This week, I’m going to talk about a question of what stops people from stepping into the changes that they know they need to make. Many of us don’t even try as we are so mired in the notion that we haven’t figured out how, that we fear that we’re going to start and that we’re going to fail. The fear of failure is a genuine human fear. But it also is a fear that is disproportionately found in success-oriented people.
“What If It’s Possible?” – tune in now to find out how to overcome the fear of failure!
In this episode we discuss:
- The fear of failure commonly found in success-oriented people.
- Asking ‘Can I?’ followed by “Should I?” But what about “What If It’s Possible?’
- Concerns over appearing selfish when success becomes a benefit to you.
- Knowing that if you made it to becoming a lawyer, you can absolutely grow your law firm.
Allison Williams: [00:00:11] Hi everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:25] Hi everybody. It’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor, and I want to welcome you to another episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. This week, we’re going to be talking about a question that came up actually in our recent masterclass. So if you haven’t attended our master class, we are going to be running it again. Our next date for the master class are July 19th through July 27th. It is a nine day class where we actually teach you step by step the process to systematize your business in under 10 days. So I mentioned the masterclass because one of the things that came up when we ran the masterclass last time was a question about what stops people from stepping into the changes that they know they need to make. Right. Most of us are intelligent people. We got through college, we got through law school, we passed a bar exam. We started practicing. We opened a business that takes a lot of moxie, OK, we are achievement oriented people, but when achievement oriented people don’t achieve something, it actually is harmful to our self-esteem. And I don’t just mean like we don’t achieve something like we tried and ultimately it it failed. Right. I’m talking about the fact that a lot of us don’t even try because we are so mired in the notion that we haven’t figured out how, that we fear that we’re going to start and that we’re going to fail.
Allison Williams: [00:02:00] And the fear of failure is a very real human fear. But it also is a fear that is disproportionately found in success oriented people. So I just want to give you a thought that came up in our last masterclass because I asked the question, what if it’s possible for me? And I remember what the response was, right. So as I am OnLive speaking to an audience, I’m always most excited and thrilled to actually be interacting with the audience. I love hearing the feedback from people getting their responses as to what’s striking a chord for them, what they find, what they find to be beneficial, what they want to hear more of. And when I have the the the gift of being able to share with people something that can help them, something that can inspire them, that’s always something that lights me up inside. And I usually can tell when something that I have said hits a nerve, because if I have the Facebook feed up at the same time, there’s either going to be all of a sudden silence. So no one says anything or there’s the proliferation of oh my God, or I can’t believe that, or I never thought about that. And so when I ask the question this last time around, I think it kind of came out of left field because people were expecting the substantive how to. And we had gone through that and we were revisiting that and summarizing the action items from the previous day on the next day.
Allison Williams: [00:03:35] Right. So you get the step by step process. But at some point we started talking about the the energy that comes into the room when we start the process of adapting whatever we have learned to our business and we start making active progress. And when that progress comes, there is often the little demon on our shoulder that says, who the hell do you think you are to have this? So we then start to rationalize because we are smart people and human beings are inherently rational beings. So even if what they are thinking, what they’re thinking is irrational, they will rationalize it in their mind. And so we have these rational thoughts and those rational thoughts will tell us this can’t be done, this shouldn’t be done. I’m not going to be a good person if I do this. Like, one of the things that someone put in the comment section is that they have the binary about good parent versus good business person. Right. I can’t be a good business person if I work 90 hours a week because I’ll be miserable because I won’t be seeing my child and I won’t be a good parent. So why bother? I’ll just wait until my child is out of college or out of high school, at least before I work on my business. And that story that this person, like so many other people had told herself, was very much driven by the thoughts outside of herself that asked her, can I? Right? Because usually when we ask ourselves, can I do something? It is almost always first educated by the fact that you want to do it. Right.
