Friday, March 7, 2014

Success: Follow Your Bliss then Make a Killer Ad

Readers of my sporadic posts on this page will remember that very little gets me off the snowshoe trails and back into the house more quickly than killer attorney advertising.

I collect the stuff like a lot of people collect dolls or clown paintings.

So it made a sunny day brighter when Above The Law posted this lawyer ad on its blog.

The attorney is a Pittsburgh practitioner, and I'm all about giving some love to the denizens of my late great adopted hometown.

Attorney Dan may just have to get a cube in my dream law firm along with Saul Goldman and .....

Then the dog came in, jostled the hot chocolate in search of his ball, Newton took over, and now I have to go clean hot chocolate off Richard Shell's great book, Springboard: Launching your Personal Search for Success.

When it dries off I might right a review on it. View blog

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Success is what YOU make of it.

That's right, no one defines it but you.
Eddie the Eagle Flying into my Heart.
To support my case, I call Michael "Eddie" Edwards to the stand. For you young'uns, Eddie the Eagle Edwards was the lone member of the Great Britain Ski Jumping team in the 1988 Olympics. Google him or something.

He was the great hero of my last semester. Because he was, in the eyes of everyone on the International Olympic Committee, and the rest of the nabobs running the show in Calgary, the antithesis of a successful athlete. Nearly blind, out of shape, working class, only 20 months of training, and super, super popular with the spectators. I mean rock star popular. The athletes loved him. Everybody loved him, and he even appeared on the Tonight Show.

But IOC had decided he wasn't "serious." That he was making a mockery of The Games. Eddie on the other hand , was having a terrific time. Being a competitor in the Olympics was his gold medal.

When I started doing research for a recent seminar on success, he sprang readily to mind.

Why, because Eddie knew what his "success point." was. Make the Olympics. He was on the British Ski Racing team, and went all over Europe (camping in his car) to ski. He'd been denied the opportunity to ski on the British team by about .2 seconds on his qualifying run. So, he looked around for what nobody else was doing, and did it. No one was on the British Ski Jumping Team. There wasn't a British Ski Jumping Team.

Eddie said, "why shouldn't there be a British Ski Jumping Team?" and became the British Ski Jumping Team. So, he trained in Lake Placid, got back in his car, and went all over Europe to qualify. No sponsors, no nothing. He even slept and worked at a mental hospital in Finland. @) months after his decision to be the British Ski Jumping Team, he was marching in the opening ceremonies.

And then he jumped. On borrowed skis (from the Austrian Team), protected by a borrowed helmet (from the Italians). And those jumps transformed his life.

If you want to learn how to properly define success (in your own inimitable way) watch this video.

Don't forget to take notes.

Eddie still works as a plasterer, like his father,
his grandfather, and great-grandfather

Monday, January 27, 2014

The BlueBook of Happiness - Year End Reviews Are for the Birds!

Staring at a blank (computer-simulated) version of a white sheet of paper is no fun.

Apparently we have a place deep inside our amygdala that processes a blank writing space as too many choices. Then it freezes up. The way your frontal cortex checks out when you are looking at 25 different kinds of red spaghetti sauce.

I am not making this up. It's a real phenomenon. Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing (affiliate link), helps us understand the problem of limitless options. In a study at Columbia University Business School, Dr. Iyengar presented subjects with six varieties of jams to purchase. Another group was presented with twenty-four varieties. The twenty-four jam group was really into the idea of so many jams, and sampled a lot. They took nothing home, however.

On the other hand, the six-jam group was ten times more likely to buy something from the limited options, heading home with a nice grape jelly for their toast the next morning.

You can watch her explain the problem at TED a few years ago.

I'm having this choosing problem right now because I've been fielding questions from young associates about their year-end reviews, their "failure" to make partner after 7 years chained to a desk, and unhelpful advice from their "reviewers."

There are just too many words (most of them unprintable) I could use to describe my disdain for these reviews, or at least how they're conducted, so my brain is frozen. My amygdala has taken over, because my frontal cortex is on overload. I have no answers.

It's also winter and there's not enough light in the world. So, I'm leaving the advice to an actual partner in an actual law firm in a post from Above the Law last fall. Anonymous Partner suggested the following for associates:

[keep] track of your hours, and if you have access to that information, the collections on your time. Think ahead to the next quarter, and set a target for your billable hours (keeping in mind any vacation you hope to plan and then cancel, or holidays). But do not stop there. Keep track of your matters, such as whether or not you worked for any new partners that quarter, or worked with lawyers in another of your firm’s offices. Also keep track of any business development opportunities that may have crossed your path, even if your current firm discourages business development by associates. Set a quarterly target for working on an article, or keeping track of old classmates. If you are unhappy at your firm, set a quarterly target for recruiter calls or interviews, so that months and months do not go by with misery as your faithful companion. Why quarterly and not monthly? Months are simply too short. And many an associate has gotten stuck in the Biglaw quicksand for years on end by adopting a “wait till next year” approach to their career happiness.
Done, and done. Get proactive. Plan your year the way a business plans theirs: quarter by quarter. Keep a record of what you've done, and make sure your partners, mentors, and anyone else who will listen knows about it. Try to corral your mentor at the end of each quarter for a review.

