Success, with Style

Posts tagged “Plan for Success

Balancing Vision with Action

Posted on February 23, 2015

I live visually. I see my life, feel the sensations, smell the fragrances, and experience the feelings, before they even happen. I see my goals. This practice has served me well. Since I am always daydreaming about my life, my goals are always at the forefront of my mind. At the same time, however, because I am so visual, I have also had to deal with allowing my dreams to distract from the day-to-day and minute-by-minute actions of my life.

A delicate balance must be achieved: envisioning and acting. One cannot live without the other. If you envision without acting, then you will inevitably stall. Your vision will not come true. Similarly, if you act without planning, then you won’t ever know what it is that you are working toward, and you will not know when you have reached your goals.

Since I was accepted into one of my higher choices of Ph.D programs, I have been consumed with envisioning my life as a grad student. I’ve been doing so much visual planning: transit choices, where my partner and I will live, how I will earn money, what it will be like to work primarily from home (or more realistically, from libraries and coffee shops), how I will continue to network with the legal community, how I will continue to blog; how I will continue to grow.

I have to remember to live in the now. Because I am such a planner, and because I am great at assessing risk and determining alternative courses of action, I must allow myself to be comfortable in the moment, something that I have always struggled with. As is evident with this post, The TJ Way is not simply a “how-to.” It is also a journey, one that I humbly share with you. In that spirit, here are some tips that I have relied on in working to strike the right balance between vision and action:


It’s no coincidence that writers utilize outlining as a preliminary step in writing before getting into the meat of their work. Outlining organizes your thoughts. It provides a roadmap and helps guide research, development, and execution of your written work. I outline blog posts, legal briefs and memoranda and research papers. I also outline my life. Every year, month, week, and day, I prepare a list of goals and action steps for my life. Before I set out to publish this blog, I prepared a three-year strategic plan. In each instance, I began with a vision of what I wanted, and then I set about planning to execute that vision. Your outlines should be S.M.A.R.T.:







Sharing your vision is a great way of holding yourself accountable to your goals. Nothing says “get it done” like having an accountability partner or group checking in with you, inquiring into your progress and any obstacles you are facing, and helping you work through roadblocks.

Every person is not accountability partner material or worthy of sharing your deepest professional or personal desires. Rather than affirming your vision and encouraging your growth, some people try to deter you by questioning or belittling your choices. Beware of those shine-stealers.

Embrace, however, the people who would rather wear sunglasses around you instead of asking you to dim your light. Share your vision with those people.

(3) ACT.

Of course running a marathon when the last time you’ve run anywhere was to catch the ice-cream truck when you were 12-years old sounds like a frustratingly daunting task.

Rather than getting stuck on the size of the finished product, focus on a single step within the process. 

When you wake up in the morning, set out to do one thing that will bring you closer to realizing your vision. Before going to bed, make sure you have done that one thing. Think about the process of running a marathon, which starts with training. If you’ve never really run before, go online and find a “Couch to 5k” program and decide to complete the first running session today or tomorrow.

One goal that I plan to accomplish by January 2016 is to write a 12-15,000 word law review article. Sounds like a daunting task, right? That’s because it is. Rather than allowing myself to get caught up in the size of the project, I devised a plan and am taking a single step towards that plan every day. Although I don’t always have the time to really dig into reading every case or article related to my article topic, I have been able to start a research file that I dump my thoughts and resources into until I have time to thoroughly review them.I have also with the librarian at my job and alerted her to my goal of writing a law review article that will be published in a law journal by January. She helped me define the scope of my project and directed me to resources. Every day, I do at least one small thing to accomplish my goal.

Taking these steps means that I am not allowing myself to become engrossed in the glamour of my vision and am instead working incrementally to bring my vision to reality. I encourage you to also elevate your vision to the level of accomplishment by taking these steps.

3 Lessons Reinforced by My Quick Trip to Los Angeles

Posted on May 20, 2014



Street in Mar Vista

I recently returned to Chicago from a trip to Los Angeles, a trek I make at least once per year.  Usually, I travel to L.A. for USC Homecoming, and my trip is usually full of fun and very little relaxation and reflection.  This trip, however, was different.  My purpose for traveling to L.A. was primarily for business purposes.  I also went to celebrate my 10 year anniversary as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. with my line sisters (Delta Known As “Sands”).  As I reflect on my time leading up to this trip, my experience while there, and the follow-up resulting from the trip, I am left with three thoughts: (1) Luck is where preparation meets opportunity; (2) relaxation and rejuvenation are imperative for productivity and creativity; and (3) the more you do it, the easier it becomes.



