Perseverance

Perseverance is everything. There is no excuse to ever give up. If you doubt this, you either have had success handed to you, which happens rarely, if ever, or you come up against trying to reach a goal and pivot instead of pushing through to reach your desired result. You may even describe your pivot as a strategic change of plans based on adjusting to the circumstances. Or is it an excuse because reaching your goal was too hard? In approaching goals or difficult situations, attitude and outlook can help guide your actions and decisions.

Most of us know this. Sometimes we are reminded as I was reading an article on ESPN this past weekend. It is named Rise Above and is about Zion Shaver. Of course right now you are asking yourself “Who is Zion Shaver?” I will tell you: he is the type of person you should be thinking about when you think things are too hard or you don’t think you have the energy to continue to try and reach a goal. Zion is an 88 pound high school senior wrestler in Ohio who was born without legs. You read that correctly. Wrestler. 88 pounds. No legs.

Reading this article did not make me feel sorry for Zion; It made me respect and admire this young man. And it inspired me. We all wonder how we would react or cope if we contracted a horrible disease or had life and body altering injuries or otherwise were in a place where we were considered to be disabled. I hope never to find out personally, but if it is me I will think of Zion and try to make the most of the situation. I plan to keep Zion in mind when I am working on difficult goals in my professional or personal life and to share his story to inspire others I mentor or work with.

Read the article and tell me you are not inspired by his story, his accomplishments and his outlook on life. Tell me you doubt that he will achieve success in his future schooling and when he enters the workforce. You can’t, because, with his attitude and outlook, it is impossible to bet against him.

Where will it take you if you adopt the same attitude and outlook, and persevere when attempting to reach your goals?

Rise Above: http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/15273815/the-unbelievable-story-high-school-wrestler-zion-shaver

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Work/life balance it too important to ignore

Are you the workaholic each of us knows? You know the one. Checking email from the time waking up to checking their phone when they are at lunch with you (rude, by the way) to checking it up until they go to sleep. Every social opportunity is really a networking opportunity with people they probably would not socialize with. Conversations relate to business, money, etc. You are not sure what their interests are other than work and making money. Or is this you?

It is no secret that hard work is required for success. And there are times you must work harder than others and longer hours. Getting ahead does not come easy. But, as important as giving your all for your career or business, there has to be down time to. No, I don’t mean sleep.

What do you do for fun? What do you do for stress release? If you have to even think about the answer to either of these questions you need to rethink your priorities. Working hard until you die will only result in one result. And we all know someone who was a workaholic because they were going to retire young and didn’t make to retirement for reasons that are not pleasant. While fun is important, stress relief really is a required part of all of our lives.

If you question what I just said, talk to your doctor. Your stress relief doesn’t need to be training for a marathon or triathlon, but you need to put physical activity in your routine. Your body and brain will thank you for it as you age.

As for fun, it really is a requirement too. It could be sewing or playing an instrument, travelling, participating in a book club, etc. or a combination of many things. But you need to find things you enjoy that are wholly unrelated to work. Without doing so, you will have no balance and the odds of burnout or something worse increase exponentially.

Plus, the more things you do outside of work, the more you have to speak about the next time you are networking…..

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Missed Connections: Don’t Judge People Unless You Know Them

I saw a video this morning titled “Millennials Show Us What “Old” Looks Like” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYdNjrUs4NM&feature=youtu.be). While it is hard to hear twenty and thirty somethings say they consider people in their 40’s to be old, it got me to thinking about the conscious and unconscious biases we all have. Spoiler alert: in the video they introduce the millennials to “older” people and they realize some or all of their perceptions of age and what is old were wrong. These biases are about more than just age and can impact your professional and personal network in a negative way.

Think about what crosses you mind when you are at a restaurant and a gentleman at the table next to you has an earring or a woman has a nose ring, or someone has sleeve of tattoos on their arm. Some of you are thinking “why would they do that to themselves” or “they clearly aren’t on a professional business track.” Others are thinking nothing at all because to you it is within the range of norms for people you know or deal with. The difference in perception may be because of your age, how you were raised or something else in your background. But the person you may think has a low level or blue collar type job may be a doctor, a nurse, an investment advisor, own a successful business, etc.

What comes into your mind first is unconscious, and we all do have biases, whether we admit it or not. Making assumptions without knowing someone is problematic on many levels. By doing so, you may avoid a person at a social or business event who may be a great connection for you or someone you would connect with on a personal level. And remember, everyone has these biases and it may cause them to avoid you too.

