Free Transcript Project #10

The Law Practice Doctor : Burnout Prevention and Stress Resilience
http://thelawpracticedoctor.com/podcastpauladavislaack/

Host : Sam Gaylord : http://thelawpracticedoctor.com ,
Twitter : ( https://twitter.com/sgaylordesq )

Guest : Paula Dais Laack (JD, MAPP) –  http://www.pauladavislaack.com

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[intro music]

Announcer : Hello, and welcome to “The Law Practice Doctor”, the ONLY podcast dedicated to providing you the EASIEST, most PRACTICAL, and PROFITABLE ways to grow your firm and still have a life. Attorney Sam Gaylord is the founding partner of Gaylord Popp (http://www.gaylordpopp.com/ ), a prestigious law firm specializing in worker’s compensation, social security disability, and personal injury law. Using Sam’s unique gift for marketing and business development, Gaylord Popp  has seen dramatic growth by focusing on finding the right clients, delivering an outstanding experience for those clients, and seeing that their partners and associates enjoy a well-balanced home life. So if you’re looking for inspiration, techniques, and proven strategies on how to grow a more profitable and enjoyable law practice, you’ve come to the right place. Please welcome your host, the “law practice doctor” himself, Sam Gaylord.

Sam Gaylord : Welcome to another episode of “The Law Practice Doctor”, the only podcast designed to helping solo and small law firms succeed by providing the easiest, most practical solutions, to grow, practice, and still have a life. Today we are absolutely lucky and thrilled to have with us Paula Davis-Laack – I hope I pronounced that correctly, right?

Paula Davis-Laack : Yes.

Sam Gaylord : Okay. Perfect. Today we’re going to work on the “still having a life” portion of the “The Law Practice Doctor”. Paula Is a former practicing attorney, publisher, writer, and media contributor, on topics near and dear to, I think, EVERY practicing attorney’s heart, which are burnout prevention and stress resilience. She has [had] her articles appear in The Huffington Post, US News and World Report, and Psychology Today. And I know that she is the founder and CEO of the Davis Laack Stress & Resilience Institute (http://www.pauladavislaack.com/about/davis-laack-stress-resilience-institute/ ). We’re going to get through all of that, and where you can [get and] stay in touch with Paula throughout the course of our interview. First of all. Thank you for joining me today on “The Law Practice Doctor”.

Paula : You are welcome. Thanks so much for HAVING me, Sam .

Sam :  Absolutely my pleasure. So before we get into all of the great content which everybody can certainly find on your web site [at] : http://www.pauladavislaack.com/ . Is that correct?

Paula : That’s correct.

Sam :  Perfect…. So before we get into all of the good content, and what’s going on, I want to make sure that we get the opportunity to get to know you a little bit better. And as any good doctor knows, the idea of meeting a new patient the first time is to take a good history.  So without much ado, why don’t you give us a little more on your background, how you got to this point, and talk a little about the Stress and Resilience Institute.

Paula : Great. So, as you mentioned, I practiced law. I practiced for seven years, practicing commercial real estate law. And as we were briefly talking about, I practiced right when real estate was in a boom. It was all through the 2000s, before the economy crashed, and to say that I and my fellow real estate attorneys were busy is an UNDERSTATEMENT.

Sam :  Right.

Paula : And I found that I was burning out during the last year of my law practice, and I didn’t really know, kind of, WHAT I was going through. It was just all of a sudden feeling like, “Why can’t I handle stress? ” It seemed like I was able to before, [and] seems like everybody ELSE was able to, [so] what [was] it about ME all of a sudden that was making it so that I [didn’t] really feel like I [could] manage that. So I finally – after MULTIPLE trips to the HOSPITAL, and all kinds of other things – basically zeroed in on the fact that stress and burnout were causing all of the things that were going on.

[However] I actually LOOKED at still staying in the legal profession, because I felt like I came to a point where I really had to reevaluate  my career and [ask myself], “Is this REALLY something that I want to continue? Maybe I want to go into a different AREA or law? [Or] maybe a different area of the COMPANY I was at?” I decided that I was going to take a CHANCE.

My parents had owned a business for a LONG time, and so I grew up in a very entrepreneurial world. [I] had wanted to OWN my own business at SOME point, and thought, “Why not NOW? Let’s do it now.” And I just became interested trying to study and understand and learn more about stress, what causes burnout, and not only that, but what can you do to PREVENT it?

Sam :  Terrific. I know that as part of what you are doing  that there’s a coaching component to the materials, and other things, so I would THINK that you’ve had the opportunity to, sort of,  really ANALYZE, and get a good sense, or feeling, of what is CAUSING the stress, and then potentially how to avoid it.

Paula : Yes. It’s not only the COACHING component, – which is a little bit on the smaller side of what I do – but it’s also a lot from the training and workshops that I do. So really, in THAT sense, meeting the people and getting to have a better understanding of – ESPECIALLY in the LEGAL profession – what’s driving a lot of this.

Sam :  Okay. Good. So then there’s multiple ways in which you can provide assistance with these particular important topics, and we’ll get into that in terms of how people can have access to that. But in terms of diagnosing the problems, in terms of either stress or burnout – I mean, I can always say that, “Oh, I’m stressed.” But what are some of the SPECIFIC signs that you’re seeing , either in the workshops or the other types of [situations] where you’re dealing with people – what do you commonly see as,  sort of, SIMILAR diagnoses of problems, [or] similar things that you can,  sort of, recognize across the board?

Paula : Sure. I know that the research points to three very specific, big DIMENSIONS of burnout, and I see these three going on very consistently with the people who I coach, and teach, and talk to. The FIRST one is the sense of chronic, low energy.  So there’s this EXHAUSTION component going on. For me it [included]  having a hard time getting to sleep, having restless sleep, waking up not feeling refreshed, dreading Monday morning. Just feeling like I couldn’t get the energy to get myself motivated. One of the things to punctuate with that is that this is CHRONIC. So this is not like you wake up one day and you’re tired, or you’re having a tired week, or what-not. This is something that happens over a period of time. So there’s THAT piece.

The second piece is cynicism. I think of it as everyone and everything just irks you, or runs you the wrong way.  I always joke with people [that] it’s funny that when LAWYERS notice that you’re being too cynical, then you know you must REALLY be cynical.

Sam :  [laughter] You KNOW you have a problem WHEN ….

Paula : [laughter] Yeah. What this looked like for me – and what I hear similarly from [other] people – is [that] I was always, of course, very cordial with my clients, and always willing to help. But what would happen more and more is [that] privately, after conversations, I would think to myself, “Man, do you REALLY need my help with this? Didn’t we talk about this already? Isn’t this something YOU can fix? Why are you bringing me in on this?”

And, of course, I never SIAD that to anybody, but that’s how I felt. So that was the cynicism at work.

Then the last big dimension is something called “inefficacy”. So feeling like you’re not able to produce the results you were once able to. Like you’re trying, and it’s like, “Gosh, I’m, showing up and I’m really trying to get my work done, and get things done and out, but I just don’t have that same sense of connection, or engagement, with what I was doing.” So those are three big ones, for sure.

Sam :  Okay, so now that I’ve checked off ALL THREE [laughter]. Seriously [I assume that] when you’re talking to people, I’ve got to imagine – with a room full of lawyers – that there’s this, sort of, this “Ah-hah!” [where]  people are out there in the audience like, “Oh yeah. That’s me.” And there HAS to be sort of a sense of relief, that it’s like, “Hey, I’m NOT messed up. There may actually be something REAL out there?”

Paula : Yes. What’s funny, though, is that there’s still RELUCTANCE for somebody, or for a couple of people in the audience to raise their hand and say, “Yup! This sounds like me. I’m going through this.” Because I think there’s still a bit of a stigma attached to SAYING that you’re burned out.  [It seems that] the fear is that you might be perceived as not being TOUGH enough, not being able to handle it, maybe you’re not as serious about your career as these other people over here who seem to be able to handle their stress just fine. In reality, [though], LOTS of lawyers are having a hard time managing their stress, and I feel like if we could just TALK about it a little more it might be a lot easier for people to get some tools. Because often times, when I’m talking about this, people are definitely looking at each other and shaking their heads, and I often don’t get the full story until after I’m done speaking, and [then] someone will grab me at a reception or something and tell me a little bit about what’s going on, or they’ll contact me after the fact.

Sam :  Right. Well – and I have to say in all fairness, 1000% – I mean, how many bar association functions or events have you been at where we’re all sitting there saying the same thing, like “How’s it going?”, “Oh, it’s going good. How are you?, “Oh, I’m fine.” And nobody has a REAL conversation about what’s ACTUALLY  happening. Then if somebody was to say, “Oh my God. I’m dying, and this is going on…I don’t know what to do..” You’d be like, “Uh, why are you dumping on ME? I don’t know what the heck to do [to] help you.” Right? It’s like we’re almost INSTRUCTED or almost TRAINED to NOT talk about it.

