Saturday, August 20, 2016

Some Good Reads (Listens) for 2016

Below is a list (without specific description or review- at least for now) of some of the books I have picked up, or purchased via Audible, recently. It won't be too difficult to figure out that several of these were recommended specifically by Tim Ferriss. All are extraordinary and worth your time.

The Inevitable, by Kevin Kelly.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Want to Be a Better Writer? - Make More Arguments Outside of Your Head

For all the writing attorneys do in service of explanation and persuasion, most of us don't consider how to hone and expand that ability. Below are several ways you can sharpen your pencil (timely metaphor in the information age), mainly by subjecting more product to the light of day:
  1. Read (Or Listen To) Your Writing Out Loud. If it reads well, then it usually sounds pretty good, too. Hearing the way your "brilliant argument" comes across when actually spoken (after all, it is not so hard to win an argument in your head) will undoubtedly provide some insight. And there are tools that can read your briefs aloud to you
  2. Accept Some Coaching. There are a great many accomplished writers out there, some probably a brief's throw from your office. But the ability to hear some constructive criticism requires the recognition that you've got room to improve. See above about the way we see the world from between our ears.
  3. Write As Much as You Can. In addition to what you produce professionally, explore other ways to write. Consider keeping a journal, which will not only improve your writing, but help you Cage the Monkey Mind and bring you other benefits by (you guessed it) getting thoughts out of your head.
  4. Publish (Share Your Writing). There are so many ways to play to an audience these days.  And as I mentioned previously, knowing that you have any audience (of one or of a thousand) makes you write more effectively (again, because you are creating a written argument to be considered by someone other than yourself). And don't let the idea that what you've created is not good enough for an audience. After all, perfect is the enemy of the good, and the benefits of gradual improvement and potential collaboration that come from sharing your writing far outweigh whatever flaws exist in your "perfect offering."
Of course, very little of the above is earth-shattering. But sharing what you create is the best way to make it better. As one fairly accomplished writer put it:

"Write with the door closed, edit with the door open." - Stephen King 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Here's to the Dissenters and Non-Conformists

I very much enjoyed this HBR podcast episode featuring Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Several important points:
  1. Follow for the Right Reasons. If you are part of an organization, you can't avoid some going along. But if you choose to march, do it because the ideas and the leadership make sense, not because you are afraid to Rock the Boat.
  2. Explode the Myths of the Non-Conformists. Despite what you might believe, those who dissent often procrastinate, hate taking risks, feel doubt and fear, and have a great many bad ideas. Done, done, done, and definitely done. Also, those who "risk it all" are demonstrably less successful than those who may dip a toe in the entrepreneurial water. In other words, it is ok to Keep Your Day Job (at least until your "night" job pays).
  3. Beware of Group-Think and the Ersatz Devil's Advocate. The designated DA doesn't work because that person doesn't play the role forcefully enough and/or the audience knows its a role. Better to "unearth" a real devil's advocate, especially because dissenting opinions are helpful even when wrong since they help test assumptions. I also find particularly compelling the idea of evaluating people on the way they speak up and emphasizing the awareness of your own weaknesses (both as a leader and a follower).
In other words, you do yourself and your organization a severe disservice when you check your critical mind at the door in service of conformity. (Grant wrote Give and Take: Why Helping Others Fuels Our Success, also a must-read book).

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Shared Week in Review

What Makes Us Stronger. Stress is good for you. Without it, you'd never get out of bed and get better at what you do. And learning to re-frame the way you feel about stress (for example recognizing that a life without stress would not have much meaning) goes a long way toward helping you keep from getting stuck by distress and the helplessness that goes along with it.

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time. Likewise, because stress is a normal part of performance, the ability to rest and recover the energy you expend is also crucial. And as emphasized in the next post, daily practices and routines (regular meals, exercise, scheduled breaks, etc.) help build energy. And mindfulness practices making you aware of how you feel throughout the day and how that affects your performance are also key.

Daily Practices for Lives That Are Anything But Routine (Part 2). Have you thought about the difference between the "deep work" and the "shallow work" you do, and how to jealously guard your time to give yourself sufficient time for the former?

Desk Jockey Workout: 8 Ways to Stay in Shape at the Office. What better way to maintain mental and physical energy throughout the day than to keep moving?

Hard Time Meditating? Stop Seeking Results. As pointed out above, meditation is not about getting anywhere, it's becoming aware of thoughts and feelings. The whole idea brings to mind this classic Onion post, "Monk Gloats Over Yoga Championship".

On Zen as a Weapon Against Mind Control. If it is true that the goal of meditation is becoming aware (not to feel better), then becoming aware includes noticing when you're being played and manipulated.

If Computers Wrote Laws: Decisions Handed Down By Data. Some musings by The Economist on what the legal world may look like when computers become even more ubiquitous.

