Posts tagged - employee issues

Don’t settle for average

Are you an Average Joe? When I think about the term Average Joe, Homer Simpson comes to mind – the person who goes to work and does what’s needed, goes home and does the same, and then gets up and repeats each day of the week. There is nothing wrong with being average, but, if given the option, why wouldn’t you strive to be more?

There are many people who come to mind when I think about above average, both in my personal life and in the world at large. I know the types of people I wanted to emulate, and it didn’t include Homer Simpson. I am not saying I am above average, but I know that I am striving to do more professionally and personally. Trying to break out of “average” isn’t easy and even if you try, there are no guarantees, but the possibility makes trying worthwhile.

Not being an Average Joe means working harder and sacrificing time that could be spent on leisure time and fun pursuits. Average people have hopes and wishes, but people trying to be above average have goals and plans. Do you? Do you work nights or weekends when its necessary? If you don’t, does the person who does, whether where you work or a competitor, do so? If so, its likely you will fall behind and that person will get the promotion or the business.

Sports can provide a good analogy for many business ideas, and that is the case here. The athletes who have the best and most consistent careers do because they are willing to put in time and effort to try and remain competitive at the highest level. A good example is the basketball player who puts in extra time outside of practice shooting shot after shot.

It makes me think if Steve Nash, who was a star point guard for the Phoenix Suns from 2004 to 2012. He was an all-star into his late 30’s. That is old in professional basketball. I remember reading at the time how he changed his diet, the levels of his workouts and the extra time he put in both practicing and recovering from practicing and games, i.e. massages, using ice and heat, etc. He wasn’t ready to retire and he didn’t want to turn into an average player. By putting in the extra time and effort he extended his career and played at a well above average level for more years than he would have otherwise.

To not be average, you have to invest in yourself. You responsibilities can make it hard to have that extra time you need to invest to break out of “average,” but if you don’t find the time you may never know or reach your potential. Don’t settle for average.

Here are a few quotes on not settling for being average that I find inspiring:

“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

“All I knew is that I never wanted to be average.” Michael Jordan

“Never settle for average.” Steve Jobs

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Be relentless about continuous improvement

This is so important for all of us. No matter what you do, you can always improve yourself and your team. In our world it can mean learning related to what you work on or improving processes or procedures for your team.

Constantly evaluate every aspect of your job to find ways to improve. Share what you learn so that others can benefit as well. This type of investing in yourself makes you and those around you better at what you each do.

I continually try to work on organization and making sure I am getting various tasks done timely. I have tried everything from handwritten to do lists to setting appointments on my calendar to a mix of both. Each time I think I have a system I will keep, but when I look at it I always am working to improve it, which is good for me, my team and our clients.

What is it you can learn or work on to improve your time on your business? If you can’t think of anything you are not thinking hard enough. I challenge you to take some time this week to think about something you want to learn about or an aspect of your job or business you can work to improve.

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Do you perform well under pressure?

When the heat is on, how do you perform? Can you remain calm? Can you focus on the task at hand? Or do you crack under pressure? Or maybe you take out your stress on those around you? If so, you need to find ideas and tools to remain calm and focus, like Shaun White did last night.

Last night I watched him win his third Olympic gold medal in the snowboard halfpipe competition in the last four Olympic games. He first appeared in the Olympics as an 18 year old teenager. This year he s a 31 year old competing against much younger competition. The silver medal winner is 19 and the bronze medal winner is 23. He was the oldest competitor in the event.

We all know his name from his snowboarding accomplishments, or maybe you know him from his skateboarding accomplishments. Maybe you think his latest gold medal was a given. I’ll bet he’ll tell you a different story.

After two rounds of three, White was in second place. He was the last athlete to ride the halfpipe in the finals. Crash or don’t put down a high level run and it would have been a silver for White. But if there is one thing he knows how to do, it is to perform under pressure. Eyes were on him from around the world. He threw down an obviously fantastic run that even someone uninitiated as to what a great snowboarding halfpipe run is would have known he deserved gold. See for yourself here:

He already has Olympic gold medals. He had nothing to prove. He could have phoned it in and people would have said “he is good, but he’s getting old. At least he got a silver medal.” Instead he focused on the task at hand. One run stood between White and his goal. It sure seems like he must shut out his surroundings – the crowd, both there and around the world, his family, the idea of crashing – and go to work. It wasn’t guaranteed to work out, that he would win gold.

Part of performing under pressure is to try to do your best under the circumstances. For White it was about focusing on his run, tricks and performing a clean run. For me it could be drafting and filing the best pleading I can by a fast approaching deadline. The pressure you feel is relative to what you do for a living.

