Oct 25, 2012
The Power of Audacity
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” ― Oprah Winfrey
I’ve written before about the Grown Ass Woman Brigade, a charity/women’s organization that my friend Heather Lam and I started a while back. You might have noticed that the name of the group is a little… well, audacious. We are a little outrageous, a little in-your-face. We wanted to make sure no one was confusing us with the Junior League. In fact, this is our new logo:
Yeah. We’re not exactly the D.A.R. When we tell people the name of the organization, there is always a moment of, “Did you really just say that?” Followed immediately by, “Hell yeah, that’s what I said!” And nine times out of ten, the follow up to that is, “So how do I get involved?” The outrageous name is our calling card, and we use it to get what we want: a network of strong, intelligent, powerful women who don’t take themselves too seriously.
Heather is one of the happiest people I know. She is also completely audacious. She has a habit of skipping or galloping wherever she goes. She swears she can only be serious for about thirty minutes before the silliness has to be released. She jokes that if she licks something, she owns it (and then she licked my cheek). She doesn’t care what other people think, and always asks for what she wants. She decided to start a community theater company, and did. She decided she was going to lose weight, then proceeded to lose 70 pounds in less than a year by dieting and hula hooping (her preferred form of exercise). She decided to tell the man of her dreams that she was in love with him, then moved mountains to be with him – changing jobs and relocating from Florida to California. She does what makes her happy, what amuses her and brings her joy. She decides what she wants, then she acts boldly to get it.
By being bold and different, you stand out. You get attention. You let everyone know what you’re all about. Being audacious is one way of asking for what you want. It’s direct and to the point; so much so, in fact, that audacity will almost always get you farther than subtlety. Don’t leave ‘em guessing! Be audacious about what you want.
As lawyers, we often see audacity in a negative light. The audacity of the ambulance chasing lawyer with his face on a tacky bus stop or billboard ad can make us cringe. But the fact of the matter is, those bus stop ads work or those lawyers wouldn’t keep paying for them! It is seen as more decorous, even prestigious, to be passive, waiting for word of mouth to build, never directly asking for business. But this is a business, and to get the work, you have to ask!
So take your prospective referral source out to lunch, but never, ever end the meal without bluntly asking what you can do for each other business-wise. Ask what referrals are they looking for, and tell them what referrals you need. Ask your clients what else you could possibly do for them when you’ve completed a job. Ask during your intake about everything that is going on, and if you can, include an “additional proposed scope of work” telling the client what other services you think they might need (this is how you turn drafting a will into drafting a will and a family trust and a business exit strategy and setting up a new LLC and…).
The same is true for your work/life balance. If you work for someone else, you won’t ever get the time off for that vacation if you don’t ask for it. Actually, that’s true if you work for your own firm, too. If you don’t tell your clients that you’ll be gone for two weeks in February, they will expect you to be available. It’s up to you to set the boundaries between work and home and find a balance that makes you happy. You will never get it if you are not bold enough to ask.
But audacity can give you so much more! Audacity can literally transform your life.
For me, going to law school after a career as a systems engineer was a pretty bold move. Yeah, it took a while. I had to take the LSAT, apply to law school, figure out how to pay for it, divorce my ex-husband, sell a house and more just to make the transition. But once I got myself pointed in this direction – toward the career I had always dreamed of – I let nothing stop me. And again jumping from BigLaw into a small firm and ultimately to my own solo practice was hugely audacious! Being a solo meant flying without a net – no guarantees of salary or paying the rent. But once I made the decision to leave, nothing could stand in my way. Otherwise, the leap wouldn’t have been possible.
Once I decided to jump, the whole world changed. I gave myself permission to reinvent myself within the practice of law. I ditched the billable hour, took the CLE classes I wanted to, got to pick and choose my clients, got to practice only in areas that actually interest me, etc. I told anyone who would listen that I was different. I plastered all the things that make me different on my web page and all over Facebook and Twitter. And an amazing thing happened: clients started finding me on their own, and referrals started to pour in from other lawyers. My audacity in putting it all out there pays off every time the phone rings. And every time I can go home at the end of the day and have dinner with my husband, too.
If you could change your life, would you? Find out. Be audacious.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.