As you know, last week I focused on steps to become more a more successful lawyer. I want to begin this week continuing that theme.

You likely are overlooking one “key” ingredient to your success. Even if you read my posts on success last week, you still may be missing it.

What is it? Let me answer by sharing a quote from Robert McKee’s book: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and The Principles of Screenwriting. If you are wondering why I read a book about screenwriting and storytelling, I think you will get the idea as you continue reading.

Here is the quote:

Life teaches that the measure of the value of any human desire is in direct proportion to the risk involved in its pursuit. The higher the value, the higher the risk….For we not only create stories as metaphors for life, we create them as metaphors for a meaningful life–and to live meaningfully is to be at perpetual risk.

I have coached lawyers who I have described as being “too content” with where they are in their career. I can’t help those lawyers because they are not willing to change by taking any kind of a risk.

I am not suggesting you just start taking risks. I am suggesting you take “appropriate” risks. Want to know what appropriate risks are? Watch this 3:33 long Seth Godin interview where he answers that question.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot1Ahvjo8vI

You might also find this Seth Godin blog post valuable: The risk/reward confusion and think about this line:

Here’s the problem: in most endeavors, a small increase in risk can double the reward. It’s the second doubling of reward that brings serious risk with it. But the first leap is relatively painless.

I feel like I owe my success and my passion for my law practice to taking “appropriate” risks. I will share just one of those with you.

In 1978, when I decided to build a practice representing transportation construction contractors, I had never represented a transportation construction contractor. I forced myself to learn about their legal issues and their industry, by writing a law review article, reading books and attending their association meetings.

What did I risk? I may have risked some amount of money by not spending the time doing billable work that would have been handed to me. I certainly risked a great deal of my time. I could have failed. But, if I did, I could have gone back to what I had been doing.

Fortunately, it was the best decision and the best risk I ever took as a lawyer. Are you willing to take a “relatively painless” risk?