Next time you are feeling the pressure, think of 31 year old White besting his much younger competition and put that inspiration into what you have to do. You may not be awarded a gold medal, but those depending on you will appreciate the manner in which you perform when the heat is on.


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Be persistent and believe in yourself

Believing in yourself sounds easy, but we all have our own insecurities to overcome in given situations. Sometimes the easiest road is to fold and not move forward. Taking the easy way generally is the path to things staying the same or getting worse, but we all say we want to do better and be successful. I think part of the reason is persistence. Some people have it and some people don’t. For those who do, they know it pays off, and that persistence beats intelligence, education and degrees, and talent.

As I am sure you all know, last Sunday was the Super Bowl in which the underdog Philadelphia Eagles defeated the perennial champion New England Patriots. Some of you know the story of the Eagles’ season, but others won’t. Lead by an MVP candidate quarterback named Carson Wentz, the Eagles sprinted out to the best record in the league. Then the unthinkable happened – near the end of the season Wentz was lost to a knee injury.

The Eagles could have folded then and there. Star quarterback out. Backup quarterback in. The excuses to give up were built into the scenario, but that day they rallied to beat the Rams. The rest of the regular season was bumpy.

The backup quarterback was a sixth year player out of the University of Arizona named Nick Foles. In his first five seasons he played on three different teams, including the first few years on the Eagles. In 2016, he was at a crossroads on where his career was and whether to retire. He had to be aware of the naysayers across the country saying he couldn’t lead the Eagles to a playoff win, let alone the Super Bowl. But he proved those people and the Las Vegas odds makers wrong by being persistent. He came back to he Eagles as a bench player, lead the Eagles to three playoff wins, a Super Bowl championship and was named Super Bowl MVP.

You know he and his teammates believed in themselves to accomplish what they did. After the big win, Foles said

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a part of life. It’s part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t fallen thousands of times, made mistakes.”

That translates into he is persistent and believes in himself. Retirement would have been an easy road to take. He stuck with football, and worked harder than ever despite the negative statements being made about him, and succeeded.

Another Eagle, Jason Kelce, said “persistence has summed up my whole career, my whole life.” His grandfather gave him a Calvin Coolidge quote when Kelce was 18 years old and was not given a scholarship by any Division I university (the highest level college programs, in case you don’t know). The quote is:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

This translates to business and has for me in building a legal practice. I have “won” and “lost” on many occasions related to building my business, but I know if I had not been persistent all of these years there would be more losses than wins. Importantly, many of the “wins” have involved being retained by a new client over attorneys I consider to be smarter or more experienced than me, but my belief in myself must have shown through to the potential client.

Try it and see what happens. If you don’t, don’t be surprised by your results, or probable lack of results. Persistence and belief in yourself opens the door for opportunity and success – which side do you want to be on?

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Be authentic

Be you. Not who you think you should be. Not what others want you to be. Be you, just you. You are not an actor or actress, you’re not playing a role. If you do, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Less experienced people are more likely to embellish their experience or tell you they know something they don’t. They want others to think they know more than they do and have greater experience than they do. But most times these “fibs” will catch up with you. It may be when someone else immediately realizes you don’t know what you’re talking about, which is a bad impression to make, or it may be they figure it out later, after working with you, which will not have a positive effect on their opinion of you.

Being yourself and authentic is easier than a facade because it’s hard to maintain a facade. It’s similar to why lying is such a bad idea; it’s easier to remember the truth than to keep up with a lie. Just play it straight up. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t. Perhaps when you admit you don’t know something, the other person will show or teach you, or become your mentor. Or, of course, if you are not authentic you may lose – a lot.

Being the authentic you is how we all should make our way through each day. I once heard an attorney include the following in a closing argument: “A half-truth is a whole lie.” True statement. Being true to yourself and others is being honest. Isn’t that how you want to be known?


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Get out of your comfort zone

The same old, same old is the same as becoming stagnant. Said differently: don’t be a stick in the mud! Try to do something new a couple times a year to take you out of your comfort zone. What it is depends on you.

Maybe it’s trying something new, like hiking or Pilates. Maybe it’s attending a class or conference on a subject that interests you but has nothing to do with your career, which will allow you to meet people outside of your usual circles. There’s an endless amount of possibilities, as long as it’s something you don’t normally do.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is a way to engage in self-discovery, keep life interesting, and expand your interests, horizons, contacts, etc. These are the type of actions that make you and your life significantly more interesting and valuable.