So what can you do about this? Truly try to be more open minded and embrace other’s differences. Next time you have an opportunity, start a conversation with the person you usually would avoid. The worst that can happen is they are not interesting or a good connection. If so, it is easy to say “nice to have met you” and move on. It is better to waste a few minutes than miss an opportunity.

I always say “if we were all the same the world would be a boring place.” I believe that to be true. Branch out beyond your norm or comfort zone and see what happens!

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Don’t be Afraid of Failure: Get Out of Your Bubble and Be Your Best Self

Without failure you will not succeed to the level you otherwise have the ability to reach. Wayne Gretzky said “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” How true. People are seriously afraid to fail. People are seriously afraid to have someone tell them the failed. Or were wrong. People simply are afraid of criticism, even when it is constructive criticism.

Because of this a large percentage of the population would rather live in a bubble where they do enough to get by, but not take risks that can lead them to another level and greater success. Why? Again, people do not like to hear negative reviews regarding their work or actions, ignoring that it is as hard to provide constructive negative feedback as it is to take it. Failures and constructive negative feedback can be learned from in ways success from maintaining the status quo will never provide.

The truth is that if you have not failed you are not trying to be your best self. If you are okay with maintaining the status quo, but not improving, keep doing the same thing and you will continue to have the same results. But do so at your own peril because while you stay in your bubble, someone more aggressive, younger, etc., will come along and pass you by. Maybe this won’t upset your apple cart and your bubble will remain intact, but are you really okay with it when those people pass you by and later leave you in the dust?

Eleanor Roosevelt said “Do one thing every day that scares you.” What scares you is different for all of us. Maybe it is setting aside five to ten minutes each morning to call someone from your list of contacts or who you want to connect with just to say “Hi” and stay in their mind. Maybe it is setting a coffee or lunch with someone you met, but don’t really know, who could lead you to business or good connections. Maybe it is agreeing to be a presenter at a seminar. Maybe it is asking people for business. It can take limitless forms, but each day you don’t do something that scares you is another day you stay in your bubble not striving to do better.

So what are you going to do today to get out of your bubble?

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Are you all in?

We all know the saying “You are either all in or all out.” The meaning of this phrase is obvious, but when you think about it, it applies to all situations in business  or your personal life.

In your personal life, if you spend your time with your kids or significant other connected to a device, email, etc. they will know they don’t have your full attention, which means you are not all in. That email can wait when it comes to your time with your kids or significant other, can’t it? If not, you are better off explaining to them you have to work than letting them sit there assuming they are not your priority. Think about how you feel if your significant other is constantly on their phone or the Internet. Or , if you have teenagers, it is likely you know this feeling well.

Similarly, in business, if you are not all in, you are all out. You cannot kind of do something and be successful. You may not work as hard as you could have and get lucky by landing an account or client, but that is the exception, not the rule. If you don’t give it your all on a report for a supervisor and they know your usual level  of work product when you do give it your all, they will know. The inverse of this is that people you work with or for know when you give it your all. Of course, this comes from more than a report or work product, and includes your direct dealings with them in person, by phone or otherwise. Don’t you want people you work for or with to think you are all in?

If not, you should be questioning if you are in the right field or profession. It could be that something in your personal life is affecting you in your work or vice-versa. If so, you should meet issues and challenges head on because if not, nothing will change, and it could ruin relationships, your career or more.

So, are you all in?

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Do You Love the Life You Live?

The other week my wife was driving with our 10 and 7 year olds in her car. The 10 year old, out of nowhere, said “I am living the live I want to live.” Before my wife could say anything in response, my daughter asked her younger brother if he is living the life he wants to live. His response was “No.” That response was followed by the statement “If I was living the life I want to live I would be in Madagascar observing chameleons, lemurs and fossas.” No, I didn’t know what a fossa was either without looking it up (See below). But this conversation got me thinking about my daughter’s question as it relates to adults, business and life.

Work is about fulfillment more than money; at least it should be. This is one things millennials have right – the want to do something that they think matters. Of course what matters to each of us is personal and different, but it still should drive you to seek out work that fulfills you or about which you are passionate. Money helps, but not day to day with a career you don’t enjoy. Don’t envy those who don’t work because they are empty and unsatisfied at the core. Try to have a job and build a career you love, but don’t assume just because you are passionate about it you will get rich.

