Posts tagged - networking

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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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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The 2017 version of why it is time for an annual “checkup” for you and your company

Over the past few years 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 receive every 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 they entail, 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.

This year I had a reminder related to a different item you should check in on annually, auto insurance. We have two teenagers on our policy and a number of vehicles, and the premiums always seem so high to me. But my insurance person knows me and shops the policy every year looking for the best rates rates for policies with similar coverage from quality insurers. He did this again this year and we have a new insurer as of yesterday. And the savings were pretty significant.

With the time constraints of life, it is sometimes hard for me to move beyond the higher-level checkup, but when I do I usually end up with some benefit. Unfortunately, in our time-crunched world, the question of who to check in with at year end is expansive, from your estate planning attorney, to your investment person, to your insurance person, to vendors you may use such as a yard or pool maintenance company, or your cell phone carrier or your Internet provider. You may be surprised what a company will do in lowering monthly costs to satisfy a current or longtime customer. Try it and see what happens.

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 service 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 in years past, here is my original blog post 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.

Happy Holidays!









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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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Travel extensively and meet people

Make travel your norm. We all need to take breaks from work and recharge. If you wait for when you have more time or retire, that time may never come. Or maybe you will retire one day, but be physically unable to go to the places you always hoped and planned to. This is part of work/life balance.

When you travel, immerse yourself in local culture and places. Attempt to meet (hopefully interesting) locals to make your travels more fruitful and expand your world. If you do meet good people, try to keep in touch—it makes your daily life richer and fuller.

I was at a family event back East recently. Part of the draw, in addition to seeing family and friends, was that two former foreign exchange students who lived with relatives of mine years ago were also there with their significant others and kids. Each family had travelled from England and Denmark, respectively. I’ve been in touch with the family from Denmark over the years, but hadn’t seen them in approximately two and half years. I hadn’t seen the couple from England in 13 or 14 years and had never met their children. It was great to reconnect with both families in person.

Not only will I now stay in better touch with the family from England, but one of my nieces made a great connection in her chosen area of study. You never know who you’ll meet or how they may help you or you might help them in life if you’re not open to meeting new people or reconnecting.

And when I talk about travel, I don’t mean every trip needs to be the “trip of a lifetime” to Europe, a safari, or an expensive flight to a remote island. It can be a short weekend in town, a staycation, or a trip to a town an hour or two away. But try different places and activities—sometimes you don’t know you like something until you try it

The point is to give your brain and body a break, as well as spending quality time with your family and friends, hopefully meeting interesting locals or other travelers along the way. Your life will be that much more interesting for you and to others.

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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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