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Get enough sleep

This seems so obvious, yet most of us don’t. You might; I know I generally don’t. I try, but so much to do and so little time…

I read something that said adults generally need at least seven hours of sleep per night until the age of 60, after which most people need more. It seems like that should be easy, but it’s not always so simple. When you are busy at work (including the time spent commuting), household projects, children, and extracurricular activities like volunteer work or sports leagues, who has the time for sleep? Oh yeah, and we should also fit in exercising and socializing. Time is precious, but so is taking care of yourself.

I also read it helps to try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Yes, even on the weekends, which sounds bad if you get up early during the week, like me. Supposedly, it’s better for your sleep cycles. I know when I keep the same schedule, I wake up early without an alarm clock—my body becomes used to the schedule. But if I don’t get enough sleep, I inevitably have a morning when I sleep later than I planned.

Living tired makes everything harder, whether it’s work or fun activities. If you can regulate and normalize your sleep patterns and timing,  it’ll likely help you feel better and be more productive. Sweet dreams.


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Turn you New Year’s resolution into a SMART goal for a better chance to be successful

It is the first week of January. We all are back at work trying to recover from the holidays as the new year kicks into high gear out of the gate. Many of you likely made New Year’s resolutions. It could be one of the standards such as losing a certain amount of weight, starting an exercise program, drinking less soda, eating less candy, etc. Maybe it is something different and more personal to you. Or maybe it is work related such as meeting new professional contacts, listening better to others, or having more balance in your life.

The problem is resolutions are hard to keep. How many times have you had a resolution and it last for a week? Or maybe it lasted a month? Odds are you were not keeping the resolution by the end of that year (assuming it was something that would take a year to accomplish or was a permanent change you were trying to make to a behavior or habit).

If you made a New Year’s resolution, I propose you try something new. Have an action plan on how to stay on task to meet your resolution. To do so, make your resolution a SMART goal. I know many of you have heard this acronym before, and maybe even have set SMART goals in the past.

For those that haven’t, it stands for:






Resolutions generally fail because trying to do something or stop doing something by sheer force of will is a recipe to fail. If your resolution doesn’t fit within the SMART goal parameters, revise it so that it does – you will have a much better chance of success.

Know that your SMART goal/resolution may be achievable in less than year – remember one element is the time you think it will take to reach your goal. If you meet your resolution, come up with a new SMART goal. It doesn’t matter if it is January 1 or May 22. You should constantly look to improve yourself, your business, your life – well, you get the idea. Try it and see what happens.

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Never underestimate the handwritten thank you

Most of you remember when “the usual” was sending anything and everything by mail. People do things for you, oftentimes going out of their way, all the time. Do you acknowledge these people? If not, why not? If so, how?

If someone does something meaningful, you need to let them know. I understand not all people are doing things to receive thanks, or even comfortable with praise at all. But you know when someone deserves your gratitude, and an email or a text may not be the most appropriate way to express it; they can be low-impact and quickly forgotten. Thanking someone in person may work well, especially if you know you’ll see the person. Other times, you won’t be seeing the person for a while and that’s when you should go with the handwritten letter: a high-impact personal touch that won’t be forgotten in a digital age.

I will admit I don’t handwrite thank yous as much as I should, but I try. I was recently in New York and my aunt and uncle, who live northeast of Philadelphia, took a train to Manhattan to go to dinner with me. That was above and beyond given the amount of time spent traveling in one day, not to mention, they’re not exactly young. When I got back to Phoenix the next week, I bought a card and sent them a heartfelt personal note of thanks. People appreciate this sort of thoughtfulness.

The point is to try and let people know when you appreciate them or their actions, and you don’t have to buy a card. You can write a letter on lined paper, computer paper, or sticky notes. It doesn’t matter how you do it and won’t to the recipient, who will be touched because you took the time to personally pen your thanks and acknowledge what they’ve done for you.

To me, it’s like volunteering for a non-profit. Even though the point is doing something for others, it makes you feel good. Try it and see.


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Try to be different not better

I know you may be thinking I want to be seen as different by my peers. But showing people you’re different will go a long way to proving you are better. For instance, I’ve written about my firm’s intentional culture known as the JW Way because it makes us different than most other law firms.

What I’ve found is that most potential clients and referral sources are attracted to the JW Way and what it says about my firm. We understand that the JW Way may not be for every client, but that just means they should be working with another firm or a different attorney.

So think about differentiates you from your competitors; it’s also likely to be what makes you better. Letting people know why you’re different is more intriguing than telling someone you are better. The former is interesting and the latter is cocky. How do you want to come across? And it goes without saying that speaking about your company’s values will come off better than slagging your competitors.


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