Episode 7

The road trip continues from Dallas in Episode 7, in which Victor and Mark are joined by Attorney Coach Steve Riley and proceed to discuss how Steve scared a roomful of lawyers; the value of designing a great life; picking up women by using The Bait, a Wing Woman, or claiming to read palms; why lawyers can only tolerate so much joy; how Mark wants to rent Steve’s J.D.; the Gap; and why you should just Do Something.

Mark:
Steve, tell us what you said in your coaching session that scared everybody? Based on the wide-eyed look of fear on your audience’s faces, it looked like you delivered shock therapy to the students.

Steve:
Lawyers are looking for ways to build their practices. One of the things I’m asserting is that lawyers take responsibility first and foremost for having a really great life. The premise is that if they are miserable and suffering, not taking care of their health, not taking care of the things that make them happy, and not having a joy-filled life, then they’re not going to attract any business. And if they do, it’s going to be negative people.

Mark:
I relate that to the bar theory. If you’re sitting in a bar by yourself looking morose and lonely, you’re not going to attract anybody. I actually had a fool-proof marketing method for meeting eligible young women. I had a female friend, who was not my girlfriend, who was also looking to meet someone. We would go to bars together and have great conversations and laughs. If there were some guys that were sitting on my left, I would include them in the conversation and introduce them to her. She would do the same if there were girls in the bar. This was a great method. We met a ton of people that way.

Steve:
That’s a great example of good basic strategic alliances of people with similar values and goals.

Mark:
You’ve got to have a Wing Woman.

Victor:
We talked about this before. I look at it from another perspective. Acquiring the type of clients you want to be with helps you grow your practice in a way that causes you to have joy. And that means being selective about taking clients who are just shopping on price and want you to unbundle your services. Those are the same clients who resent the fact that they’re paying you tons of money to fill out forms.

Mark:
I’m still interested in what scared them?

Steve:
I had a really hard-core conversation that disturbed a lot of people. I said, if you want to have a really great practice, the first thing you need to get clear on is that you have to have a really great life. Your practice is not your life. The practice is part of your life. You have to redefine yourself as having a great life, and then you can build a great practice. You can’t have a great practice without a great life.

Mark:
And that takes lawyers into a realm of emotional happiness and sticky feelings that they’re uncomfortable with.

Steve:
I could tell I was hitting home, because most people are living their lives by default not by design. I was trying to make them responsible for what they are currently tolerating and doing in life. I told them to take a step back and ask themselves if they’re truly committed to having a great life, and what that life looks like. It takes a lot more work to live a life that you designed versus living by default, where you can blame everybody and be a victim. Having that kind of a conversation, especially with a roomful of intelligent, successful professionals can sometimes really throw them off.

Nobody else in their lives is going to have that kind of conversation with them. And get in their face and ask them if they’re truly leading a life that they define as great. It takes a lot of work to be focused on building that life. And as you guys know, life doesn’t always agree with what you want.

Mark:
It takes a certain amount of courage to venture into that territory. I’ve noticed during my client seminars, especially with my male attorneys, that as long as the seminar is focused on legal technical stuff that they know better than anybody else, they’re very comfortable. But when it moves onto stuff that has to do with personal relationships, like dad can’t find his way home anymore, or my daughter hates my son, and all of those kinds of things, which are often the reason that people want to do estate planning in the first place, the men get very, very uncomfortable. They don’t want to go there. They only want logic and rules.

Victor:
It’s the same thing with doctors, in terms of their bedside manner. It’s not just about the veins and arteries, etc.

Mark:
If I have to think about what makes a great life, I have to go into territory where I’m not so comfortable.

Steve:
Absolutely. And that is ultimately the complaint that a lot of lawyers have about their practice. They don’t feel like they’re making a difference throughout their day.

When I begin a seminar, one of the first things I do is ask everyone why they’re in this area of work. And without hesitation, everybody says they want to help. Yet they have an unsatisfied, unfilled day-to-day existence, because they’re not reaching out and connecting with their clients in a way that makes a difference for the client.

Victor:
How do you resolve the issue that the marketplace is trying to define lawyers as commodity providers? It’s very hard to find and acquire the type of clients that fit into the life you’re designing.

Steve:
You have to earn a great life. It’s not given to you. You’re not entitled to it. It’s kind of like Mark’s story about dating and his strategic alliance with a woman. There was a clear plan. They talked about it and strategically devised this relationship. They went out and met a lot of people. It’s a lot like fishing. If a fish isn’t right for you, throw it back.

I tell lawyers who are building their practices to spend 50% of their time focused on developing relationships, alliances and marketing, and the other 50% actually practicing the law. The goal is to have a practice with a high level of joy, a high level of productivity, and a high level of satisfaction. And they’re going to have to do a lot of work on the front-end to develop those relationships.

