Learn the norm and then push the boundaries

Some time ago I mentioned if we all were the same, the world would be a boring place. This remains a favorite saying of mine. In relation to work, there always are “in” jobs and professions, or the new better way to do your job. In reality, there are many ways to do the same job. Certain tasks may have specific steps, but otherwise, creativity and differences reign.

No matter your business or where you work, it is your individuality that makes you stand out to others. It also is your creativity and the ability to think outside of the box. Do you do that, or is the same old same old? It’s hard to come up with or do something new or different. Ideas that seem so obvious weren’t to most of us. If you are an entrepreneur, whether in a startup or any other type of business, what makes you and your business stand out?

Colleges should teach creativity along with entrepreneurship, business, etc. Tapping into other parts of the brain is important and can be life altering. It is good to think outside of the box and differently than others in your space. Of course, in all businesses and professions, you need to learn the ropes and rules before trying to push any boundaries.

Doing what others have done is safe and where learning begins. We need people to do many jobs that are decidedly not hip or “in”. In fact, being safe or working as others have or in an unhip job may make you a success. Once you have learned the basics, being creative, unique and different has the possibility to make you a trailblazer or visionary in your field.

It’s up to you to determine whether you are okay with the status quo or not. It sure seems more interesting to blaze your own trail within whatever path you choose.

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Embrace failure to achieve success

Failure is an important part of success. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” How true. This true statement recognizes that people are seriously afraid to fail. Similarly, people are seriously afraid to have someone tell them they failed or did something incorrectly. The fact is that most people 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. You may ask why would people not try their best to succeed but many people are comfortable flying under the radar only doing what is needed and nothing more. Again, people do not like to hear negative feedback or reviews regarding their work or actions, ignoring that it is as hard to provide constructive negative feedback as it is to take it. You can learn from constructive negative feedback 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 you do so at your own peril because while you stay in your bubble, someone more aggressive, willing to take risks, younger, etc., will come along and pass you by. Maybe this won’t bother you, but will you really be 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 each of us is different. 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 new 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 place not striving to do better. Is that what you really want?

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Unraveling Conscious and Unconscious Bias Through Personal Connection

This morning I was clearing out old email and found a link to video from a number of years ago. The video is titled “Millennials Show Us What “Old” Looks Like” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYdNjrUs4NM&feature=youtu.be). I was reminded about what I thought when I first saw it years ago, which is the big picture idea that people judge others based on their own biases and lack of knowledge. It could be based on age, as in the video, or on appearance or some other shallow reason that has nothing to do with who the person is. We all do it even when we are conscious of the idea that we generally have more in common with others than difference.

What I’m referring to are the conscious and unconscious biases we all have. For some watching the video it will be hard to hear twenty and thirty somethings say they consider people in their 40’s to be old, but it caused me to think about conscious and unconscious bias in broader contexts including in my professional world. 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. Of course, the biases we all have are about more than just age and can impact your professional and personal network in a negative way.

What crosses you mind when you are at a restaurant and a gentleman at the table next to you has earrings 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. This goes back to the old adage about what happens if you assume.

What comes into your mind first is unconscious, and we all do have biases, whether we want to admit it. 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 would 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 each of us do about this? I urge you to 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. Put this into practice by branching out beyond your comfort zone and see what happens.

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Consider the behaviors necessary to live your values

We all have values we live and work by whether or not we actually spend the time to think about it. Stopping to consider the behaviors needed to meet your values is an important exercise because values are abstract concepts such as quality, timeliness, or integrity. On the other hand, behaviors are concrete actions we each take or don’t take.

I saw one definition of values as “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.” Whatever values you have require certain behaviors to meet your values. The flipside is that there are many behaviors that are in direct conflict with your values. The challenge is to work to behave in a manner that is in line with your values at all times. Of course, this is harder than it seems.

For example, I pride myself on producing quality legal work in a timely manner. I can draft a quality contract or legal brief within the time frame I need to only if I set behaviors to allow me to meet these values. It may be calendaring when to start work on a project, not just the due date. It may be blocking time to focus only on the project by closing my office door, ignoring emails, and putting my phone on do not disturb (I know this goes against the multi-tasking world we all inhabit these days, but be honest, can any of us truly multi-task well?). If I take these types of actions it is more likely I will meet my values related to work quality and timeliness.

