Posts with category - mentor

We all need a break

It’s been a long 15 months. Many people continue to work remotely, with some never to return to an office. Others never stopped going in. One thing most of us didn’t do was take real and meaningful breaks.

I don’t mean going for a walk or a family barbeque. I am speaking to vacation, to time away, where you can relax. Based on the numbers of people flying and travelling this summer, our country is waking from the long slumber of the pandemic. Are you getting away and really taking a long needed break?

Maybe you’re still not comfortable traveling because you don’t want to fly or stay in hotels. Then go camping where you can control the narrative (other than Mother Nature). There always is way to figure things out, especially something like this, which you need for your mental health.

I encourage you to find a way to take a real break in whatever way you are comfortable. The benefits are innumerable, and your work and life will be better for it.

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What is the soundtrack of your life?

Those of you who know me well have to be thinking about me and music, but that is not exactly what I am speaking to today. Instead, I’m asking what are the things you like to do that drive you, bring you joy and keep you centered? For me music is definitely high on the list, as is hiking and travel. I also like to combine these activities with my family and friends. By doing so, I create a flow in my life where I believe I end up in a work hard-play hard existence allowing me to live life to its fullest in each moment.

This doesn’t mean in each moment I feel that I’m living life to its fullest. It’s a combination of all of these things, including the high highs and low lows, which allow it to happen. There a good moments and there are bad moments personally and professionally. Together, they make up the fabric of your day, your month, your year.

During the pandemic many people made significant changes to their life voluntarily or involuntarily. For each person who discovered the ability to live somewhere else while working remotely, someone else lost their job or business. Even when changes are not voluntary, there are silver linings, though they may not always be obvious until you look for them or they find you. The first step is to try to be self-aware enough to understand what gives you your rhythm or roll. The answer(s) to this can help you through difficult times and to embrace the good times.

I’ve had people ask me how to do this. The question is it depends on you. Do you need to meditate and clear your mind to find what’s important to you or drives you? Do you need to sit and think with your favorite music on the background nursing a cup of coffee? Do you need to journal and get your thoughts out in that manner? Part of what’s interesting to me in this process is we all approach it differently with the same opportunity for success.

However you approach defining your soundtrack, it’s an investment in yourself. Given my line of work and the fact that I bill every six minutes of my day long ago taught me the value of time. There is a cost in time to any activity you choose and the choice is not always obvious.

What if I told you at the end of a long day I was deciding between sitting down and playing a video game or going on a hike? Most of you who know me will think my choice would be to hike. What if I reframe the options and they are to sit down and play a video game with my son or hike? Then the choice may be less obvious. In either scenario, I have the ability to choose what is important to me in the moment and move forward accordingly.

I challenge you to, in whatever manner works for you, take the time define the soundtrack of your life. Sometimes the soundtrack is altered by you. Sometimes by others. But once you figure it out it is much easier to get back on track and do the things that make life meaningful to you. And, of course, there are rewards to those who spend time jamming to their soundtrack for even a few short minutes a day instead of blindly stumbling one step after the other. I challenge you to find your soundtrack, your rhythm, and follow the path.

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You need to be able to execute, or find someone to work with who can

Ideas are important. If you have them and don’t act, then ideas don’t matter. The ability to put ideas into action is a separate skill, and one you need to succeed.

This may not be you. Many people are the idea people, but follow through isn’t their strong suit. What can you do if that’s you? The first thing is to work with someone who has complimentary skills, someone who will take action and move ideas forward. If you are that person, but not an idea person, you need to work with an idea person.

The point of teams is to have a group of people work together with complimentary and sometimes overlapping skillsets. It helps if you have self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, and can be honest about them. We all can’t do everything well. If you figure out what you do well, you will in turn be figuring out the types of people you need to create a good team.

One way to figure out how well you execute is to think of good ideas you’ve had. Think about whether you’ve taken any action to move an idea forward or is it just that, an idea. Even if you aren’t one who can execute well, you can come up with a list of what needs to be done to implement your idea. This will allow you to think about who you need to help you do so. Any steps forward are better than no steps.

Think about you and your ideas, and take the first step towards executing and moving forward to your future.

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Successful people talk about ideas. Unsuccessful people talk about people.

Many people can’t help but compare themselves to others and judge others. This accomplishes nothing other than maybe making the person doing so feel good, at least for a moment. Talking about people doesn’t breed success or opportunity. Nor does it reflect well on those who do it.