Paula : Exactly, and I’ve done a lot of work with soldiers. My post-graduate training for my master’s degree – once  I stopped my law practice and went back to school [to] get] my master’s degree in something called “Applied Positive Psychology” – my post-graduate training was spent teaching drill sergeants, and other soldiers, stress management and resilience-building skills. So one of their sayings is, “Suck it up and drive on!” And I feel like there’s a “Suck it up and drive on!” mentality in the legal profession, and until we can start talking about the fact that, “Yeah. I’m going home and having three beers and seventeen chocolate chip cookies every night just to try and cope with the stress of what is going on”, I think it’s going to be a struggle to make headway with the issue.

Sam :  Nope. I couldn’t agree more. Okay. So now that we’re identified, or diagnosed, some of the issues and problems that you typically see, let’s get to the meat of the things. How can we FIX some of this stuff?

Paula : Mmm…Hmm.  So I’ve basically [taken] the best of what we know about stress – the latest and greatest – and mixed that with the best of what we know about how to help somebody BUILD their RESILIENCE. That’s really ultimately what I a trained in. [That] is, the SOLUTION side of it. How do we build our resilience? I define resilience as “a person’s capacity for stress-related GROWTH”.  So how can you get GOOD at stress? How can I make you better at stress so that you’re GROWING from it, instead of CRUMBLING from it.

So I just created a little sub-category of resilience called “stress resilience”. So how can I help make people better at stress? So there are FIVE big categories that I have come up with in my little model here. The first one is something that I just call “Practice Safe Stress” [laughter]. It’s really just a combination of incorporating more positive emotions into your diet, incorporating a couple of very key MINDFULNESS strategies and techniques. Then just generally figuring out a different mindset when it comes to stress, and there’s some really cool research around how to do that.

Sam :  Okay.

Paula : The second component is just building more motivation,  engagement, and energy. We know that a big part of what causes burnout is that you’re “unplugging”, as I call it, from the things that give you a lot of energy, and vitality, and zest, and enthusiasm. So we have to figure out how to get you plugged back in.

Sam :  Mmm…Hmm.

Paula : The third component  [is what I call] being a “FAT” thinker. So it’s “Flexible, Accurate, and Thorough” in your thinking. It’s figuring out how to turn that inner critic in your head into your “inner coach”. So how do you think better under stress, pressure and challenge?

Sam :  Okay.

Paula : The fourth component is just maintaining high quality connections with other people. So having really solid relationships is a great way to build resilience. And the last one is something I call “Improve your meaning quotient”. So, what are the sources of meaning in your life? What’s giving you meaning at WORK, [and] HOME? I know these are not conversations that lawyers often have [laughter], especially about, “What’s giving me meaning at work?””

Sam :  Right, and instantly I’m [thinking], “Oh, great! We’ve got “warm fuzzies”, and we’re going to be doing woo-woo in the office, and burning incense, right?

Paula : [laughter] Yeah right. Now that would be the case if I didn’t have TRUCKLOADS of evidence, and data, and research supporting how GREAT a lot of these tools are. So believe me, I am not a “woo-woo, warm and fuzzy” [laughter].

Sam :  [laughter] No, and I am just teasing you.

Paula : Of course.

Sam :  But right. What is it? The little box of feng shui sand in my thing, with the little rake, and all the other things, right?

Paula : Sing a lot of “Koom-ba-ya” [to get focused?]

Sam :  There you go. Terrific. Well there [are] a couple of things that I really want to try and highlight, because I think they’re really critical, [and they’re] certainly some of the things that I practice, or try to as best as possible.  The first one I actually like [is] that “Practice Safe Stress”. But from what I was gathering from what you were saying it really does talk, to me, about somebody’s mindset. That [is] that if you have more of a GRATITUDE thought process, or allow yourself to be grateful, and express that, kind of, gratitude – even if it’s just out loud, to yourself – saying, “Today I’m grateful for the fact that the sun is out, [and] that my wife and kids are having a good time at the Jersey shore today.” At least VERBALIZE some of those things POSITIVE though processes, that that actually provides – for ME anyway – some help.

Paula : Spot on! And I think it’s EVEN MORE important for lawyers, because we are trained pessimistic thinkers. We are trained to see : What could go wrong? Who’s responsible? Who’s at fault? Where’s the bad thing? What’s the problem in the contract lurking that I have to find so that my client doesn’t get sued? That’s just how we’re trained. So we OVER-EXPERIENCE pessimistic thinking, and so we also then over-experience a lot of negative emotions. We over-experience a lot of anxiety, anger between us and opposing counsel, frustration, [and] all of those things. So what THIS is meant to do is just, sort of, tip the scales at least a LITTLE BIT in the other direction, so that we can at least have a little bit more of some of that other stuff in our diet.

You mentioned gratitude, and gratitude is, sort of, the granddaddy of positive emotions, in my opinion. The research shows that when you have enough, or start to take that stance of incorporating gratitude into your life, you see greater life satisfaction, people are more productive, they sleep better, they’re less depressed, they have fewer physical symptoms in terms of colds, headaches, and fewer biomarkers for inflammation. So there are just these great BENEFITS that come from just introducing little things like gratitude.

Sam :  Sure. I also – and again this is just  from my own personal experiences – have found that even doing SMALL things, which may NOT – in the grand scheme of things – SEEM important, but where, like for example, you hold the door for somebody and make eye contact and say “Thank you”, or, “Have a nice day.”, as silly or simple as it may seems, to me it’s a way of saying, “Look. I’m trying to connect.”, and it’s as simple as just wishing [someone] a good day, or holding the umbrella for somebody, [and] silly things like that. But they really provide that, sort of, BOOST to whatever it is that makes you feel better, and eve n if it’s just a LITTLE bit, it makes you FEEL better.

Paula : Yeah. It really is THAT SIMPLE. I think we’ve gotten away from – especially in our “hustle and bustle, 24/7, always on busy, law firms and workplaces” that simple things like when your assistant hands you a redline of a document that he or she just did, say, “Thank you.” Actually look up from your computer, or iPhone, and say, “Thank you. I appreciate what you just did.” I mean, something that takes five seconds is really something that can have a lot of feedback.

One of the things that I talk about, too, is something called the “Ten-Five Rule”. So if you’re within 10 feet of somebody, actually look them in the eye and give them a nice little smile, and if you’re within five feet of somebody, actually say hello to them.

Sam :  [laughter]

Paula : Yet it’s easy to SAY, but it’s not necessarily easy to DO, because we’re so stuck to our devices, and we’re thinking about the court case that we have to deal with later on this afternoon, and so we’re not PRESENT often times.

Sam :  Well, and there’s the phrase. I think it was Brendan Burchard, but I was at a conference, and the discussion was that we are becoming a society so focused on always looking forward into the future that we’re really forgetting about trying to enjoy the moments that we’re IN, and not having an appreciation for how well things are going RIGHT NOW as you’re going through them. And the more you can DO that, [to] BE PRESENT, and  if you’re at a baseball or soccer game for your kid, NOT be on your device checking email, but actually be present and involved and engaged with that particular moment [which] provides you with a better sense of self.

Paula : Oh, without question. And I think you said it perfectly, and that’s the challenge. When you’re watching your kid’s ballgame, can you actually sit there and focus on the game for 45 minutes or an hour that the game is going on WITHOUT having seventeen side conversations, and looking at your phone every three minutes, and slipping out to make a call that you have to make?

People FEEL that. I had a boss – one of the only boss/partner folks who I worked with – who was SO good at this. So whenever I went into his office and had a question, or needed to talk to him about something, he would actually shut the lid of his laptop and actually look at me and listen to me, instead of typing and texting and all of the other things.  So I really, actually felt heard and listened to, and it built a really solid relationship between the two of us.

Sam :  Yup. No doubt. Then that goes down to the FOURTH item, which is the connection with people. You were talking about connections , and as you were saying it I immediately think [about] my family – my wife and kids – but then I start thinking of all of my friends – my non-lawyer [and] lawyer friends – and I always try and think of when I’m doing things during the course of the day, whatever it may be – where I’ll read an article, or see something – and think, “Hey. John might really like that. Why don’t I print that out and send it to John?” So it becomes a situation where I try and continue to keep that connection going so that I feel better.

Paula : Absolutely. And, you know, relationships take work. They’re, kind of, a living thing that has to actually be nurtured if you want it to continue to stay strong and go in the right direction. So I think that’s a mistake that sometimes lawyers make – especially with our FAMILY members – because we get so focused on work and we think, “Ah yes! My wife or husband, or significant other, and my kids are always going to be there, and they’re [people] I can just ignore for a little while, and not spend as much time with.” And I think really, at the end of the day, comes back to bite you on some level.