It is a worthwhile exercise to spend time thinking about your values and how you work. Once you can outline the values you have or want to achieve, you then need to spend time on outlining the behaviors that will help you meet each value you have identified. After you take the time and energy to do this, I suggest you keep a list or document of the values and related behaviors where you can review it easily and often. Doing so is an investment in yourself, will help you focus on your values and behaviors, and will give you the best chance to do so successfully.

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Work/life balance is a constant yet unachievable goal

Some of you may be asking, what does he mean? Some of you may be saying, “work/life balance, I’ve got it!” Others are saying “Good luck on that!” I’m focusing on the importance of focusing on this balance whether or not you actually achieve it. That focus gives you an chance and hopefully allows you to make plans, take a mental health day, or an actual vacation.

I say the goal of work/life balance is unachievable because it’s similar to having the right amount of work each day. It’s a myth while still being a goal that has substantial benefits. If you never try you won’t come close. Plus, we all know that sometimes you’re heavier on the work side of life and others you’re heavier on the family or life side of life. Can you point to a time or even a day when you achieved perfect work/life balance?

We all work hard. One of the strategies that helps me stay focused on my work is the knowledge that I have planned breaks, whether taking a mental health day, a short or long weekend, or a weeklong vacation with my family. It helps me focus and be productive in my chosen profession. If all I had to focus on was work with no break in sight I’m not sure I could do it.

At the same time, I recognize we each have different things that motivate us. The point is that it’s important to to know what motivates you and your thought process and actions to try and have balance in your life. You cannot work all the time, the same as you cannot play all the time.

How do you achieve this balance? I wish I had the answer for everyone, but only you have that answer. What creates balance in your life will be different than what creates balance in my life, let alone for anyone else. But it is important to figure out what provides that balance for you. If you already have, or even start now, you are on your way.

Now, get back to work!

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Celebrate good times, come on!

Celebrating anniversaries and milestones in business is more than just a tradition; it’s a strategic practice that fosters a sense of accomplishment, unity, and motivation within the company. They serve as significant markers of progress, reminding owners and employees alike of their journey together and the goals they’ve achieved. Recognizing milestones acknowledges the hard work and dedication of the team and reinforces a positive company culture centered around achievement and growth. It’s an opportunity to reflect on past successes, learn from challenges, and set new targets for the future.

For a law firm, commemorating anniversaries and milestones holds particular importance. In an industry known for its rigorous demands and high-pressure environments, taking the time to acknowledge achievements boosts morale and reaffirms the firm’s commitment to excellence. Whether celebrating an anniversary, a major case victory, or moving into a new space, these milestones serve as reminders of the firm’s growth, impact and reputation within the legal community. Such celebrations can also strengthen client relationships by showcasing the firm’s longevity and track record of success, instilling confidence in the firm’s ability to handle complex legal matters.

This is top of mind today because my firm, Jaburg Wilk, is celebrating. Later today we are showcasing our new digs we moved to in late January with a few hundred people made up of employees, clients, and colleagues. There is a dual purpose because this year also marks the 40th anniversary of the firm’s founding. We didn’t have to take the time, effort, and money to do this and no one would have thought a thing. Being a big believer in marking moments with people you care about, I think taking a moment to reflect on the past while looking towards the future while enjoying the company of people who have helped make the firm a success is a great use of time and resources.

Beyond internal benefits, commemorating anniversaries and milestones also serves as a powerful marketing tool. Sharing these achievements with clients, partners, and the wider community highlights the firm’s accomplishments and reinforces its brand identity and values. It demonstrates stability, reliability, and a commitment to long-term client satisfaction, which can be instrumental in attracting new business, retaining existing clients, and getting referral work. Additionally, public celebrations generate positive publicity and strengthens the firm’s reputation as a trusted leader in the legal industry.

These moments provide an opportunity for team building and employee recognition. Recognizing individual contributions to a business’s success fosters a sense of pride and loyalty among staff members, increasing job satisfaction and reducing turnover. By acknowledging the hard work and dedication of employees, the firm reinforces a culture of appreciation and support, motivating team members to continue striving for excellence. This, in turn, contributes to higher levels of productivity and collaboration, driving the firm’s overall success and competitiveness in the market.

Celebrating anniversaries and milestones is not just a ceremonial gesture but a strategic imperative for businesses. These occasions serve as markers of progress, fostering a sense of achievement, unity, and motivation within the organization. By recognizing and commemorating milestones, businesses can reinforce brand identity, strengthen client relationships, and boost employee morale and productivity. Ultimately, these celebrations contribute to a business’s long-term success and sustainability in a competitive marketplace.


