Stop! The life you save may be your own.


What kind of race are you running?  More importantly who are you running for?  If the answer is your relatives, colleagues, classmates, or friends STOP.  If you are directly or indirectly engaged in a success (expletive) contest what are you really accomplishing with your life?

Everyone has a definition of what success or “making it” means.  For some it’s making “real money.”  Now I like money,  but just how much I have to earn to feel like it’s “real” is unknown to me.  The law school answer would be it depends.  I can say I feel content presently, but then again I only have myself to worry about.

Aside from keeping it real with the dollar, there is a bigger issue.  That is, one should not let anothers view of success chart the course of their professonial life.  Accept advice and seek guidance of course, but at the end of the day you define what it means to be successful.

It is human nature to compare, but our lives are too unique to be reduced a kind of supermarket view of success.  It cannot be that easy.  Also it is a dangerous path to follow becuase unless you are an oil-shiek you will never have enough.  There is always someone with more.  You’ll reach that X amount and still feel unsatsified (Penelope Trunk has a great post on this).

As it says in the Bible (thank you Google), “And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.'”-LUKE 12:15.  Or, as the song says, “Just live your life.” -T.I. ft. Rhianna.


The #1 Reason to Drop a Goal.

Let go.

Let go.

For a myriad of reasons there are goals in life that we will not achieve.  At various points in our lives we have all started something and left it unfinished.  Unfinished but not forgotten.  Through rationalized procrastination we tell ourselves there is always tomorrow.

How about making a clean break?  Evaluate the goals that your are making progress (active progress) towards achieving and drop ones that are not.

Some goals no matter how much we want to achieve them lie beyond our drive to accomplish a task.  In short goals should be approached fully or not at all.  For example I want a six-pack but know the level of commitment it would take to get one, currently, exceeds my drive to make it happen.

I am not advocating dropping a goal because it is taking a long time to achieve.  However, if your goal is sitting in the corner next to the Soloflex, collecting dust, it may be time to leave it on the curb and free up space for more productive endeavors.

Happy Memorial Day!


The Only Two Lists That Matter.



Cause sometimes you just feel tired
You feel weak
And when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up
But you gotta search within you
Try to find that inner strength and just pull that s**t out of you
And get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter
No matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.

-‘Till I Collapse, Eminem

What drives you?  Beyond money or prestige, what is the underlying root of your efforts?  Do you have them written down?

Alan Weber, of Harvard Business Publishing, advises in his articleThree Rules for These Times, keeping two lists.  First, lay out what gets you up in the morning.  Second, lay out what keeps you up at night.

Weber suggests these lists will help you  define your inner motivations and hindereances.  In the context of the business world (for which his article is meant for) he states:

Managers and leaders have got to know themselves before they know their businesses. They’ve got to have passion for their work and concern for their world.  Otherwise they’re just punching the time clock and risking everyone’s future.”

His article however can be applied beyond the business world.  We are all essentially managers, mangers of  (insert your name) Inc.  You are the CEO, CFO, CMO, and general counsel (for the J.D.’s) of You Inc.

Regardless of your field, knowing yourself, specifically what motivates you is a crucial component to a fulfilling professional and social life.

That being said, I drafted up quick lists over lunch yesterday.

What gets A.J. up in the morning:

  1. 4 am workouts (the only free time outside of lunch that I have)
  2. New opportunities.
  3. New challenges.

What keeps A.J. up at night:

  1. Searching for new a job.
  2. Catching up on a show, reading , or writing.
  3. Catching up with family and friends.
  4. Thinking of ways to build my bank account.
  5. Thinking about my career in the long-term.
  6. My personal life (sometimes).

(Note:  The items on list #2 don’t keep me up all night, but at varying times they are on my mind when I hit the sheets.)

As you can see the things that “keep me up at night” are pretty evenly divided between professional and social.  While over these past months I’ve put in a lot of hours at the Capitol, I still have sought balance where I could (though nothing is ever exactly 50/50).  I like that what gets me up is a short list.  I think that’s indicative of the fact that my main motivations, challenge and opportunity, encapsulate many aspects of my life.  I’m not saying my life isn’t complicated at times, but on a macro-level I’m pretty streamlined.

What kind of lists are you coming up with?


In Times of Job Uncertainy…

Don’t run (or search) scared .

Mountain Lion Safety

Mountain Lion Safety

 As scary as it can be to have no clear idea of what is next  job-wise, I believe the worst thing you can do is engage in a mad dash for security by taking the next job that presents itself. 

I get it because I’ve been there.

It’s comforting to have a title, “college student,” law student”, “summer associate,” etc., that, by our societal standards means you’re doing “all right.” 

However, attaching yourself to the first thing that is available while quelling short-term anxieties, only does a disservice to you in the long-run. 


The feelings of anxiety are tied to fear, which in certain circumstances will save you, but not in guiding your career.

Fear is firmly rooted in emotion and not common sense.  For example, when I was seven I spent the summer taking swimming lessons.  The night before we started learning to dive in the deep end I watched Jaws

Now having spent nearly all summer in that pool I knew, logically, there was nothing lurking beneath the water.  Still when I jumped off the diving board and into the 12 feet of water beneath me believe I was up and out of the pool before the swim instructor could help me out.

Fear is an effective tool to survive, not necessarily to succeed.

Relax, Realign, Focus and GO!

Everyone has their process for approaching challenges in their lives.  I have found in times of uncertainty, in school and in my burgeoning professional life, these steps have aided me.