It’s okay to have a job others consider mediocre to support your life and hobbies if you are doing something you like. If you are not, then you have a mediocre job and likely a mediocre life. Some people don’t have a choice or access to a job or career with upward mobility. They really may hate what they are paid to do for work every day. When you have a choice, it seems obvious that someone will not take what they and others may consider to be a mediocre job unless it will fulfill them or otherwise let them live the life they want to live.

For instance, I know someone who, while actually highly educated and employed, spent the first decade of their career working enough to save money to travel the world, not to advance a career or earn more money. Those of us who were working to build a career at that time couldn’t imagine taking a year off to travel the world and then doing the same thing every few years to travel and be immersed in a foreign culture. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous when I would get that person’s emails to friends and family during the various lengthy travels and read about great adventures and their time to think and do without constant pull on their attention.

So I think it is a good question to ask yourself: Are you living the life you want to live? I am thinking professionally, but obviously it can be about all or any part of your life. If your answer is no, will you do anything about it?

 

ps. The fossa is a carnivore that is related to a mongoose and looks like a cross between a puma and a dog. Fossas are nocturnal creatures that hunt almost any animal including insects, reptiles, rodents and lemurs. They also prey on chickens in and around Malagasy villages and are hunted by local people as vermin.

Fossa are active both in trees and on the ground and are excellent climbers using their long tails for balance and retractable claws for climbing straight up and down tree trunks.

 

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Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken!

The subject of this blog post is a great quote from Oscar Wilde. And it rings true because it is better to be an honest version of yourself than a fake version of someone else. Everyone has heard the saying “fake it till you make it,” but being yourself from the start will get you farther in life.

Many people in our society have people they want to emulate, many times only seeing the public image and knowing nothing about the person. It could be a musician, an actress, a politician, or someone else in the public eye. But it also could be a professional or an entrepreneur. It can be about something specific or superficial, like how someone dresses, the type of car they drive or how their hair looks. It also can be bigger picture or innate qualities people are drawn to, like attitude, dealing with others or how you carry yourself.

Instead of trying to be exactly like someone you look up to, find qualities in others that you like or are drawn to and try incorporate them into your life. It may or may not work because it may or may not be who you are. And that is the goal, to discover and be the best you. This is what will give you the best chance at success personally and professionally.

A good way to do this is to find a good mentor to help you be a better you. By this, I mean you can seek guidance that will help you to carve out your own style or way of doing things. People will remember you if you do things your own way, well, along with your positive unique characteristics. If you are similar to someone else in my world there is a good chance I will remember that person before you. If you are your own unique self it is more likely I, and other people, will remember you.

This may or may not matter to you in your personal life, but it does for most of us in our business life. You know “out of sight, out of mind.” You will be more successful if you dance to your own drummer and are someone who comes to mind. So embrace your similarities and differences to other, including what you are passionate about, and be yourself!

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The 2015 version of why it is time for an annual “checkup” for you and your company

Last year, many of you probably read my blog regarding having a checkup for you and your business. This does not involve the doctor, but it does involve all the other professionals in your personal and business life. Since that time, I decided to make this topic an annual tradition. This is based in part on the range of feedback I received last year.

Some of you said “What a great idea. I am definitely going to do that.” Other said “Sounds like a good idea, maybe I will look into that.” Most of you were busy with the holidays and all that it entails, and probably ignored my advice. To be honest, any of these responses is okay and ignoring my advice may not have had detrimental effects to you or your business.

The point of the advice is that you only know what you know. If you do not check in with your professionals and, for example, make sure contracts or your estate plan remain enforceable and up-to-date, that is where the risk comes in. For example, I always check in with my accountant at the end of the year to ensure that all is right with taxes, i.e. to find out whether my wife sand I need to send the IRS a check before the end of the year.

This year I had a reminder of a different kind. My wife and I are having an issue with a vendor related to our home. In speaking with a client earlier this week who is in the same business, I learned that we have been over-charged for the last few years and likely will be able to lower the cost for the service in question. With the time constraints of life, it is sometimes hard for me to move beyond the higher-level checkup to things like home vendors, but it actually all is the same. Unfortunately, in our time-crunched world,  it expands the question of who to check in with at year end to possibly include shopping rates for vendors for your home or business too.

