Month 3: Live with Gratitude

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’“- Kurt Vonnegut

“Now I should tell you that here in Chile they have a particular way of greeting one another. First, they shake hands, then they hug, and then they shake hands again.” Latimer gave me a hug and a handshake as he showed me how it worked.
“Thanks for the tip,” I said.
“If you are going to survive here, I want to teach you something.” Latimer than erased the white board in his office and drew a little dot, probably no bigger than a penny on the white board.
“What do you see?”
“I see a dot.” I said somewhat perplexed.
“Really?” he asked, obviously not too impressed by my answer. “What else do you see?”
“I guess I just see a lot of white space and a dot.” I said, thinking I had really improved my answer.
“Adrian, in life we have a choice, there will always be a clear clean white board in front of us and we can choose to notice the tiny imperfection, the black spot, or we can simply enjoy the practically perfect white board.”
I soon learned just what he meant.
One of the first cities I lived in was Antofagasta. This city is built on a mountain that forms a big bowl as it descends to the ocean. In the U.S., the most expensive houses are up on the mountain side, but in Chile no bus lines serve the mountain side, and taxi’s are too expensive, so up on the mountain side live the squatters. Completely impoverished people that have pieced together tiny houses out of chunks of ply-wood and card board. There was no plumbing, so there was always a stench in these neighborhoods. This day was particularly hot, but we were helping a man overcome his drug addiction, so we knew we had to go see him.
I had already worn through an entire pair of shoes in my first six months in Chile. Walking all day on those dusty roads took its toll on shoes and on me. By the time we arrived at the top I was sweaty, and completely exhausted. After sitting down and resting for fifteen minutes, we decided to make the final 50 yard climb- the steepest part. We knocked on the door, no answer. We called through the window (as if he couldn’t hear the knocking in their 4′ x 6′ house.) He wasn’t home. What a waste, Antonio had probably relapsed again, and it might be weeks before we would find him again. What a day, with our heads down we began the slow death march down the huge hill. At that moment something caught my eye, and as I peered at the horizon past the large cargo ships making their way into port- and there was a fantastic red-orange glow on the horizon, it was one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen.
I stopped for just a second, took in a deep breath, and just stared at the panorama. As I gazed at the amazing burning sky in front of me, I realized that this view was mine. This tremendous display was the big picture, and no matter how difficult things got in my life, I was lucky to be living and be allowed to witness the miraculous setting sun.

Stop for a second. Slow down and notice the big picture, the everyday experiences that give life flavor and make it worthwhile. There will always be black dots to constantly bring us worry, but if we spend too much time thinking about them, we are going to miss the sunset.

The challenge this month is for the Volunteers to focus on the good in life, and savor every minute.


Law Student Success Through Twitter and Social Media

How did Rex Gradeless grow his Twitter following to 47,000 and become the #1 Twitter user blogging about legal topics?

Social Media Law Student

How do law students create networking opportunities using Twitter?
How can an attorney use a blog and social media for personal branding?
Listen to today’s podcast to get the answer to those, and many other pressing questions facing the legal community.

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The Month of Courage

We are just finishing the second month of the Year of 12 Virtues experiment. This has been the month of courage, and the volunteers chose their own goals to help them practice this virtue. They have some great stories to share- these are some of my favorites:

I planned an intimidating lesson for my high schoolers and had the courage to present it. I dressed up as a Puritan judge (wig, robe, and hat), and I forced them to reenact a witch trial. It was intimidating to stand up in from of 115 seventeen year olds and willingly make a fool out of myself–and I felt a little sick about it the day before–but it ended up going great. The students loved it, and they really lost their own inhibitions because I was willing to lose mine. I’m sure some of them thought it was stupid, but I’d say the majority were much more engaged than they would have been if we had simply READ about the trial. And they will probably never forget it!

A small goal, for sure, but a worthwhile one just the same…it’s so easy as a teacher to get “stale” and stop having fun with your students. To be honest, I felt too tired to plan and execute such a lesson, but I am glad I did!

That is awesome Rachel! Your students are lucky to have such a great teacher.

Here was a comment from Tiffany who made a goal to share her beliefs with 20 other people:

#1. I took my sister to church for the first time in about 7 years. This took a lot of courage on my part, because it’s been so long. During the meeting, I stood up and bore my testimony to her. This in turn inspired a number of old friends of hers to do the same thing. She sang the hymns with me and then I was blown away when she offered to stay for the full 3 hours. We stayed, and it turned out to be one of the most spiritual meetings I have been to in a long time. She even told me after that she would like to go again. It was such a great experience.

#2. My dad is in jail. I haven’t seen him or spoke to him since I was fifteen years old. I wrote him a letter explaining what I believe, and I sent him a copy of the “Book of Mormon” and a book entitled “Our Search for Happiness.” I am also sending him some pictures of his grand-daughter Maddie, who he has never met. This scares me to death because its been so long, and I have hardly shared anything with him. Now, to share this will be interesting to say the least. I hope it brings him happiness.

Good for you Tiffany, often in life the hardest things we do are the most important.

