What it means to be “stuck”

Over this past weekend a lawyer explained to me why she’s not planning to come to a Mastermind with me.  I asked her, so that I could gain some insight in hopes that it could help other lawyers like you.

Here’s what she told me:

“…I actually don’t feel like I am “stuck.”  I have had my practice open since 2006 and I have been doing significantly better every year!”

This helped me realize I have not been doing a good-enough-job explaining what it means to be “stuck”.  I hope you will take the time to read what I’ve written below.  I put alot of thought into it for your benefit.

What It means To Be “Stuck”:

1.) Being “stuck” doesn’t necessarily have to do with the money.  I spoke with a long-time member on Friday who finally decided to attend a mastermind because he feels stuck at $800,000.

He keeps bumping-up against it but something is keeping him from going past this number.  So he feels “stuck”.  Would his lifestyle materially change grossing $1mm vs. “only” $800,000?  No.  Does it still bug him that he can’t seem to break-past that number?  Absolutely.

The money is just how we keep score for him.
 

Billy Joel sung about this in his song My Life: “…sooner or later you sleep in your own space/ Either way it’s okay to wake up with yourself.”  In other words, you have to run your own race.  Revenue is just an easy way to keep score.

2.) Being “stuck” doesn’t necessarily have to do with the profit. I spoke with another long-term member a few weeks ago.

Four years ago he was grossing $600,000.  Today he’s on track to gross $3mm.  And he’s not necessarily working harder to do it.  In many ways his work is much easier today because now he can pay people to do things for him that he does not like to do and which he is not necessarily very good at either.

But even though he makes more and his work is much easier, he doesn’t feel he can leave town for an extended time so he’s stuck.

The amount of time away from the office is just how we keep score for him.
 

Turn of the Century The British Author James Allen said: “A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life”.

 

3.) Being “stuck” doesn’t necessarily have to do with the free-time, either.

I spoke with a new Member of our program.  During that admission-interview it became clear that she really doesn’t need to make any more money.

She already has more than enough profits from her single-shareholder law firm.  And she can take-off for extended periods of time.  So she’s not chained to the office either.

But she’s bored.   So she’s “stuck”.

Because she doesn’t know what to do next to challenge herself.  Admittedly “fun” is a subjective measurement.

How much “fun” she’s having is how she keeps score for herself.
 

Earl Nightingale once said “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”  He also said “The big thing is that you know what you want.”  

People who know me well, know that I’m REALLY un-impressed with money.

I’m only impressed with what money “well-used”, can do for a person.  And chief amongst the things that money can do for a lawyer who owns a law firm, is to serve as your ultimate objective arbiter: How much, How consistent and How rapid is the success of your law firm?

Because, as Dan Kennedy says “You can have excuses or you can have profits.  Not both“.

And the fact of the matter is that without profits, no law firm can last for long-enough to deliver much value to anyone.

Ayn Rand (one of my favorite philosophers) taught us that “We can evade reality but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality”.

She also teaches us that “Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity but your talent to their reason.”

4.) I spoke with a lawyer last week who took great pains to tell me about how much value her law firm has delivered to its clients in the past 3 years.

But still she was broke!

I asked her how much money she earned and she told me “more than half-a-million dollars”.

I asked her how much money she had collected.  Only $75,000.

The remaining $425,000 was all wrapped-up with excuses.

Assuming her law firm really did deliver that much value to those many clients who had stiffed-her for that much money, how much longer do you expect her business can continue to be of any value to anyone?  Except for the inevitable fees the bankruptcy trustee will earn upon her liquidation.

That lawyer is “stuck” with a dangerous mindset about her relationship with her law firm.

“Caution: Blind Spot.  If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” – a sign pasted on the back of a big truck I saw on the highway.

We all have blind spots in our life.  And in our businesses.  

Warren Buffet, one of the most successful business persons of our time said  “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken”.

Masterminds break the chains that hold-you-back from achieving your best. 

Even if everyone around you thinks, from the outside looking-in, that you’re doing great (according to their standards)

Buffet also says “Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction” and “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

How are your ACTIONS today (not just thoughts or good intentions) going to affect your life tomorrow?

