and what you are working on. If you work in a larger company it will allow you to move up the food chain to greater options and opportunities.

Of course, with all of this should be more money. Remember that work is about fulfillment more than money. I know what some of you are thinking, that in your business there is no unseen financial upside to working better or harder. You may be right for your given situation, but if you are not into or passionate about your work, you will be empty and unsatisfied. In that case, find something else to do or your risk having a mediocre job and a unfulfilled, and possibly mediocre, life. But if you like what you do, there is no harm to focusing on doing your best and what is right. Try it and see what happens.

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In real life you shouldn’t be keeping score

Don’t be envious of others. Just because you think they have a better title or seem to have more money doesn’t mean it’s true. The person you view as a “higher up” may hate the position they are in. The person who seems to have money may be living on debt. Not making assumptions is a topic for another day.

Similarly, don’t be vindictive. Don’t try to get even. If you really analyze a situation where think doing so is the right course of action, the only one keeping score is you, and then you are the one losing, for sure. It take time to build a good reputation and mere moments to destroy it.

This goes to something I have mentioned before. Do your best at whatever it is you do and let what happens happen. But in doing so, do it in a way that is honest and you can look back with no regrets, because, if you don’t, the person you “run over” may be the vindictive sort. If that persons tries to get even it will waste your time and take your focus from the things you need to or would rather be focusing on.

Always look forward, not backward, to avoid getting mired in keeping score or settling scores.

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Live in today with an eye on tomorrow

Life is long. You will work for a long time. There is no winning instantly. Success takes time. What you do each day matters for your future. The big picture makes living for today essential, which means having a plan and working it. By doing so you really are playing for the future, and for your first taste of, or your continuing, success.

The person you do a favor for today will help you tomorrow. The client you are honest with today will say good things about you to others in the future. This goes with the truth that everything is who you know.

This does not mean that what you know doesn’t matter. It is part of the puzzle that is success. The time you spend to be an expert at what you do is a play for tomorrow when you will be better at what you do than today, and so on and so on. Continual learning and improvement is part of the process.

So the long game is what you have to be playing. Yes, we all can step off of the curb and get hit by a bus at any time, but it is unlikely. By having a plan and working it you will be playing for tomorrow and set yourself up for attaining or continuing success.

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Be Informed

Everywhere I look these days people are arguing. At least it feels that way. About politics. About the environment. About issues big and small.

 

I have written before about how important it is to be an active listener. When I listen I hear a lot of people simply parroting what others say without any independent thought. Or worse, they are speaking about something they clearly have no idea about.

I see this professionally too. I have been in Court and watched opposing counsel simply quote the brief some younger attorney at their firm has written, but simply repeat what is in the brief instead of adding anything additional, which is what Courts are looking for at oral argument.

Being informed sounds easy, but it takes work. Learning about any topic in your work or personal life takes time. But doing so is investing in yourself. When you do you will speak from a place of authority or a position of knowledge.

Does this mean you will always come out better in an argument, or I will always win in court if I go the extra distance? Of course not, but it will bolster your reputation that you know what you speak about, as opposed to simply having an opinion or position you cannot actually support or defend.

And I am not encouraging arguing, but, instead, being able to defend a position or speak knowledgeably. If you do get in an argument or discussion, the goal should be to remain respectful while coming off as informed of that about which you speak.

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Channel Inspiration

You know when it hits. It can be anytime, and many times it is not at a convenient time. But when you have inspiration, don’t lose it.

For me it may be on an issue in a case. Whether I am at my desk, or in the middle of the night, I write it down. I usually use the Note app on my phone, but paper and pen still work. I have learned that if I do not do that at the time, there is a good chance my moment of brilliance will be lost. I may remember it later, but I may not.

The key is to know you have to record your thoughts when the inspiration hits. Come up with what works best for you. If not, you risk not remembering whatever fantastic thing has popped into your brain.

One way to think about it is what if you were a musician and you didn’t want to record that melody that came into your head, losing a possible big hit. Or if you were an author and you lose a great plot twist for the book you’re writing. We all have something equivalent in what we do for a living, or with personal; matters. So don’t lose your Stairway to Heaven, or Smells Like Teen Spirit, or whatever song you could be writing.

