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What’s Holding You Back

April 4, 2023

What’s Holding You Back?

We have entered the era of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and I am amazed by the speed in which it has captured our attention and caused us to consider its impact on our personal and professional lives. I read with interest as Microsoft-backed OpenAI and Google’s Bard openly battle for the generative AI crown. This reminded me of the Microsoft-Apple battle that started in the 1970’s and the outsize roles both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had on shaping the personal computing era. Jobs, in particular, who founded Apple, Inc. in 1976, and passed in 2011 at the age of 56, caused many to pause and reflect on how a singular individual could have such an impact in the world. He was praised by the United Nations as a “global force” for mankind.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commented, “He saw what others did not. He believed above all else in the power of human ingenuity – to create ‘tools’ that people could use, that would not only improve our lives but, quite literally, change the world.”

What made Jobs so exceptional and how can you imprint your own special mark on the world?

  1. Think and dream big. It’s your life. If you don’t think and dream big for yourself, who else can and will do it? Also, you only have one life; there is no dress rehearsal.
  1. Get rid of limiting beliefs. Live a fearless life. As lawyers, we see knowledge as central to our existence and a catalyst to all we want to accomplish. But, as Mark Twain aptly put, “It’s not what you don’t know that holds you back, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” What self-limiting, self-sabotaging beliefs are you harboring? What beliefs or fears are holding your business back? False assumptions lie at the root of most failures.
  1. Surround yourself with positive people. Look at any successful business and you will see that the owner has enlisted a group of trusted individuals to serve as advisors to the business. These individuals are knowledgeable and have a varied background to support and complement the knowledge and expertise of the business owner they are advising. Seek out knowledgeable, trustworthy individuals who will be committed to your success. Bar associations are a good source to finding such individuals. Meet with them on a regular basis, ideally monthly, to discuss business and marketing strategies.
  1. Strategize and execute. There is no shortage of good ideas. The breakdown occurs at the point of execution. Your comfort zone is your wealth zone. Successful professionals realize that getting out of their comfort zone is critical to their ability to excel. They get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In spite of fear, discomfort, doubt, and uncertainties, they still take action. They dare to stretch and leave their comfort zone and take ACTION on a consistent basis. If you are not taking action, what is it costing you and your practice?
  1. Seek “good enough” and not perfection. No client is willing to pay for perfection, so why should you strive for perfection? Instead, deliver “good enough”—according to professional ethical standards, of course. This does not mean delivering second-rate work. What it does mean is to meet or exceed the client’s expectations ethically and professionally. Cognizant of lawyers being mere mortals, the state bars do not require perfection. Talk to experienced attorneys to determine how high to set the “good enough” bar for the chosen practice areas and implement the systems to ensure consistent quality of service.
  1. Live your life on purpose. There is no better time than the present to become the visionary for your life. This is your moment. Steve Jobs in his 2005 commencement speech to Stanford graduates, noted the importance of doing things that would mark a purposeful life:

I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer would be no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.


The only thing you truly possess is time. We are all on an equal footing because we all are subject to the 24-hour day. Time is precious because it is limited; each one of us is allotted only so many 24-hour days. Time is the currency of your wealth. You set yourself apart by the way you spend it. Don’t waste this precious currency by wandering aimlessly or in fearful inaction. Build your faith in yourself by focused reflection and strategic action. Live each of your moments purposefully.

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