I had a really good-looking friend in law school that was a Chippendale dancer. We named him The Bait. When we went out, we would take The Bait with us. We would put him at the bar by himself. On average, it would take 15 minutes before the first aggressive-enough woman would go up and talk to him. We would wait until The Bait established a relationship with between four to five women, because they usually travel in packs, for protection purposes I guess. And after The Bait infiltrated the group, he’d call us over. That was our way of trying to initiate relationships with women.

Mark:
I took it a step further in terms of qualifying prospects. Part of my job as I was talking to the guys was to pre-qualify them. I would make it clear that she wasn’t a one-night stand. And if that’s what they were looking for, they should go somewhere else. It was a strategic partnership.

Here’s another example. Back when I was in the newspaper business, I attended Management School at the Pointer Institute in St. Petersburg. One of the guys there was an Egyptian from the newspaper Al-Alram in Cairo. After the conferences, we would all gather in the bar. At some point he announced that he could read palms. I never saw anything like it! There were 30 women around that table within five minutes. He had their hands in his and was tracing lines and telling them about themselves. I thought this was the greatest technique I had ever seen in my life.

Victor:
So a life by design leads to a happier and more successful practice?

Steve:
That’s been my experience. The happier the lawyer is, the more joyful they are, the more joyful their staff is, the more business they will attract. My experience has been that professionals want to do business with people who don’t complain. Think about your life. Would you rather hang out with someone who’s a complainer or someone who’s fun?

Mark:
When I ask people how they are, all I really want to hear back is, “I’m great. How are you?” I don’t want to hear about all their problems.

Steve:
One of the most surprising things I say to clients and advisors is that I’m passionate about what I do, and I get great joy from doing it. I don’t think they get that a lot from lawyers.

Victor:
Lawyers aren’t saying it because they probably don’t feel it very often.

Steve:
Lawyers aren’t feeling it and they’re embarrassed to communicate about it. You guys have heard one of my taglines, “Lawyers can only tolerate so much joy.” And, generally, a lot of lawyers will laugh at that because they know it’s true. If they start having too much fun, there’s got to be something wrong.

Mark:
They start poking holes in it.

Steve:
I don’t know whether it’s human nature, or whether it’s how we’re trained in law school, or maybe it’s the culture that we work in, but there are not many happy people.

Mark:
I’m sure you are familiar with Dan Sullivan’s fabulous theory of the Gap. There are two guys, let’s say for the purposes of this discussion, two attorneys. They’re both in more or less the same position in life. They both make several hundred thousand dollars a year. They both have nice houses. They both have a wife and kids. By all external appearances, they’re both in good health. They should be roughly equal, but one of the guys is really happy and the other guy is miserable. Why is this?

He introduces the concept of “the horizon,” and says that the horizon is the ideal in life. It’s always there. It’s valuable as a concept, but can never be reached from where you are. It’s not an actual thing. It’s just a concept. In his theory, the miserable guy measures where he is against the ideal. And the happy guy measures backwards against where he was a year or two ago. The guy who measures backwards is always happy because 99% of the time, he’s advanced. Even if it was minute, he’s still advanced over where he was two years ago. And the other guy is always going to be miserable because no matter how great he’s performing, or how much money is rolling in, it’s less than ideal. So he’s always miserable.

You see this in everyday life. Not just in business. People say, “I’ll be happy when I get married, I’ll be happy when I get divorced, I’ll be happy when the kids go to college, I’ll be happy when I have a million dollars, I’ll be happy when I have a boat.” They’re not into the journey. They’re into the destination. They’re always measuring where they are against where they want to be, and thus will always be unhappy.

Victor:
Steve, so how does a coach help you get there? We talked a little about how an attorney’s skill-set comes into play when recognizing and moving in a more positive direction.

Steve:
A coach is someone who’s committed to you having a great future. Ultimately, all I’m trying to do is help someone get clarity about what is working and not working in their life. Sometimes I do that through mental constructs like the Gap, and sometimes I do it through a simple series of questions. For instance, what’s in their way or what are they frustrated about? A lot of lawyers have no one to talk to about this.

They just need someone to “puke” on. They need someone to emotionally puke on to get it out of their brain. Sometimes a coach doesn’t really do anything as far as asking questions. They’re just there to help them through the process. The thing that makes me unique as a coach is that I’m not only a coaching attorney, but an attorney as well. I’ve been there and I know the territory very, very well.

Mark:
I find that in my own practice what I do is very similar to what lawyers do, in the sense that I’m marketing professional services. My own experiences in building my business are valuable to lawyers running a law practice. I can tell them that I went through this in my own business. I’m not telling you to do anything that I haven’t done. You don’t have any fears that I don’t have, and have dealt with.

