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Wax on, wax off…

By April 23, 2019October 13th, 2020law practice, success mindset, wisdom

Remember the movie The Karate Kid?

The most memorable thing was Mr. Miyagi tricking the boy played by Ralph Machhio into learning the fundamentals of karate without him realizing he was being taught.

Mr. Miyagi tells the boy to wax his car in a very specific way, i.e. the infamous “wax on, wax off” instruction.

The kid gets super annoyed because he doesn’t grasp that Mr. Miyagi is actually teaching him karate. He believes Mr. Miyagi is just taking advantage of him—using him to do menial labor that benefits only Mr. Miyagi.

But, as it turns out, Mr. Miyagi was teaching him karate. Just not in the way the kid expected.

Herein lies the movie’s most powerful message..

So often in life we expect not only to get what we want, but also to get it in the EXACT way we imagine we should get it.

I’ll give you an example from my life.

Back in 2002 I was burned out with my big law practice. I was desperate to leave and start my own firm. But I didn’t want to do it by myself.

I didn’t think I COULD do it by myself.

So I’d occasionally try to get one of my BigLaw partners to consider leaving. But none of them wanted to leave the “security” of the big firm, so I dismissed the idea of creating a happier law practice.

It didn’t occur to me I could have what I wanted but just not in the exact way I was envisioning.

Then some weird things happened that paved the way for me to get what I wanted in an unexpected way.

In 2002 I started my “Ernie the Attorney” blog, mostly as an experiment to see what web publishing was like.

The blog got the attention of the ABA and I was invited to speak to other lawyers about using the web to build one’s reputation and get noticed (i.e. marketing).

When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 my big firm was thrown into chaos. Some lawyers were let go because the firm was afraid it wouldn’t survive the financial crisis (so much for big firm “security”).

I realized then that I had all the resources I needed to start my own solo practice.

Mostly it was my use of technology to keep costs low, but also get sophisticated work done using automation instead of paralegals.

So, after Katrina I finally realized that the way to get what I wanted was to start a solo practice.

Of course, I was very afraid to go out on my own. Who wouldn’t be?

But I was more excited about creating the exact kind of practice I wanted. And not the kind ordained by a committee.

So I pulled the trigger.

And a few months later I realized that I should have pulled the trigger sooner.

I was free to practice law however I wanted to, and work as much as I wanted to. I made good money, and had little stress to deal with.

I realized that if I had joined forces with someone else to start a practice I wouldn’t have had as much freedom. And I would have had more stress.

So I got exactly what I wanted. But not in the way I had initially envisioned.

How did this happen? Well…

My unconscious self steadily acquired the skills and resources I needed to create the practice I wanted (mostly through the use of technology).

My unconscious self was like Mr. Miyagi keeping me focused on one thing that didn’t seem connected to my end goal.

So, what about you?

What do you most want for your life and your practice?

And what flawed assumptions are getting in your way?

The sooner you start letting go of your highly specific (but flawed) assumptions, the sooner you’ll see the true path that will get you what you really want.

Your “inner Mr. Miyagi” may already be assimilating the resources you need to achieve those goals.

Probably more than you realize.

Here’s the brutal reality: you can’t ordain the precise manner in which you’ll get what you want. But you don’t need to.

Leave that to Mr. Miyagi.

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