When I am relaxed I am not reactive.  Meaning I’m not simply moving my  legs because I’m being pushed.  Being relaxed means you’re more likely to see things objectively and not on the worst case scenario.


When I know clearly what challenges are before me and my mind is cleared, I can then move to asses the best course of action or actions and move accordingly.  Often this means taking a hard look at your core goals and adjusting where necessary (Note: Not giving up, but shifting priorities).

During my senior year at Wake Forest I was advised that it is best to view the goals in your life in a non-linear fashion.  That is, don’t assume because you get to point A that point B is next.  You may have to go to Point C first and then detour back.

To borrow a business term you must maintain operational flexibility.  Fairness in life is a myth.  The world is not a fair place, and you cannot expect things to happen the way and time you want them to go.  Remaining static in the face of uncertainty is like a deer caught in head lights.  The deer should move, but fear freezes it in place.

Realignment is a necessity for career survival.


With a clear picture of the situation the task now moves to  focusing on implementing action to overcome, or a the very least, weather the storm. 


Then you move.  Don’t get hampered by over thinking the situation.  Often people get caught up waiting for the “right” moment when that moment was NOW.  At some point you do have to make a decision and GO!


Opening Up To Social Media.

Reach out!

Reach out!

-It’s easier for everyone to know you, than you to know everyone

It’s time to reach out.  I believe we’re either near or currently at a point where you can’t be on the fence with social media programs.   Either use them as they’re meant to be used (that is to broaden your presence in the world), or put them down and go read a book or play Wii.  An empty or near empty profile does that user a disservice, and having a passive presence defeats the whole purpose of social media. 

The power of social media is the ability of people to connect over a broad range of topics.  For some people it can be unnerving, even in a virtual world, to have strangers tuning in to their lives.   However having people you don’t know know you is not necessarily a bad.  This is especially true for professionals.

For me LinkedIn and Twitter have supplanted Facebook in terms of professional utility, with Facebook moving back to a pure social outlet.

My main interest now is professional growth.  A major factor in that growth is finding commonality.  Commonality is like a spark of light in the void of uncertainty that exists when two strangers meet.  You can see it in the eyes people when something familiar resonates with them in a conversation.  From there that spark can grow or fade depending on the level of commonality between the pair.

Social media programs facilitate this exchange on a heightened scale and pace.

The level of openness our society tolerates has shifted in the last two decades tied to the rise of various Internet mediums.  Our society, really our world, has already become increasingly open, to the point where past concepts of privacy are not applicable.

Don’t be passive with social media, reach out!


Friendship is Valuable.



“You’re not in law school to make friends.”

I, along with my future colleagues, were told this during a pre-law seminar the summer before we began our legal education.

Then, as now, I felt that “advice” was at the very least counter-productive and at most extremely harmful.  I’m a social guy in general so maybe that is why those words rubbed me the wrong way.  But as I progressed through Washburn Law (in lovely Topeka, KS) I came to understand that success in the legal profession (actual practice not academics), like the business world, relies in part on a degree of sociability.

In fact, I believe the practice of law requires a great deal of social skill, not only in working with clients, but developing clients and most importantly advancing in a firm.

Attorneys are selling their SERVICES.  That’s right, attorneys are salesmen, and a law firm is essentially Wal-Mart or Nordstroms, all depending on what the client’s willing to pay.  And it’s not enough to wait for clients to coming through your doors, firms rely on rainmakers to drive sales by engaging clients in the real world.  Hint, the gal or guy who’s brining in clients will most likely be able to justify partnership over the billable hour workhorse.  But I digress.

Networks and networking are the hot button topics today.  People are losing their jobs, or nervous about losing their jobs and turning to LinkedIn, Twitter, or whatever other social media they can to create a net for themselves.

And they are like the grasshoper that waited until Winter to begin gathering food.

People, please remember.  NETWORK BEFORE YOU NEED IT.  Coming back to what our speaker said, I understand what, I hope, she was trying to say.  Law school isn’t college, time to study and put down the beer bong.  I think though she could have been more specific.  Law school, or whatever program your in, is the BEST time to make friends.

During school you’re all students, no one is a “name” yet.  And believe that while you think you have people pegged in terms of  who will be “successful” you don’t.  You also never know where your practice or business will take you.  I’m not saying you have to be best buds with your entire class, but burying yourself away for three years (in the case of law school) is foolish.

I’m a pretty helpful person, but honestly if someone I barely knew asked me for assistance versus someone I knew decently (I’m saying a conversation here or there over THREE years), who do you think I’d be more apt to help out?  And I’m a friendly person, some folks won’t deal with you if they don’t know you, even if you went to the same school.

So maybe the speaker should have discussed making social friends versus professional friends.  Social friends would be those folks you hang with regardless of your job.  Professional friends, can be social, but more often they are people you are aligned with in your profession and

My point is this.  In ____  school making (professional) friends is probably one of the most important activities you can engage in.


Social Media Flash Sessions

Time Flies

Time Flies

I’ve set a new goal for myself to increase my efficiency online with email, and the various social media tools I use, chiefly Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Too often I spend time thinking of the perfect status update, something witty or informative to fit under the 140 character limit on Twitter, or just searching around for people I know or want to know.

The solution to aid me in my goal is setting time limts.  Remember in the early days of the Internet (early for Gen-Y) anyways, when dial-up modems where your bridge to the online world?  Remember how before flat rates there were hourly charges for online-usage, and those things called flash sessions (timed sessions online)?  That’s what I will be implementing for myself with the help of my iPhone timer, and that applies to emails too.

I love all the new tools available to help connect with people and promote yourself.  I just want to be able focus on the real world more.