Allison Williams: [00:05:18] Because if you didn’t want to do it, you wouldn’t ask can I? You’d say, yeah, I don’t want to do that, so I won’t even bother with it. Right. But if you’re asking yourself, can I do something, you have a desire. And when that desire meets with your rational thought and your rational thought suggests to you that you cannot do something. You will ask yourself, can I do something, as a way for first giving yourself permission and then next seeking the how to. And when you give yourself permission to do something by asking, can I? And you get to yes. The next question becomes, should I? So I can do this thing, but should I do this thing? And the should is what usually stops us, because the should is usually a value laden, judgment laden conclusion that intersects with societal expectations, spousal expectations, friendship expectations, parental obligations, financial concerns, all the things that we have to consider in our life in order that ourselves and the people that we encounter in our day to day experience are satiated and happy in the world that we live in. And for most of us, we associate happiness with the contentment that comes with doing the thing we have always done. Because it’s familiar to us.
Allison Williams: [00:06:40] So we might say, I’ll take a little bit of a step, I’ll move in a direction slightly, but we’re never going to dramatically overhaul something that is working. And for the most part, unless you are in a state of dire constraint, you are typically going to see your life as working, at least to the extent that upending it is a greater risk to you than keeping it the way that it is. So we don’t often ask ourselves when we get all those goods, first, we ask, can I and we get to yes, then should I. And the should is imbued with all of that stuff outside of ourselves. We don’t often allow ourselves to go the next step, which is to ask if our answer is should I? And the answer that we get back is no. The asking the next question becomes so powerful. And it is what if it’s possible for me? Right? Because the should is usually going to tell you it’s not possible for you. Right. Can I create a creative business and scale it into multiple seven figures in three years? Intellectually, your answer may get to no. Right, because you don’t have the how to. So the first thing becomes believing that that’s even possible. And if we see that it’s possible because we can see someone who has done it and we can say that person over there went from zero into a multimillion dollar business in three and a half years. That’s possible. So intellectually, we can get to a place of saying, yeah, I can do that. I don’t know how, but I can. Right?
Allison Williams: [00:08:15] And then we ask, should I? And this should will oftentimes be overwritten of a programing that we have that says there are things that are supreme, that are supreme, that have supremacy over what we desire. Right. Taking care of children, more important than taking care of ourselves. Taking care of our spouse, more important than taking care of ourselves. Being a good friend, more important than taking care of ourselves. Being a good citizen, more important than taking care of ourselves. Being a good member of our faith community, more important than taking care of ourselves. Right. We look at all of the things outside of ourselves and those things are more important as a value system because most of us learn that it is somehow an altruistic, righteous thing for us to put ourselves last. So when we put ourselves last, we feel that we are doing the morally righteous thing. And then all of this should intersect with that programing to support the idea that we should not i.e. should I? The answer is no. We should not do something that is taking care of ourselves, because when we think about our business, even though intellectually we understand when we make more money that benefits our spouse, when we make more money that benefits our kids depending on our life, it may benefit our parents, it may benefit our faith community, it may benefit our society. It may benefit our friends.
Allison Williams: [00:09:46] However we choose to share the resources we create, the resources have the opportunity to benefit other people if they are there. And we see that. And intellectually, we know if I make more of myself, other people benefit as well. But we know that the first person that benefits is our self. And a lot of us learn the story somewhere along the way that it’s selfish to benefit yourself. So you say if the way that I can be successful is to benefit myself, even if it has a benefit to other people, I can’t possibly go pursue something that is principally about other people. It has to be principally about other people. It can’t be about myself because it if it’s about myself, that means I’m selfish. Right? If it’s about myself, that means I am ultimately not a good person. And most of us don’t intellectually think that through on the surface level, we use a whole bunch of other stories that are kind of playing underneath the surface in order to get to that place where we say, yeah, I don’t think I want to do that because it’s a lot easier for us to say, yeah, I don’t think I want to do that. Than take a risk of actually stepping in the direction of something that feels like it’s about ourselves and then owning the fact that we learned a lesson somewhere that we are somehow a better person if we are prioritizing other people.
Allison Williams: [00:11:21] And if we can’t see stepping into the thing as giving us a supremacy of taking care of other people, right, so we’ll go out and grow our business if our child needs to go to private school or we’ll grow our business if our spouse lost their job or we’ll grow our business if we have a parent who is living on Social Security and doesn’t have enough money to meet their basic needs. Right, we’ll do it for other people. We won’t do it for ourselves. And those of us that are willing to do it for ourselves, even then run into a barrier that says my self is better emboldened by something else other than making the most of myself through business, making the most money, making the most time for myself. Right. I don’t want to be unnecessary to my business. Why? Why would I ever do that? I’d be without value in the world unless I was necessary. So we have those stories that are running, that are running beneath the surface and the should will usually stop us. But even if even if we overcome the should and we next step ourselves into the energy that says the should is not enough here. The should is not enough of a barrier. I believe I will be better off, my family will be better off, my kids, my friends, my lover will be better off if I am my best self through creating the most of myself through this business. I believe that.