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Do you elevate the performance of the people around you or only your own results?

Elevating the performance of those around you versus solely focusing on your own results is a critical distinction in personal and professional development. When you prioritize lifting others, you contribute to a collaborative environment where everyone’s strengths are utilized to their fullest potential. This approach fosters teamwork, enhances morale, and ultimately leads to greater overall success for all. By empowering and supporting those around you, you create a ripple effect of positive influence that extends far beyond your individual achievements.

In many contexts, the ethos of elevating others aligns with effective leadership. True leaders understand that their success is intertwined with the success of their team. By investing in the growth and development of their colleagues, leaders cultivate a high-performing and cohesive unit. This approach amplifies the team’s collective impact and also builds loyalty and trust among its members. In contrast, a sole focus on personal results may lead to a competitive and siloed environment, hindering collaboration and stifling success.

In the legal profession, elevating the performance of others is paramount to success, particularly in a team-oriented setting such as a law firm. Attorneys who prioritize lifting their colleagues contribute to a culture of excellence where expertise is shared, mentorship is valued, and client service is prioritized above individual accolades. Collaboration among attorneys enables them to leverage diverse perspectives and skills to provide comprehensive solutions to complex legal issues. Furthermore, in a profession where reputation and relationships are paramount, attorneys who elevate the performance of their peers often enjoy stronger networks and referrals, ultimately enhancing their own success.

I regularly work with other attorneys at my office on my client’s matters. Doing this helps each of us and my clients. Having the opportunity to get the perspective of others allows me to avoid my own blind spots and consider ideas I may not have come up with on my own. It helps younger attorneys gain experience and learn how to collaborate in a team-oriented environment. It also helps clients because having a team including attorneys with differing years of experience allows me to have people billing at different hourly rates do appropriate levels and types of work, which results in lower fees than if I just tried to do it all myself.

In any profession, the ability to elevate others demonstrates a commitment to collective growth and success rather than self-interest. When you focus solely on your own results, you may inadvertently stifle the potential of those around them and limit the overall impact of your organization or team. Conversely, by actively supporting and empowering your colleagues, you contribute to a culture of continuous improvement and mutual support, leading to sustainable success in the long term for you and your business.

Whether in the workplace or in personal interactions, the choice to elevate the performance of those around you speaks volumes about your character and leadership capabilities. By prioritizing collaboration, mentorship, and support, you not only contribute to the success of your team but also cultivate a culture of excellence and empowerment. In doing so, you position yourself as catalysts for positive change and create lasting impacts that extend far beyond your individual achievements.

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Frequently wrong, but never in doubt

“Frequently wrong, but never in doubt” captures the essence of confidence without competence. It characterizes individuals who assert their opinions and judgments with unwavering certainty, even when those assertions are proven to be incorrect. This phrase often conveys a sense of arrogance or hubris, where individuals prioritize their own convictions over factual accuracy or critical thinking. It highlights the danger of overconfidence and the importance of humility in acknowledging one’s limitations and the potential for error.

In many contexts, this phrase can be applied to situations where individuals exhibit a tendency to confidently assert their beliefs despite lacking sufficient knowledge or evidence to support them. It’s a form of “fake it till you make it.” Whether in casual conversations, academic debates, or professional settings, there are always those who exude self-assurance regardless of their actual understanding of the subject matter. This can lead to misinformation, misunderstandings, and ultimately, poor decision-making.

When considering how this type of arrogance or overconfidence applies to attorneys, it becomes particularly concerning. Attorneys are entrusted with advocating for their clients. To do so they have to interpret complex legal principles and apply them to a specific set of facts to be able to make persuasive arguments to opposing counsel and before courts and juries. In these roles, confidence is important, but it has to be tempered with accuracy and ethical responsibility. Attorneys who exhibit unwavering confidence without the necessary legal knowledge or factual basis risk misrepresenting the law, misleading their clients, and committing malpractice. Humility, thorough research and putting in the time to know the positions you’re taking have a basis, introduces integrity into the legal process.

