All posts by - businesslawguy

Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.

Proofreading is important. We all know we should proofread everything we write, but we all are busy. 

I remembered this last week when I posted a blog that was repeated. Yes, you read what I wrote, and then you could immediately read it again, because it was there twice. You may be thinking “how did that happen because it must have seemed so obvious.” This is true, but the explanation I could provide doesn’t matter, only that it happened. And many of you emailed me to let me know it happened.

Of course, I immediately went and fixed the problem. The fact is that I should have looked at the draft one more time and it wouldn’t have happened. 

I have been working on trying to proofread everything I write, starting with email. Every time I slow down and do so, I find an error to fix or something I want to revise to sound better. It’s better than reading my original email after someone responds and seeing something I should have or likely would have revised.

Proofreading is another way to invest in yourself. You are putting something out there on which one or more people may be judging you or sizing you up. You want to put out the best written work you can, so proofread what you wrote one more time before putting it out there.

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Time flies so goals and planning are important

When I was younger, clichés such as “The days are long, but the years are short” kind of bugged me. As I aged, I learned that clichés are clichés because they generally are true for most people. I am reminded of how quickly time goes by each week when Shutterfly sends me an email with a few pictures and a subject line such as “Your memories from this week ten years ago.” Then I look and see much younger versions of me, my wife and our children, friends and families, and fun travels from the past.

My point isn’t to lament the passage of time, or of aging, but to consider it in a different light. I think how fast time goes by in the big picture makes setting goals and planning how to reach them that much more important.

I encourage you to make a plan. It can be for a year, six months or whatever time frame works best for you. You may combine personal and work related goals in a single plan or have different plans, but writing down your goals makes it more likely you will reach them. In doing so, you should turn your goals into SMART goals (this can easily be Googled) with action steps to reach them. This is the first step. Many people do this and then don’t look at their plans again.

For most of us this alone won’t help us reach our goals because you need to keep your goals in mind – yes, the cliché that comes to mind is “out of sight, out of mind.” Instead, you need to keep your plan where you will see it regularly. This could be a printout on your desk at home or work (or both), or as a file on your computer’s desktop where you will see it every time you start it up. Or maybe use it as the wallpaper on your computer monitor as a reminder.

Then, and this is big, you actually need to review it regularly. This allows you to see where you are and adjust steps or goals, if necessary. You can make it a part of your routine on whatever time frame you think works by setting calendar items or tasks so you are reminding yourself to review your plan. If you try this, it likely will become a default activity you make time for, which is the definition of investing in yourself.

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Never stop learning

Being a lifetime learner is important. Curious minds need new information like your body needs food and water. Similar to your body needing different types of nourishment, there is so much to learn, whether it is related to your work, hobbies or just a topic you find interesting.

For attorneys, we are required to take continuing legal education classes every year. I try to find topics that apply to the types of work I do. Sometimes the seminars are good, and sometimes not. I hope to  take one or two things away from a seminar. Sometimes my expectations are exceeded. I also read articles and new legal decisions to stay current on my areas of practice.

I have other subjects that interest me outside of the law. When I want to take a break and have some time, it is easy to find articles and information on those topics. Or it may include reading a biography of someone I find interesting, or who I think may have good and interesting insights.

The hardest part is all of the easy options technology provides for us to be unproductive. Of course I am looking at you Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It’s fine to spend a few minutes catching up on what your friends and family are doing, but it is easy to get lost in social media.

Similarly, it is fine to watch movies and shows, but if you do that, but don’t generally know what is happening in the world, it isn’t a net positive. You may want think about your priorities because I think it’s better to have a knowledge base that enables you to have interesting conversations with others, which I think is a great part of life.

The next time you find yourself thirty minutes into the Facebook rabbit hole or starting the fourth episode of some new Netflix series, do yourself a favor and take a break. Find something to do that stipulates you mentally and helps you to be a well-rounded person people want to know.

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Experience is everything

My wife’s friend was lucky enough to go to Italy for a few weeks with some of her close friends. When they caught up recently, this woman told my wife that she was so glad she went. Even though her family vacations every year, it’s the same old, such as a week at the beach or traveling to see family in her hometown. The trip to Italy reminded her of the large world in which we live and the pleasure from experiencing new people, places and things.

Because of the time she spent disconnecting from her work to have new experiences, she realized she wants to plan different types of vacations for she and her husband and for family trips. She re-discovered how important experience is and it has changed her thinking.