Susan, who is the President of a not-for-profit had this to say-

I have spent this past month trying to get sponsors for the preparedness expo our community is putting on at a local mall. Boy it is hard to get out of the house and go ask people to do things. This is the kind of thing I like to put off. It was easier if I just scheduled a day and didn’t come back until I had made the rounds. What I learned from this experience was that I needed to keep my courage up. I just couldn’t give in to the feelings of failure. I kept saying to myself “failure is not an option” and “just do it.” It often took two times speaking with each business or organization before they took me seriously. You should know that I am not in sales and do not make a living doing this kind of thing, but it gave me a lot of confidence to figure out how to make it work. Thanks for the challenge. It helped that I had to get back to you with some kind of success.

The common theme running through all of these experiences is that when people strive to have courage, they are able to accomplish things that are incredibly meaningful to them. Hopefully their stories have inspired you to make a goal of your own for the Month of Courage.  This Thursday we will talk about the virtue for the next month, kindness.

Twitter Training Videos


This is my first twitter training video.  This is for the skeptics, for people that don’t understand Twitter and don’t see the value in it.  If you like it, please pass it along to those not yet sold on the power of Twitter.

Voir Dire:Can Large Law Firms Benefit from Social Media?


“Large law firms will never go for social media.”

How many times have I heard this?

Well, in this interview I asked Melanie Green (@melaniegreen for those on Twitter) how she was able to implement social media at her international firm of over 300 attorneys. Listen to find out how Melanie and her team are making it happen.

About Melanie Green

melaniegreenMelanie Green is Director of Business Development and Marketing at Baker & Daniels.

Follow Melanie Green on Twitter

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Open Letter to Law Firms: Control The Message

Dear Law Firms:

Why don’t you want your attorneys engaging in social media like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook?

Is it because you want to “control the message?” Let’s take a look at why this is a flawed strategy.

In the old model, partners with the big firms are pillars of their community (or should be). They are members of the country club, park their boats with the local Yacht Club, participate in great programs like Rotary and United Way, and volunteer with the Boy Scouts. Being engaged in the community is a major component of what makes them so successful. They are involved, and when legal work arises, they are called upon because they are known. This is a great model, and it will continue to be an effective model.

Was controlling the message a problem in the old model? No, and why not? Because as firms, you hired trustworthy people that weren’t going to embarrass you. What would happen if one of your attorneys got arrested? It would look bad for your firm, and so firms try not to hire people that might get arrested. You see, with the old model your firm still needed to control the message- you simply had confidence in the people you hired. For attorneys to effectively use social media the firms need to TRUST the attorneys. Is that really too much to ask? (Let me finish before you answer that.)

Besides, there are three major problems with the OLD model. First, memberships at country clubs and chairs on non-profit boards can be very expensive to maintain. Young lawyers can’t afford those types of expenditures. Second, it takes years- maybe even decades to garner the stellar reputation needed to land business that way. It is well deserved, but it takes time. Third, community engagement is limited in geographic scope. If you are in a struggling market like Buffalo, NY or Pittsburgh, PA as the market share shrinks- so will your business. Social media allows attorneys to realistically have a national reach, without leaving home.

As I have said in previous posts, each attorney in the firm is already a brand unto themselves. As they participate in the community- the brand gains in value. If they write an article for the local newspaper- the brand gains in value. So why not encourage your attorneys to engage in social media and provide them with the tools and training to participate thoughtfully? Each time one of your attorneys writes a blog post about a legally relevant topic, the firm gets free advertising. Each time an attorney post a thoughtful comment on a legal blog, more free press for the firm.

I’m not suggesting a social media free-for-all where attorneys suddenly stop billing because they are on Facebook and Twitter all day, but instead more of a focused individual strategy for each attorney. This strategy would likely entail weekly or monthly blog posts, combined with participation in forums such as LinkedIN, Martindale Hubble Connected and Twitter.

Firms certainly need to control the message, but that will be best accomplished by hiring good lawyers, and trusting them to engage, in whatever venue, in a thoughtful and respectful way.

Virtues Experiment

This month 16 individuals set out to better understand what integrity means. They were all asked to think about integrity, and make a personal goal to have the Month of March be their Month of Integrity. The variety of goals were instructive, showing that integrity means very different things to different people. Here are some of the great goals individuals from the experiment chose:

– Never criticize another person when they aren’t around, unless you are willing to criticize them to their face.
– Train for a half marathon: show integrity by keeping to the goal of running 6 days a week.
– Goal for lent- eat no cheese for 40 days- and be 100% faithful to that goal.
– My word is my bond, follow through on 100% of my commitments, if I say I’d like to watch American Idol with my neighbor- I will watch American Idol with my neighbor.
– Learn to speak Spanish, specifically- learn 60 new words per week.
– Truly live my religion, seeking after things that bring me closer to God.

I am hopeful the members of my virtue experiment will achieve all of their goals, but if not, the process of picking these goals, and sharing them with the group has already created a vision of their potential that will hopefully create unexpected opportunities and serendipitous results.

Here are a few tips I would like to share for setting powerful goals this month:


Trees grow because they reach for the sun. For personal growth to occur, we have to leave our comfort zone- explore undiscovered country. The best goals will terrify us a little, demanding we take a step into the unknown.


Expect discouragement. Nobody can be perfect in accomplishing their goals, and we must anticipate falling short sometimes. Be honest with yourself in setting goals, but also be honest with yourself in your shortcomings- do not be discouraged if you fall short of perfection.

I want to invite anybody reading this to join us for the month of integrity. Think about what integrity means for you, and set a goal to make this your Month of Integrity. Feel free to comment below, (publicly or anonymously I’ve changed the settings) and let us know what your goal is!

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