I recently heard about an attorney, who in making a presentation to other attorneys who practice the same area of law as the presenter, made a presentation about a statute that had been repealed a number of years ago. He spoke as if the statute was still effective. He had failed to search a portion of case law that was very important to the area of law where he would have learned the statute had been repealed. He also could have reviewed the statute online and learned learned this from doing a Google search. Even when a peer pointed out the statute had been repealed, he questioned that and moved on with his presentation. I don’t know why he thought that, as an experienced attorney, his research was complete, but he embarrassed himself in a roomful of colleagues. This included people he looks to for client referrals and who will now doubt positions he takes in cases in the future knowing he may not have put in the time and effort to know his position is correct.

That is just one instance that serves as a cautionary reminder of the pitfalls of intellectual arrogance. It highlights the importance of intellectual humility, the willingness to acknowledge gaps in one’s knowledge, and the openness to consider alternative perspectives. In fields where expertise is valued, individuals who demonstrate humility and a commitment to continuous learning are more likely to earn respect and credibility among their peers. Conversely, those who persist in their overconfidence risk alienating others, making poor decisions, and stagnating in their professional development.

The phenomenon of unwavering confidence in the face of factual inaccuracies should be surprising but we all face it daily everywhere we turn. While confidence can be a valuable asset in various contexts, it must be balanced with competence, humility, and a commitment to intellectual honesty. Individuals who recognize the limitations of their knowledge, remain open to new information, and approach their work with humility are better equipped to navigate complex challenges and contribute meaningfully to their fields and the people they serve.

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Do you have a radical thinker on your team and, if not, why?

When you think about radical thinkers you often think of people who inhabit the fringes of society, where their unconventional ideas are free to flourish away from the constraints of mainstream thought. You may think of people found in various domains, from academia and technology hubs to grassroots movements and avant-garde artistic circles. These types of people add value to your team or business and also are found in more mainstream businesses including law firms, hospitals, or even at a hardware shop; it’s not what you do, but how you approach it. These are people who think differently than and therefore bring different ideas and processes you night not think of to the table.

These types of individuals possess a unique ability to challenge the status quo, disrupt established norms, and envision alternative futures. In business, radical thinkers play a crucial role in driving innovation and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Their willingness to question assumptions and explore uncharted territory can lead to groundbreaking insights and transformative breakthroughs that propel organizations forward. They live outside of the echo chamber that can stall leadership when everyone instantly agrees with every idea, thereby never really trying anything new.

In my world, law, it may not seem like it, but it took radical thinking for there to be lawyer advertising (I’m not saying all radical thoughts turn out great when every billboard on a roundtrip reflects that once radical thought!) or for certain types of flat fee or alternative billing structures. It also is reflected in what has only recently been allowed with alternative business structures, which allow non-lawyers to be owners of law firms. There already are many law firms that look different than a traditional firm because of this type of thinking.

One of the key reasons why radical thinkers are essential in business is their capacity to inspire creativity and spark innovation. By thinking outside the box and challenging conventional wisdom, they open up new avenues of exploration and experimentation that you never would have thought of. Radical thinkers inject fresh perspectives and unconventional ideas into the mix, catalyzing the creative process and driving meaningful change.

Radical thinkers often achieve organizational transformation including in environments with strong resistance to change. Their disruptive ideas ignite a spark of revolution resulting in change. Questioning entrenched practices and pushing for new ways of thinking helps businesses consider new and different options and adapt to the ever evolving business world. Whether it’s reimagining outdated business models or challenging entrenched corporate cultures, radical thinkers are instrumental in driving change.

Radical thought also fosters a culture of continuous learning and adaptation within organizations. By challenging the status quo these people thinking far outside the box encourage the rest of us to question assumptions and explore alternative approaches. This culture of experimentation fuels innovation and enables businesses to respond more effectively to unforeseen challenges and disruptions. By embracing uncertainty and encouraging creative problem-solving, radical thinkers help organizations build resilience and agility in the face of adversity.

Radical thinkers are essential in business because they inspire innovation, drive organizational transformation, foster a culture of continuous learning, and provide the foresight needed to navigate an uncertain future. By challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries of conventional wisdom, they help businesses stay ahead of the curve and seize opportunities for growth and development. Embracing radical thinking can come with challenges, but the potential rewards in terms of innovation, resilience, and strategic advantage make it an indispensable asset for businesses. If you don’t have a radical thinker on your team it’s to the detriment of you and your business.

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Be open to inspiration when it strikes

Inspiration does not come when it’s convenient. Inspiration does not care about the time of day, your schedule, or if you’re busy at the moment. When it come it comes and you need to pay attention. If you don’t, it’s to your own detriment.