1.  Luck is Where Preparation Meets Opportunity


It is rare that I feel lucky – aside from that occasional near death experience, and even then, I consider that a blessing and not luck.  Rather, my “luck” is the result of preparation, which allows me to take advantage of opportunities.  I am a planner, always have been, always will be.  Planning helps me feel secure on my journey.  It allows me to always know what I am working towards, and to be able to make informed decisions about the various opportunities that I am presented with and that I seek out.  My personal and professional strategic plan also allows me to see potential obstacles as opportunities. My Sands, whom I will call “Amazing Ace,” and I were talking about a possible opportunity and she expressed to me that she was genuinely impressed at the way that opportunities materialize for me, and how they all seem to fit within my bigger picture goals.  After a pause, I said that the way that opportunities fit into my bigger picture goals are largely deliberate. Although I cannot predict every single opportunity that comes my way, my planning and actions steps are strategic.  I have a written strategic plan that spans 7 years.  It includes big picture goals and action steps for accomplishing those goals. I encourage you to consider strategic planning for yourself, similar to the way in which businesses engage in strategic planning.     After all, you’re not a businessman, you’re a business, man.


2.  Relaxation and Rejuvenation are Imperative for Productivity and Creativity.  



I do my best work and have my best ideas while I am quiet and in a relaxed state.  While I am capable of, and often excel in, engaging in critical analysis while juggling many responsibilities, I have been deliberate in trying to condition my body and mind to do the hard work of serving the people and myself.  I have returned to running and have recently taken up meditation.  I am by no means where I want to be with either, and I find myself consciously working to keep my mind on the task at hand.  However, I am aware of my constant multitasking, analysis, and just plain old worrying.  Although I went to Los Angeles for business purposes, removing myself from my daily environment in Chicago forced me to take care of me.  I have always known that I often have some of my best ideas while traveling, and I always achieve an impressive level of focus when I am away from home.



At Malibu Wines

Therefore, periodically, I try to get away, even if my “get away” is a 3-hour drive to Indianapolis (I’ll be there in two weekends) or a 2-hour drive to Milwaukee.  Realizing that I cannot always get away, I will continue practicing meditation.


How do you relax and rejuvenate in order to replenish your creativity?



3.  The more you do it, the easier it becomes. 


You know what they say: Practice Makes Perfect.  It’s cheesy and quite clichéd, but very true.  You want to be a better writer, you must write (and read).  You want to get a certain score on your LSAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.?  You want to pass the Bar Exam? You better dedicate yourself to sitting down and focusing on studying for that exam, including doing practice questions and exams.



During my L.A. trip, I had my first professional photo shoot. I was a little awkward in the beginning.  Let me stop playing.  I was very awkward and unsure of myself when the shoot started.  I did not know how to move, where to place my hands, when to smile, when to “smize” (always), or how to make sure my shoulders were back and my midsection was sucked in to oblivion.  About halfway through the shoot, however, I became more comfortable.  Part of my rising comfort was that I changed out of my business suit and into casual clothes.  I also began to rely more on the photographer’s expertise and reminded myself that every photo does not have to be perfect.  I am a novice in this arena, and I am allowed to make mistakes.  More than anything, however, the longer I stood in front of the camera, the more comfortable I became in exposing myself, and the easier my smiles, smizes, and laughs came.


At the street market in the Los Angeles Garment District.

At the street market in the Los Angeles Garment District.

Practice, especially while on-the-job, makes perfect.


Now that I have done one photo shoot, I am eager to do more, and I look forward to sharing my photos.

Take Care

Posted on March 19, 2014

When I considered my month ahead, I realized that I could easily become overwhelmed.  And I decided not to allow that to happen.

Rather than see the obstacle, I choose to accept the opportunity to center myself, care for myself more than normal, and excel. Therefore:

  • I will relax by taking bubble baths at night before bed a few times this month.
  • I will eat breakfast at home without rushing.
  • I will write in my journal before work, and if time allows, while at home.
  • I will sleep without guilt.
  • I will exercise without shame or competition.
  • I will express myself, verbally, emotionally, and stylishly.

Taking these steps, so far, has allowed me to attack tasks, to not become overwhelmed, and to savor my life.  In just the first week of March, I have accomplished a great deal, and I feel motivated to keep it up.

I encourage you to try these lifestyle choices, and to come up with your own, to put forth your best effort to have a successful and stylish month. 


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