On the other hand, talking about ideas and thoughts leads to learning, growing and success. I can talk about successful attorneys who develop a lot of work or I can talk about ideas to develop business myself and come up with a plan to do so. One has a chance to lead me to success, while the other is hot air leading me nowhere. I know which one is more attractive to me.

In talking about ideas, engage people you think will add to the conversation and tell you the negatives related to your ideas, not just the positives. Having people you trust as sounding boards will help you hone your ideas into action plans. Once you have that, it’s up to you to take the next step.

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The importance of relationships can’t be overstated

People and relationships provide opportunities. Ignoring this in the course of business and life is at your own peril. The saying “everything is who you know” is true. These people make up your world, which is expanded by people one person knows, but another doesn’t. Connecting with your connection’s connections is a learnable skill with the possibility to expand your network, world and possibilities.

Sometimes it works to ask people you know to introduce you to someone they know who has a specific expertise, whether an accountant or a plumber. I regularly ask people I know well who they know who I need to know. That is the start of connecting and the chance to forge a new relationship. By doing this you exponentially increase the reach of your network and opportunity for good connections.

You may be thinking this seems like real life LinkedIn. Of course, LinkedIn is an online technology driven world trying to imitate real life. The difference to me is I have many connections on LinkedIn I haven’t met and don’t actually know. This doesn’t mean LinkedIn has no value, just that it’s different than connecting in person and through people you know.

One year I tried to meet any new local LinkedIn connections for lunch or coffee to see if I could forge any meaningful relationships beneficial to me professionally. I met some nice people, but, for what I do professionally, the time and money spent didn’t result in any work or good connections. Instead, I was offered a lot of insurance products and asked to trust people I just met to invest my money. It was a failed experiment, but resulted in me honing my focus on connection through real human contact and interaction through people know. In the years since, this has proven to be a good path to follow.

Of course, these are what is referred to as “warm connections” because they come through someone you know. There is a more immediate trust when someone who knows two people is willing to introduce them. It doesn’t mean every connection made will bear fruit, but you don’t know if you don’t try. Start today.

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Experience and opportunity

If you didn’t know experience and opportunity matter before, I’ll bet you do now after being trapped inside for so long during the pandemic. Think of travelling or meeting new and different people. In the near future you may be offered an opportunity for an experience. Will you take it? Does it challenge the boundaries of your comfort zone? It’s even better if so. Experiences and people make you and your life more interesting, which will provide you with other opportunities.

Sometimes the experience will breed opportunity. I recently sold a car. The couple who purchased it were very nice. After they had seen and decided to buy the car, they came to pick it up. In the course of speaking, one asked me about an area of law and whether I practiced in the area. I do. From speaking with these people we learned a bit about each other resulting in the possibility of a business opportunity. If I had solely viewed this as transactional, only spoken about the car, negotiated the price, etc., this wouldn’t have happened. I like learning about people and taking the opportunity to do so creates opportunity even when you don’t expect it.

Everyone can be interesting to speak with. You need to picture people you meet as wearing a hat saying “make me interesting.” This is a reminder it takes asking questions and good listening to learn things about people. This is where opportunity comes from. It could be a business opportunity as I describe above, or an invite to a cool event, or a spot on an amazing sounding trip. The possibilities are endless, at least if you’re open to people and possibilities.

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Going deep

Many people exist on the surface. By this I mean they know a little about a lot, but not the opposite. This can create a short conversation, but no chance to really learn more on a subject. The more knowledge you have on a subject, the better chance for you to be viewed as an expert and someone people look to.

Whatever you do for a living, people are looking for your expertise. All day everyday, people are looking for help from people who have gone deep and know what it takes to get the job done. People don’t hire me to assist on their legal matters because I’m a nice guy and friendly (though these things are helpful in the big picture), but because, when we meet or speak, it’s apparent I have the experience and knowledge to help them. If I can talk the talk, but not walk the walk, it will become obvious soon enough, and only lead to problems for me and my client.

This applies to you whether you are in sales, an attorney, an auto mechanic, or something else. By going deep in areas important to your work you’re investing in yourself. This is the type of investment that pays off, makes you a person of substance, and allows you to move forward in your chosen line of work with the best opportunity for success.

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Change creates energy, excitement, and learning

People enjoy being in their comfort zones. The challenge is in order to grow change is essential, but getting people out of their comfort zones is hard. Adapting to change is important because it’s inevitable. If you choose not to keep up you will be left behind.