Viewing People As ... Trees? Yes! And because I have spent the week amongst the trees, a post by my good friend Ashley Pennewill about the snap judgments we make about the people we meet:

Friday, July 22, 2016

The (Shared) Week In Review

This Week in Law - AI, Oh My!. If you are interested in where the unevenly distributed future for artificial intelligence exists today, this podcast is a pretty good summary. Andrew Arruda of Ross Intelligence ("Your Brand New Artificially Intelligent Lawyer')  is a guest, as is Joshua Browder, founder of DoNotPay ("The World's First Robot Lawyer").  One of the takeways is a point I have made before: there are almost unlimited possibilities when computers and attorneys work together and leverage their respective strengths.

Kennedy-Mighell Report: The Future of AI in the Practice of Law. See above.  I really like the idea of calling it "Assistive Intelligence," especially to further the idea that computers and people are most effective when they work together.

How E-Signatures Will Make You a High-Tech Professional. Consider modifying your processes to take advantage of the E-Sign Act and the various state UETA laws.

Lawyers Should Take Notes By Hand. Why? Because it helps you process and retain the information you take in, as opposed to merely copying it.  In other words, and as described in the article, instead of transcribing everything you hear, instead you 1) pay attention; and 2) figure out what is important.

Time to Speak Up for the Next Generation. "21% of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28% struggle with some level of depression, and 19% demonstrate symptoms of anxiety." There are a number of ways to de-stigmatize this problem, and it starts with raising awareness.

Keep Growing: What Got You Here, Won't Get You There. "Step back and take the time to look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself, 'How am I developing my skills as a lawyer?'"

What Great Listeners Actually Do. Don't just soak up information, reflect it back with insight and feedback.

12 Mindfulness Hacks You Can Use in 24 Hours. Pick one to start. Any one of these will benefit you. And this piece underscores an important point: mindfulness is not solely about meditation.

And tomorrow morning we head up the road for a family vacation. I will leave you with the view from our deck ....

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Week in Review

Yes, I know about the spacing and the fonts.

Daily Practices for Lives That Are Anything But Routine 

By Mike Ethridge over at Lawyers in Search of Soul.  I have written before about the importance of a number of daily ore regular routines, including  exercise, mindfulness meditation, and expressing gratitude. What morning routine can you cultivate to get fired up for the day?

How to Turn Lawyers into Better Writers 

By  Cari Twitchell  and published on The Lawyerist. For all of the writing we do in the profession, it's hard to step back and assess how well we're doing it and how to improve upon it. Can you accept a little criticism in service of improvement? 

What’s The Future of Work?  

Not a short read, but a thoughtful piece on the different values we assign to different types of work.

The Intangible Law Firm 

By Jordan Furlong. What assets does your firm hold that don't walk out the door when an attorney leaves? 

For all of this talk about "hacking," it makes sense to consider what we are tearing down and our intention in doing so in the first place.

How Technology Disrupted the Truth  

A long read on the consequences for responsible journalism brought about by social media and other forces.

The Improbable Life of James Taylor 

As a native Chapel Hillian, I couldn't help but add this piece about Sweet Baby James. And if you really want your mind blown, listen to his podcast interview with Marc Maron.

And of course, this week would not be complete without a little of the augmented reality craze sweeping the world. I found this little fella in our attorney lounge yesterday ...

Friday, July 8, 2016

What I Have Been Reading and Sharing This Week

Trying to get back in the swing of writing from time to time in this medium. 

Please enjoy what I have been reading and sharing this week. Comment welcome via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Neuroscientists say multitasking literally drains the energy reserves of your brain via Dan Harris

Mossberg: The tyranny of messaging and notifications via Bob Ambrogi

On Being: Elizabeth Gilbert: Choosing Curiosity Over Fear

I grouped these three together for a reason: I am developing a theory (ok, not my theory but maybe I am adopting it), that distractions (and particularly tech distractions) help kill creativity. 

Broad brush, distractions interrupt boredom (and concentration) and boredom is a necessary state to spark curiosity, which in turn is a predicate to creativity.  I particularly like Elizabeth Gilbert's definition of creativity: choosing curiosity over fear.  And if we are never bored, in no small part because of the dopamine dispensers in our hands .....

When GCs Hire Law Firms Instead of Keeping Legal Work In-House, Legal Productivity

10 things that law firms are saying that kill innovation, by Shaun Temby  via Casey Flaherty

Why Law Firms Should Focus on Adaptation and Not Disruption, by Jordan Furlong

The next three links are some ruminations on law firms.  Obviously figuring out how to get work from in-house lawyers is important for an out-house lawyer like me. And innovating, or adapting to changes in how law is practiced, will continue to be a priority.

Healthy, Happy and Hands-Free (the Economist).

Finally, an article about how the driverless car may change the way we plan and use urban and rural space. Fewer parking garages can't be all bad ....