Over the last couple of months, I’ve been outlining the path to mastery in the courtroom. First, you must recognize that jurors are hostages, but you also need to realize that you are a hostage too. Second, you need to understand that your role changes as the trial progresses, all leading up to the ultimate task of becoming the hero jurors need. Third, you must reckon with the fact that your nonverbal communication has a significant impact on how you step into those critical roles and that you must increase your nonverbal intelligence.
But there’s something else; something beyond tactics and skills, beyond theory and technique. In fact, this something is so critical that if you don’t address it, all of your other work combined will never have enough power to get you to mastery.
And here it is: If you are not dealing with your mindset you will derail your path to mastery.
If you’re honest with yourself, aren’t there times in your life – big, small, in between – where there’s been a voice in your head that causes you to second guess, to doubt? A voice that says you’re not enough, that you don’t have what it takes? Of COURSE you have. We ALL have.
But here’s the real kicker. Even though that voice in your head SOUNDS like you. It’s not. It’s not you at all. Would you ever talk to anyone the way that voice talks to you? No. That’s how you know it’s not truly your voice. It doesn’t fit within your character at all. So, why is it so easy to think that, contrary to your character, you would so easily talk to yourself in that tone? That’s right. It’s not you at all.
It’s the voice of the saboteur.
Within us all, over time, that super-personalized voice of the saboteur has taken stake of our minds and feeds us messages when it feels threatened. It hates change of any kind and wants to keep you comfortable and tame.
Your saboteur is full of limiting beliefs that keep you in a frantic place; a place where you have to zoom from CLE to CLE, from book to book, from webinar to webinar, just looking for “the right way” that will help you finally achieve the greatness of folks like Gerry Spence and Nick Rowley.
It’s time to call bullshit on that saboteur! Stop listening to that voice. Learn to listen to the voice of your inner leader instead. It takes nurturing and diligent coaxing to get that voice to be louder than the saboteur, or at least present enough for you to recognize it and give it the floor when the two are vying for attention.
The saboteur must be put in its place in order for your inner leader to take the wheel and take you down the path to mastery.
Ok, it's January 6th, so maybe you've already planned your year, but if you haven't, I've got five essential questions for you to answer before you do.
When most people plan their year, (or New Year's Resolutions or what have you) they start by what they want to do or accomplish.
I suggest you start with a different question.
Question #1: How do I want to be this year?
All doing flows from being. Meaning, however you "are" is what you will produce. Frantic, frazzled and panicked? You'll produce frantic, frazzled results.
Start your planning by asking yourself, "how do I want to be this year?" For me, I want to be calm, at peace and have lots of space. That informed how I put my schedule together.
Question #2: What's my theme for the year?
Once I decided I wanted to be calm, at peace and have lots of space, I asked...why?
And the answer was because I had had a pretty frantic year of getting my book done and edited and to print and it was time to settle in for some development; of myself, of my business and of the From Hostage to Hero brand. So that became my theme for the year: DEVELOPMENT. All of my scheduling choices now flow from that question. Is this something that will develop me or my business or From Hostage to Hero? If the answer is no, I don't make time for it.
Question #3: How can I schedule this?
It's one thing to decide how you want to be and what your theme is, but now you need to bring it into reality. For me, I need space to develop. So, I created a schedule where I have lots of down time so I can study and work on my business.
Whatever you decide, carve out time for you FIRST, and then add in all of your other obligations.
Question #4: What are my routines?
As you're scheduling, don't forget about routines that help you attune to yourself.
What do I mean "attune?" Routines that help you feel your best and center you for the work you have ahead of you. For me I have a morning routine that includes morning pages, (see Julia Cameron's Artist Way) journaling, exercise and meditation. I also have an evening routine that includes online courses, a quiet time ritual, reading and stretching. These don't have much, if anything to do with "development" they’re just for me. I suggest you decide on some routines you can count on as you move through your year as well.
Question #5: What are your boundaries?