After all, it's your business. Own it. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The BlueBook of Happiness - Happy. New. Year.

Matt Hill haunted the house where my mother spent her summers in central Idaho.

This is what Matt Hill had to look during the winter.
It was about 10 degrees (F) when I took this picture,
so don't get all sweet about how pretty it is.
He was a fixture of the Finnish population in the Long Valley, where he owned land, operated a dance hall, an illegal still, and a sauna. I'm told there are people buried on the property.

During the long Idaho winters, legend had it that Matt would close the dance hall, surround himself with the still's output, and sit in the southeastern corner of the house watching the snow come down. He wouldn't move from that corner until the roads became passable again.

Now, I will have to fact check this with my cousins. There are a great many more stories involving axes and a wife or two fleeing for her life. I did see the marks where he tried to break down a door with an axe and kill his wife.

Things get very Stephen King during the winter in Idaho. Especially when you have jugs of White Lightning to spare.

On the other hand, Matt seems to have had the bones of a good idea.

Survive until spring.

If you can do it in some kind of a haze, even better.

But, thanks to the wonders of modern science, infographics help us pinpoint and solve our unhappiness during the dark time.

As you gear up for yet another time of cold, failure, and everything else that makes it hard to process the first quarter of 2014, here is a quick set up of ways to be happy.

A big shout out to Jonathan Malkin, who posted this on his Google+ page (+Jonathan Malkin) via +Doctor Ivan Ferrero - Digital Psychologist, via the Huffington Post.

Print this out. Do one of these things EVERY DAY. Please note none of the options include spending the winter staring out a window with a a jug full of hooch.

Let me know how you do: here, on Twitter @TamarCerafici (#happinesshooch), or on the Tumblr @ BlueBook of Happiness.

Monday, December 23, 2013

What Every Small Business (and Law Practice) Needs: Festivus!

"I should have objected to the hearing for being on Festivus."

So lamented my estimable colleague, who was calling today to report the outcome of a hearing he attended for our client.

That reminded me of a story reported by the L.A. Times 3 years ago.

An Orange County (CA) inmate had apparently scored some pretty fine meals courtesy of his religious affiliation: Festivism, whose chief religious holiday is, of course, Festivus.

The inmate got a judge to sign off on double portions of pre-packaged kosher meals before he started a year-long sentence in April 2010 -- citing religious reasons. When the judge asked what religion, the inmate's attorney blurted out "Festivus." The order included a requirement for "high protein no salami 3 times a day for Festivism."

(Another Festivus Miracle!)

So ends the great debate as to what one eats for the holiday, which was defined by Dan O'Keefe in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld. Mrs. Costanza served meatloaf and some kind of red sauce. However, the original O'Keefe holiday featured ham.

Here is just about the entire way to celebrate Festivus, dysfunction and all, illustrated courtesy Seinfeld:

I think an Orange County Superior Court judge trumps even the inventor of the holiday. So, High Protein Meal No Salami it is. That's my menu for tonight when we air grievances and challenge each other to feats of strength (Festivus isn't over until one of the combatants is pinned).

For those of you who will be fretting about next year's business and practice goals, take a moment with your colleagues. Make a Festivus Pole together. A homemade pole on display at Florida's State Capital is shown at left, and I'm sure one could use the beer or soft drink of choice. A more formal version, which appears to have been purchased and the local hardware store, shares Wisconsin's rotunda with a tree, a nativity scene, and a menorah. So an observance is totally legit.

Festivus Pole, WI
Enjoy High Protein Meal No Salami. Air your grievances, challenge each other to feats of strength in the New Year, and start 2014 with a new outlook.

It might be just the thing your practice needs!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The BlueBook of Happiness: Life Hacks to Find that Dream Job or Dream Client or or Dream Business

I have been writing. Yesterday, I set up a new Google+ page called The BlueBook of Happiness, and it will have the same kind of content and direction of the tumblr page of the same name. Go look for both! Now if only I could get over the mental hurdle of publishing the Facebook page.

The good folks at the Harvard Business Review are providing some good content, despite the productivity wasteland known as December. This morning's offering is no exception. Jeanne C. Meister serves up a good helping of holiday food for thought in "Make Sure Your Dream Company Can Find You," available here.

