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It’s Not the Piano – What Jimmy Iovine Learned from Elton John. 

hammer law made in wood with gold stripe holding some dolars that are in top of the base of the hammer. In the background there are some books and a law balance structure made in wood as well.

I recently watched The Defiant Ones, the incredible docu-series about Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine and their rise to the top of the music world.  While there are many lessons and takeaways from this series, one, in particular, stood out to me – Iovine’s story about Elton John.

When Iovine was young, he got a job at a music studio sweeping floors and doing odds and ends.  He was looking for a foot in the door, so he took it (another great lesson – but if you’re a lawyer, you’ve already got your foot in the door).  Well, as Iovine tells the story, Elton John was supposed to come into the studio one day, but all they had was a dusty old piano.  The night before, they kept tuning the piano over and over and trying to get it to make a world-changing sound worthy of Elton John, but they couldn’t.  Any time someone played it, they all shook their heads with fright at the thought of Elton John playing this terrible piano.  Without enough time to secure a new grand piano, they held their breath and hoped for the best.  

The next day Elton John came in, and at the moment of truth, the tension was through the roof.  Then Elton started to play… and he made that piano sound like one of the best in the world.  What a relief – but more importantly, what a lesson.  It’s not the piano; it’s the piano player.  

This is a hard lesson to admit to ourselves.  It’s a truth and reality I shied away from for years.  Early in the years of running my own law firm, I always had an excuse for why someone else’s firm was more successful than mine.  It must be the type of law they practice, I said.  If only I practiced [insert any other type of law here], I would clearly have a multi-million dollar law firm. The thing is – it’s not the type of law; it’s the owner.  It’s you.  That’s a hard thing to look in the mirror and admit.  But once you do, it’s the most freeing thing you can ever do for yourself because you take back control of your success.  Blaming the type of law, the economy, or any other factor whatsoever is designed to protect your ego and make you feel better.  But time will wash away that temporary self-exalt.  When you take back responsibility for your success, then you can actually do something about it.  From there comes empowerment.  It’s called extreme responsibility.

You see, believing that it’s the piano that makes the player or the business that makes the owner completely ignores the thousands of hours of practice time that the musician put in that the rest of us didn’t. It ignores the decisions the business owner made to become successful and to grow their practice that the rest of us haven’t.  Show me a successful business owner, and I’ll show you, someone that has taken risks, has worked on self-improvement, and that has adopted the mindset of extreme responsibility – that they control their destiny, not some magical force like the economy, the type of law, or the type of piano.  

When Tony Robbins says, “the chokehold on 80% of any business is the mindset of the leader,” he’s absolutely right.  Either you have worked on your own mindset, which allows you to make a decision to grow your business and then take action consistent with that decision, or you haven’t.  Do you know someone that knows they need more help, but they toil for months with the idea of hiring and never make any moves?  That’s a mindset.  Meanwhile, the law firm owner down the street made the decision, then made the hire, then trained their person, and now has an extra 10-20 hours a week to continue to work on themselves and the business.  It’s actually not rocket science, and it’s not complicated.  But it is tough – because the only difference in scenarios one and two is the mindset – and mindset awareness requires extreme responsibility.  

I know a lot of family law attorneys who have grown their practices rather quickly, so I used to tell myself, “if only I practiced family law.”  But what I ignored was the fact that there are ten times as many family law attorneys not growing their business.  It’s not the type of law, is the mindset of the owner.  It’s not the piano; it’s the piano player.  Nowadays, I hear people say, “if only I practiced business law,” and I get a chuckle.  I’m now the person people discount by making excuses.  And while it’s flattering, instead of soaking it all in, we’re paying it forward with Get Staffed Up and helping lawyers change their mindset and take action.  

The good news here is that you don’t have to be Elton John to grow your law firm.  You just have to admit to yourself that you and you alone are responsible for your success and that every decision you make – like to get more help or not – is directly shaped by your mindset.  The choice is yours.  Our very self-aware call to action – because we know we can help you as we’ve helped many others – is to contact us today, and let’s talk about what’s interfering with your growth and what we can do about it.  Take extreme responsibility.  Contact us today.

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