As we head into the end of the year it is a good time to reflect
on the past year and plan for the coming year. Was your 2018 a success? If not,
will you have goals and a plan in place to try to reach those goals for 2019? Whether
or not your year was success, have you ever thought about how you define success?
We all look at success differently. For one person it may be
to earn the most money they can. For another it may be to do the best job they
can every day they are working. For yet another
it may be to positively impact the most lives they can. Your definition of
success depends on you.
The great college basketball coach John Wooden looked at
success more about competing with yourself than someone else. I think this is a
good point. You may set goals that, if reached, will result in you doing better
in some manner than someone else. How you define the goal is the difference.
For an attorney a goal may be about billing a certain number
of hours or bringing a certain amount of money. This type of goal can be
written in terms of what you will do, i.e. I will bill 1800 hours next year or
it can be I will bill more hours than any other partner at my firm next year.
Which goal will motivate someone to work harder depends on the person. When I
set these types of goals I focus on what I want to do, but not how that will
measure up to what others I work with will do.
So as the sun sets on 2018, take time write down goals. When
you do, think about how you will measure success. There is no wrong answer.
Plus, if you write down your goals, there is a much better chance you will
I will leave you with a quote from Richard Branson, who equates success with personal fulfillment:
“Too many people measure how successful they are by how much
money they make or the people they associate with. In my opinion, true success
should be measured by how happy you are.”
Consistency and organization matter. The idea is to have a plan and put it into place. What that plan is and how you put it into place will be different depending on you, your business and how you like to work.
For instance, I use a hand written to do list, but also rely on calendaring and tasks in Outlook. This can result in redundancy, but with some of the types of deadlines I am dealing with, I like that.
Others I know block out certain times in their day for specific activities. This can include blocking out a block of time to review email, and not constantly monitor it. At times, I do something similar in part by blocking out time for specific projects that may take longer and on which I need to really focus.
Also, for me, this is an evolving process. I am always looking at how I can better plan and be better organized. It is very important in my day because many times I am working on a significant number of legal matters during the same day, which can negatively affect my focus if I’m not careful.
Think about how you plan your day to work on or be in touch with the projects and people you want and need to. Then think about how we can plan to be better organized to do so. Last, share the insights that work for you with others and pass it on.
The only person who can limit your imagination is you. What I mean is that if you think there are limits regarding what you can do or accomplish you will encounter self-created self-fulfilling prophesies. If you think about this you will know it’s true.
Negative thinking stops positive momentum. It doesn’t matter whether it’s me thinking I can’t do better than my opposing counsel at trial or a running back thinking he can’t get past the other team’s defensive line. If you approach a situation thinking you can’t, you won’t. Of course the opposite isn’t the same because if you think you can, you might, but you certainly will have a better chance of being successful.
It is better to be like The Little Engine That Could (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TPUwrURo6M) than thinking the challenge ahead of you is impossible. The Little Engine said “I think I can, I think I can” and, what do you know – spoiler alert – it pulled that long train over that steep mountain.
Next time you have a similar type of challenge, tell yourself you can do it, and give yourself a better chance for success.
We are a week out from Thanksgiving. This is a good time of year to think of gratitude generally and what you are thankful for specifically. At the same time, it’s a great time of year to spread good feelings, which you can do by letting others know when you appreciate something they have done for you.
Those of you who have younger children (or older ones…) know that you end up reminding them to say “thank you” all of the time. That is because thanking someone or showing gratitude is a learned behavior. If it came naturally or from observing others we wouldn’t have to teach children to do so.
Hopefully you remember to thank people as appropriate in your daily life. In my day, this can be thanking someone holding the door for me when I get to my office, for holding the elevator for me, or for making a pot of hot water so I can have tea and get that needed caffeine injection upon arriving for work. Many of these situations are universal to all of us, but I notice when I hold a door for someone and they walk through without saying anything.
Of course, if you go through your day looking for when people should be thanking you, you likely will be disappointed. Instead, I think about how I want to come across to others, as well as ways I don’t want to come across to others.
We all have bad days, but most days we should recognize when thanking someone is proper and appropriate. Plus, it has the added bonus of making you or the other person feel good, making it a great way to go through life.
Many people wait for inspiration to strike them before doing something, whether it be work related or writing a novel. Those same people stop working once their inspiration wanes. It’s as if they are waiting for everything to be perfect, from how they are feeling, to the time of day, to whether the moon is full. You get the idea. The more hurdles they create for the timing to be right to get down to work, the less likely it is they will get much, if anything, done.
If you just take the physical act of sitting down and starting to work you have a significantly better chance to get your work done. It also helps if you cut out distractions. For instance, do not check your email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. when you sit down, as it only delays getting to work. If you have a big or special project, sitting down at whatever time of day is the time of day you work best, without distractions, will get you on the road to completing your project.
Like most things, if you make this your routine, you will find you knock out important work when you are fresh and ready to work. It also will help you meet the expectations of those you work with and for. Plus, you don’t need to worry, your email and social media will be there waiting for you when you finish that project.
