Parvin Dad.pngMy dad’s birthday is tomorrow, March  31. If he was alive he would have been 106 today. He passed away in 1980.

My dad was an artist, a photographer, a musician, and an entrepreneur. He loved fishing and hunting. He also loved fixing sports cars.

I never gave him the chance to teach me to draw, paint or carve. I was too busy playing baseball, basketball and football. He tried to teach me to play the piano, but I wouldn’t practice so he gave up.

When I was a teenager, my dad frequently towed home sports cars that he repaired in our garage and resold. I remember the first car was a green Jaguar XK 120. He frequently tried to get me to work on the cars with him. I tried, but I got bored quickly and went back to playing baseball.

Looking back now, I can say that while I was passionate about playing baseball, hunting, fishing and working on cars together are father-son experiences we could have shared for a lifetime. I missed an opportunity.

Even though I never gave him the chance to teach me to be an artist, I believe he unknowingly taught me about art and drawing in a way that made me a better lawyer and that is the point I want for you to get from this post.

Seth Godin talks about making art. He says it has three elements:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, describes taking a week long drawing class and being taught that drawing is about seeing relationships between positive space and negative space, light and shadow, angles and proportions.

In a  blog posted a few years ago, Pencil as a Power Tool Daniel Pink talked about drawing again. He said drawing:

is a terrific way to develop the aptitude of Symphony, the ability to put together seemingly unrelated pieces to create something new.

I believe my dad taught me to see things others did not see. I had a unique interest in anticipating what might impact my clients. I believe I had the aptitude of Symphony. Lawyers I coach have heard me suggest many times to:

  1. Identify a client problem, opportunity or change before the client does
  2. Create a remarkable solution
  3. Give it away

That is what making art as a lawyer is all about. If you are not making art, consider taking a drawing class or a photography class and focus on relationships of things to other things. Then, diligently read business news and industry publications.

Are you making art as a lawyer? If your father is still alive, what experiences are you sharing?

What is your game plan for becoming a better and more successful lawyer in 2014? A group of lawyers I coached asked me for some ideas of what they might read and discuss over the next two months.

I suggested they spend the first two months this year striving to become more creative by reading two books. First, I recommended a book by Josh Waitzkin titled: The Art of Learning.

Most of you probably do not recognize his name. He was portrayed in the movie: Searching for Bobby Fisher. Here is a video clip from ABC News.

Have you played chess? I actually was a serious player during law school, playing almost every weekend.

Like many others, I bought books and memorized every possible opening. Unlike me and most other students of the game, when he was first learning chess, Waitzkin’s coach had him focusing on endings, not openings. Waitzkin says:

Children who begin their chess education by memorizing openings tend to internalize an entity theory of intelligence. Their dialogues with teachers, parents and other children are all about results, not effort. They consider themselves winners because so far they have won. In school they focus on what comes easy to them and ignore the subjects that are harder. On the playground, they use the famous: ‘I wasn’t trying’ after missing a shot or striking out.’

These children grow up and go to law school. In law school they learn what is necessary to do well on the exams. Then they learn what is necessary to pass the bar. They are great at left brain thinking, but have not exercised the right side of their brain. As young associates in law firms they play it safe and focus on what comes easy to them.

I like this quote from the book:

The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.

Two lawyers I coach are reading Daniel Pink’s book:  A Whole New Mind. When the Outstanding Women Lawyers’ Roundtable meets in Fort Worth in June, we will have a session about the chapter titled: “Symphony.”  He describes symphony as:

Symphony, as I call this aptitude, is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair.

If you want a good discussion of symphony, read: More Than Our Minds, or you might enjoy spending a few minutes watching this video clip.

This is the skill I find most young lawyers need to develop.

Daniel Pink suggests that one of the best ways to develop this skill is to learn how to draw. Pink went to a class based on Betty Edwards book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” It turns out that drawing classes are not about learning to draw, but rather about learning to see relationships. I hope to include a drawing session during our Outstanding Women Lawyers’ Roundtable.

So, if you want to become a more successful lawyer in 2014, think about what you can do you to see relationships you have been missing. Get a group together to read these two great books and brainstorm ideas from each of them.

P.S. Did you receive two blog posts from me yesterday? No, I am not planning on posting two a day. When I finish drafting a post there is a button to Save it and a button to Publish it. I guess I was not paying close enough attention to what button I was clicking on. Oh, well…