I’m a trial lawyer and when I go to court I’m usually surrounded by a lot of really smart people. For the most part, the judges are brilliant and opposing counsel usually bring their “A” game.
But here’s the deal; despite being around all these bright people day in and day out, none of them come close to being as smart as my father-in-law. His name is Mike and he’s a retired milkman.
Although he has a year or two of college under his belt, he enlisted in the army, didn’t finish his formal degree and the rest is history. What Mike did do was major in people and minor in street smarts, common sense, and hard work.
His business career started out with loading heavy milk crates onto the back of tall trucks. Twenty years later, it ended with him owning a successful dairy distributorship and being selected as Chairman of the Board of his own bank.
He retired at 52. Not bad for a milkman.
Mike’s one of the brightest guys I’ve ever been around and he’ll tell you that one of his best early decisions in life was marrying Joyce, his bride of 57 years. She’s not only been his business partner since day one, but also a big reason their three daughters have all grown up to be smart, intelligent and successful independent women.
After Mike and Joyce sold the dairy distributorship, he and some friends decided their community needed a new bank and so they started one. None of them had any banking experience and I still remember Mike sitting on the living room floor playing around with different bank logo designs, with stacks of banking regulations and documents stacked beside him for review. As things turned out, the bank thrived and was eventually sold to a large national banking institution for a very nice profit.
Mike’s Three Keys To Success
Before I married his daughter, Mike asked me if I had my priorities in the right order. The look I gave him must not have been very reassuring because he immediately added, “Mitch, here’s what you need to do. Here are my 3 keys to success:
- Make sure you put your health first because without your health you’re not going to be any good to anyone else;
- Next, comes family. Love them, support them and take care of them;
- After family comes your job or occupation. Do the best you can and don’t cut corners. Approach things in this order and everything will fall into place.”
When I first started practicing law, I thought Mike had things a bit mixed up. I believed that to be successful I had to out-work and out-hustle everyone else. Lisa and I were dating, but we were not yet married. I’d leave my apartment early in the morning and get home late at night. On weekends, I usually did the same thing. I felt that if I was able to have a successful law practice, everything would be perfect.
For those of you not familiar with Orange County, California, you should know that it is a very competitive environment. Everyone wants to look great, live in the biggest homes and drive the most expensive cars. Almost everyone you come into contact with is rich and successful, or so it seems.
I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, and I didn’t grow up in this type of lifestyle. I came to California with some pretty good values — I was taught not to spend more than you make and to treat people with respect.
The Truth About “Success”
When I started representing and sitting across my desk with some of the most “successful” people in town, I noticed that their reality was substantially different from how other people perceived it.
Most of these people were anything but happy. They’d been through multiple marriages and expensive bitter divorces. They lived in houses they couldn’t afford and drove quarter-of-a-million dollar cars financed with optimism and probably a bit of stupidity. Because of the stress, many of these guys and gals had serious medical issues by the time they hit their early 40s.
Some of these “successful’ people didn’t have good relationships with their kids because they were too busy working to pay bills they probably shouldn’t have incurred in the first place, or too busy playing the part of the fancy pants executive or business person to spend time with their families. Over the years, I became convinced that for whatever reason, it was more common for someone to be overly wrapped up with the smoke and mirrors of success than to be real, to make smart decisions, and to be there when their family needed them.
By the time I got married in 1988, Mike and Joyce had become two of my best friends. Their genuine love and friendship not only means the world to me personally, but also serves as a good example of how to respect and treat other people in business and in life.
So Let’s Talk About Your Next Delivery
The next time you’re asked to take on a new client or participate in a new project, how will you handle the decision-making process? Will you jump at the “opportunity” and push everything else to the side or, will you handle the matter like a seasoned milkman?
Here’s what I do.
Every single time I’m presented with a new client or business opportunity that’s going to take up a great deal of my time and effort, I look over at the family pictures on the credenza in my office and then ask myself, what would Mike the Milkman do? Here are the questions he’d want me to ask:
- Will the decision I’m about to make detrimentally affect my health or ability to stay healthy and manage stress?
- Will the decision I’m being asked to make result in me taking an unreasonable amount of time away from my family?
- Is this the best use of my professional time? If I say yes to this new client or business opportunity, will it help others and also help me achieve my long-term goals?
I understand that sometimes in life we all sacrifice our health, diet or family time to make ends meet and to provide for our families. Early in my career, I had a few all-nighters at the office working on pleadings and appellate briefs; I get it. We all do what needs to be done.
But here’s the deal; breaking away from Mike’s 3 keys should be the exception and not the norm. As Rabbi Harold Kushner once famously observed, “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’”
Practice Mike the Milkman’s 3 Keys to Success and I guarantee both you and your family will be glad you did.
Mitch Jackson is an award winning California Trial Lawyer and in 2013 was named one of California’s Litigation Lawyers of the Year (CLAY Award). In 2009 he was also recognized as one of Orange County’s Trial Lawyers of the Year (OCTLA). When he’s not in court trying cases, Mitch enjoys showing professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs how to use social media and live streaming to disrupt, hack and improve their professional relationships, businesses and practices. Connect with Mitch on Twitter @MitchJackson and Snapchat (CA_Lawyer). You can also reach out to Mitch via his law firm JacksonandWilson.com. Mitch’s social media, live streaming and entrepreneural tips are are shared at Streaming. Lawyer and his popular weekly talk show is TheShow.live