It all starts with a vision.
When I speak of visions, I’m not talking about indigenous people smoking hallucinogenic herbs. I’m talking about seeing something in your mind that you can build.
A vision is why I’m writing to you this morning from downtown Amman, Jordan instead of a Raleigh, North Carolina suburb.
We’ve all seen those fancy sand castles on the beach with their drawbridges, perfectly formed crenels, merlons, and flanking towers. Those castles were crafted by expert builders who had clear visions in mind before they began construction.
Most of us build sand castles differently. We fill a bucket with wet sand, dump the bucket upside down, and encircle the pile with a moat. If we’re lucky, we have one of those plastic molds that shape the spires on top.
Most law firms are just like buckets of wet sand.
I had a bucket of wet sand for many years. I dumped out the contents, molded it, smashed it, and started over. I did that repeatedly.
It took me quite some time to realize that my vision wasn’t unique. I was doing what everyone else was doing (even though I was sure I could do it better, because I can be a cocky bastard).
When that didn’t make me happy (and because I probably suffer from oppositional defiance disorder), I tried doing the opposite of what everyone else was doing.
That was fun, but I was still making decisions and taking action based on external factors. My path was created by opposing the paths of others. I didn’t have my own vision. I wasn’t particularly happy or satisfied.
After building it both ways, I came to the realization that I could, within reason, build whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to build it their way or the opposite of their way. I could build it my own way. I could create, internalize, commit to, and build whatever I wanted.
It was exciting, scary, energizing, and nerve-wracking all rolled into one. I suddenly understood that anything was possible. I simply had to see it and build it.
The moment you realize that you control your own destiny is full of powerful emotions.
The joy and excitement, coupled with fear and anxiety, are a powerful combination. It’s like wanting to cover your head with a pillow and go back to sleep, but you can’t, so you get up anyway.
I’ve learned over the years that experiencing those feelings is a good sign.
That’s why I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Amman. I have always wanted to travel more. I love the novelty of exploration and adventure. Traveling is part of my vision.
It took me a long time to see my vision and make it happen. It doesn’t have to take nearly as long for you. You don’t have to wait if you absorb the lesson and appreciate the power of creating a vision for yourself. You can get started right now.
Most of us are simply moving forward on the path we think we’re supposed to follow.
We finished high school, went to college, completed law school, and began to practice law. Some of us work for others. Many of us started our own practices.
Our visions get murky when we drill down to the day-to-day of our work. At this level, our vision is about as clear as the windshield of a rental car driven for two weeks through the Jordanian desert (I’m still delightfully surprised that they returned our security deposit).
Our law firms tend to resemble the wet sand castles I used to build with my children. We start something, add something else, meld it into something entirely different that doesn’t belong, and then ask a bunch of people who have no idea what’s being built (our team) to help us move forward.
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Our businesses are often a mess. We’re getting the castles we deserve.
The expert sand castle builder who creates something majestic and beautiful, delighting passersby and winning awards, starts with a clear vision of what she’ll build. She sees it in her mind’s eye. She knows what it will look like, feel like, smell like, and how it will make others smile.
The actual building is easy. She already knows what needs to be done. She’s just going through the motions to fit the pieces together.
That isn’t to say the sand castle builder won’t change or correct her plan. She’s realistic. She can see when things need adjusting or fixing. But she tweaks and refines. She doesn’t start over by stomping on what she has already created.
I’ve created a resource to help you form your vision. It’s valuable whether you’re just getting started or have been mushing around a bucket of wet sand for some time. There’s value in moving forward with a vision whether you’re thirty years or just thirty months from the finish. A vision gets us where we want to go.
There are no requirements for your vision except clarity. You can build anything you like, any way you like.
You might build something that meets your needs. Or you might build something that meets the needs of a special group of clients. Most of us find a way to meld those two goals. There are no constraints. You just need imagination, creation, and the energy to make it happen.
You’re only a moment away from your vision. All it takes is a decision to think, the strength to step away from your old beliefs, and a willingness to commit. It’s yours if you’re willing to take it. Don’t wait.
My breakfast this morning was pita bread, hummus, olives, and tomatoes. Sometimes my vision of hot, fresh croissants and jam doesn’t manifest. But it’s always an adventure, which is part of my vision that is happening every single day.