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…