Once you've scheduled out your life to reflect how you want to be, you need to decide on your boundaries. What will you say yes to? What will you say no to? Creating a litmus test can help. For me, before accepting any gig or client I ask myself four questions:
1. Do I want to do this?
2. Does it fit my schedule?
3. Does it advance my goals?
4. Does the money make sense?
If I can't answer at least three questions affirmatively, I don't even consider it. I have other boundaries too; I only ever work one weekend a month. I only see a certain amount of clients each day, etc.
What are YOUR boundaries?
2020 vision is seeing clearly. Let 2020 be your year to get focused and living a life YOU'VE designed instead of merely reacting to all of life's challenges and waking up 20 years from now in a life you don't enjoy or recognize.
Happy New Year!
Give this podcast episode a listen to learn more.
If you've been following me for a while, you know I love thought work. Choosing how you think affects how you feel, which governs how you act which determines your results.
But just because we can choose our thoughts doesn't mean you'll never feel pain.
Sometimes life is painful.
What I'm concerned about is when you cause yourself unnecessary pain.
For example, when you lose a trial, it often hurts. And that's normal. I'm not suggesting that if you just thought about it differently, you'd stop feeling the pain of losing.
What I am suggesting is that you add to your distress when you beat yourself up, tell yourself you're a terrible lawyer, freak out and never go to trial again, etc.
All of that is unnecessary pain.
Isn't this job hard enough? Why add unnecessary pain to an already painful career?
Here's the deal: most of you fall into one of two camps: you either go out there and fight and then when you lose, cause yourself the unnecessary pain I just described, or you AVOID pain by living small and not taking risks or chances.
Neither is good.
The path to greatness begins when you take courageous action knowing it may cause you pain. And when that pain comes, you feel it. You don't drink it away, eat it away, sleep it away or otherwise shove it down. You accept it and let it be.
Learning how to BE with your pain is where things get good. The "greats" have all accepted that pain is a part of life and instead of avoiding it, they accept it as part of the deal.
Stop avoiding pain by playing small or adding pain by beating yourself up and instead, embrace the pain that life (and this career) naturally brings. You'll be much happier, I promise, when you can learn to live with pain instead of attempting to outrun it all the time.
Give From Hostage to Hero Podcast "Episode 44-How to Deal with Pain" a listen to learn more.
I've been going through a major transition lately.
(No, not menopause. But that's right around the corner, thanks for asking.)
And let me tell you, I'm not a fan. (Of transitions or menopause.)
That's not entirely true. I LOVE starting things. And being in transition means that something new is coming.
But unfortunately, transitions also mean something needs to end.
In fact, that's where all transitions begin: with an ending.
Phase #1: Endings
Most people don't like endings. Unless it's the end of a long boring speech or a terrible movie, we avoid endings because they're uncomfortable.
I remember avoiding an ending nearly every summer of my childhood: leaving Finland.
All of the relatives would come to our cabin to say goodbye and line up to give hugs as we walked to the car. I HATED this day and dreaded it for weeks. So, when the day came to leave the cabin and begin our journey south to Helsinki, where we'd catch a plane back home, I'd hide.
Under the bed, in a closet, wherever I could find so I didn't have to say goodbye.
Endings suck, but they're also necessary to transition into the next phase of our life.
When you find yourself facing a time of transition, the first thing you need to ask yourself is:
What do I need to let go of?
Getting rid of the old is the first step to taking on the new.
Phase #2: Neutral Zone
Unfortunately, we can't jump right to the new thing after letting go. As William Bridges says in his book Transitions, after letting go of the old we now enter what he calls, "the neutral zone."
Folks, I can speak from experience when I say, the neutral zone BLOWS.
This is where you know you're done with the old thing, but you're not totally clear what the new thing is.
But here's what's important to remember: hanging out in the neutral zone is where you get clear on next steps, what you want, and which direction you want to take.
When you rush your time in the neutral zone you often make costly mistakes and only have to start over again.
Surrender to the neutral zone. Just stand still for a minute. Clarity will come, I promise.
Phase #3: New Beginnings
Woot woot! The phase we've all been waiting for! Now you can start the new thing. But a word of caution: don't obsess over results here. Especially at the beginning. You're trying things out, feeling your way around. Be kind to yourself!