I know, I know, who has the time? None of us do, which is why the choices yours. Are your contracts up to date? Did you pay enough estimated taxes or withholding? Are you paying the cleaning service at your office or your lawn guy for your home too much? The choice of what professionals to consult, what costs to check or compare and what services to put out to bid is yours. Choose wisely!

And for those of you seeking a reminder or who did not see it last year, here is my blog post from last year on getting an annual checkup:

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of where you are personally and professionally. This can be checking in with your personal accountant to make sure you have withheld/paid enough taxes during the year or planning for deductions to planning for large corporate expenditures on things such as upcoming projects, planned corporate initiatives or planned equipment purchases. But the one thing that is a constant is that we all should be doing this.

In the past I have mentioned why it is good to sit down with various professionals you or your company work with just to check-in, be they attorneys, accountants, insurance professionals, financial planners, investment professionals, etc. The list depends on you and your business.

This does not have to be a formal appointment unless you think that is appropriate depending on the nature of the planned conversation. Instead, it can be you offering to buy them lunch or a drink. The point is the better the professionals you work with know you, the more they are able to make recommendations aimed to benefit you or your company.

So don’t wait, start making plans today to meet with these people this year, or at least first thing next year. We all are busy this time of year, but if you take these actions it will help you now and in the future.

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Don’t Let Your Communication be an Illusion; Communicate to be Understood!

Communication is a singular important matter in all contacts between people. But it does not always happen in a way leading to understanding on the same level between the participants in the conversation. This is high-lighted by a quote that I like:

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place – George Bernard Shaw

Do the people you communicate with understand what you are trying to convey? If you think so, how do you know? Odds are the communications are not as clear as you think.

That is because it takes more than just you speaking. It also takes the other person listening fully. And it takes the other person understanding what you said.

Think about yourself. When someone is speaking with you, are you listening or thinking about what you are going to say next. If you are thinking about what to say next, you are not listening fully. If so, it is likely you will miss something the other person wants you to know and understand.

Listening fully is challenging whether in person or on the phone. In person you may be able to tell someone is not understanding or listening to you based on their responses (or lack of responses!) and body language. How can you tell on the phone? Maybe by the response. Or do you hear typing or mouse clicks, signaling the person on the other end of the line is focused on something on their computer, not what you are saying.

So actual communication where both people listen and understand each other is hard. This is true in business and at home. You can ask questions to make sure the other person understands what you are saying. Or at home, you can ask your child to stop texting while the two of you talk! And, you should look at how you listen in live conversations or over the phone to make sure you are not missing anything.

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Treat your clients’ money as if it were your own

So my firm has a unique culture, as do all businesses. But the difference at my firm is that we have captured the essence of our firm in 21 fundamentals we call The JW Way (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). These are the foundation of our business and inform how we operate from how we deal with clients to who we hire, whether attorneys or staff.

Today I am focusing on one fundamental: Treat clients’ money as if it were your own. Yes, I know this makes sense, but doing it is not always the obvious choice. The easiest example of this in my world involves litigation. A partner of mine is known to say: We can ride to court in a Honda or a Cadillac. In some situations a client may only be able to afford the Honda. Of course this means having difficult conversation at the front end to determine what your client or customer can afford and how that relates to what they want to do.

If that is the case, you then have to figure out whether it is possible to provide outstanding legal advice and service that will meet your client’s expectations going to court in the Honda. If not, or if a potential client is looking for a luxury ride they cannot afford, the best thing I can do is decline the representation because odds are I cannot realistically meet their expectations.

For me, when a client is on a litigation budget, that means thinking about overall costs for a representation and what can be done to try and work within a given client’s budget or financial limitations. For example, it could mean taking a close look at larger litigation expenses such as depositions and only taking some, but not all possible, depositions. Or, on smaller expenses it may mean sending a demand by snail mail and email, but not having it hand delivered or served.

I am sure there are ways in your business to shave both smaller and larger amounts from what you are doing for your clients or customers on a specific deal or project. Or maybe it is looking at administrative expense and overhead in your business. Maybe there is a bigger picture change you can make that will result in savings you can pass on.

The fact is that by treating our clients’ money as if it were our own, as well as following the other fundamentals of The JW Way for a number of years, it has lead my firm to great overall business decisions and great hiring decisions regarding people who fit into our culture, as well great and continuing success. This in turn has resulted in my firm being able to meet and exceed the goals of our clients and avoid sending invoices that provide sticker shock; Your client doesn’t want the invoice for the Cadillac if you discussed the Honda.

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