Sam :  Oh, no doubt. Again, from my own personal experience, [when I was growing up] my father was always traveling for business, was never around, didn’t get to the games and all of the other stuff, was always working , and we understood what it was all about. But that was one of the [reasons] why I left a big firm and went and set up my own law firm, because I swore to myself forever ago that if I were going to start a family that I was going to have the ability to go to the school events, and teacher things, and sporting activities, and concerts, and all of the other things. I wasn’t going to miss ANY of that.  I think that experience then creates the experience that I pass forward to MY children.

Paula : Absolutely. And you know, quite honestly, in thinking about whether to stay in the legal profession or start my own business, one of the things that I thought about too was the fact that MY parents were always [there] – my brother and I each played three sports, so we were constantly playing SOMETHING during the school year. And having your own business DOES give you a measure of autonomy and flexibility to be able to say, “Yup, sorry. I really AM leaving at 4:30pm today to see my kid’s game.”  That was appealing to me. I saw that, and it made an impact.

Sam :   Right. So these tools that you’ve now discussed, I would say, “Okay. So now we’ve been able to IDENTIFY some of the things that you can say, “Yeah, I’m falling into that category.”” Now those are some of the TOOLS that you can say, “Okay. If we do a FEW of these things…” One of the thing that I like to try and do as part of “The Law Practice Doctor” is to say, “If tomorrow I open the book to page one, and I started in the top left-hand corner, by the time I got to the end of page twenty [of] chapter one I would know the first two or three steps to do.” Is there something that you can [advise, such as] “Okay. You really want to try and work on THIS first, THIS second, [and] THIS third, as part of taking those tools and putting them into practice”?

Paula : That’s a great question.  Thinking back to the three big dimensions of burnout that we talked about, with the exhaustion and cynicism and inefficacy, I think the great place to start is to start to chip away at ALL THREE of those things. So one of the easiest things you can do is start to BUILD that sense of energy, and get that sense of energy back. One of the things that I do with folks is have everybody do [what I call] an “energy audit”. So I actually have them track, “How are you spending your energy – not your time – both AT WORK and OUTSIDE of work?” Then I have people assign percentages to each of the categories, and it’s amazing how many people go, “Whoa! I’m spending a TON of time – like 60% of my time – on things that drain my energy, both AT work and OUTSIDE of work.”  So then the question becomes, “Okay. What can you start to DO to get some of that back? Can you delegate things? If you have to deal with it then you have to deal with it, but start thinking about them. What can you offload? What can you change? What can you modify, to get a little bit of that energy reserve back?” Because we can’t go and go and go and go. It’s unsustainable, without taking some sort of a break.

Sam : Okay. So then what’s next?

Paula : Then I think the part we were talking about with the positive emotion piece. [That is] just injecting more little moments of positive emotions on some level during the day is NOT ONLY going to give you energy, but it’s also going to combat that cynicism piece. We’re going to start to swing the pendulum back in the other direction.  So we talked about the importance of gratitude, and just saying, “Thank You”. There’s [another] skill that I teach all of the time, and it’s something called “Find the good stuff.” Typically people do it at the end of the day. A lot of people tell me that they do it in the car when they’re leaving work and going home. They just think about a couple of good things that happened during the day, and why those things were important to them. We know that people who do that SIMPLE activity on regular basis report better sleep, less depression, better relationships, and higher life satisfaction.

Sam :  That’s great.

Paula : It was actually really interesting. I was teaching this skill to some law students that I have, and I think it’s because of just doing this for five minutes in the evening before I go to bed.

Sam :  Right. Neat.  It’s funny, because one of the thing in terms of energy, [is] I recently attended Tony Robbins’ “Business Mastery” out in Las Vegas. It’s an event where you’re in a conference room for the better part of anywhere from  15 to 17 hours [on] any given day. You’re there, and it’s like 12 o’clock at night, and you still have all of these people jumping up and down in a constant form of energy. And one of the things he always talks about is “being in state”. So just thinking to yourself, “I AM going to succeed. I WILL do better. This is not going to BREAK me.” Creating those kinds of MENTAL STATES really generates that kind of energy that I think you’re talking about.

Paula : Yeah, absolutely. And you can do that very intentionally.

Sam :  Yeah. And it’s not just MENTAL either. It’s [also] PHYSICAL. For example, there are times during MY day where I’ll get up and actually work standing up. I’ll make phone calls, but I’ll actually be walking back and forth in my office while I’ve got a headset on, because it’s a change of direction [in getting]  the blood flow and motion going. I’m a big Red Sox fan, so I’ve got a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. So I’m walking up and down and I’m just grinding away at the bottom of the bat. But it makes me FEEL good. It’s like [getting] the energy going, get some pumping going, or music, or any kind of thing that,  sort of, changes you mental state to [help] make you feel better, gives you that energy to get through the day.

Paula : Absolutely. And what you’re actually giving examples of are {pieces of research] I talk about which points to the fact that we need to be taking BREAKS while we’re at work, during our day, every 90 to 120 minutes, to stay in peak performance. So when I cite that research to folks a lot of them either just roll their eyes, or they outright LAUGH, because not many people are, with any sort of regularity, taking a break every 90 to 120 minutes. And really what it is is doing EXACTLY what you were just talking about. [It’s] grabbing the Louisville Slugger and just walking back and forth, just so you can think.  It switches the channel of your brain for just a little bit. It’s walking to grab a cup of coffee. It’s going next door to the next office to say,  ”HI.” It’s the same type of listening to music [type] strategies that you were talking about.

Sam :  Yeah, and it’s interesting because the articles that I’ve read [suggest] LESS than that. They [recommend that] out of every hour you really want to try and work 45 to 50 minutes and then take that 10 minute break, [or] whatever it may be, and refresh. Then actually, what I’ve started to do – although I’m trying to get better at it – is to keep a CLOCK on my desk – a countdown clock – so if I say, “Okay. I’m going to work for 45 minutes on THIS.”, then try to block that time to just work on that, and at the end of 45 minutes –done or NOT – “Okay. Now it’s on to the next thing.” I’ve actually found that it becomes MORE PRODUCTIVE. It’s almost like you’re PACING yourself, or RACING yourself, to try and get done as much as you can in that project for that set period of time.

Paula : Yes, and you’re also FOCUSING yourself as well., which is important. What you’re doing is an example of “chunking”. Chunking is a really great strategy to help people e more productive, and manage their time better. Because one of the problems that we have is that we, sort of, unintentionally come into the office and maybe check a couple of emails, and then we see an email [where] we go, “Oh, I have to address this right away!” Then that takes us in one direction. I’m reading a great book called “Two Awesome Hours” (http://www.amazon.com/Two-Awesome-Hours-Science-Based-Strategies/dp/0062326112 ), and one of the things that the author talks about are the decision points that we have when we’re DONE with a project, and how important it is to be really INTENTIONAL, when we have those pauses,  to make the decision points, because you might only get a FEW of them, really, during the day. [It’s important] to say, “Okay. I’m done with this project, and I’m now going to focus on THIS.”

Sam :  Yup. And email is a perfect example, where if you come in with a PLAN, and then you start checking email, you’ve now immediately thrown out what’s important to you, and now you’re basically being reactive to whatever everybody else’s agenda is, and you’ve lost your own agenda.

Paula : Absolutely.  Stephen Covet [in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People]( https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php ), I believe, is the one who talked about distinguishing the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, and we’re making EVERYTHING urgent and important, and NOT everything is.

Sam :  Yup. Absolutely. That’s 1000% right. Okay. So now the last question I have in terms of what we’ve been talking about is, have you seen a scenario where things are just so bad that you have to take the patient into the emergency room and chop off the arm to save the patient, in terms of all of these burnout and stress thing?

Paula : [laughter] That’s actually what happened to ME! I landed in the emergency room a few times just with various stress-related ailments and illness and things that had gotten a little out of control. So I DEFINITELY DO NOT want people to get to that point.  So there’s a number of different tools and strategies that I can work with folks on. A lot of people come to me and they’re like, “I DON’T want to LEAVE my job? Can I do something and not have to leave my job?” And leaving your job is NOT the answer for everybody. In fact, it’s not the answer for MOST people. I’m probably the exception to the rule. So anytime I’m able to help people AT LEAST work through the process of INTENTIONALLY making their NEXT STEP is something that gives me a lot of joy.

Sam :  Terrific. Excellent. Well listen, I want to thank you. It has been AWESOME, and I’m sure [that] my audience has gotten as much out of this as I did. I now have two full pages of notes on a yellow pad which I’m going to convert into my own diary. [So] I did want to say thank you. I absolutely appreciate you’re having taken the time to join us today on “The Law Practice Doctor”. And before I let you go, if somebody is interested in getting more information about what it is that you’re doing, and how they can hopefully reduce their stress and prevent burnout, how is it that they [can] get in touch with you? What’s the best way to contact you and get that that great information?

Paula : Sure. So I have lots of resources on my web site, which is as you mentioned earlier : http://www.pauladavislaack.com . It [presents] all of my speaking engagement type topics, my workshops and training programs and my one-on-one coaching. Then if anyone wants to email me directly it’s just paula@pauladavislaack.com .

