August 24, 2005

Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get a Life!

While attending the annual ILTA conference (formerly LawNet) this week, I thoroughly enjoyed the keynote by Larry Winget. Larry is perhaps best described as a very humorous and irreverent un-motivational speaker -- or as he likes to say, Irritational Speaker. He's authored the bestseller, "Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life : A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life". The entire audience was in stitches throughout his performance.

While Larry has something like 18 simple rules of success, he shared several of them in the time he had, well worth summarizing here. They apply equally in our business and personal lives. They're a bit blunt, but effective:

  1. Take Responsibility
  2. It's human nature to avoid taking responsibility. It's easier to say, "It wasn't my fault!" and continuing whining. You're responsible for your own situation in life (who else's fault is it?). I've always had much more respect and appreciation for a person who bravely says, "I did it, it's my fault, and I'll fix it." Playing the blame game just prolongs and stagnates the situation or problem, and everyone just gets increasingly defensive instead of cooperating.

    One of the best tips I read many years ago was not to be afraid of proactively taking the blame, even (and especially) when it wasn't truly your fault. Once responsibility is acknowledged, everyone's defensiveness is lowered. Then we're free to focus on actually solving the problem. Give it a try, and you may be surprised with how effective taking responsibility can be.

  3. Flexibility
  4. In some fashion or another, we're all service providers and we all have customers (both professionally and personally). Even a little flexibility goes a long way to solve problems and satisfy your customers. They, in turn, will want to work with you even more. The more you give, the more you get. A happy customer may only tell a few people about their experience you. An unhappy one will tell a lot more. Which one do you want?

  5. Understanding and Coping with Change
  6. Change is hard. It's so much easier to stay within one's established comfort zone. People rarely change when they're comfortable. Most people want to initiate change only when they're uncomfortable or experiencing some kind of pain.

  7. Attitude
  8. Larry has a different view about attitude than most other motivational speakers: Having a positive attitude will not stop bad things from happening to you. Stuff just happens regardless, that's life. But keeping a good mental outlook will help you cope with them a lot better.

  9. Have Fun
  10. This is a big one in my book -- no, make that HUGE, and I'm going to elaborate with a personal example. Don't take things too seriously and enjoy what you do. If you don't like what you're doing, then by golly, go do something else that you truly enjoy. It's that simple. Period. Don't let ego, status, or even money stop you. You're not doing anyone any favors by being miserable -- not you, not your family, and not your employer, co-workers, organization, or customers.

    I sincerely hope this isn't trite, but perhaps my career path is a good example, particularly as I know a good number of professionals read this blog: I started my career out of law school as a Big Eight tax accountant. While I was very good at it technically, aced the CPA exam, etc., I wasn't particularly happy -- not even close. So I practiced law (and practiced and practiced... ;^). Better -- more along the lines of what I wanted to do, and I enjoyed helping people more directly and substantially. But I still wasn't happy. Something was still missing.

    So I thought long and hard about what I really liked to do. Then I made the hardest professional decision of my life -- I left the active practice. I melded and morphed my accounting, legal, and computer technology interests and skills, and delved into legal technology with a passion. As a result, I deeply enjoy doing what I do, along with working with some of best people I've ever worked with. I work very hard, even harder than before -- that's why it's called "work". But when it's a labor of love, it's a whole different ball game, sports fans. I've said it here before -- passion counts big time. If you don't have it or it's dormant, find a way to get it back. (Also re-read the last sentence of #3 above.) As Larry shared with us, it's truly hard to excel at something when you hate doing it. Heck, sometimes it's hard enough when you enjoy it. Although he didn't mention this, I think Fun ties in closely with Attitude. Thus I really liked his quote: "Excellence stems from enjoyment."

    Also, regardless of how bad something is, I've rarely found a situation that did not have some humorous aspect. Life is tough. Your job is tough. Why go through both if you're not enjoying them? A deficiency or imbalance in one often affects the other. Hey, we're only here once, and there's a lot of funny stuff that happens to us along the way. I've often found that sharing a good laugh with my co-workers is not a time-waster, it's a performance booster. Think about it.

    And if I've somehow helped you in even a small way by sharing this, I'm good with that.

    Topic(s):   Other Musings
    Posted by Jeff Beard
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