She was lucky to take such a big trip and think about her personal and business priorities. Sometimes you need to be experiencing something new outside of your everyday life to have the time and space to think in this manner.

Anyone can do this and it doesn’t mean we all need to go somewhere such as Italy. It can be going to a new restaurant. It can be being a tourist in your home town – hint for those in the Phoenix area: go to the Musical Instrument Museum or take your children to the Science Center (you will like it too). It can be going to a city in your home state or a nearby state you haven’t visited before. I find most places have enough things to do for a three to four day weekend type trip. The point is to branch out and think outside of your usual box.

Don’t put off having new experiences for the future or retirement because that day may never come. Find new experiences that fit within your budget and the time you have, whether on a Saturday or for a week long vacation. Doing so will help you to have shared experiences and a chance to think outside your box.

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Helping others

Most people know and understand that helping others makes you feel good. This can be volunteering for a non-profit to giving directions to someone who is lost. Sometimes your help makes a bigger difference to the person you are helping.

I recently had the opportunity to help someone who needed a ride. No, I didn’t pick up a hitchhiker. I was camping with a few of my children and, right before we were leaving to drive to an airport an hour and a half away, a nearby camper asked where we were heading. When the answer was the airport in the city their friend needed to get to, she asked if we had room to give their friend a ride to the airport because his ride had fallen through.

He seemed like a nice enough guy and we had chatted with his friends over the long weekend. The long story short is that I said yes. The result was helping someone who really needed to get to the airport.

He was heading home, but learned he is a musician and had a show that night in a different city, i.e. he needed to get home to work and earn money. It turns out he has four children, like me, his wife has a “normal” 9-5 job, and he travels the country to earn a living. That’s a hard gig.

So in exchange for helping him out, my kids and I met an interesting person. It also turned out he had good life insights. He discussed such things as setting goals and writing them down. He has his children do so too, which I think is a great idea I hope to institute with my children.

This gentleman was so appreciative for the ride. For me, it made me feel good to help someone who was in a tough spot and had income on the line.

The next time you have an opportunity to help someone in need, think about how it makes you feel and how it helps build the type of world and community you should want to live in. And in a world where karma matters, I hopefully banked a point or two.

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Vacation shouldn’t be your office in a different location

As the week of July 4th is upon us, a huge number of Americans will take the roads and air to get out of town. Whether you are doing so or not, make sure to plan time away from your work.

Vacation is important. It provides a break from your routine. This allows you to re-charge and connect with friends and family. Yes, this means you should try to not check your work email all the time when you are out. Your body and brain will thank you – it’s part of why most people go on and crave vacation.

If you must think about work while away, plan actions you can take to improve your business or generate new business, as opposed to just doing your usual work from some different, beautiful locale. Take the time and space to think about the bigger picture. That is a benefit of getting out of your day-to-day routine.

But also leave your work behind for at least part of your vacation so you really can allow yourself to rest and enjoy your time away.

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Are you likable?

Studies have shown that likable people are more successful. This makes sense because I feel comfortable saying that almost any person you ask would rather be around and do business with someone who is likable versus someone who is not. Because of this, it’s good that being likable is something you have the power to control and improve on.

Being likable is easy if you think about the qualities you like in others. For me, and likely most of you, these include being sincere, listening well, being transparent, and being understanding of others and their differences. And, again, people who have these skills and are highly likable have been shown to outperform those who don’t.

So what can you do to be more likable? Ask questions. People like to talk. If you ask questions the other person will think the conversation went well even if you only spoke a small percentage of the time. This involves listening fully so you are engaged in the conversation and can ask good follow up questions. I have a partner who says you want to picture the other person wearing a baseball hat that says “Make me interesting.” He means ask good questions and stay engaged.

Another thing you can do is be genuine. Nobody likes people who are fake. They want people they can trust, people who are comfortable in their own skin. If you are trying to win people over, you are approaching it the wrong way. Be yourself, and confident in who you are.

It also helps to have positive body language. Body language communicates a lot, even when you aren’t paying attention to it. An example is the person sitting across from you who is smiling, but has their arms crossed and is sitting in a closed manner. They think they look happy and confident, when they truly appear tense and closed off. If you are not sure about your body language. ask someone you trust. You may be surprised at what they say. If they tell you things they think you can improve on, you can practice in front of a mirror or pay more attention when you are speaking with others.