Sam :  And just so everybody knows, it’s Paula Davis LAAck (with TWO “A”s).

Paula : Thank you.

Sam :  Oh, my pleasure. Listen, it’s been great. Thank you very much for joining me, and I just want to say [that] I hope everybody – and I’m sure they did – got as much  out of this as I did. I want to thank you for joining us on “The Law Practice Doctor”, the only podcast designed to helping solo and small law firms succeed by providing the easiest [and] most practical advice to grow a practice and still have a life. Today we were privileged to have with us Paula Davis Laack talking to us about burning out and preventing stress and burnout, and all those good things. Definitely please try and go to her web site. There’s some GREAT information [at] : http://www.pauladavislaack.com . Thanks again Paula.

Paula : Thanks so much Sam.

[outro music]

Announcer : You’ve been listening to “The Law Practice Doctor” podcast. “The Law Practice Doctor” features Sam Gaylord’s unique gift for marketing and business development, each week showing you the EASIEST, most PRACTICAL, and PROFITABLE ways to grow your firm AND STILL have a life. To make sure you don’t miss a single business-building show, SUBSCRIBE to this podcast at http://www.thelawpracticedoctor.com . If you know OTHER attorneys who want EASY, PRACTICAL, and PROFITABLE ways to grow their firm and STILL have a life, please tell them about “The Law Practice Doctor” podcast. To learn more about Sam, and how he can help YOU grow YOUR law firm, please visit http://www.thelawpracticedoctor.com . Now, go and implement what you’ve learned, and we’ll see you next week for MORE of “The Law Practice Doctor”.

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Source audio

Title : “Unstuckable – Episode 20 : Create Your Own Job Like Jon Spitz”
URL : http://unstuckable.co/episode-020-create-your-own-job-like-jon-spitz/

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Organization : Unstuckable Podcast

Web Site
http://unstuckable.co
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU07xkEbTzsD6u8xz4_tNTw/videos

Host 1 : Stephen Warley
Contact : LinkedIn profile

Host 2 : Chris Wilson
Contact : LinkedIn Profile

Guest : Jon Spitz
Contact : LinkedIn Profile

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Transcript :
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Announcer : It’s time to get unstuck.[music] Welcome to Unstuckable episode 20. Need a mentor? Email someone you admire today and ask them to meet. I’m Chris Wilson and now here’s Stephen Warley with today’s unstuckable story. [music]

Stephen Warley : Thanks Chris. Why wait for someone to hire you? Why is it that the only way most of us think we can ever get a job is by applying for one. In today’s very competitive economy the very best way to stand out from the crowd and eliminate the competition is to create a job that only you are uniquely qualified to do. Meet Jon Spitz. He just got a job as the operations manager of 43north.org. It’s the world’s largest business plan competition, with $5 million to give away. He recently brought “Startup Weekend” to his home town of Buffalo. He produced three different events in just one year attracting 350 entrepreneurs, and wasn’t paid a dime for his work. Jon doesn’t wait for job openings – he creates them. On three different occasions Jon basically created his own job. Once he pitched a local juice vendor on how he could manage their social media for them. He got noticed on LinkedIn for his social media abilities and then landed his next job as a director for online recruitment for a local college. Finally, he landed his current job by connections he made by bringing “Startup Weekend” to Buffalo and showcasing his ability for bringing entrepreneurs together. As you listen to Jon, think of a couple of companies you’ve always wanted to work with and spend 15 minutes thinking about what you could do for them that noone else with your qualifications can. Hey John, thank you so much for joining us. Our good friend Griffin Jones – our mutual connection – I’m so glad he got us together.

Jon Spitz : Hey, thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Stephen : We’ll be talking to Griffin in a future podcast, because he’s galavanting out in Boliva right now as the both of us are enduring a hard winter. So Jon, tell me how you think you’ve been unstuckable in your career.

Jon : Well I guess when I graduated college I was working for a supermarket – granted it was the biggest and best, and still is, the best supermarket in the world – Wegman’s –

Stephen : They’ve finally come to Massachusetts.

Jon : Yeah, that’s a big deal. You should go there. It’s good stuff. Great prepared foods. Can’t say enough good things about the place. I worked through high school and then I got a full-time job, had a great management role people would have killed to have. I did it for about two-and-a-half years, but probably after a year-and-a-half I kind of realized that this is not what I wanted to do. So I did feel stuck. I was in retail and I wanted to get out of retail as bad as I could, but I couldn’t dream of the day that I could put on a shirt and a tie. That was my goal.

Stephen : Really? See, I was dreaming of the day when I didn’t have to put that on anymore.

Jon : Yeah, I’m at that stage now. But at this stage I was like, “God, I don’t want to have to put on a uniform. I want to put on a shirt and tie and go sit in an office.” So what I actually did was – it was long talks with my folks at home, my support network – and I basically was like, “I can’t do this job.” I had to quit, and that’s exactly what I did. I quit and I didn’t have anything lined up.

Stephen : Really, it was that bad?

Jon : It was that bad for me, yeah.

Stephen : What was it like towards the end? How did you feel going into work?

Jon : I dreaded it. I would have to get there by 6:00 am – it was a thirty minute drive. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of getting my coffee in the morning, from Tim Horton’s – which was really good coffee, but it wasn’t that good.

Stephen : What was it about the job that you were like, “This is so not for me?”

Jon : Well, I was 22 or 23 at the time, and I’m working retail. So the busiest days at a grocery store – if you were to guess – would probably be what? What days do you think people usually shop at a grocery store?

Stephen : Oh, weekends. Isn’t Wednesday the best day to go shopping?

Jon : Yes it is.

Stephern : That’s when I go.

Jon : Yes, weekends. So that means that as a manager you’re there on the weekends. So when all of my friends are out having fun on the weekends I’m getting up at 6:00 am to go into a cooler and then empty the cooler and bring it out to the sales floor for people. So just being in the retail environment, working weekends and holidays, I knew that was something I wasn’t going to be doing for very long. I guess at the end there I actually tried to get to Boston when they opened up those stores. I was like, “Listen, I’ll go to Boston. I’ll help them open the stores and show them the Wegman’s way.” and when I got rejected for that, and upon getting rejected for a couple of other things I kind of thought that the company wasn’t on the same career trajectory so I had to make my own career trajectory.

Stephen : That’s interesting. Also, that seems like a big part of it. Maybe if they did give you some advancement opportunities you might have stuck around a little longer.

Jon : Yeah, but would I have been happy? Maybe temporarily.

Stephen : Right, it’s true. We always think that small change sometimes can be a good thing, but if it is more of the same thing you’re stuck a little longer in a place you don’t want to be.

Jon : Exactly.

Stephen : So you quit. I know you were probably raised this way. I was raised this way. It’s like, “Oh my god! Don’t quit your job until you have another job.” I have to say that I feel my mindset is changing. I mean, if you’re not happy and as long as somehow you can financially take care of yourself and you’ve found an alternative way to do that, I think it’s not a bad thing if it puts more time into focusing on what you really want to do.

Jon : Right, and to me – at least from my experience, as I’ve done it recently again – looking for a job really, for me, is a full-time job. So what I did when I walked in and quit – I didn’t do it like a maniac or anything like that, I did it politically right – was I created my own job. Then I was a juice vendor who worked at Wegman’s that was locally in Geneva, New York. I basically reached out to them and was like, “Hey, I can help you guys. I love social media. Let me build something for you and be the social media guy.” Basically what they said was “Come back to me. Write a business plan on what you’re going to do for us and break it down…” So, long story short, I got a job with them and started working with them. So I kind of created what I wanted to do which at that time was social media. Social media was just getting into businesses, and I was like, “Okay, this is my ticket out of the grocery store.”

Stephen : So was it a ticket out of like, “Cause I didn’t want to do that.” Or were you generally really interested in it?

Jon : Really interested in social media. Can I say I was really interested in the juice company itself? No. But to this day, Red Jacket Orchards is the best fresh juice that you can get. If you’re in New York City they have it in all of the Green Markets there. I don’t know about Boston. It’s great stuff. It’s like Bolthouse juice basically, if you’ve had that before.

Stephen : So where did the idea come from? Did you ever think of working for yourself before? Where did that idea or urge come from?

Jon : No. I just had a connection there with one of the vendors and I was like, “I’m just going to try and create my own job there.” I ended up doing it. Then three months later, all of a sudden via LinkedIn, I got a phone call from a recruiter and then I got my next job and I had to leave that place. I kind of created that momentum, because I wrote that business plan. I told those people, “This is what I’m going to do for you.” You can send your resume all over the place, but – I don’t know what the numbers are – I think it’s about a 10% chance that you’re going to get that job, compared to knowing somebody.

