🌌 Mindset Shifts: From the Dark Side to the Light

I want to get super real with you right now, I hope you’ll join me for this conversation about mindset shifts from the perspective of how I have run my law firm.

Without getting too into the concept of evolutionary biology and human development (see if you can link to an article for more on this even it’s wikipedia)…ever since the dawn of humanity we’ve been motivated by basically the same things.

Chief among them are the avoidance of pain/the search for pleasure.

But, while those things sound like two sides of the same coin, in practice, they are very different.

Think about it this way, if I am being poked by something sharp (pain), it’s easy to know to move away from it.  But once that pain is removed…do you keep moving away or stop?  And if so, which way?  Which pleasure do you move towards?

I opened my law firm in 2015 (we just celebrated 8 years!!!) and for the first 4-5 I operated them 100% from a place of avoiding pain.

I wanted to avoid having to close down.  I wanted to avoid missing payroll.  I wanted to avoid getting a bar compliment.  I wanted to avoid the pain of running a law firm.

And where did that get me?  $200,000 in debt, working 80 hours a week or so, and completely miserable.

Which makes total sense, because A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology shows that those oriented towards pleasure and meaning are more resilient than those avoiding discomfort. Read more.

Here are 5 mindset shifts that I had to make to change myself to change my thoughts to change my actions to change my circumstances.

(title) Escaping the Victim's Galaxy: Things Happen FOR You, Not TO You 🌌

Luke Skywalker's Transformation: Remember when Luke felt the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders in Star Wars? He could've played the victim, feeling the universe was conspiring against him. However, with Yoda's guidance, Luke realized that challenges were molding him into a Jedi Master, preparing him for the battles ahead. Researchers from the University of North Carolina found that those who shift their perspective from "Why is this happening to me?" to "What can I learn from this?" demonstrate a higher resilience and cope better with adversity. (Source: University of North Carolina's Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab). Recognizing adversities as growth opportunities can catalyze transformative personal and professional change. So, next time a setback occurs, channel your inner Jedi, and ask yourself: "What is this teaching me? How is this happening for my benefit?"

Plus, here’s the thing I don’t get (anymore..trust me I used to understand this too well)...the more I played the victim and made things not my fault the more I prevent myself from being the solution.

It’s only when I realized how much I WAS to blame for all my problems that I could start changing myself to change the problems I was having.

 (title) "Have To" vs. "Get To" 🛸

Marty McFly's Realization: In "Back to the Future", Marty realized he didn't "have to" ensure his parents meet; instead he "got to" craft a better future. When you see tasks as opportunities, not obligations, it lightens the load and inspires innovation as evidenced by a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Read more.

For me part of this was figuring out how I could spend more time on the things I “get” to do and less time on the things I “have” to do…just as much as it was the mindset shift.

So by hiring great people, and creating systems to make sure the work was done consistently, now I “get” to spend time with a team a love working with, help clients I enjoy, network with people I love hanging out with and write newsletters with Star Wars, the Hobbit, TMNT, and other silly references.

(title) Spend Money to Save Time: The Real Treasure 💼

Gollum’s Misguided Focus: Gollum was so focused on the ring (money) that he failed to see the broader value of time and relationships. A study from Harvard Business Review underscores that those who can outsource tasks to reclaim personal time find greater life satisfaction. Read more.

And it’s not just personal stuff.  I spent probably 150 hours learning how to build out our (link to them) Lawmatics system.  It was worth it because I built a company that builds out lawmatics for other firms, but if it was just for me it would have been a HUGE waste of time and energy that should have been spent elsewhere.

It REALLY sucks (and is very hard) to do this when you’ve already built up debt and filled all of your time.  But money will come and go, whereas time is always lost.  So you HAVE to buy it back as soon and as often as you can (e.g. on things you are not the best at, things you do not enjoy doing, etc) (MARIA LINK TO A NEWSLETTER ON THIS)

(title) Short-term Sacrifice for Long-term Gain 🐢

The TMNT Technique: As the Turtles knew, temporary restraint can set you up for future success. This principle aligns with the Marshmallow Test, a landmark Stanford study highlighting the long-term benefits of delayed gratification. Read more.

Basically, I had to stop thinking short term and think more long term.

We had someone work for us who embodied this even better than I did.  She was great at every task in the moment it was needed.  She would get the BIGGEST reductions for our clients, but she would do it by making enemies with all the providers.  She would generate a lot of cases, but by making wild promises (thankfully ethical ones, but unrealistic stuff).

So I was super hesitant to fire her because of the cases.  But finally realized it was short term good for long term bad.

And yes, I am personally responsible for 1,000,000 other things directly that I did to push short term benefits over long term detriments.

But the more you can take the long term view, the more your firm can dovetail into more and greater success.

The $500 fee we waive on this client today becomes the $35,000 repeat business tomorrow.

The extra $$$ we spend overnighting a check to a provider becomes them sending us a referral because they like how we treat people and handle cases.

The sweat equity we put into some non-profits today becomes the connections we use tomorrow to help more clients with everything else that comes up in their lives.

I didn’t do that for the first half of my firm, and I am SO much worse off today because of it.

(title) Reactionary vs. Proactive Decisions 🦸‍♂️

Captain America’s Shield: Cap's proactive use of his shield reminds us to anticipate challenges. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science reveals that proactive strategizing, versus reactive problem-solving, leads to better organizational performance. Read more.

This is kind of related to long term thinking but different enough that I wanted to highlight it separately.

My wife highlights this analogy that you shouldn’t always go to the hospital after an accident, because the emergency room is all about triage.  If you have a pressing issue immediately after a car accident, by all means go and get that help.

But a lot of the injuries require longer term care and a different perspective than triage.

And that’s what I went through with my firm.

When I was constantly putting out a fire, I couldn’t spend time to prevent future fires.

If you’re driving around all day to court, you can’t build systems to need to go to court less.

If you’re on the phone with clients 8 hours a day, you cannot build the automated systems to send them case reminders and check-ins.

If you’re working IN the business 100% of the time, you cannot work ON the business.

(title) So Where Am I Now?

You know that scene in Infinity War where Dr. Strange sees millions of futures and has to give up the infinity stone because it’s the only way to the one future that works out?

That’s me now.  Only there are a LOT more positive opportunities (and I don’t think I am preventing the world from ending so the stakes are a lot lower).

I have the time, money, energy and team to execute on a handful of them.  So it’s all about picking the RIGHT ones.  The ones that will bring the most pleasure (free time, fun with people I care about, money, experiences, etc).

However you slice it, it’s a WAY more fun and rewarding and impactful place to be.  But it took these mindset shifts to get me there and I hope this newsletter will help you do the same.

Backed by both pop culture and hard science, they're tools to help your practice thrive. May the (mindset) Force be with you!

Upgrade Your Life.

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