I was at a networking event recently where the organizers drew a business card from a fishbowl to select one lucky attendee. They then provided that individual with a full two minutes to sell the crowd on their company, their services or themselves.
It turned out that the individual whose name was drawn was unemployed. What an opportunity, right? Here was the chance to sell himself before a room full of well-educated, well-connected people from a diversity of professions and industries. But how did this individual use this opportunity?
Well, basically, he squandered it. He talked about what he did at his old job in mind-numbing detail, and then he talked some more about what he did at his old job, and then he finished up by – you guessed it – talking about what he did at his old job.
And the worst thing was that he did such a deep dive into what he did at his old job – without ever explaining what he did at a sufficiently high level for this intelligent, but diverse audience from many different fields – that many of us were left speechless.
You see, ironically enough, when this guy had finished talking for two minutes about what he did at his old job, none of us could even tell you what he had done at his old job. Nor could we tell you what he wanted to do in his next job, or what he felt he was unusually qualified to do, or what he was passionate about or with what particular companies or organizations he was hoping to do this activity at some point in the future.
Okay, all that is not entirely true; I did glean some idea of what he does. As my mother says about any guy who labors in the technology sector, “He works with computers.”
If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
– Yogi Berra
It must be the end of the year already, because all the articles and blog posts about setting goals and planning are starting to appear. And guess what: This is yet another one.
Hey, I heard that groan. And I see how you’re beginning to turn the virtual page to find some other article or story that you feel might actually teach you something.
But wait. This could be the most important and even life-changing blog post that you’ll ever read, if it encourages you to take action. Because – as study after study has shown – goal setters are significantly more successful than everyone else. (By the way, that’s not thought to be coincidental.) And yet, if you’re like an estimated 97% of the population, you’re not a goal setter. And that’s too bad, because here’s what goal setters do:
1. Write out specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive goals for the year ahead,
2. Break them down into tasks and sub-tasks, and plot out on a calendar how they’re going to achieve each one,
3. Revisit their plan on an ongoing basis to measure the progress they’re making, and
4. Review their goals throughout the process to ensure that they’re still the right ones.
“There are no second acts in American lives.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
“As you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Who are your heroes?
I’m a firm believer that heroes are not just for kids. Everyone should have heroes – and the more, the better. All of us need that inspiration they can provide, whether our hero is a decorated war veteran, a champion basketball player, a boss, a parent or someone who has surmounted great odds in life.
So, let me tell you about one of my newest heroes. Her name is Libby James and a few weeks ago she ran the Bolder Boulder 10K in 49:19. That’s a 7:56 pace for 6.2 miles, which would be quite good for almost any of us, but did I mention that she’s 73 years old?
If you’re not a runner, it may not jump out at you just how amazing that is. Maybe this will help: She was the 822nd finisher out of 25,851 women of all ages. And just so you don’t have to do the math, that’s in the top four percent of all women finishers. At age 73.
Do you consider yourself someone who welcomes new challenges? And are you willing to take on the commensurate risks? Even if you nodded affirmatively to both these questions, you nevertheless may be in need of a larger glass.
We all know that attorneys are trained to be risk-averse. And, of course, a degree of risk aversion is frequently a necessary element of being a good attorney. Your clients want to be able to describe a business deal or other opportunity to you and be able to count on you to be the one person who says, “But have you thought about this?”
Yet, there’s another side to that propensity for risk aversion – simply put, it gets in your way when you think about taking risks.
In his entertaining and thought-provoking book, Marketing the Legal Mind, Henry Dahut suggests that it’s not just whether your glass is half full or half empty, but that the size of the glass itself is equally important. For it’s the size of the glass that determines how much opportunity there can be in a given situation. And the size of the glass therefore determines the amount of risk that you’re willing to take.
If we choose to take on small challenges, the risks will be small, but so will the rewards. As Dahut says, this is the proverbial dilemma of wanting big things, but thinking too small to get them. Which is a fundamentally inconsistent type of thinking. And that doesn’t sound very lawyer-like, does it?
Yet, how many of us do this? We choose the safety and comfort of success – even on a relatively small scale – rather than taking risks and exposing ourselves to defeat. But these days, there are much greater risks in not taking risks. Those who choose to stay where they are because it is easy and comfortable are those most likely to be carried off by the fast-moving current to someplace hard and uncomfortable.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Now, more than ever, her words resound with the truth. We must move outside our comfort zones. What does this mean to you? Only you know. But you’ve probably been thinking about it for some time. Is it finally putting together a marketing and business development plan that works for you? Is it becoming a rainmaker and a leader in your firm? Maybe it’s taking the firm you manage to the next level – or in a new direction? Or could it be venturing out on your own?
Whatever it is, don’t limit yourself. Get a bigger glass. And choose a challenge worthy of your ambitions.