I’m sure you have read about people who were given a second chance at life? Well, I’m one of those people.
In 1996, I was a passenger on a privately rented plane heading back from Eagle River, Wis. Without much warning, the engine failed, and we started falling from the sky — fast! Before any of us knew exactly what was happening, our plane crash-landed upside down at 75 mph into a house in far northwest suburban Crystal Lake. I nearly lost my life.
For months afterward, I was a human pretzel unable to move or have any maneuverability myself. I had two broken arms and was helpless in a wheelchair. I doubted whether I would ever be able to do the things I had done before, to enjoy the life I had known.
While working hard to regain my strength, I had a great deal of time to think. I never considered myself to be a spiritual person, but I realized the unimaginable gift I had been given. Surviving the crash that day, I vowed to do something meaningful with my life.
Learning and teaching business development and marketing had always been a passion of mine. In 2004, I started my own business with an emphasis on helping entrepreneurial professionals to grow a thriving business.
The secret sauce was in my credo, “You get what you want out of life, by helping enough others to get what they want.” So, I set out to be the best business coach, trainer and adviser I could be. The goal, to help attorneys to get over the finish line with a solid book of business they could rely on through good times and bad.
As an attorney, it’s never been more important to drive your personal practice upward. The mindset that I suggest aligns well with my credo. You can build a bigger book, only by helping more people. While many attorneys despise the thought of sales, marketing or business development, it is clearly the best way to help more people. As you know, you can’t help people that have never heard or met you before.
To hammer this point home further, here are three suggestions to living your life to the fullest while leveraging your skills as an attorney.
- Invest in learning time management.
Time affects everything from the billable hour to being home for dinner, so why are you still struggling with it? Probably because it wasn’t something you learned, like learning the law. It’s unfortunate because we often don’t know what happened to our time and then we say things like, “The day must have gotten away from me.” The truth is, without controlling your time, you may not be controlling your life.
My recommendation is to schedule a few hours to dive into a book titled “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. While you may not initially grasp 100% of what this book has to offer, it’s very doable to pull out three to five tactical and actionable steps to improve your time management. For me, it was a game changer. I know it will be for you too.
- Set goals and drive forward to achieve them.
The No. 1 reason why people fail is a failure to plan. Establishing business and life goals is not only for the “selling professionals” anymore. If you’re looking to improve your lease on life, you have to own it every day. Here’s an easy to follow way to develop a plan in under 75 minutes.
Step 1 — Set the objective. What are your goals for the year? This could be making more money, having more free time or finding a different firm to join. For example, I will drive my originations to $200,000 this year.
Step 2 — Outline the various ways in which the objective could be met. This might be reading Allen’s book on time management, my books to learn business development or leveraging LinkedIn to find inroads to meet new people. For example, leverage my existing network to find new general counsel to meet with.
Step 3 — Develop the tactics for success. These are the action steps that you will take to achieve the strategies you’ve set for yourself. For example: Work on LinkedIn for 30 minutes each day to uncover two to three inside connections. I will do this between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. each workday before answering emails and calls. I will track all progress on an Excel spreadsheet that I will have done by May 15.
As you can see, creating a simple plan like this is not complicated. Just follow the guidelines above and knock it out. Then, leave it on your desk or desktop to ensure it stays on the top of your mind.
While I’m not suggesting that changing is easy, you may want to consider the short- and long-term ramifications of doing nothing.
Are you showing up to do a job every day or are you truly enjoying your career as an attorney? This is a very important question to answer honestly to yourself. If your answer is a “job” it might make sense to look at options to change your situation.
That doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the firm or not practicing the law, but rather, identifying things that you do enjoy or might enjoy doing. For example, I do not enjoy managing people, but I love coaching.
The difference is helping people explore options for improvement versus telling them what to do. Review this list and think about whether you’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, doing the right things:
- Think about the firm you’re with. Big, small or solo?
- Think about the environment you are in. Fast or slow? Hostile or friendly?
- Think about the practice area you are in. Stressful, mundane or stimulating?
- Think about the types of people you help. Difficult, laid back or interesting? Big-shot executives or mom-and-pops?
- Think about the area you live in? Too cold? In Chicago, Yes! Or, like me, you enjoy having all four seasons in one day.
Think about the power of controlling your time, setting goals to achieve and putting yourself in the best place with the best people. It shouldn’t take a near-death experience to make positive changes in your life. You just need to commit yourself to eliminating the status quo and driving positive changes today.