If you understand the tools companies are using to find good candidates, Meister says, you can manage your online and social media presence to bring those companies to you.

For example:

1. People Analytics. Smart new businesses are reinventing the recruitment process. Meister notes that these companies are "blending data from social media sites to create profiles of coders, programmers and software engineers so that companies hoping to hire can search for candidates that have the skills they desire."

(NOTE:   Clients have been doing this since before the Interweb started, using referrals and then search engines to find lawyers by typing in their problems.)

Meister notes that Rackspace used "people analytics" to find its newest employees: "This approach to recruitment is creating a new technical world order where job applicants are found and evaluated by their merits and contributions, rather than by how well they sell themselves in an interview."

I got recruited to teach LSAT courses for Kaplan through my Linked In profile. It can happen.

2. Got an app for that? Sodexo and other giants are using mobile technology to find their next generation of workers. This puts job descriptions and company information at candidate's fingertips. Given that some applicants do their research about 15 minutes before the interview, companies with mobile job boards are more likely to catch (and keep) the attention of good candidates.

3. MOOCs. I have never given MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) a thought as a recruiting tool. But companies are creating online courses to seek out likely new recruits. For instance, companies who want to capitalize on game technology are watching and recruiting from graduates of a MOOC called Why? Graduates know how to build an iPhone game. Other companies are using MOOCs as recruiting and advertising, according to Meister.

Meister concludes with encouraging words, and an interesting proposition:

As companies move to actively seeking out prospective new hires, giving these targeted talent communities special access to webinars, announcements of new job openings, and email invitations to engage with the company, job seekers need to reciprocate.
We’ve all been warned about how our online behavior can negatively affect  job prospects, but now you also need to think about how to build your personal brand, publicize your skills, and connect with the companies you might want to work for.
The next time you’re on your favorite social networking site, seek out employers you hope to work for one day. Build an online relationship with them now so they can find you later. Visit the company blog, like its Facebook page, join its Google+ page, watch its videos on YouTube, and follow the firm on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Vine. 
Make 2014 the year you become visible to your dream employer. After all, you may be just the person they’re looking for. (Emphasis added.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Peter O'Toole Taught Me How to Survive

For those of you keeping track, I did not write for 3 days. I was busy playing in the snow. Get over it.

The Quotidian E-mail's subject line was "Immortal Beloved."

It was from my sister, who wanted to know if I survived the crushing blow to our universe of actors who will never die. One did yesterday, and I was sad that Peter O'Toole went the way of all flesh.

A long time ago, O'Toole starred in Lord Jim, which I watched in a high school class. Based on a Joseph Conrad novel, the movie focuses on the title character's journey to redemption. Sort of like The Magnificent Seven even with Eli Wallach playing the villain.
P.O'T. in Lord Jim

Of course, my sister and I thought the coolest thing ever was Peter O'Toole being the Roman General in Masada on the TV. We decided he would have to be one of the cast members of whatever book adaptation we were casting at the time. Hence the List of Immortals.

Of course anyone eulogizing P.O'T. would talk about Beckett and Lion in Winter and My Favorite Year and A Bunch of Sad Failures in the 70's because he was sick and alcoholic. Of course they talk about Lawrence of Arabia.

I didn't see Lawrence of Arabia until I graduated from law school. Actually, I didn't see it until after I had taken the bar in Utah. I knew I had failed it. I had no life. I had failed as an actor. I had failed looking for a job. I was living in my parents' basement.

Worst, I couldn't afford to ski.

These Boots.
But there was this gorgeous blue-eyed guy who's saying "This is a dismal office. We are not happy in it." And then, he found a way to be basically happy outside that office.

I watched that movie 5 times (in a movie theatre - big screen is the only way to see that thing) in the four weeks between taking the bar exam and finding out that I'd actually passed. I began asking myself simple questions: How did T.E. Lawrence do these things? What is most effective about P.O'T's reactions? How, and why, did a tall actor get to play a man who could be Woody Allen's lost twin? And how do I relish any part I've landed with that kind of unbridled enthusiasm?

Where can I get the boots he wore in the scene where he walks along the top of the train?

How? How? How? could I apply the lessons I was trying to learn while I escaped from the drudgery of a smoggy winter in Utah?

I've spent the last 25 years figuring that out, and I haven't succeeded yet. Along the way, I've learned how to apply the lessons of the month and that movie and P.O'T's career. Someday I may teach them to someone else.

But right now, I'll just apply the lesson taught in Robert Bolt's magnificent dialogue:

(Lawrence has just extinguished a burning match between his thumb and forefinger - a trick the character's famous for, and Potter tries to do it)

William Potter: Ooh! It damn well 'urts!
T.E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
Officer: What's the trick then?
T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts. (emphasis added)