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Stand For Something and Respect Opinions

Have a viewpoint. Stand for something. If you don’t, you stand for nothing at all.

We don’t have to agree with others all of the time. But when you don’t, be respectful. Agree to disagree. You learn more from dialogue with someone you don’t agree with than with someone you agree with.

Plus, none of us are right all of the time. If someone says something that makes you potentially rethink a position or opinion, take the time to think about it or research the matter. Always try to speak from a position of knowledge, i.e. if you don’t know about a particular topic, don’t speak like you do. Those who do will know you are full of hot air and it will harm your reputation.

So don’t have a slinky for a spine. And know to keep quiet on topics you don’t know about. It will allow the backbone you should have not to be snapped, along with your reputation.

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Educate Yourself to Achieve Excellence (and repeat)

Last week I spoke to the need for continuous self-improvement. Part of that is continually learning throughout your lifetime.

I have mentioned before that my firm has The JW Way, which encapsulates the firm’s unique culture (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). JW  Way fundamental 17 is “Be relentless about continuous improvement.” This fundamental speaks to being a “lifetime learner” and notes that “Excellence is a journey, not a destination.”

You need to think about excellence as a continuing journey. The truth is if you strive for and achieve excellence, there still is more work to do. Continually achieving excellence involves an investment in yourself and in education.

Part of this is searching out the truth of whatever you are learning. That is your duty because if you can’t speak the truth you are simply spreading the equivalent of fake news. Despite what seems to be the trend, facts do matter. “Fake it till you make it” may work early on in some settings, but for most of us it will result in failure in the long run.

Most of us become experts in our given fields or professions over time because we do put in the proverbial ten-thousand hours and stay up on new innovations, information, etc., i.e. we continually educate ourselves. If you do not do this and try to ride the same wave of what you have done before you have higher chance of failure in the future. Or at least a higher chance of not achieving excellence and being mediocre while others in your field achieve excellence and pass you by.

If you are okay with that, with being mediocre, maybe you should be doing something else that intrigues and interests you enough that you will continuously educate yourself and continuously seek to achieve excellence.

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Always strive to improve yourself

You can do better. You can be better. Always. If you don’t think so you are only fooling yourself. You must invest in yourself.

If you put your money in a can and bury it in your backyard, it will earn nothing. If you invest these funds instead, they will have the chance to grow. The corollary is if you do not take the time to improve yourself, to learn, you will become stagnant and, in this fast-paced world, probably be passed by others. If you instead work to improve you will grow.

This also should involve improving in your given business or in your personal life. It can be class related to what you do or guitar lessons or for me, keep up with current legal opinions.

I know you are busy. I know you don’t think you have time. But the truth is you don’t have time not to invest in yourself. If nothing changes, well, you get thee idea.

So think about what you can do by investing in yourself. It not only can make you a better professional or person, it will help improve the world around you, your world.

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Have fun at work!

Fun at work? Exactly. If you can’t have fun at work, then why are you there? Fun and good work do go together. A joke can even reduce tension during stressful times at work. We all know the saying “Laughter is the best medicine” and inherently know it is true.

This doesn’t mean you feel like you have time to joke around with co-workers every day, but, if you think about those type of days, it is likely a minute or two wouldn’t derail you from the task at hand. Fun doesn’t need to take up a lot of time.

I joke around with colleagues regularly. It sure makes my days more fun. On the days when I am feeling overwhelmed by what I need to accomplish the humor may include sarcasm or be darker, but it still is part of my day. And it can help relieve tension and stress, even if only momentarily.

You have to leave your office for food, drink and the restroom, and likely will encounter others. Allow yourself to take a break, even if it is only a few minutes. It will help reinvigorate you to go back and work more. And when you see others having one of those days, see what you can do to lighten the moment for them.

You probably know the line from Dr. Seuss’s One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish: “These things are fun, and fun is good.” Fun is good. And if it’s good enough for Dr. Seuss, its good enough for you!

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