Stephen : It’s so interesting. That’s what I’m increasingly advising people to do, is – not that we want to work for free, we want to be rewarded for our efforts – but show what you can do. Bring ideas to a company you want to work for instead of waiting around for a job opening, because your initiative is going to really stand out rather than just a long line of people asking for a job.

Jon : Right, exactly.

Stephen : So you got called by a recruiter.

Jon : I got called by a recruiter. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been called by a recruiter, but usually it’s for insurance – at least that’s usually my experience, they were like, “Do you want to sell insurance?”. So I kept getting these calls and I was driving on the road selling juice in Binghamton and I got the call. I kind of answered snarky at the time [crosstalk], and it turns out that it was this great opportunity at this college. So I was like, “Yeah, I’m definitely interested.” To make a long story short, I interviewed on a Thursday and Friday morning at 9:00 am they tell me I got the job. All of a sudden I’m in a shirt and tie in the office I’ve always dreamed of –

Stephen : What were you doing at the college?

Jon : I was supposed to be doing a lot of social media. What it turned into was more sales admissions, but it was still a great learning experience, learning opportunity and I ended up getting my MBA through them. Never in a million years did I think I would go back to school at the time.

Stephen : Hey, and it was paid for.

Jon : That’s a good thing.

Stephen : That’s the best way to get an MBA.

Jon : Right. So as I was doing all of that I kind of started realizing that maybe I was a little stuck again. So I was like, “What do I really like to do?” and that’s when I went to a “Startup Weekend” in Rochester. For those who aren’t familiar with the “Startup Weekend”, it’s a 54 hour event which brings like-minded people of all different skills sets – whether you are business folk, a designer or developer who develops web apps or whatever –

Stephen : It is an awesome event. Chris and I did the one in Cape Cod last year.

Jon : Oh, it’s great. To me it’s the best learning experience. It’s just a great way to get around people who have the same interests as you.

Stephen : Yeah, and at a lot of conferences you’re just sitting there listening to panels or lectures. This is very proactive. You really get to be involved and it’s awesome.

Jon : Yeah, so I did that and I left that weekend and I was like, “Wow! That was just amazing.” and I’m like, “That really needs to come to Buffalo.”

Stephen : So they had not had one in Buffalo.

Jon : No. It just hadn’t happened, because, it hadn’t happened. So I reached out to a couple of people I had met at the event, and I’m like, “How do I bring this to Buffalo?” and I get connected to my buddy Dan and he was like “Yeah man. We totally want to bring this, but we don’t have the bandwidth. We need someone to lead the way.” I naively was like, “Oh, sure. I’ll do that.”, not knowing what I was signing myself up for at the time.

Stephen : I think it is so awesome. I mean, you brought a Startup Weekend to a city. That’s awesome.

Jon : I did. I signed up it, but there was an army of awesome people I met along the way that helped bring that to fruition. Really, without them it wouldn’t have happened. But yeah, I was kind of the thing that pushed it over the hill. I was like, “We’re just going to do this. I’m going to sign us up and then we’ll figure out how it happens after.”

Stephen : How long did it take to put together?

Jon : I want to say we took about four to six months for the first one, and then we’ve launched two others after that, so three total in almost less than a year – which is a little aggressive – and I’m a little burnt out.

Stephen : And how many people participated?

Jon : I’d say over all three events we’ve had about 350 people participate –

Stephen : That’s awesome. Congratulations.

Jon : Which, in Buffalo, it’s really exciting because we’re trying to change that blue-collar mindset where you have to graduate college and go work at a bank or just go get that job. Maybe you can create your own job, right here in this community. We want that encouragement and support and make people realize that it’s okay if you try to start a business and fail. It’s going to be rewarded, and then you can try and start the next one, and you’re going to learn a lot from doing that. So, we’re trying to create that environment here.

Stephen : That sounds like a very unstuckable philosophy.

Jon : Absolutely.

Stephen : And you’re trying to do it to a whole city.

Jon : A whole city, man. It’s grassroots. My one buddy, whose really involved in this too, posted an article about Detroit. Maybe he can get connected somewhere in there. The guy was saying that the real entrepreneurs are the people that are trying to build an entrepreneurial community in their communities – like Detroit, like Pittsburgh, like Buffalo – these cities that are rust belt. They’ve been destroyed by businesses leaving and they’re trying to build that community back up. I like that because I’m in Buffalo. Nothing against being in Boston and New York and San Fran, right? Those are already built.

Stephen : Well, you never know what could happen to the economy… How do you know when you’re stuck? It seems like you have this – you just know when you’ve had enough and it is time to move on, and then you just jump into things. So how do you know?

Jon : For me it’s like every job that I go to I’m trying to learn whatever I can from that job. To me, you kind of get that feeling that you’ve taken all the skills – you know, you’re not going to be a master or expert of anything – but you get a feeling that like, “Okay, I think I’ve kind of used everything I’m going to get out of this employer.”. And if there is no room for me to get higher up and learn some more new skills, to me, that’s when I’m stuck. That’s the scariest thing to me, when I’m not learning anymore, or developing my own skill sets. Because in the end, everybody is in the business of themselves, and if you aren’t in that mindset – that you’re in the business of you – you’ve got to get in it, because nobody cares about your brand more than yourself. That’s the way I look at it.

Stephen : It is. It’s so funny. I always say the most important skill in business is communication – and I would say, sales. Yet, what don’t they teach you in business school? How to sell! So none of us know how to sell ourselves.

Jon : It’s an awkward thing, too, usually. People aren’t comfortable bragging about themselves – some people are – but not everybody is comfortable selling themselves and bragging about what they’ve done. It’s just an awkward thing sometimes for people.

Stephen : Yeah, what is your quick story? I think that’s a big thing that we’re trying to make people aware of, is how to tell your story. What’s the quick story that you tell about yourself. What’s your quick pitch about why Jon Spitz is so awesome.

Jon : Oh man. You’re putting me on the spot? I guess I’m a doer, right? I’ve done a lot of things, from being the guy who brought Startup Weekend here, and now I’m going to be one of the guys, and gals, that brings the world’s largest business plan competition to the city of Buffalo. I don’t know. You’ve put me on the spot and I didn’t have a good response.

Stephen : I think that’s a good answer because I think that’s what it’s about when you’re selling yourself, right? You have to have that answer ready to go, because how are people going to remember you. I’m sure there are already people in the community of Buffalo who know “Oh gosh, if we need to get this thing done, you know who we need to call? Jon Spitz.”

Jon : I’d like to think so. My new boss – who is awesome – says “Your reputation is the one thing that you have to hold near and dear to your heart, because when you lose that reputation it is very, very difficult to get it back. So you need to be known as someone who follows through, gets things done, that can be relied on. If you are known as that type of person I think that goes a long way. Then you can help other people through networking and volunteering – I think volunteering is probably one of the number one things I recommend to anybody to get unstuck.

Stephen : Yeah, and I think it’s amazing – you didn’t get paid for anything you did for the startup weekend, correct?

Job : No.

Stephen : That is a ton of work, but tell me – what do you feel? What did it give you back? Why was it worth it?

Jon : Let’s say I didn’t get this job I have now – which I attribute to Startup Weekend – still, just like the relationships I have now in the community with like-minded folks. The feeling you have when you’re at that event, and you see the energy in that room and all of the people – whether it’s 70 people or 100 people – that believe they have the next Facebook, the next big thing. Man, it’s just such a high that your high on it for that whole weekend, and then a couple of days after. That’s why we keep doing it, because it’s just an incredible feeling to see these people and this energy. You’re bringing strangers together to try and accomplish something huge. That’s why I did it and that’s while I’ll probably continue to do it.

Stephen : I want to ask you in a second about your new job – about the new chapter in your career – but something else about the Startup Weekend, or your experience in building communities. What do you think are the ingredients to build a community that cares?… That’s hard.

Jon : It is. It’s a slow burn, but it really starts with a couple of passionate individuals really spreading that energy. That energy is contagious, and once people see that they’re not alone and there are other people who feel the same way and have the same ideas and think the same way they do, then it starts spreading. It’s slow, but to get people involved what really probably should happen – what I keep telling the folks that we do Startup Weekend with – is that we should really probably pass that event off to somebody else – as much as I love it – and let them run with it, bring their communities into it and let it even more. Then we go on to do a different event. So we keep getting all of these different events which are running simultaneously so there’s just a ton of entrepreneurial events happening in Buffalo, and we turn into this hub of – nobody would even think right now to start a business in Buffalo – but I’d like to think that in ten years that’s going to be a very, very different story.

Stephen : Well, just the standard or cost of living is so much less expensive than Silicon Valley or New York City, that I think that is a story that Buffalo needs to tell. That is, the dramatic cut in startup costs just because it’s going to be so much cheaper to live and have office space, etc.

Jon : Yeah, I own a house – which is just stupid to me that I can own a house. You can do that in Buffalo. Your friends in New York and etc. – they can’t do that. That’s one of the big advantages here.