Have you ever thought about this? Even if you have, how would you know? I once read a quote that said “the difference between the ways a person treats the powerless and the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.” The quote is from Robert I. Sutton, who is a professor at Stanford.
The quote reminds me of my first employer after law school and someone whose lessons still resonate with me today. This individual was nice and respectful to everyone, whether they were powerful (think federal judges) or powerless (think the janitors or security people at the courthouse). Watching these interactions as a young professional had a profound effect on me. Now, in hindsight, I think it helped build my character and in turn, be a better person.
A corollary to the idea of how you treat different people can be seen in business organizations. In some businesses, people are allowed to get away with abusing people, especially if they are “stars,” and may even be rewarded for trampling people on their way up. Other businesses won’t tolerate this type of behavior no matter how successful and profitable the bad actor is.
Think about what is acceptable or not at your place of employment. Is the culture one that is built on people having character and treating people well? Or is the culture one where everyone is out for themselves and character doesn’t matter? We are all different, so you may not be concerned with whether someone like me would think you and those around you have character.
On the other hand, I would like to believe that most of us think having character is important. The positives that comes from having character are endless. The next time you have an opportunity to speak with the janitor at your office, do so. It’s the sort of thing that people of character do, and it will reflect well on you even if you are the only one who knows the conversation happened.
How are you an expert? We all have things we are really good at doing, and the possibilities are endless. You could be an expert in what you do for a living such as computer programming, medicine, plumbing or auto repair, or maybe you are an expert at something like Sudoku, stamp collecting, video games or Star Wars trivia. Maybe you are an expert in more than one area.
What you are expert in may be things that come naturally to you, or it could be something you learn. The easy example is if you are an expert in drawing versus Star Wars trivia.
For me, I feel am in expert at what I do for a living. I feel this way based my experience, the time I have spent learning about issues and law, the time I still spend learning about new law that may assist me in advising my clients and what I have learned from formal and informal mentor.
You should think about how you are an expert. You also should think about how you want to be an expert, i.e. is there something you can put in your 10,000 hours at learning or doing to become an expert? Focusing your interests, whether personal or professional, to become an expert may help you to have a better life experience. Plus, if you learn enough Star Wars or other trivia, you may be able to beat your friends and family at trivia games!
Ignorance rules, allowing misinformation to be a scourge on our society. Sometimes it comes by way of special interests. Many times misinformation is spread by people speaking about things as if they now what they are talking about, but they don’t. This only leads to disagreements in the future because no one can agree on a truth.
You can help this happen less. The first way is by letting people know when you are speaking about something you believe as opposed to something you know. The second is by questioning people about what they are telling you to determine whether they are speaking about something know or something they believe. You can do this in a respectful manner. It is similar to checking the facts.
I recently listened to a podcast of an interview with the guy who came up with Wikipedia. He explained why, at one point in time early on, they decided people needed to start including footnotes to sources when they were posting or editing entries.
It seems obvious why that is a good idea, and it’s no different than fact-checking during a conversation. If you do this, it hopefully will help stop the spread of misinformation, which is important because the facts matter.
We all have good genetics and bad genetics. The thing is, we only find out what that means as we get older. And all of us will have adverse health issues at some point in time. So what can you do about it?
Take care of yourself along the way. Generally eat healthy and exercise. By generally, I mean that once in a while you should have that piece of cake or whatever it is you like that may not be the best for you. But if you eat healthy most of the time, that once in a while indulgence won’t set back your efforts to be healthy.
If you are not sure how to eat healthy, I encourage you to read on how to do so or see a nutritionist. This is important because many people think they are eating healthy, but really aren’t. Two important things to keep in mind: (1) there are ways to eat healthy even if you don’t like a lot of fruits or vegetables, and (2) as far as your weight, it mostly relates to eating and a little bit to exercise (though there are many reason to exercise).
Despite what I just said, you should incorporate exercise into your life. Hopefully there is an activity you like. If you don’t have something you like to do, you need to try activities to find one or more things you like to do. You also need to find times in your week to do them. Most people seem to find that it is easier to make it a routine, whether going to a gym, running, mountain biking, etc.
If you start eating better and exercising you will feel better. This is true even if you feel good now. The benefit is that when those health bumps hit, and you are in good shape, it likely will make whatever you are dealing with easier to recover from. If you do these things for yourself, it will help you in the long run.
Yes, I know that this can be easier said than done. When I speak with people about their business, I usually hear how well things are going and how great everything is. Many times what I am hearing is true. Other times, further into the conversation, I learn the truth, which is, whether or not things are going well, the person is under incredible stress.
It is impossible to be stress free all the time, but living in constant state of stress is unhealthy. You could google it, but you already know it’s true.
What do you do to try and control your stress? If something doesn’t come to mind immediately, you need to find something. For me, it’s hiking. For others I know, it’s cooking, playing music, golfing, etc.
We all have interests outside of our work and you need to find yours. And while video games could be your thing, I hope it’s not just aimlessly surfing the Internet or falling down the rabbit hole of social media. But if that’s really your thing and it helps you relax, do what works!