We all experience transitions in our life from time to time. The key is to surrender to the process.
To learn more give this podcast a listen, and pick up a copy of Transitions by William Bridges.
It's easy to get angry at trial.
Lying witnesses, judges who block your planned voir dire, and opposing counsel that continually object have a way of getting you hot under the collar.
But communicating anger at trial can be dangerous.
First off, anger can cloud your judgement. Allowing yourself to get angry can take you off your game and cause you to make decisions that aren't good for you or your client.
Second, communicating anger at trial sends the message to jurors: "This.Is.Personal." Which means you are now, nonverbally, at least, asking the jury to award you, the trial lawyer, a verdict, instead of your client. No jury is willing to do that.
But third, and most importantly, anger communicated at trial reduces the amount of "space" allowed for anger. When you get angry at trial, you force jurors to "balance out" the emotional energy. If you're angry, they must remain calm, or the atmosphere gets too tense.
There are three things you can do when you feel angry at trial:
Don't let anger take you off course. When you feel angry, breathe and try and drop it. If you can't, let it be. And if appropriate, express it.
Remember: the truth needs no defense; it needs a voice. Your job is to be that voice so truth can prevail at trial.
Give this podcast a listen to learn more.
Last week I talked about getting clear on want.
But knowing what you want is only half the battle. You also have to want the side of shit that comes with your want.
In other words, when you pick up one end of the stick, you also pick up the other.
Here's what I mean:
Every "want" has a shadow side.
Want a satisfying relationship with someone?
Choosing that means you're also choosing disagreements, not being able to make decisions without taking someone else into consideration, not sleeping with other people and all sorts of other things.
Want to have a kick ass body?
Choosing that means you're also choosing not eating whatever the hell you want, spending time exercising instead of doing other things, drinking lots of water instead of alcohol, etc.
Want to run a business?
Choosing that means you're also choosing mundane tasks, managing people, financial ups and downs and lots of other non-sexy things.
You have to embrace the shadow side of your work. Opposing counsel that makes every interaction a drawn-out nightmare. Putting up your own money. Clients who make your life miserable.
These are the things that come with the job you've chosen. Seeing this clearly instead of shaking your fist in the air stops unnecessary suffering. You have enough stress in your life. Stop being surprised that this job is hard. Embrace it.
You can, and should, get clear on what you want. But as you do that, also consider that whatever you choose, you're choosing the shadow side too.
When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other. Choose wisely.
What's getting in your way?
Well if you're like most of my clients, I bet it's one of these three things:
You Don't Know What You Want
What do you want?
When I ask clients that, I usually get a blank stare or a confused look.
Want feels so...indulgent. So...self-involved. And what the heck does want have to do with anything anyway?
Without want there is no WILL.
When things get tough, you've got to have a want that's flashing so brightly in front of your face that you KEEP GOING.
It's so easy to wake up one day and realize you're living a life you don't even recognize. Getting clear on what you want not only helps you keep going when things get tough but determines the course of your life.
Maybe you know what you want but you're waiting to take action.
You've told yourself you don't have enough experience. Or training. Or knowledge. Or preparation. You should wait. It's the prudent thing to do.
Here's the truth: you'll never have "enough." You'll never walk into court feeling 100% prepared. You'll never feel you know everything there is to know. (At least I hope not. How boring!) "Enough" doesn't exist. It's a myth. It's a fantasy land you think exists if you'd only patiently wait for it to arrive.
You'll be waiting forever.
Stop waiting. Do it now. Whatever "it" is.
You Aren't Willing to Fail
What's the real reason you're waiting? Well, if you're like most people, you aren't willing to fail. You tell yourself it's because you aren't "enough,” but the real reason is you don't like failing.
Newsflash: no one like to fail! But being willing to fail is the key to moving to the next level of your development. If you want to up your game at trial, you've got to put your fear aside and willingly put yourself out there and give up your excuses.
Start wanting. Stop waiting. Be willing to fail. Get out of your own way and watch as your life, and trial practice, transforms before your very eyes.
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