Posts tagged - life lessons

Confidence is important in life and success

Winners have confidence. They know they won’t always win.  They realize risk is part of the equation. But they realize we’re all human, all equal, someone has to take the lead, and it might as well be them.

It’s up to you to be confident or not, because confidence cannot be instilled by others. Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing in who you are.

The people who put on a show are insecure. You know these people – if you look at their social media accounts or speak with them it looks and sounds like their lives are perfect – all sunshine and rainbows. But no one’s life is perfect, even those with confidence or a level of success. Confident people don’t curate a life, they live it.

Most people who are successful play it down. They don’t need to talk about themselves and their “accomplishments” to make themselves feel better. They can be themselves because they are comfortable in their own skin.

There is a reason the person this post reminds you of is successful. They believe in themselves. Most of these people also know connections and relationships are everything. These are the people who are fun to hang out with because they are not trying to tell you how great they are, even though they know.

If this is you, keep on doing what you are doing. If it is not, what are you going to do about it?

 

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Meeting expectations shows clients you care

I previously have mentioned that my firm has 21 fundamentals that are the foundation of our culture. We call it the JW Way (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). JW Way #3 is Be Passionate About the Client Experience. Without clients or customers none of us would have a job.

We all have them. Whoever you work for is your “client.” For me, I have clients. You may have customers. If you work at a company and report to an internal higher up, that is your client – if this is you, you may be thinking “Manager Jones isn’t my customer or client,” but if that is who oversees what you do and provides feedback on whether you have met required goals or expectations, they are your “client.”

I am big on meeting or exceeding my client’s expectations. I do this a number of ways, with the focus always being on delivering outstanding legal advice, which happens to be JW Way #1. The day to day situations where expectations come in for me is on deliverables, such as draft letters, agreements or pleadings. If I tell a client I will have a draft letter for their review on Wednesday and I email it on Wednesday, I meet the expectation I set for them. If I send it on Tuesday, I have exceeded the expectation. But if I get it there on Thursday or Friday, I have failed. I would much rather under-promise and over-deliver than the opposite.

Even if you under-promise to make sure you can meet a deadline or expectation, it doesn’t mean you always will be able to do so. When that happens, you know in advance you need more time. So pick up the phone, let your client know and set a new deadline you believe you can meet. Things happen. Of course, if you reset deadlines all of the time, the client will think you either over-promise consistently, don’t manage your time well, always move this client’s work to the bottom of the pile or all of the above. If you do this often to enough clients, you won’t have to worry about time because you likely will be working for fewer clients.

Meeting expectations is an important facet of being passionate about the client experience. When you do this, it shows you care about what you do and your clients. This is the image you should want to project. And, if you are honest with yourself, you know it is what you expect when you are the customer.

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How to have difficult conversations

Things that are hard to say usually are the most important. Because of this many people avoid the difficult conversations in business and their personal lives. To effectively manage people in business or personal relationships you need to be able to speak about important matters. Letting import matters go unspoken is problematic for numerous reasons.

The problems include the potential for people you manage to continue to take actions or work in ways you think need to be tweaked or changed. If you don’t have these conversations timely, they only can result in continuing issues in the future, making for even harder conversations and a lot of wasted time. It also includes the likelihood of a wedge being driven between you and whoever the other person is because, even though unspoken, these issues usually are apparent from body language and other indirect feedback. This can result in strained relations and passive aggressive behavior related to all things unsaid.

If you are uncomfortable having difficult conversations, there are ways to try and ease your discomfort. You can outline the points you want to get across and practice your side of the conversation. This can include what you want to say depending on the response your receive. As with preparation for a presentation, knowing your talking points will help. I usually am not a fan of spending time on a “hypothetical conversation,” but with difficult conversations, preparation can help. Plus, what occurs in most situations is that even though the conversation may be uncomfortable, it is not as bad as you anticipated.

Another idea is to work on your talking points and the conversation by practicing with someone else you trust. This can help to hone your points or how you will respond to various responses, questions or defensiveness during the real conversation.

The point is to prepare then take hard conversations head on. If honest, most people will tell you they really want to know where they stand and what others are thinking, whether it is with a peer, a superior or a significant other. So don’t let the import subjects that need to be discussed fester and turn into a real negative by having difficult conversation timely and in a manner to allow them to be as non-adversarial and productive as possible. For instance, if you have feedback on this or any of my blog posts, whether positive or negative – read: constructive criticism – I always am open to hear it.

I hope you will take the next difficult conversation you need to have head on and figure out what works best for you to prepare and participate in these types of conversations.

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Fitting in is highly overrated

Peer pressure starts when you are young and can impact you throughout your life if you let it. We all want to fit in and be in the “in” crowd, whether it is in high school or in our professional lives. You know what I am talking about.

Fitting in can get you places at times, but in the long run it usually means you are one of the pack and don’t “stand out.” Most leaders do not become leaders by being one of the crowd or a follower.

This doesn’t mean you can’t learn from spending time with the crowd, but if you let yourself get trapped in its orbit, that is how people will know you. It usually means something along the line of people thinking of you as one of a group and not individually.