My favorite American Statesman, Benjamin Franklin said “How few there are who have the courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.”

He also said ” Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” 

And lest we lawyers forget Franklin reminds us “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.  You have to catch up with it yourself.”

5.) A lawyer I spoke with not long ago – actually I have virtually this same conversation on a fairly regular basis – was in materially the following situation:

  • Invested nearly one hundred thousand dollar on his legal education without taking a single course on how to run a successful law firm.
  • Working too-many hours, for not-enough profit, doing too much administrative work he’s ill-equipped for and bringing home too much stress and anxiety to his family.
  • Consciously-aware of the inevitable consequences of his current trajectory but too-afraid to change.

I keep a quote on my office wall by Bruce Lee “To know and not to do is not to know”.  Think about that for a minute and see if it doesn’t really stir-up something deep inside of you.

We’re all smart people.  Stupid people do not become lawyers.  But fear makes smart people – even smart lawyers – do stupid things.  Like holding-on to an inevitably-losing hand.

But to paraphrase Napoleon Hill: An unsuccessful law firm needs no plan and no advice or counsel, because failure is bold and ruthless to the lawyer who earns it.  Success in the business of running a law firm is shy and timid.  It has to be learned, practiced and cared-for.

Still I travel the Country asking rooms full of smart lawyers “Who wants to have an ‘un-successful’ law firm?” and understandably no hands go up.

I ask “Who amongst us who wants to have a ‘successful’ law firm  can define it for the rest of us?”  and no hands go up.

How can this be?

How can there be so many smart lawyers who want to have a successful law firm and so few who can even define what it means for them to have a successful law firm; much less how they will know when they’ve got one on their hands!

So I define it for them.

I say that to be successful a law firm, I think, must generate sufficient profits to afford its owner the lifestyle he or she wants to live.

Not to drive a particular car or live in a particular home or to vacation in a particular manner.

Only to live the way the owner true-to-him or herself truly wants to live.

I say that regardless of how much profit a firm generates I don’t consider it to be successful in the long-term if those financial rewards come at the price of the lawyer’s personal life.

So in order to be successful, I think, the law firm must also serve the owner’s personal needs.

Not to work a particular number of hours or to vacation a particular number of weeks.  But to have the flexibility and the freedom to be away from the business enough to attend to all the things in life that are truly more important than the work of a law firm.

If you’ve never sat by the bedside of your spouse for weeks-at-a-time you may not yet fully-appreciate the importance of having a business that works for you.

Even when you’re not there to work for the business.

And even though we may not ye have met in person, I hope you never do.

But by the time the car starts to skid, it’s too late to fasten your seatbelt, so better to start making your law firm successful on this account now.  Don’t you agree?

And who cares how much money the firm generates in the short-term and how many or how few hours it takes from the rest of your life to achieve this level of performance if the work itself is unsatisfying, if the business of managing the firm is unpredictable and stressful and/or if the clients or staff are unpleasant to work with!

In other words, if it’s no FUN!

That sort of situation never works-out in the long-run.

And rarely even in the short-run.

Because clients reflect back to you what you have going on inside of you.

That’s one of the big “secrets” of turning a law firm around.  It all happens from the inside-out.

  • So if your law firm isn’t yet producing enough profit, you’re probably stuck.
  •  If your law firm isn’t enabling you to live the life you want to live, you’re probably stuck.
  • If your law firm isn’t fun, and enjoyably-challenging and taking you somewhere you’r excited to be be going  you’re either already stuck or you probably know you will be soon.

If you are ready to plant a tree today so that you can sit in the shade tomorrow, then a Mastermind is something you should give serious consideration to.

Why Do You Suppose so many lawyers are in all these videos I keep sharing and why do you suppose they’re all saying it’s been such an invaluable experience for them when they decided to plant a tree today so they can enjoy a life in the shade not a life being stuck? (Rhetorical question, obviously)

Why not check-out the link above right now so that you can make a more informed decision about how you choose to live your life?