Stephen : Absolutely. So you were at the college. When did you know to leave that and what did you leap into next?

Jon : I left Medaille College. I think both parties knew it was time. It was just, a lot of things went on there. Half of my staff had gotten fired, and they had been there for 30+ years. So it was just a really negative atmosphere, and I knew that I couldn’t keep doing this to myself because I started to feel like I was back at Wegman’s. Nothing against Wegman’s – because they’re a great company – but I just didn’t want to feel this way. Life is too short to feel this way. So it was really a mutual part. I told them, “Listen, I’m just going to finish up my MBA and I’m out of here.” Then I was finishing up my MBA and this job opportunity popped up – through one of the connections through Startup Weekend, giving me the introduction to the hiring manager – and then , long story short I ended up scoring really, right now, the dream job. I’m basically getting paid to do Startup Weekend, which is like “Wow!”.

Stephen : Awesome. So what’s the company? What do they do?

Jon : So, it’s “43 North” It is the world’s largest business plan competition, and by that meaning we have the most money. So it’s almost like a mass challenge, except there’s more money in the line. So we have $5 million total in prizes, and there’s going to be a million for first, there’s going to be six half million prizes, and I think four quarter million prizes.

Stephen : Wow, and what are you doing for them?

Jon : I’m the operations manager, so I’m really trying to build the competition – like I built Startup Weekend. So, what are the requirements to join the competition, getting judges, getting mentors. Then I’ll be traveling. So I’ll be heading up to Washington, New York, Boston – trying to recruit people.

Stephen : Well, you have to stop by and visit Chris and I.

Jon : Yeah, I’d love to. I’ll be in Boston, I hope. So , it’s like unbelievable. It’s a really small team, but I’m interfacing with some of — like, some of the people I’m sitting next to in meetings I’m like, “God, I can’t believe I’m sitting next to this person.” You know? Because they’re really successful people in Buffalo, and just sometimes I pinch myself, because I’ve never liked a job where I woke up and didn’t mind going to work in seven degree weather, like today. Or brought work home, and was just doing it because I wanted to do it and not because I had to. It’s like a strange feeling, and I think that’s what everybody is looking for. It doesn’t necessarily have to be you starting your own business, but finding that company where you have the same belief system, and you like the mission that they’re going for and things like that. I really wish it upon everybody, because it’s really an awesome feeling.

Stephen : I’m really glad you said that, because that’s something that we’re trying to do – that idea of entrepreneurship. That you don’t have to be that person that’s going to go get VC money and start your own business. You can find that right opportunity. It’s about being empowered. It’s about really knowing your story, knowing what you want and the people you want to work with, and going out there and finding it. It sounds like you’ve gone through a lot of trial and error to find it, but it seems like it was so worth it.

Jon : Oh my god, yeah. I probably wouldn’t have it any other way, but if you would have asked me when I was at a couple of those jobs, I probably would have sang a different tune. But now that I’m where I’m at today, you kind of see why it all took place, and all of the things you learned throughout those jobs.

Stephen : Well this is really awesome. I love your unstuckable story, but now it’s time to turn the tables. Are you ready to help our listeners get unstuck and take action?

Jon : Of course.

Stephen : So, how would you describe someone who is unstuckable?

Jon : I guess if you’re in a place where you just know that you’re not happy. If you’re not happy going to work – which I don’t think most people are for the most part – you’ve got to do something. For me, I took a drastic move and quit my job. I really don’t recommend that to anybody unless you’re in a position to do that. Other than that, my first thing would probably be networking. I think networking is the #1 thing to do to get unstuck, wherever you are. By that, try to find a cause that you really believe in. There’s tons of non-profits in any community. Maybe create your own, but just get involved and help people. When you truly try to help somebody, it seems that it comes back to you. By that I mean that if I help connect you to somebody else I know that’s somewhere else in the country, you’re going to be more prone to help me do something. It’s just human nature. If somebody helps you you want to return the favor. So to genuinely help people by volunteering, I think good things just come your way. Not only karma, but at the end of the day, I think job opportunities, etc.

Jon : Yeah, I think even when you want to go to a conference or an event that you’re really excited about – the people who are going to be there, the speakers, the content. Take the next step and actually volunteer and see if they need any help, because you are going to meet that many more people because you’re going to have an integrated role into how that conference is run. You know that better than anybody.

Jon : Yeah, that’s actually great idea.

Stephen : Right? You were kind of like. “I’m going to sit at the registration table so I can meet everybody and they come in, absolutely. So, excellent point. I really am such a firm believer in just meeting somebody and doing something new. That’s a great way to get unstuck. Is there a particular resource, a book, podcast, quote – anything like that – that you use regularly to help people get unstuck?

Jon : There’s a couple of books. One of them is, I think it’s “The Magic of Thinking Big”. I don’t know who the author is. I gave the book to my sister because I loved it so much, and I wanted to make sure that she read it. Really good book. Just really on the magic of thinking big. So thinking positive and all of that stuff. I highly recommend that book. I also really like Gary Vanderchuck.

Stephen : Oh, yes.

Jon : I’m a social media geek –

Stephen : I love “Crush It”.

Jon : Yeah, “Crush It” was actually the book which made me quit my job.

Stephen : Wow!, Thank you Gary V. Look what you did for Jon.

Jon : Those would be the two which come to mind immediately.

Stephen : Is there anybody you would like to thank, that has helped you get unstuck, and how did they help you?

Jon : I always think that getting that job at Medaille. Jackie Matheny was the hiring boss. For her to give me that opportunity – because I was hired as the director of online recruitment, which at the time after I got there I realized that I probably had no business getting that job. She really took a leap of faith on me, and it probably changed the whole course of my career trajectory. So that would be one of the first ones. I actually wrote her a letter after they fired her that said how much I owed to her. Then [Ad Harrigon?] –

Stephen : I think that’s awesome by the way. I just think it is a reminder. For those people that – you don’t even realize – it could have been just something they said. But it affected your life. I think, write a note, send an email if you’re able to contact them somehow, and just let them know how they changed the course of your life. I think it’s such a nice gesture back to what you were saying about helping people out, volunteering, and giving something back.

Jon : Oh, absolutely. Then Ed Harrigan, he was my manager over at Wegman’s. It was not until I got into my MBA program, and they started doing the leadership courses, that I really realized like, “Wow. Ed was telling me all of this stuff for free at work.” So I was learning leadership way back from him. I guess to my last point on really how to get unstuck – and my boss kind of reiterated it – and I’m going to try and pursue this myself now. You need a mentor, and you probably need more than one. Just reach out to somebody. He suggested you reach out to somebody in the community that you admire and it doesn’t matter how big they are. He goes, “The worst thing they do is don’t respond or say no. But everybody likes to get their ego stroked, so write them an email and say, “Hey, you have a phenomenal career background. I would love to grab a coffee with you and chat.”. Then just take it from there. So I actually reached out to this gentleman I’ve met through my new job, who has just an incredible resume, and said, “Hey, I had a great time meeting you the first time. If you’re available, I’d love to bounce ideas off of you from now and then, over a cup of coffee. He’s like, “Sure, no problem. I would love to help out.” I think you don’t know until you ask, but we’re all afraid to ask. So I think, just getting somebody you admire that you don’t work with but is in a different industry, I think that is probably a huge thing that most people are afraid to do,

Stephen : I think that’s great advice. What I always tell people is everybody likes a compliment. Something they wrote or did that you genuinely really liked, and influenced you – let them know. That is a connection, instead of just saying, “I want to make a lot of money just like you!” And maybe that is an approach, who knows. You never know who you’re talking to. Even for our podcast, it’s amazing how many people who have been so generous with their time who we thought would never want to give us the time of day. It’s been a tremendous experience.

Jon : Awesoe.

Stephen : So John, thank you so much for all of your awesome advice. There’s a lot of great nuggets in there for people to go back and listen to on how they can get unstuck. Hopefully, we’ll have you back one day. And good luck with the new business plan competition.

Jon : Yeah, and people should check it out at 43north.org. You can apply, register, and maybe you can get unstuck by starting your own business and bringing it right here to Buffalo, New York.

Stephen : Love it! Thanks so much Jon.

Jon : Alright, thanks.

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***If you are the producer or host of an interesting YouTube video, podcast, etc. which you would like transcribed, I may be interested in taking on your project, free of charge. If the subject of your production is something which is especially interesting to me (some favorite subjects of mine include : technology, health, philosophy, media, psychology, art, economic, globalization, cryptocurrencies, and many more) I may decide to work it into my “free transcription project” schedule. I am currently working at the comfortable pace of  one or two transcription projects per week. I prefer audio/video files which are in the range of 15 to 30 minutes in length. It requires roughly one hour to transcribe 15 minutes of audio. I also ask that the audio of the production be of professional quality, since I post the audio/video on the individual transcript page and prefer to fill my pages with high quality content which maintains the integrity of the site. Please email : freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com to discuss this potential opportunity further.