So what is the answer? Be you.

By being you, it may mean being part of the crowd. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you aspire to be a leader or stand out, you have to do more. So do you want to be part of the status quo fitting in, or do you want to excel? Knowing the answer to this question can help guide you with goals and aspirations.

No matter your answer to that question, if you work on being the authentic you, you will have a better chance of happiness and success, whatever that means to you.

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What is your road to success?

Does your definition of success have to do with money? Job title or prestige? Or does it relate to family or your children? Or maybe it relates to the level of your current golf game. You should be aware of how you define success. If not, how can you tell if you have achieved any or all of what you view as success, whether you have met interim goals or whether you need to change course to reach your goals?

As with all goal setting exercises, it helps to begin with the end in mind. It makes it much easier to chart your course and come up with the steps to get there. Knowing where you are and where you want to be also will help you set interim goals.

For me, success comes from both my professional and personal lives. In my professional life, I work with a great group of attorneys, enjoy the types of clients I work with and am proud of the professional reputation I have in my community. In my personal life I have a great wife and four (mostly) great kids depending on the day. They all are happy and healthy. I am able to spend time with them and enjoy their company even though it all is going by too fast. For me, I view both parts of my life as successful.

But that doesn’t mean I have no goals related to success and am resting on my laurels. You have to continuously set goals that fit within your definition of success. This includes both long-term and short-term goals.

It is important to remember that what you view as success likely will change over time. It is relative to where you sit, what is important to you at that point in time and where you want to be. The point is that it is okay to pivot and shift your interim or ultimate goals.

Similarly, me feeling successful doesn’t mean I am the best or most successful attorney. Similarly it doesn’t make me the best husband or father at every moment. Instead it means I am working to meet what success means to me, and the goals I have set and reset to get there.

It will help you if you write down what success means to you, along with the steps and goals to get you there. Once you do that, don’t file it away. Instead, keep a copy on your desktop on your computer, in some program on your phone or tablet and even a hard-copy on your desk or in your work space. You need to review this information regularly so you know where you are or whether changes may be needed.

Take the time to see where you are on your road to success and you will have a better chance to get there. And remember while you are on that road to enjoy the ride.

Here are some quotes on what success means to a few people you may be familiar with:

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, equates success with personal fulfillment:

“Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with. In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.”

“To me, the definition of success is waking up in the morning with a smile on your face, knowing it’s going to be a great day. I was happy and felt like I was successful when I was poor, living six guys in a three-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the floor.”

The late basketball coach John Wooden said his definition of success was more about competing with yourself than the other guy.

Warren Buffet says he measures success by how many people love him.

The late poet Maya Angelou believed “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Bill Gates looked at it differently, saying “It is also nice to feel like you made a difference — inventing something or raising kids or helping people in need.”

The important thing to note is they each are right, just like your definition of success will be for you.

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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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The Facts Matter

A fact is defined as a thing that is indisputably the case or a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article. This is why it is important to know the facts or check facts you hear before relying on them or passing them; don’t simply take them as true.

We live in a world where most people blindly believe what they read on the Internet or hear on television. But facts and truth matter, whether in the news or for you. In my world the facts, and the details related to the facts, make differences as to whether my clients have a chance of success or not in disputes and lawsuits. If I make an unsupported statement in a legal pleading or in court, in addition to not helping my client, I hurt my credibility generally and specifically – judges are smart and remember attorneys who do not support their positions well, let alone make outright misrepresentations in an effort to win for their client.

The idea that facts matters hit home for me recently when ESPN reported that my alma mater’s basketball coach was implicated in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. The story was based on facts that ESPN failed to check, which included alleged wire tapped conversations and what was supposedly discussed in those conversations. But ESPN did not confirm the accuracy of what they were reporting, or its source, before repeating the story over and over again. Instead, less than forty eight hours after the initial report, it is clear that no one at ESPN (or any other news outlet) has heard the tapes and that the “facts” they reported and how they interpreted those facts do not make sense if a simple time line is done. Importantly and interstingly, ESPN has generally been radio silent on allegations since twenty-four hours after they first reported them.

Now, this does not mean the coach did or didn’t do anything improper or illegal, but the damage is done. The University of Arizona has already lost one high-level basketball recruit. It is in a no win situation with the coach because his reputation has been significantly damaged, and therefore so has his ability to recruit top high school players. He may not be able to coach again. If he did something wrong then that is a good result. If he didn’t, his life has been ruined by people reporting hearsay information in a rush to be the first to report the story. How would you feel if happened to you or someone your know?

The point is that you need to make sure you have the facts straight in all situations. Each of our reputations relies on people believing us and relying on what we say. If you have the facts wrong, or don’t take the time to confirm you have them right, you are doing a disservice to the people you are dealing with, whether paying customers or clients, or friends or family. People will question what you say if you ignore the facts, or in some cases, the lack of facts. So always do your best to get the facts straight.

 

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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:

https://twitter.com/NBCOlympics/status/963593221006942209?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fftw.usatoday.com%2F2018%2F02%2F2018-winter-olympics-shaun-white-gold-medal-run

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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