A great example is technology. No matter what you do for a living, technology is improved or created, and then you have to (or some may view it as forced to) learn to incorporate it in your daily work routines. For attorneys, it could be a new billing software, document management software or changes to an online legal research portal. When this happens, it requires all users to learn the changes or how to use new software. This is easier for some and harder for others. For many it’s uncomfortable.

Being uncomfortable can be difficult, but being a lifetime learner is important. Being sedentary with your learning and brain is as bad for you as being physically sedentary. Allowing yourself to feel discomfort will take you out of your current comfort zone and, hopefully, to the next level of what your comfort zone will be.

You need to embrace change. Striving to improve and learning make life better and more interesting. Think of it as adjusting and finding your next comfort zone. Of course how long you stay in your old or new comfort zone depends on you, and whether you allow yourself to be open to the energy and excitement of consistent learning and change.

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Corporate culture in the time of Covid

Your business has a specific culture whether you are aware of it or not. All corporate cultures have been affected over the past year during the pandemic. The changes may be good or bad, depending on your view, but know where your company’s culture ends up as we move forward will be different than what it was in early 2020. The question is what do you want your corporate culture to be?

This question has many answers and the new procedures or rules you implement for your business will drive where your culture goes. Some threshold issues are whether your business will be virtual in whole or part, with employees working from home or around the country, or will you require your employees to be vaccinated. One overriding issue will be whether you treat all employees the same or not, and the related fallout.

By this I mean do some employees have the ability to choose to work remotely some or all of the time, while others are required to come into your place of business? If some employees are remote full time, some are coming in 2 days a week and others 4, each group may think the other is receiving preferential treatment and that they aren’t being treated “fairly.” I put the word fairly in quotes because how you define the word depends on you: what is fair to me may not seem fair to you. The risk in all situations is the potential for issues such as resentment in the workplace

I think issues such as resentment can work themselves out. Employees either will adjust to how they and other employees are working or opt out. This means there will be conversations to be had to know where employees stand, but some may opt out by leaving your company. This may be difficult in the short term, but in the long run your company will be better off with employees comfortable with what your company is post-pandemic and the manner in which your employees are working, i.e. comfortable with your evolving culture.

There are no easy answers. There will be bumps in the road. Your company likely will lose people you currently view as important to the success of your business. But this also will provide opportunity in the form of new employees who fit in your new corporate culture.

Embracing change always has been important. Now it’s as important as ever because businesses are reinventing their identities in part or whole. If you don’t consciously work on the reinvention of your company and its culture, it will happen anyway. Don’t you want to have a say in what your corporate culture becomes?

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Make goal, work hard, achieve

A few weeks ago I wrote about checking in on your goals. I was inspired bya goal I was working towards: a very long one-day hike in the Grand Canyon and the idea I would emerge at the top of the Grand Canyon at the end of the hike feeling physically well.

I have long been a hiker. This year I have been on a hiking tear. I enjoy hiking and it’s a great way to take a break and relieve stress. Despite hiking more or hiking less during and through the years, this year I was focused on my big goal. This was to be, by far, the longest single day hike I had ever done.

Months before, I came up with a plan of how I wanted to train. I set up accountability by creating a spreadsheet through which I could keep track of how often I trained, the length of a hike, the elevation gained and the time spent hiking. By doing this I regularly checked in on and knew how I was doing on staying focused on the hard work it takes to reach such a goal. It wasn’t always easy to break away to hike, but, when I did, I knew the hard work and time would be worth it.

Fast forward to last week. Saturday was the day. I was lucky to have a co-conspirator, who had done the hike before, my wife. We made our way to the Grand Canyon Friday evening and woke up early Saturday morning in the dark with a plan to start as or just after the sun was rising.

Throughout the day we hiked down the south Kaibab Trail and up the Bright Angel Trail for a total of 17.6 miles with close to a mile of elevation gain. You go through stages during such a long hike, but when we emerged at the top of the Canyon Saturday afternoon my training had paid off as I felt really good. I am speaking to more than the feeling of reaching a goal and finishing a long arduous task, but I physically felt really good.

I know I usually speak on topics related to business. It may not seem like it, but this is that type of topic. Instead of telling you about my training and the hike, this could have been a story of me spending hours a week to learn a new area of the law and getting my first case in which I was able to put my time and training to use. If you take the time to invest in yourself you can reach goals. It takes hard work, but is worth it in the end.

As for my experience, it left me thinking about the next big goal I can set for myself in relation to hiking, as well in relation to other areas of my life, including business. You know the saying “Just do it.” Start today.

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