“It’s Tough to Be Better.” Here is a Great Podcast.

I am a big fan of podcasts. They offer the best of new, cutting edge ideas that I might otherwise not stumble across. Among my favorites: The TED Radio Hour.  Click here. The Tim Ferris Show. Click here. RadioLab. Click here.

This past weekend I listened to a Tim Ferris Show podcast with 62-year old trainer / weightlifter Jerzy Gregorek.  Without boring you in this blog post with details of my own observations, I will say Jerzy’s commentary was compelling. I plan to listen again to the entire podcast.  I am also motivated (somewhat officiously?) to suggest that every person I know listen to this podcast.

Jerzy’s comments go well beyond weightlifting. He more broadly touches on the universal notion of what it takes to get better at something, whether weightlifting, exercise, diet, work, or music, and so forth. Jerzy uses the phrase:  Easy Choices-Hard Life;  and Hard Choices-Easy Life.  He also uses the phrase I added to the title of this blog: “It’s tough to be better.”

Here is the link to this podcast:  Click here. It is:  “The Lion of Olympic Weightlifting, 62-Year-Old Jerzy Gregorek (Also Featuring: Naval Ravikant)”.

We all have a tendency in areas of life to get no further than imagining our goals or improvement. In essence, we simply daydream away our present opportunity and never face taking actual steps forward toward goals we truly desire.

Spend some time with this podcast.  I hope you find it also compelling.


















A Wedding Anniversary Blog Post for my Wife Today 10-11-16 (it is not easy being married to a lawyer).

We were looking at old family videos last night.  Below is a screenshot.  I am very fortunate to have my wonderful wife Andrea. It is not easy for her (or anyone) being married to a lawyer, a notion I try and keep in mind as much as possible with my family and friends. That is all I say in this post, so as not to take away from this blog-post anniversary wish for my wife Andrea.   All my love from James.


Time is Not Money (BTW, I am reading Middlemarch by George Eliot)

The above title is both hopefully to bait the reader with interest in this blog post, and is a fundamental theme underpinning my view of clients and lawyering. That is, the value a client can obtain from getting good legal advice for preventive protection from otherwise losing valuable time. Time wasted dealing with legal issues, litigation, and the broad array of problems that in large part can be prevented. One can accumulate more money and stuff. But, universally, no one can get back lost time. Time is our only finite asset.

Now, why Middlemarch?

This novel powerfully reminds me to be aware of the passing time of life.  In a good way. Attentive to the interesting and worthwhile nuance of daily life. Not burdened with problems requiring costly legal help and wasted time.

Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life by English writer George Eliot.  She wrote this in 1870 or thereabouts.  Frankly, I expected this novel to be a dull Victorian era read, with my interest lasting possibly only a chapter or so.

To my pleasant surprise, I cannot wait each evening to get back to this novel. I am captivated by Eliot’s powerfully understated and astute commentary about the nuance of everyday life.

My next comment about Middlemarch touches on primary character Dorethea Brooke who has agreed to marry the much older Rev. Edward Casaubon.  Casaubon is a long-time, studious bachelor.

As merely one brief, fine example of George Eliot’s astute observations, Casaubon’s anticipation of marriage to Dorethea far outweighs his diminished actual response.  He can, however, vaguely only admit this to himself.

Here are a couple of Eliot’s observations about this situation that, to me, demonstrate her wonderful ability to convey these subtle nuances:

“He (Casaubon) did not confess to himself, still less could he have breathed to another, his surprise that though he had won a lovely and noble-hearted girl he had not won delight, — which he had also regarded as an object to be found by search.”

“Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that large drafts of his affections would not fail to be honored. Fully all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act faithfully on the strength of them.”

Also, here is how I stumbled recently across reading this novel.   A woman Rosa Lyster recently wrote a web piece on Medium about her father rediscovering fiction when he read Middlemarch. He was an avid non-fiction-only reader.   She writes, in part:

I was visiting my parents for the weekend when he (her father) was about halfway through (Middlemarch), and he walked around the house like a man in a trance. His eyes were all misty, and he kept raising his hands to his head.”

I don’t take Ms. Lyster’s comment as an overstatement.  Check out her web piece.   It is worth the time.  Click here.








Underhand Free-Throws (basketball): Your Threshold?

In short, the key point of this blog post is about the “threshold” of your own lawyer.  Is he or she too overly concerned about what others think? Is your lawyer too much a people-pleaser?  Simply a salesman?  Or, on the other hand, is your lawyer so blind to others that he is a sloppy, shoot-from-the-hip gunslinger?

My related basketball discussion below helps illustrate the point that we generally each have our own threshold level. Make sure you think about this when you choose a lawyer.

Now, more about this threshold.  I listen frequently to podcasts. They provide an enjoyable, easy, brief glimpse at some of the most cutting edge and progressive thinkers. These podcasts help expand my understanding of where our world is, and where it is heading. I find this extremely exciting, for lack of a better word. And, informative in ways that I try to adapt to my personal and lawyering life.