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Feel free to donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Day 10 : Writing As A Tool For Building and Developing Your Freelance Transcription Career

hand_writing

My first day as a certified member of the transcriptionist team at TranscribeMe has been one of fascination and information overload. Having now registered on the system I have been given access to several well-organized, yet dense, resources which form a comprehensive introduction and transition into the company. The internal social media network (which is essentially a customized, internal, Facebook-style social media platform where all members of the company can connect and share information) is run on the Yammer system. The revolution in workplace social media applications which Yammer exemplifies is in itself a very interesting subject to research. Here’s a very informative lecture by Adam Pisoni, the CEO of Yammer, where he explains how the evolving social media technology is revolutionizing communication and productivity levels in work organizations off all kinds and sizes :

A quick browse through the sections and topics shows a thriving social network of people from locations throughout the world sharing helpful information related to company operations, work issues, support for all kinds of potential issues which can arise, etc. It has all of the helpful features of any social media system, allowing you to connect with, follow, send messages, chat, etc. with other members of the company. Compare this with the essentially ABSENT communication provided by the other company I have been working with for the past month and the TranscribeMe system is a breath of fresh air. It is also a good opportunity to gain experience with this kind of productive communication system and the purposes it serves in the online transcription industry. Communication itself is a VITAL component to the entire online transcription operation, as it is often the only mechanism by which transcribers can collaborate and share important information related to the companies they work for, the projects they work on and the customers they serve. Considering that most online transcriptionists are home-based teleworkers who are dispersed throughout the world, the internet essentially provides the main means of communication between themselves, their coworkers, and their employers/clients.

I decide to take things nice and slowly as I work to get my bearings in this initial stage. I read a couple of posts whose topics catch my interest. These short posts are clear and provide quick and complete answers to very practical questions. I find a handful of these posts in the first hour of browsing, and each one provides an answer to an important question I have as a newbie which then allows me to proceed working through the system with more confidence and competence. I also “follow” a few of the people I know from the external forums who have already been working on TranscribeMe. These connections are valuable, especially in the beginning as I can ask some questions directly to these people instead of taking the risk of bothering other people in the network who I don’t know. As a newbie I am hesitant to make any posts as there is always the risk of breaking etiquette by asking a question which has already been addressed. So I decide to lurk for the first few days and take in as much info as I can without actually posting.

Speaking of etiquette, the company also provides a very helpful “Guide For New Transcribers” ebook (in pdf format). This handy little eight page book provides answers to the most important issues which arise as you get acquainted with the system (ex. the audio files system,  social network rules and etiquette, description of the entire transcription process, information on how to get help, etc.). I commit to reading one or two pages of this document per day to my training schedule.

I now have a healthy amount of information to go through in the days ahead. I will spend roughly an hour per day browsing through and interacting on the company’s internal social media network, reading a few pages of the style guide and beginner’s guide, take on some of the roughly one-minute transcription files to practice my skills and earn some income, and contine to read several blog posts (on the growing number of quality transcription-related blogs I am finding through my research) to continually expand my skills and knowledge related to the whole world of transcription. One such quality blog I have discovered recently through one of the transcription forums is :

http://www.alphabetsecretarial.co.uk/blog/

The Alphabet blog has several especially interesting posts which are worth the time, such as :

Twitter – Nonsensical Jibber Jabber or Transcribers on a Global Scale?

In addition to (and in extension of) all my research, I am finding that my blog writing is becoming more important as the amount of information I am working through increases. The writing process allows me to process and organize the experience. It allows a natural pacing which is healthy for someone like me whose brain works very fast and has a tendency to take on too much which overloads the circuitry and ultimately ends up becoming counter-productive. Knowing that my blog posts will be read by other people who are new to the transcription world in the future forces me to explain the whole experience clearly – both to them and myself (since as we all know the old saying “The best way to learn something is to teach it.”). The blog is also serving another important function of giving me something to focus on when there are no jobs available on either of the company’s available job boards, or when the jobs which are available for not appealing. It is easy to get stuck in the mode of checking the boards obsessively – especially when the workflow is thin – and this can become counterproductive in itself. It is better to focus on something which you focus on productively for several hours.

In general I have found writing to be an increasingly important tool in the expanding information age. The world as a whole, is continuing to be transformed into a more densely information-based entity. Think about how much more information we are faced with on a daily basis today compared with just a decade ago. More and more things in the world are becoming digitized. From the increasing digitization of photographic information enabled by the expansion of Smartphones with attached cameras which can directly upload images to various social media sites in mere seconds, to the more elaborate applications allowed by the collection, processing and presentation of data by “Big Data” applications such as Google Maps, which has now collected enough data to allow users to engage in a “virtual street-level visual tour” of any street in the developed (and even undeveloped world) IN ADDITION to locations underwater, on the Moon, Mars, etc. It really is amazing how much information is now being processed and utilized to enhance a growing number of practical (and some not-so-practical) everyday functions for people throughout the world.

Since information (a.k.a. : “content”) is essentially the new currency of the modern digital world it only makes sense that one way we can contribute to the development of this emerging paradigm is to contribute knowledge in various forms. Writing, of course, is a main mechanism by which we transfer information from inside our minds into the external world and thus to the minds of other individuals and the group-mind as a whole (the internet now serving as the physical embodiment of that aggregate, “global mind”. Therefore, I find that writing (especially with the application of that writing in the form of blogging) is an important component to my overall online activity (of which the transcription, editing, research, etc. are all a part). The writing functions as a thread which ties the other efforts together and makes the whole process more efficient and presentable.

Morgan Gist-MacDonald – academic editor, writing coach and owner of Paper Raven Editing company – explains the importance of building an online presence for the writer as a main tool for helping people, in her blog post :

How building your online presence could change your life and your readers’ 

Morgan’s blog is full of informative and practical blog articles which examine all of the important issues for writers in the digital age. It is well worth the time browsing through her posts.

So, my whole strategy in learning and navigating the transcription world is really taking on some good shape and efficiency. Combining the daily research tasks with practice on audio files within my capability and the blogging effort is really taking on the healthy qualities of creative flow which are turning the whole endeavor into an enlightening and somewhat enjoyable one. It should be interesting to see how much progress I will achieve after another month following this general strategy,

In the next post I will discuss how online transcription is a great way to be exposed to new kinds of interesting information and get paid to do a job which helps improve the quality of that information – a real win-win situation.

FrankyFreedom
freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

 

Day 8 : The Computer-Human Hybridization Movement – Increasing Efficiency While Decreasing Unemployment

A quick Google search this morning produced the YouTube video of an excellent speech by TranscribeMe CEO Alex Dunayev at the Silicone Valley Open Doors Investment Conference in 2013.

Mr Dunayev delivers and well articulated and down-to-earth presentation which clearly details the important trends arising in the transcription industry. Some of the most important of these include : the rapid growth of the transcription market worldwide as a result of greater reach of the internet and mobile networks, how new business models (such as crowd-sourcing) are being made possible by advances in technology which are enabling the delivery of higher quality transcription services to a widening customer base. Mr. Dunayev also explains the integration of evolving speech recognition software and artificial intelligence into the transcription process, which is enabling transcription to be done in a more efficient and less costly manner, and thus provide transcription services to individuals and organizations who simply hadn’t had the budget to afford it in the past (ex. students, educational institutions, freelancers, small businesses. He also gives us a promising glimpse of the future potentials of the new transcription paradigm, including ways it will aid disadvantaged populations such as the disabled (ex. blind and deaf), researchers, creative people, etc. Judging from the response of the experts on the questioning panel, who seemed to be quite impressed, I believe that most people come away from viewing this presentation with an expanded understanding of the topic of transcription, as well as the various additional topics and organizations related to the transcription industry. In addition, it appears easy to gain a more optimistic sense that computer technology actually CAN be harnessed and utilized in a practical and humane manner to solve important real world problems (ex. human, business, academic, etc.) while at the same time being easy to implement and affordable to the general public.

In the past decade, this philosophically fragile issue of the “Rise of the Machines” has grown to apocalyptic proportions for many, as theories range from robots taking over human jobs and making us obsolete, to artificial intelligence being taken over by the computers themselves, who then turn on their human creators and initiate a global cyborg war – perhaps catalyzed by the computerized scanning and transcribing of uncensored human thoughts, leading naturally to World War III between the humans, and with supercomputer controlled neutron bomb attacks resulting in mass extinction of the human population of the planet, and allowing the robots to live in a highly organized and efficient utopia until the end of time.

