Last month, my father-in-law invited me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with him next spring. The problem is, starting my own business and entering my third decade have left me out of shape and about 20 pounds overweight. I decided I needed to educate myself about how to get in shape and lose weight â€” two things I never had to worry about when I was younger.
At first I thought I could just go run on a treadmill for an hour each day, but a friend who specializes in helping people train for triathlons said that wouldn’t work.
“Your body gets used to the machines,” she explained.
“So what do I do?”
“You need interval training.”
The idea is simple â€” you need to keep your body guessing. Once your body knows what to expect, the exercise becomes much easier. Easy is nice, but the problem is that your body stops getting stronger. Interval training â€” alternating intensive and moderate exercise â€” is designed to get around this. We build muscles by breaking them down so the body can rebuild them, but the same exercises eventually become less and less productive. The best workout programs require frequent change. Our minds work in a similar way. New challenges help us grow.
So what does this have to do with lawyers? During the past year I have advised hundreds of lawyers on bringing in more business, and the vast majority of them start out stuck. They bring in a certain level of business, but it doesn’t vary much from year to year. They want to break out.
It may seem obvious, but to accomplish things you never have before, you need to do things you have never done before.
Here is how I respond to some of the most frequent complaints I hear from lawyers who are feeling stuck:
“I never get business from bar association events.”
You have two options: Switch to some other type of networking or change the way you behave at bar events. Set goals for engagement. Try to learn about five other attorneys’ practices. You are bound to see opportunities to refer business to them, which will bring return business your way.
“I’ve been on LinkedIn for three years but haven’t gotten a dime of business from it.”
Again, there are two options: Quit LinkedIn or start using the tool more actively. Reach out to old law school friends. Become more active in a couple of groups important to your industry. Pay attention when contacts switch jobs.
“I have a hard time talking to people.”
Stop talking and start asking questions. Before you go to a networking event, choose a few stand-by questions that you can ask of anybody, even a total stranger. “So how was 2011 for you?” “Any big plans for 2012?” These are good for breaking the ice; then, you can get into more specific questions about their practice. “You may have told me before, but what type of law do you focus on?” “Is that still what you spend most of your time on?” Show sincere interest. The person you are talking with will respond by showing interest in what you do.
I’ve never climbed a major mountain before, but I am going to go for it at the end of March. My biggest motivation? I am completely terrified at the thought of putting in months of preparation and not making it to the top. Fear can be a great motivator. New opportunities and new goals make life exciting, but you need to embrace change. You need to find your Mount Kilimanjaro in 2012. Good luck.