Don’t judge

It is easy to judge others and many times we do so unconsciously. A great example is the person driving too fast and who may have cut you off. It is easy to just assume they are aggressive drivers who think wherever they need to be is more important than where you are going. I like to think they have somewhere they need to be, such as rushing to the hospital or something similar. It keeps my blood pressure down and changes what my potential reaction might be otherwise.

It is good to remember we all have faults and bad habits. And we don’t want to be judged on the (hopefully) outlier moment when we act badly. Maybe thinking this way can help us change behaviors or bad habits. Focusing on yourself is much more productive than focusing on others.

Sometimes I try to make not judging others a game. What I mean is I make up a story on why they are how they are, are acting how they are, or why they just cut me off on the road. I am sure what I think is not close to being accurate, but it keeps me in check and sometimes makes me laugh to myself if I come up with something really good. Such a reaction is way better than thinking in a judgmental way or thinking negative thoughts about others.

Next time that car cuts you off, think about the emergency they could be dealing with. Also think what others think when you drive like that because you are in a hurry . Then try not to laugh as you think about how everything is relative to where you are sitting.

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Acknowledge mistakes and move on

We all make mistakes. Sometimes others notice, sometimes not. When you do, find a way to learn from it and laugh it off. If you do so, it will pass faster and you can move forward instead of looking backwards.

The more you let mistakes roll off of your back, other people will forget too. The point is to move forward, fix what you can, or note what you did so you can learn from it. This includes acknowledging mistakes to superiors at work or your spouse, etc.

It doesn’t mean there won’t be a tense or stressful moment. If you are honest and apologize, and maybe explain what happened or that you have learned from the mistake, the faster you will move past it.

Remember, everyone makes dumb mistakes. Everyone. You aren’t alone in this. If you figure out how to deal with mistakes in a constructive fashion they will be in your rearview mirror as you move into the future with a clear conscience and free from the weight of the mistake.

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Be Kind

We all are moving fast through our days. Are you nice to the people who cross your path? You should be because how you treat people is what stays with them when they think about you.

The benefits of being kind outweigh the efforts you put in. Knowing this and acting on it will help you and your reputation.

In the same vein, do random acts of kindness. Bring in donuts (or maybe something healthier) to your office for your co-workers. Compliment someone. Be patient with those who make mistakes, whether a co-worker or the waiter or waitress at a restaurant.

Doing so is good for you in many ways. The feedback and reactions you get will brighten your day. What you do or say will brighten others’ days. Try it and see how good it makes you feel.

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Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.

Proofreading is important. We all know we should proofread everything we write, but we all are busy. 

I remembered this last week when I posted a blog that was repeated. Yes, you read what I wrote, and then you could immediately read it again, because it was there twice. You may be thinking “how did that happen because it must have seemed so obvious.” This is true, but the explanation I could provide doesn’t matter, only that it happened. And many of you emailed me to let me know it happened.

Of course, I immediately went and fixed the problem. The fact is that I should have looked at the draft one more time and it wouldn’t have happened. 

I have been working on trying to proofread everything I write, starting with email. Every time I slow down and do so, I find an error to fix or something I want to revise to sound better. It’s better than reading my original email after someone responds and seeing something I should have or likely would have revised.

Proofreading is another way to invest in yourself. You are putting something out there on which one or more people may be judging you or sizing you up. You want to put out the best written work you can, so proofread what you wrote one more time before putting it out there.

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Time flies so goals and planning are important

When I was younger, clichés such as “The days are long, but the years are short” kind of bugged me. As I aged, I learned that clichés are clichés because they generally are true for most people. I am reminded of how quickly time goes by each week when Shutterfly sends me an email with a few pictures and a subject line such as “Your memories from this week ten years ago.” Then I look and see much younger versions of me, my wife and our children, friends and families, and fun travels from the past.

My point isn’t to lament the passage of time, or of aging, but to consider it in a different light. I think how fast time goes by in the big picture makes setting goals and planning how to reach them that much more important.

I encourage you to make a plan. It can be for a year, six months or whatever time frame works best for you. You may combine personal and work related goals in a single plan or have different plans, but writing down your goals makes it more likely you will reach them. In doing so, you should turn your goals into SMART goals (this can easily be Googled) with action steps to reach them. This is the first step. Many people do this and then don’t look at their plans again.

For most of us this alone won’t help us reach our goals because you need to keep your goals in mind – yes, the cliché that comes to mind is “out of sight, out of mind.” Instead, you need to keep your plan where you will see it regularly. This could be a printout on your desk at home or work (or both), or as a file on your computer’s desktop where you will see it every time you start it up. Or maybe use it as the wallpaper on your computer monitor as a reminder.

Then, and this is big, you actually need to review it regularly. This allows you to see where you are and adjust steps or goals, if necessary. You can make it a part of your routine on whatever time frame you think works by setting calendar items or tasks so you are reminding yourself to review your plan. If you try this, it likely will become a default activity you make time for, which is the definition of investing in yourself.

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Never stop learning

Being a lifetime learner is important. Curious minds need new information like your body needs food and water. Similar to your body needing different types of nourishment, there is so much to learn, whether it is related to your work, hobbies or just a topic you find interesting.

For attorneys, we are required to take continuing legal education classes every year. I try to find topics that apply to the types of work I do. Sometimes the seminars are good, and sometimes not. I hope to  take one or two things away from a seminar. Sometimes my expectations are exceeded. I also read articles and new legal decisions to stay current on my areas of practice.

I have other subjects that interest me outside of the law. When I want to take a break and have some time, it is easy to find articles and information on those topics. Or it may include reading a biography of someone I find interesting, or who I think may have good and interesting insights.