There are many other traits that go with likability, but the few I mentioned are a good place to start. Even if you believe you are likable, try to see if you can improve on these in business and personal settings. Practice can help, and it is worth your time and effort to invest in yourself.

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Preparation matters

I had a conversation this week that reminded me of a post I wrote years ago about the importance of preparation. I went back and looked. The post was spot on regarding the conversation between me and my client. So I revised that post for the current situation because it is a good reminder of how import preparation is.

This week, I called a client to set up a block of time to prepare for a mediation. The client didn’t understand why we needed to meet and thought you just go in and see if the dispute can be settled or not. This common misconception regarding mediation speaks to the importance of preparation.

I explained to the client that the two most important times in a lawsuit are mediation and trial. Mediation is the last time a party has any control over the outcome of a lawsuit because you have no real control when it is in the hands of the judge or jury. Why wouldn’t you prepare for such an important event??

It begs the question as to why you wouldn’t prepare for any important event or conversation, such as a mediation, a year end meeting with a supervisor regarding performance, salary or bonus issues, a job interview, an important conversation with a child, co-worker, spouse, etc. Preparation is much better than “winging it.”

Preparation allows you to create the message you want to communicate and will give you a better chance of making sure you and your position(s) are understood. This will put you in a better place to achieve any goals or desired results. It also will bolster your reputation and what others who deal with you think about you. And reputation is everything.

The message is prepare, prepare, prepare, and see where it gets you, because, as Benjamin Franklin smartly said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

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Ordinary people do extraordinary things every day

I first remember reading or hearing this in a quote from Jim Valvano, the North Carolina basketball coach who said “Every Single Day, in Every Walk of Life, Ordinary People do Extraordinary Things.” In 1983 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game his underdog team was pitted against the heavily favorited Houston Cougars, but won right at the end of the game. He later passed away from bone cancer, but, in addition to starting a foundation for cancer research, he gave speeches and made enduring statements such as the one I quoted above.

Of course, you don’t have to be an athlete to do extraordinary things. All of us have the ability to do so. One way is by supporting non-profits and helping lift up others in your community who need your support. Many of you likely do this already. All of us can and should because we all can do amazing things for others.

I look to people like Maria Brunner, who lives in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and runs Insight Management,  a company that focuses on marketing and promotion in the music and entertainment industry. For the last few years, in the free time she doesn’t have, she has convinced bands, promoters, caterers and others to provide her with leftover food from backstage catering that would otherwise go to waste. When they provide her with the leftover food, she personally delivers it to shelters for homeless veterans or other homeless populations. Many times she leaves and comes back while a concert or event she is working is still going on so she can complete the work she is paid to do.

It took some time for me and another person who knows Maria, along with others, to get her to turn her good deeds into a real non-profit, but now Musically Fed exists. In addition to what she has done to help homeless populations in Phoenix, she has convinced some bands and managers to do this on every tour stop in each city. Bands and groups that I am aware of doing this include Fleetwood Mac, the Country Music Association, and others. And I know am missing other bands and groups pitching in

Maria may not be happy that I am telling her story because she is not looking for kudos or thanks for what she is doing. She does extraordinary things every day despite not really having time to do so because it’s who she is and what she does.

If you question how she does all she does and gets it all done, I think you will hear some version of when you see a hill, it always looks worse than it is, so you take it in small chunks. If you approach your days like this you will be able to accomplish more than you can imagine.

I challenge you to find the extraordinary things you can do in your days to make your corner of the world a better place.

I also want to point you to Musically Fed’s website, which is located at
https://musicallyfed.org/, in case you are inclined to support Maria’s fantastic heartfelt mission. You also can contact me for information.

Go forth and do good!!

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Be fearless

We all know that life is full of worry and stress about success and about failure. This seems to be an integral part of climbing your way to the top of whatever trail or ladder you are on. These types of emotions can help motivate you, but they also slow you down if you let them. It is an art to learn from your past while looking forward.

Everyone who is successful has failed many times. After each failure, they picked themselves back up and tried again. You have to be willing to risk making mistakes or losing to move towards success. Embracing the struggles and challenges provides a better opportunity to overcome them. This can be done through discussions with a mentor or coach, taking the time to learn from from your loses or mistakes, or some other method you find works for you.

Being fearless is a state of mind. It also results from taking action. Bringing the two together provides a better opportunity to reach your goals. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, but most worthwhile goals aren’t easy to reach. Being fearless means challenging yourself to learn and do better each day. It is a journey to try and get to what success means to you. Are you up to the challenge?

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