Being open to inspiration when it strikes is like keeping the windows of your mind open to let in the fresh breeze of creativity. It’s about being receptive to those moments of insight and clarity that can unexpectedly sweep over you, often when you least expect it. Inspiration has a way of finding you in the most unexpected places and times, whether it’s during a leisurely stroll in nature, while engaging in mundane tasks, or even in the midst of a conversation with a friend. Or how about those times it comes to you in the middle of the night? By remaining open to these moments, you allow yourself the opportunity to tap into your creative potential and explore new ideas and possibilities.

Embracing inspiration requires a certain level of mindfulness and receptivity. It involves being fully present in the moment and attuned to the world around you. Sometimes, inspiration may come in the form of a fleeting thought or a sudden epiphany, while other times it may manifest as a gradual realization or a subtle shift in perspective. Regardless of its form, it’s important to cultivate a sense of openness and curiosity, welcoming inspiration whenever it comes.

One of the keys to harnessing inspiration is to cultivate an environment that fosters creativity and innovation. This might involve surrounding yourself with diverse stimuli, such as art, music, literature, or nature, that can stimulate your imagination and spark new ideas. Many times, inspiration and ideas come to me about a transaction or case, or about life, when I’m hiking. There are many times I have stopped or kept hiking while speaking into my phone so I don’t forget an idea or thought. As noted in a line from the great Grateful Dead song Scarlet Begonias, “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” This is a poetic statement of the truth that inspiration can come at any time.

It’s also important to carve out time for reflection and introspection, allowing yourself the space to explore your thoughts and feelings without judgment or inhibition. By creating a conducive environment for inspiration to flourish, you set the stage for moments of creative breakthrough and insight.

Moreover, being open to inspiration means being willing to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity. It requires a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone and explore uncharted territory, even if it feels daunting or unfamiliar. Inspiration often thrives in the spaces between certainty and doubt, where the boundaries of what is known blur with the possibilities of what could be. By embracing this sense of openness and embracing the unknown, you open yourself up to a world of endless creativity and discovery.

In essence, being open to inspiration is about embracing the serendipitous nature of creativity and allowing yourself to be guided by moments of insight and intuition. It’s about cultivating a mindset of receptivity and curiosity, where every experience becomes an opportunity for growth and discovery. By remaining open to the ebb and flow of inspiration, you enrich your life with the beauty of creativity and the boundless possibilities of the human imagination. Be open to it whenever it comes and see where it takes you.

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What gives you hope?

Hope is a powerful force that drives all of us in all facets of our lives. In the realm of business, hope often manifests as the belief in innovation and the potential for growth. Entrepreneurs embark on new ventures with the hope of creating something meaningful and impactful. This hope fuels their persistence in the face of challenges, driving them to push boundaries and seek solutions. It’s this optimism that underpins the entrepreneurial spirit, inspiring people to take risks and pursue their dreams.

Hope is closely tied to resilience. In times of uncertainty or adversity, hope provides you the strength to persevere. Whether it’s navigating economic downturns, overcoming market competition, or dealing with a hard personal situation, hope enables you to weather storms and emerge stronger. This resilience is essential for long-term success, as it empowers individuals and organizations to learn from setbacks and seize opportunities.

Hope also fosters a sense of purpose within businesses. Beyond financial success, companies driven by hope are motivated by a desire to make a positive impact on their local community, as well as society. This could relate to philanthropy, environmental sustainability initiatives, or ethical business practices; hope inspires businesses to contribute to the greater good. This sense of purpose and being part of a community not only attracts customers and employees who share similar values but also strengthens the company’s reputation and brand loyalty.

For me, I find hope in many places. I find it when I talk to my children and their friends or with younger co-workers. I find it by spending time meeting new people including those who think differently than I do and trying to find a connection. I find it in giving back by serving on two non-profit board for organizations that serve at-risk and younger populations thereby improving the community I live in. I find hope in showing gratitude to others in my personal life and professional life. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. If you start looking and thinking about it, you will find hope most everywhere.

It’s a good exercise to think about what gives you hope. Doing so reduces sadness, anxiety, stress, and many other negative emotions. Improves your physical and mental well-being. It also can create new opportunities through the power of positive thinking. Importantly, it encourages you to get up and take action, creating forward momentum. So, what gives you hope?

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