When my clients say to me “If I put on a seminar or series of seminars and spend $5,000 or $10,000, what can I expect? What am I going to get out of it? I say, “When I go to WealthCounsel and spent $5,000 or $10,000 on a booth, there’s no guarantee that I’ll come back with even one new client.” But what’s the alternative? Sit in your office and wait for the phone to ring.

Victor:
Is it harder for a new attorney to design his life right while he’s struggling for new business and trying to get the ball rolling? Or, is it harder for the attorney with an established practice to try and re-design his life after spending so long designing it wrong?

Steve:
It doesn’t depend on where they are in that life cycle. It depends on how invested the lawyer is into making a change. One of the greatest challenges I’ve had is getting people to realize what really matters to them as far as change. The good thing about a young lawyer is that they’re eager and they’re got energy. The bad thing about more experienced lawyers is that they’re got cash flow, and they cling to that cash flow and to their old habits. They are usually very reluctant to make any major changes. They haven’t suffered enough to say, I’m in pain so I think I’ll quit beating my head against the wall.

Mark:
Very true. We should mention that Steve has recently become the coach for the SmartMarketing coaching program. I’m not doing any pimping, because you can’t get into the program unless you’re already a SmartMarketing client. We’re not selling anything here, but just want listeners to know that we all work together. I’ve been able to watch Steve’s talents up close and I really appreciate what he’s doing. Steve, one of the things I envy about your position is that you have a JD after your name. You and I could teach exactly the same thing to exactly the same audience, and they would trust you more because you’re a lawyer and I’m not.

I’ll have some attorney who’s struggling along making $75,000 a year, and it’s clear from our conversation that he thinks he’s smarter than me. I’m thinking to myself, I have a business that’s 15 times bigger than his; I’ve been doing this for 15 years; I know marketing upside down and downside up; and he’s never done anything having anything to do with marketing, but he thinks he knows more about it than I do. I think if I could borrow your JD and put it at the end of my name, people would listen to me more.

Steve:
The one huge challenge we have with attorneys is a tremendous amount of intellectual arrogance. Just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you’re successful. Just because you’ve acquired a JD doesn’t mean that you have the capability of doing anything other than solving complex legal problems. And that’s basically it. I think many attorneys, whether they realize it or not, are not intellectually honest about their self. The fact that they’ve learned and know things doesn’t mean it’s of any value.

Mark, one of the greatest things I’ve heard you say in your presentations is just “do something.”

Mark:
You laugh at me for my sophisticated marketing advice, but it’s true. You’ve got to go out there and do something. Success isn’t going to come to your office.

Steve:
One of the challenges we have with lawyers is that they keep looking for ultimate wisdom and the right thing to do. They spend an unbelievable amount of time analyzing issues, and very little time acting on them.

Mark:
That’s stage one. Stage two is, now prove it to me.

Steve:
Lawyers are analytical problem solvers. We begin with what won’t work. It’s the same analytical gift that we use to help clients find the best solution to their problem.

Mark:
I can add another layer to that. What are the things that lawyers are known for in terms of advising their clients? Prudence, safety, and risk avoidance. They operate in a world where there are liabilities, judgments, danger, and things like that. And marketing, growing a business, and behaving in an entrepreneurial manner, is all about risk. They have to take managed risk, reasonable risk, but risk.

Victor:
What would be the biggest step a lawyer could take in terms of designing a life that would help his practice? Is it time management? Is it mindset? Is it internal stuff?

Steve:
Mindset. Making the actual decision to have a great life, and then deciding what a great life looks like. The problem is that when most people start thinking about it, they realize how much work and pain is involved in designing a great life. Consequently, most people realize it’s too much, so they just deal with what they have.

Victor:
How do people get over that paralysis?

Steve:
Number one is do what Mark says, which is do anything! Probably the most profound thing you can do to get moving immediately is to start taking care of your health. Whether it’s something you’ve been putting off, getting an annual physical, or just starting an exercise program.

The other thing that works is making clean-up and toleration lists. You list all the things you hate about your life, all the thing you want to clean up, and everything you’re putting up with. A toleration list can be anything from having a dirty car, to a relationship that you don’t want to be in anymore. This is a process of identifying and attacking your problems.

Ultimately, you have to make a decision. Do you want to have a great life? And do you want it to be by default or by design? And then start designing that life. Some things will work and some things won’t, but you have to do something.

Victor:
Steve, how can people contact you?

Steve:
There are two ways to work with me. The easiest would be to persuade Mark to open another coaching program. The second is through my website: steveriley.org. You can go there and read my bio and some basic information about me.

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