The hardest part is all of the easy options technology provides for us to be unproductive. Of course I am looking at you Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It’s fine to spend a few minutes catching up on what your friends and family are doing, but it is easy to get lost in social media.

Similarly, it is fine to watch movies and shows, but if you do that, but don’t generally know what is happening in the world, it isn’t a net positive. You may want think about your priorities because I think it’s better to have a knowledge base that enables you to have interesting conversations with others, which I think is a great part of life.

The next time you find yourself thirty minutes into the Facebook rabbit hole or starting the fourth episode of some new Netflix series, do yourself a favor and take a break. Find something to do that stipulates you mentally and helps you to be a well-rounded person people want to know.

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Experience is everything

My wife’s friend was lucky enough to go to Italy for a few weeks with some of her close friends. When they caught up recently, this woman told my wife that she was so glad she went. Even though her family vacations every year, it’s the same old, such as a week at the beach or traveling to see family in her hometown. The trip to Italy reminded her of the large world in which we live and the pleasure from experiencing new people, places and things.

Because of the time she spent disconnecting from her work to have new experiences, she realized she wants to plan different types of vacations for she and her husband and for family trips. She re-discovered how important experience is and it has changed her thinking.

She was lucky to take such a big trip and think about her personal and business priorities. Sometimes you need to be experiencing something new outside of your everyday life to have the time and space to think in this manner.

Anyone can do this and it doesn’t mean we all need to go somewhere such as Italy. It can be going to a new restaurant. It can be being a tourist in your home town – hint for those in the Phoenix area: go to the Musical Instrument Museum or take your children to the Science Center (you will like it too). It can be going to a city in your home state or a nearby state you haven’t visited before. I find most places have enough things to do for a three to four day weekend type trip. The point is to branch out and think outside of your usual box.

Don’t put off having new experiences for the future or retirement because that day may never come. Find new experiences that fit within your budget and the time you have, whether on a Saturday or for a week long vacation. Doing so will help you to have shared experiences and a chance to think outside your box.

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Helping others

Most people know and understand that helping others makes you feel good. This can be volunteering for a non-profit to giving directions to someone who is lost. Sometimes your help makes a bigger difference to the person you are helping.

I recently had the opportunity to help someone who needed a ride. No, I didn’t pick up a hitchhiker. I was camping with a few of my children and, right before we were leaving to drive to an airport an hour and a half away, a nearby camper asked where we were heading. When the answer was the airport in the city their friend needed to get to, she asked if we had room to give their friend a ride to the airport because his ride had fallen through.

He seemed like a nice enough guy and we had chatted with his friends over the long weekend. The long story short is that I said yes. The result was helping someone who really needed to get to the airport.

He was heading home, but learned he is a musician and had a show that night in a different city, i.e. he needed to get home to work and earn money. It turns out he has four children, like me, his wife has a “normal” 9-5 job, and he travels the country to earn a living. That’s a hard gig.

So in exchange for helping him out, my kids and I met an interesting person. It also turned out he had good life insights. He discussed such things as setting goals and writing them down. He has his children do so too, which I think is a great idea I hope to institute with my children.

This gentleman was so appreciative for the ride. For me, it made me feel good to help someone who was in a tough spot and had income on the line.

The next time you have an opportunity to help someone in need, think about how it makes you feel and how it helps build the type of world and community you should want to live in. And in a world where karma matters, I hopefully banked a point or two.

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Vacation shouldn’t be your office in a different location

As the week of July 4th is upon us, a huge number of Americans will take the roads and air to get out of town. Whether you are doing so or not, make sure to plan time away from your work.

Vacation is important. It provides a break from your routine. This allows you to re-charge and connect with friends and family. Yes, this means you should try to not check your work email all the time when you are out. Your body and brain will thank you – it’s part of why most people go on and crave vacation.

If you must think about work while away, plan actions you can take to improve your business or generate new business, as opposed to just doing your usual work from some different, beautiful locale. Take the time and space to think about the bigger picture. That is a benefit of getting out of your day-to-day routine.

But also leave your work behind for at least part of your vacation so you really can allow yourself to rest and enjoy your time away.

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Are you likable?

Studies have shown that likable people are more successful. This makes sense because I feel comfortable saying that almost any person you ask would rather be around and do business with someone who is likable versus someone who is not. Because of this, it’s good that being likable is something you have the power to control and improve on.

Being likable is easy if you think about the qualities you like in others. For me, and likely most of you, these include being sincere, listening well, being transparent, and being understanding of others and their differences. And, again, people who have these skills and are highly likable have been shown to outperform those who don’t.

So what can you do to be more likable? Ask questions. People like to talk. If you ask questions the other person will think the conversation went well even if you only spoke a small percentage of the time. This involves listening fully so you are engaged in the conversation and can ask good follow up questions. I have a partner who says you want to picture the other person wearing a baseball hat that says “Make me interesting.” He means ask good questions and stay engaged.

Another thing you can do is be genuine. Nobody likes people who are fake. They want people they can trust, people who are comfortable in their own skin. If you are trying to win people over, you are approaching it the wrong way. Be yourself, and confident in who you are.

It also helps to have positive body language. Body language communicates a lot, even when you aren’t paying attention to it. An example is the person sitting across from you who is smiling, but has their arms crossed and is sitting in a closed manner. They think they look happy and confident, when they truly appear tense and closed off. If you are not sure about your body language. ask someone you trust. You may be surprised at what they say. If they tell you things they think you can improve on, you can practice in front of a mirror or pay more attention when you are speaking with others.

There are many other traits that go with likability, but the few I mentioned are a good place to start. Even if you believe you are likable, try to see if you can improve on these in business and personal settings. Practice can help, and it is worth your time and effort to invest in yourself.

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