Allison Williams: [00:12:51] So the should is not going to stop me. But there is something that will stop us in the belief that it’s possible for everyone else, but not for us. Right. Can I create a business and scale it from zero into a multi-million dollar business in three years? OK. I can be sold on that. Should I create a business and take it from nothing into millions of dollars? Should I. Well, that’s really about me, and I’m less important than other people, but really the other people benefit. So, yeah, I should do that. But then the last question becomes one that we really don’t give ourselves the opportunity to seriously contemplate and we say I should do it because it will benefit others and yeah, I’ll benefit to. But what if it’s not possible? Right. What if what if it won’t work for my practice area, my gender, my marital status, my single status, my parents status mark my lacking child status, my my neighborhood, my my weight, my race, my age? What if what if me as an individual, what if I’m not good enough? What if I get overwhelmed by a lot of activity, what if I’m suffering from a health ailment? What if I have too many church obligations? What if I am not able to keep it all organized? What if I’m a hot mess and haven’t paid my taxes for a few years? What if I don’t have enough people on my team? What if I have too many people on my team? What if I have too big a payroll? What if I don’t have any payroll yet? I have no one to help me.
Allison Williams: [00:14:32] We make up all of these stories. Because we don’t believe we are good enough or worthy enough. But I want you to ask yourself, what if it’s possible for you? What if, despite all of the shortcomings that you perceive about yourself? Other people who have the same stuff that you have who feel bad about themselves, who aren’t the best lawyer in their jurisdiction, who don’t know how to make money, who don’t know how to manage money, who don’t pay their bills on time, who don’t know how to hire people, who don’t add people that will stay loyal, who don’t know how to get things done, who don’t know how to sell, who don’t know how to market, who don’t know how to hire marketing companies, who haven’t figured out how to create systems that actually run, who don’t know how to enforce their own systems, who don’t know how to pursue business as a business. They pursue it as a practice because that’s what they were taught from people that they worked for after they got out of a law school that taught them how to be skeptical and distrusting of anything that makes money.
Allison Williams: [00:15:37] What if you are just like them? And what about being just like them, you get to a place where you say, what if it’s possible for me to? I want you to think about all the things that you had to do to become a lawyer. Right, there’s a whole lot of stuff that goes into being a lawyer. Right? You didn’t just wake up one day and say, I think I will go be a lawyer today. Right. There was a lot of thought and a lot of planning that went into that. You had to get through college, then you had to take the LSAT, whether you are good or not at test taking, you had to overcome that hurdle in order to make barrier to to remove the barrier to entry, to even applying to get into a law school. And then once you got into law school, you had to come into a highly competitive environment where there were only going to be so many A’s, so many B’s and so many C’s given out. And you had to fall within a bell curve and be graded relative to other people. And oftentimes that is the first time any of us have that experience where we are judged not based on the quality and merit of what we had to say, but relative to other people, because we know in an adversarial system it is often not who’s best, but who is better in the eyes of the judge, that wins the day.
Allison Williams: [00:16:57] I don’t have to be best. I just have to be better than him or her. So you go through that process, you get into that school, you go through that educational process, you go through the hurdles of that first year and trying to absorb all those outlines and all that information that’s thrown at you in a different way of thinking, in a different way of processing. And you get through it and then you have to now submit to a bar examination and you have to shove in a whole bunch of law, knowledge, skill, policy information that you are likely never to use a day in your life. I don’t even remember half the shit of the twenty six subjects that I had to learn in order to pass the New York State Bar Association. Most of it I wasn’t even exposed to in law school. It literally was a three month cram or two month cram between when I graduated from law school and took the BARBRI course, so when I actually took the bar examination. And then I took the bar examination and by some stretch of imagination I passed it. And I was then able to have someone needle through a history of everything I had done since I graduated from high school and even to some degree things I did in high school to evaluate whether or not I was worthy enough to join the profession.
