How Building a Practice Is Like a Road Race


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I used to run quite a bit. Now, I’ve slowed down. Most of my exercise is in the form of walking.

This morning, I’m watching the Miami Marathon from the comfort of the News Café. Thousands of runners are zooming by the open patio area as I enjoy my lox, eggs, and onions. I ordered the fruit, instead of the hash brown potatoes, as my homage to fitness.

Back when I was running, I did lots of road races along with a bunch of triathlons. I was never fast, but I had a good time. Finishing the races was my goal, and having a goal kept me active.

When the races would come up in conversation, I had many lawyers say to me, “I could never do that.” I argued with them and told them they certainly could do it. Because I never miss an opportunity to be contradictory, I would tell them that they were wrong, wrong, wrong. I explained that they could do nearly anything that they set out to do.

I was reminded of that this morning as the first racers went by at about 6:30 a.m. I wondered how many of them—like many of us—had said that they would never be able to complete a marathon. Today, they’re going to finish a marathon.

The lawyers who told me they couldn’t do it complained of bad knees. They explained that they were overweight or that they simply lacked the endurance it would take to complete a race. Each lawyer had a great story for why he or she wouldn’t be able to finish. It’s tempting to believe the stories.

How to Cross the Finish Line

However, based on my own experience, I know that they are wrong. Pretty much any obstacle can be overcome. It’s simply a matter of deciding that you’re going to make it work.

That’s the same in a law practice. Anybody can make it work. It’s simply a matter of deciding that you’re going to do it. Once you make that decision, you assemble a sequence of logical steps and then you follow them. The decision starts the ball rolling. Persistence carries you across the finish line.

A decision plus persistence is all it takes to run a marathon. If you want to run a marathon, you start with walking a few blocks around the neighborhood. You build over time in a logical, orderly way. Eventually, you’re able to run a mile, then a couple of miles, and the next thing you know, you’re completing your first 5K. Soon, you’ve completed a 10K and then a half marathon and then a marathon. If you want, and you’re willing to devote the time and energy, you can then complete an Ironman triathlon. Some people go on to do ultra-distance events, some of which last more than a day.

It’s simply a matter of coming up with a plan and then executing on the plan. It all starts with the decision and is followed up with persistent action.

Do You Have What It Takes?

As I watch the leaders in the Miami Marathon go by this morning, I’m pretty sure that many of them wondered whether they’d ever complete a marathon. You see, the leaders of the marathon went by on wheels. Some of them had no legs. They didn’t let that issue slow them down. They found a way.

From time to time, you may believe that building your practice is something you simply can’t do. You may see many obstacles. You may be confident that those obstacles can’t be overcome. I hear amazing arguments from lawyers about why it’s unreasonable for them to do to things that they once wanted to do. They’ve concluded that it’s impossible.

Those marathoners this morning make it pretty clear to me that nothing is impossible. Sometimes I need to be reminded.

I was the kid who forged notes from my parents to get out of physical education class in junior high school. I was no by no stretch of the imagination an athlete. From the time my PE classes ended until the time of my heart attack, I don’t believe I ever did any exercise at all. There was no reason to believe that I could run a mile. There was certainly no reason to believe I could complete a marathon. Yet, I did it.

You can do it too. You can complete a marathon, or you can build a successful law practice. It’s just a matter of coming up with a plan and then executing. It’s a decision plus persistence. There’s not much difference between completing an athletic event and building your business. Go!

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