But one speaker in particular truly resonated with me. Her name is Whitney Johnson. Not a household name, she’s the author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When you Dare to Dream and she spoke about dreaming and disruptive innovation.
Her talk gave me hope. She confirmed that my ideas aren’t crazy. She validated my feelings as an entrepreneur, as a solo attorney, trying to do something new. I believe her ideas could be a great force in transforming the legal industry today.
Here’s what she had to say.
1. “Dreaming is your birthright.”
Most adults forget how to dream. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we are told dreaming is not for us. It’s childish. Being called a “dreamer” is a negative in our society.
But human beings are meant to dream. Without dreamers and their dreams, where would the human race be today? Dreams are disruptive forces that create things that are new, wonderful, and untested. They are powerful, scary, and move humanity forward.
I think lawyers are some of the worst dreamers. We may think creatively to help our clients, but what about ourselves? Too many lawyers are simply willing to accept that the way things are is the way it has to be.
2. “The whole purpose of life is to create and build something.”
As humans, we need to be creative and build things. Dreaming is the first step in that process. Remember that everything that was ever created existed in somebody’s mind before it became a reality.
If we aren’t creating and building, then what are we doing? We’re existing. We’re stuck. We feel like a cog in wheel and that doesn’t feel good.
3. “Don’t be fat, dumb, and happy. Dare to disrupt the status quo.”
Do you know that no railroad companies invested in the airplane industry when it was first starting out? They had the means, but they didn’t have the vision. Rather than embrace new technology, the owners of these well-established companies sat in their offices choosing to ignore the future. They were fat, dumb, and happy (so to speak) and blind to the need to disrupt themselves.
Without dreams, you get the status quo, business as usual. This is how things have always been done, so we will continue to do things this way until…
Someone decides they’ve had enough of the way things are and starts thinking about the way things could be. And that thinking leads the Dreamers to disrupt themselves, companies, industries, and the world.
Disrupting yourself means that you are moving forward and getting unstuck, which is very scary.
4. “You can’t know the end from the beginning.”
Why is dreaming scary? It’s scary because there’s an unknown in dreaming. You don’t know where your dreams are going to take you.
5. “Dreaming is a process, not a discreet event.”
Dreams change. They evolve. Where you start out may not be where you end up.
Thomas Edison had a dream of the electric light bulb. Thousands of attempts later, he succeeded.
Look at the events in Steve Jobs’ career that finally brought him and Apple to the top of the mountain. (I don’t think he ever dreamed that he would be kicked out of the company he founded!)
Trial and error, pivoting, changing course, scrapping it all and starting fresh, are all part of the Dreamer’s journey. You may actually have to take a step back, or to the side, in order to go forward.
6. “If it feels scary and lonely, you are probably on the right track.”
I think this pretty much sums up the solo life, no matter what dream you are pursuing. I know that there has been many times where I have felt scared and lonely on this journey.
Every entrepreneur I talk to has questioned and doubted themselves at some point. It’s part of the process. It doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track. It just means you’re human. You fight through it and move forward.
So here’s my question. Do lawyers dream?
There is no question in my mind that “Big Law” and the legal industry as a whole is fat, dumb, and happy, and almost completely blind to the need to disrupt the status quo. As Richard Susskind said “How do you tell a bunch of millionaires that what they’re doing is wrong?”
But the world around them is changing. Just like the railroads. They see the forces of changes (internet, off-shoring, etc.) that are disrupting the industry, but aren’t doing anything about it.
So, my fellow lawyers, can you see the possibilities for disruptive innovation in the legal industry? I can, and hope you do too.