Most informed and sensible people realize that any technology is merely a tool, and that it is the APPLICATION of that technology which determines its ethical value. Examples now abound of new applications of technology able to solve REAL problems for REAL people which have never been possible in the past. For instance, as supercomputing technology becomes faster and more powerful it is being used to analyze data in the field of medicine to gain better understanding of genetic factors in disease, the nature of epidemics, etc. Smartphone apps are being developed which facilitate a growing range of medical treatment processes, often conducted by the individual in the comfort of their own home. To give a few of examples, there are now operational apps which measure and remind diabetics to check their blood sugar level at scheduled times which are making it much easier to control this chronic disease *and various others). New apps which track disease epidemics are allowing public health officials to better protect human populations from outbreaks, and to eliminate outbreaks when they occur as a result of the ability to obtain data related to the epidemic faster. Stem cell technology is showing the promise of regenerating dysfunctional body parts and even restoring various important neurological functions in the body (ex. vision, movement, paralysis). From these few examples most people would probably agree that there are significant potential benefits to the development of these advanced technologies. The fundamental issue thus becomes ensuring that the applications of this higher technology are directed at solving REAL problems for REAL people, with the main goal of improving the lives of people throughout the world.

Along this line of reasoning, I believe that the transcription related technology, service and employment system which TranscribeMe is developing is an ideal example of the proper use of the emerging advanced technologies. It is also an excellent example of how it is completely feasible to integrate computer technology and human capital to ultimately increase OVERALL benefits for the humans who are served by these technologies. For instance, the TranscribeMe crowd sourcing production platform contributes two main benefits to the operation. It enables greater efficiency and faster turnover of the end product (transcription) to the customer, while at the same time fulfilling more of the needs of the transcribers to be able to work anytime, anywhere and more flexibly as they general work on quick (roughly one minute) segments of speech. In addition, since Mr. Dunayev explains that there are just certain limits to what computers can achieve in regard to processing human speech, we see that the computers have a very valuable role to play in the more logistical and technical aspects of the transcription process (ex. splicing audio files into ~ one minute micro-chunks, distributing the micro-chunks to the most suitable members of the transcriber crowd based on demographic data stored in the system, etc). In other words, the computer is acting in a similar way to the timer on a dishwasher or coffee machine. It COMPLEMENTS the human labor.  The computer performs the more menial tasks of scheduling and organization while the skills of the human are used for those elements of the workflow which are beyond the natural realm of the computers. It is the same case for digital music production. Sure, digital musical instruments can do many amazing things which human musicians generally can’t do on their own (ex. synthesizing sounds which don’t actually exist in nature, optimizing music and sounds after they have been recording via advanced digital audio editing software, etc.). Before these technologies were available to humans they had less creative options to work with sound and produce the amazing works that they can now. However, digitized music will NEVER be able to truly mimic the unique human quality which is brought forth through music.

There are certainly some rather ethically unsettling developments playing out in various pursuits which have a strong effect on humans, all other lifeforms on earth and the environment. Some more down-to-earth examples can include : the detrimental effect of information overload on the human brain, the often intrusive nature of Smartphone technology by which people become addicted and neglect more important issues in their lives, the sedentary lifestyle many people have descended into as a result of the technology making it less necessary to be physically active, etc. While each of the above examples can be partially alleviated through the application of proper behavioral (and other) psychology strategies, the bottom line is that humanity is facing a growing challenge of trying to strike a healthy balance of utilizing these helpful new technologies as opposed to allowing the technologies to exploit THEM.

This is why the kind of technology application which TranscribeMe has developed offers much hope in the sense of being evidence of the ability to design technology in keeping with the ultimate practical needs of the humans who actually use the product in their real lives. The computers are not the end consumers of a product like the TranscribeMe transcription. They are the TOOL which enables the end product to be produced in the best form and in the most efficient manner possible. Ultimately, it is the HUMANS who benefit from the fruits of the technology which TranscribeMe has developed. That is, BOTH the end consumer (who receives a very high quality (accurate) transcript in an increasingly short amount of time and at an increasingly affordable price) AND the worldwide crowd of transcribers who benefit from a decreased risk of under or unemployment, job flexibility, high quality training and career advancement opportunities. In the end, the TranscribeMe system is very people-friendly.

At the SAME time, the TranscribeMe system is also computer-friendly. That is, as explained in the presentation, the artificial intelligence of the transcription software actually learns how to better process a specific (repeat) customer’s projects based on all of the data collected from past projects. Therefore, the computers themselves are also evolving and benefiting through the performance of their intended actions (through the combination of big data processing and artificial intelligence).

In the end, a very positive feedback and production loop arises as the computers’ evolving artificial intelligence increases the productivity of the process and thus completes the transcription for repeat customers FASTER. This then frees up resources to be able to process more customers, which increases revenue, which then enables the company to invest more profits into growth and marketing, hire more transcribers (and other necessary workers) and thus stimulate employment and the general economy. Again, this line of reasoning shows clearly how this system delivers REAL benefit to the lives of REAL humans.

What is even more promising is that, as Mr. Dunayev details in the presentation, TranscribeMe has begun planning and implementing some very powerful collaborative projects with other companies and industries which can benefit from the integration of TranscribMe’s crowd sourced, computer-hybrid transcription technology with the their own applications. One example of this is the collaboration between TranscribeMe and NVivo, one of the leading research platforms for data analysis. A significant component of research of most kinds (ex. marketing research, qualitative social science studies, focus groups, etc.) involves collecting data in a form which is suitable for, and optimized by, quality transcription. Proper transcription of data enhances the ability to organize, manage and analyze data with the end result being better quality research, and maximum application of the output of that research.

This integration of TranscribeMe technology into a growing number of appropriate and related applications is positioning TranscribeMe technology to serve as a powerful tool whose function is to convert audio speech into the most potentially accurate text which can then be imported into other applications which use text data as one of the primary inputs. In line with the old saying, “Garbage in… garbage out.” the TranscribeMe technology is minimizing the amount of garbage going IN, and thus acting as a major force for improving the quality of all research which uses real speech data from any source (audio, video, etc.).

I realize that this post has grown extremely long. When I become interested in a subject the words just spewing out of me and it is better to just go with it. It is a natural tendency. A blessing and a curse of sorts. I’ll admit that I have a “writing problem”, in the sense that I often can’t write fast enough. This is, of course, is worsened by my “drinking problem”, where I can’t drink fast enough. Then again, that all depends on the type of drink (ex. beer, coffee, etc.). The reader is, of course, free to take what they want and leave the rest.

But I digress.

Having said all of this, I do TRULY believe that the issue of the proper integration of technology with human nature is one of the most important of our time. Plus, it only seems to be becoming MORE important, and at an ACCELERATING rate as the evolution of the technology itself is accelerating in a non-linear progression. I also think it is important for anyone who has an interest in, and/or wants to work in, the transcription field to learn about this issue, think about and consider the ways (both positive and negative) in which it effects their everyday lives. When I look at developments like TranscribeMe it makes me very hopeful that we are at CAPABLE of developing ethical collaborative integrated applications which utilize the power of advancing technology with the ultimate purpose of improving the human condition.

Getting back to the transcription training issue, in this post I haven’t yet specifically discussed much related to my progress. I have now passed the TranscribeMe application and started on the training phase before being cleared to work on projects. In a way, however, as I mentioned in the last post that one part of my research as I proceed through the transcription world is to watch videos related to the different topics, companies, industry people, etc. Therefore, this whole blog post essentially describes a valuable part of the research process. That is, the process of becoming more familiar with the transcription company I am now working for, getting to know more about how they operate their business, learning about what the company has planned for growth and development into the future, etc. In the same way that an investor does serious research on the “fundamentals” of a prospective company before making the decision to invest in it, it is similarly important to research a company you intend to WORK for to ensure that the philosophy and goals of the company are in line with yours to an adequate degree. After all, when you work for a company you are dedicating quite a bit of your energy and time into the endeavor. Thus it is essential to do your homework in order to make the most informed and prudent decision based on the specific nature of your situation. In addition, what is so great about living in the “information age” is that there is just so much information available if we know where and how to look. That is one of the functions of this blog, of course. One of the main goals here is to teach you (by example) a productive strategy of navigating through the transcription world (and the worlds connected to it) with the ultimate goal of helping you to make the best decisions possible which will help you achieve your goals and maintain a healthy level of continuous growth and prosperity – on the physical, mental and spiritual levels.

As for the TranscribeMe training, I have been working through the training modules while simultaneously reading through the style guide. I should be done with the training by tomorrow and then will attempt the final exam for the training. If/when I pass the exam the administrators will then contact me within a few days and provide me with my login information so that I can access the system, start becoming familiar with how things work, and spend some time browsing the internal social media network in order to begin networking and connecting with some of my new co-workers, etc. I also have plenty of research content to keep me busy both before and after I gain formal entrance into the system and start working on transcribing some of the one minute (or less) length audio files. My main focus, however, is to proceed slowly, steadily and methodically, in order to take it all in at a healthy pace while also enjoying the process of growth and discovery.

I hope you have gained something valuable from the information in this rather long post. In the next post I will further discuss some of my insights on the training and research processes, and do some more analysis of other interesting aspects of the TranscribeMe operation.

TranscriptJunky@gmail.com
https://twitter.com/TranscriptJunky