Now, what about basketball?  A recent This American Life podcast, called “Choosing Wrong”, includes a striking discussion about the underhand free-throw in basketball. It includes a great interview with former NBA star Rick Barry, who holds the best free-throw percentage in NBA history. He used an underhand free-throw style. Click here for the podcast.

But, the broader point of this podcast goes beyond basketball. The podcast addresses the notion of each person’s own threshold. That is, in general terms, how many other people does it take for a person to cave-in and follow the crowd, contrary to their own personal preference?

In other words, how confident and independent is a person and what is that person’s threshold for sticking to his or her own ideas, choices, preferences, etc.?

This podcast, better than any other method I have heard, poignantly lays this question fundamentally before the listener.




Young, New Lawyers: Get Rid of “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am”

Every summer I make my personal suggestion to our younger, summer law student associates that they stop using “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am”, etc.   In most cases their response is that it is a learned habit showing respect.   This is not a surprise.  And, BTW, this blog post is solely my own personal view.  I speak for no one else.

But, my long-held personal perspective is that “Yes Sir / Ma’am” is appropriate only in situations where one’s role is purposely ranked and subordinate as part of the job.   And, the only situation I think that fits this role is the military.   I have no opposition to “Yes Sir / Ma’am” in that case.

But, I oppose its use in virtually all other cases.   I do not see other relationships as a purposeful subordination, such as, merely for examples, adult-child, teacher-student, lawyer-assistant, boss-employee, office worker-janitorial staff, dinner customer-server, and so forth.

Here is a thought.  And, some readers will likely disagree.  The idea that “respect” is the basis for “Yes Sir / Yes Ma’am” is a red-herring. Only those already in a dominant position of power (or at least they think so of themselves) get hung-up on others showing respect.   By contrast, my view is that respect means equality.  And, under that notion I owe no one a “Yes Sir” and they owe me no “Yes Sir”.  We are equals.

Finally, I end this blog with a legal point readers might find interesting.  The State of Louisiana has a state law that mandates its schools require the use by students of “Yes Sir / Yes Ma’am” when any public school student is speaking with any public school system employee while on school property or at a school-sponsored event.  Click here for the law.

Young and Older Lawyers: Retain a Hobby!!!

imageI read a recent email newsletter from a national search firm titled “Another Big Law Firm Attorney I Know Just Died Young”. Click here for the newsletter link.

This same newsletter writer also commented earlier that law firms prefer lawyers with no outside interests who have a central focus on their work. This writer stated: “It is actually better to be mildly boring than very interesting when getting a law firm position.” You draw your own conclusion about this statement.

But to the contrary, I believe retaining a hobby for your lifetime that you (yes, you lawyers out there) find enjoyable, yet demanding and challenging, greatly preserves the plasticity and creative physiology of your brain, and your flexible thinking-process.  This enhances your skill as a lawyer.  I presently face the enjoyable, yet frequently arduous, challenge of constantly trying to improve my improvisational jazz guitar playing.

BTW, above is an early college photograph of me with the great, now-late Spanish classical guitarist Andres Segovia as he autographed the face of one of my guitars.  I am on the far right in this photograph holding my guitar for his signature.  [Segovia used a black Sharpie that produced a beautiful autograph.]

Power (Part 4): The Movie “Fight Club”

A theme I refer to often as a lawyer is “power”. [See my previous three posts on this topic.] That is, how can I help clients maintain greater power over their circumstances so as to have, what I consider, a more enjoyable response to life. A life not burdened by indecision, doubt, fear of what or how other people are reacting or thinking about them, etc.  In other words, greater independence and control.

Loss of control fuels anger very effectively. As a relevant aside, I heard on the radio this morning that today is Colin Powell’s 79th birthday. I am reminded of his great “Get mad. Then, get over it.” comment he made a few years ago on a talk show in response to him and his wife on their then-50th wedding anniversary.

I also grew up with many discussions and reflections on the topic of anger. My late father, who practiced law in Atlanta for 45 years, planted firmly into my two brothers and me the notion of “firm, but friendly”. He did not shy away from controversy nor from anger. For him the balance of anger in a firm but friendly manner was a constant aspiration that required persistent practice.

But, this practice is certainly, in my view, a better option than merely being compliant, weak, overly concerned always with what others think, and indecisive.  Two of the saddest characters in literature burned into my early consciousness are George Babbitt (in Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis) and Willy Loman (in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller). They each powerfully symbolize a compliant, weak, concern-always-with-what-others-think, indecisive character. Images of great unhappiness.

Now, why this blog post? One of my teenage daughters this past weekend wanted to watch a movie “that plays with your mind”.  She selected Fight Club (1999), with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. The movie is based on the 1996 book with the same title by Chuck Palahniuk. We both thought the movie was compelling and extremely thought-provoking. We liked it.

So as not to be a spoiler, I say only two things about Fight Club for this post. One is that it touches extremely well on bringing the audience directly to the above Babbitt / Loman notion of lack of power and its resulting self-destruction. Two is that if you watch this movie, or have seen it before, ponder for a moment what reaction you have or had to it. The magic of the movie is how likely telling are the array of responses from viewers. Your response might better inform you about your own perspective of the above power / independent notion.