Allison Williams: [00:18:14] And I remember what a demoralizing experience that was, to have someone sit across from me the day I was supposed to be sworn in. That’s how they do it in New York, right? You you travel to Albany or wherever the location is that you’re going to be sworn in. And you you go through the character and fitness assessment and they have your profile of all the things that you’ve submitted. And I remember this person said to me, oh, well, it seems like you’ve grown up a bit. You were a bit scattered when you were younger. And I was thinking I graduated from college in two and a half years and you’re calling me scattered. And I, it was so hard for me to suppress that statement. And I just I remember feeling this kind of the eyes going up and down my person like, oh, you’re going to be here, you’re going to be one of us. And I remember just being so wounded by the fact that I wasn’t being evaluated on things that would actually matter, like, am I a good person? Am I free of a criminal record? And even though we know in some circumstances having a criminal record has nothing to do with actually committing a crime, we’re going to put that aside for the moment. Have I done the things on its face that would support the idea that I’m a hard working, smart person willing to contribute to this profession? It wasn’t about that.
Allison Williams: [00:19:25] It was about let me see what I can pick through to look you up and down and see whether I think you’re worthy or not. And she said it with this kind of drawling judgment of, oh, wow, looks like you grew up with that. And there was just this arrogance. And I didn’t get to respond to this arrogance because I was only a couple of hours away from either being told, yes, I’m going to swear you in and let you now utilize the hundreds of thousands of dollars that you invested in this education. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll send you home and you’ll try again, or maybe not. Maybe you’ll go work at Walmart, whatever it was. I just knew that this person held my future in their hands and I was sitting there being judged. And then I am sworn in and sworn in in New York. Later I was sworn in in New Jersey. And I remember the process and I remember now being eligible for this profession. And I started working and I became a young associate and I was there to follow instructions and do the work and think on my own. And I worked for two very different partners and they had two very different styles. And so every time I would forget that one liked it this way and another liked it another way, I’d have the schizophrenic moment of pissing somebody off. And luckily, one of the two lawyers that I work for, shout out to Faith Ohlman, because she was my first inspiration in the law.
Allison Williams: [00:20:49] She was a very powerful woman that just filled a courtroom with her brilliance. And I loved her and I had the pleasure of working for her for about a year. And I remember all the wonderful things that she poured into me, but that was a year of my life, right? And I had to then continue on my journey working somewhere else, and I continued to learn and grapple and go through all of these traumatic experiences of clients not being happy and judges not being happy and adversaries not being happy and having the shit kicked out of me when I lost and having the high of all highs when I won and then learning how to win more than I lost and then taking on practice areas that other people in my firm do. And I went through all of that to become a lawyer and then at some point decided I would triple the trauma and start a law firm.
Allison Williams: [00:21:41] OK, now that’s my particular story. We all have a story. We all at some point went through some iteration of that story in order to get where we are right now. But here’s the thing. The beautiful thing about being a lawyer and starting a law firm is that if you have the balls to start a law firm, you have the balls to grow it into something amazing. So I want you to ask yourself the question. What if it’s possible for me? And then I’m going to answer the question for you.
Allison Williams: [00:22:19] Apsa-fuckin-lutely. All right, everyone, I am Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. And on this episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, we have talked about the seminal question, what if it’s possible for me? So if you have grappled with that question, I want you to now give yourself permission to answer yes. And reach out to us so that we can help you to get yourself to that next level. Whatever that level is and however far you want to go. We just want you to adopt a mindset in law and in life that says that no matter what you do, we never stop growing.
Allison Williams: [00:23:13] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s guests and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you own a solo or small law firm and are looking for guidance, advice or simply support on your journey to create a law firm that runs without you, join us in the Law Firm Mentor Movement free Facebook group. There, you can access our free trainings on improving collections in law firms, meeting billable hours, and join the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firm and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day.
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications and money management in law firms.
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OK, now that’s my particular story. We all have a story. We all at some point went through some iteration of that story in order to get where we are right now. But here’s the thing. The beautiful thing about being a lawyer and starting a law firm is that if you have the balls to start a law firm, you have the balls to grow it into something amazing. So I want you to ask yourself the question. What if it’s possible for me? And then I’m going to answer the question for you.