Some things you just can’t learn for yourself
“A failure is a man who has blundered but is not able to cash in on the experience.”
— Elbert Hubbard
Most people have no idea how important it is to learn from the experiences of others.
There is a sort of pride that comes from thinking that we can solve all of our own problems and difficulties.
And there comes a point in time when it is not only wise, but necessary, to learn from the experiences of others.
As I meet more and more people — and represent those people in legal and other matters — I have learned a few lessons that I absolutely must share.
1. Do Not Buy a Bentley
“My opponent is my teacher. My ego is my enemy.”
— Renzo Gracie
Do not buy a Bentley.
Let me explain.
I was working on my first litigation matter with another attorney. It was tense, but also exciting. Millions of dollars were at stake. Our client was being sued for half of the recent sale of his business.
But one thing triggered the entire lawsuit and dispute.
He sold his company for a large sum of money.
And then he wanted a car. But not just any car. The best, flashiest, car he could buy.
So he bought a Bentley.
A Bentley is an expensive car — and if other people knew that he just bought one, then he must have just come into a very large sum of money.
As soon as other people saw him driving the car, people came out of nowhere to try to stake their claim to his recent fortune.
Huge lawsuit. Big claims. Lots of money at stake. Time spent. And lots of money.
Was the car worth it?
To me, the answer is no.
But do I really think you should never buy a Bentley?
That’s up to you.
But here’s the real lesson I learned: stop trying to impress other people with the stuff that you buy.
Do not buy something to prop up your own ego. Or to brag. Or to prove your worth.
And do not display your wealth so much that it invites other people to come after it.
That’s why my advice is: don’t buy a Bentley.
2. Beware of the First Offer
“In life you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”
— Chester Karass
Stop thinking that the first offer is the only offer.
I had just graduated from law school. I had a law degree, and I had just passed the bar exam. I was brand new.
And in one of my first entertainment projects, I was working against a 30-year Hollywood attorney. He made my clients a terrible offer. It was horrible.
Basically, the first offer was this: his client gets everything (all rights, all control, all authority, all money) and my client gets to (barely) be on television.
I thought the proposed deal was horrible. But I still had to send it to my client.
When the clients saw it, they were extremely disappointed.
“How could they treat us like this?” they thought.
“This was not what we agreed on.” And it wasn’t.
Their reaction stalled the entire process. Months were wasted. Momentum stopped.
We eventually got back on track. And the actual deal was more way favorable to our side.
Even though the offer was one-sided, I learned something so valuable from it.
Here is what I learned.
- The process works like this: One side makes an offer, and then the other side accepts, rejects, or makes a counteroffer.
- If you do not like the offer, but you still have an interest, make a counteroffer. You can do something other than an outright rejection.
- Don’t let the first offer offend you — the other side is rarely going to giving you the best deal for you, unless you ask for it, and in some cases, demand it.
- Sometimes the best reaction to an offer is a counteroffer, and not just disgust or disappointment.
The above is not absolute, but I have realized that many people tend to be disappointed in the first offer. Then that disappointment leaks into all future interactions.
There is always an option to move forward on better terms.
Beware of the first offer. An offer is not deal. It’s only the first step. It can mislead, derail, and disappoint if you are not careful.
3. Stop Doing Everything Yourself
“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”
— Reid Hoffman
One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn (and am still learning) is that I cannot do everything myself.
But here’s the problem. So many people (including many authors and experts) claim that we need to delegate in order to be more productive. But when I have delegated previously, balls get dropped. Things don’t work out.
My default reaction in those cases is to stop delegating. I take over whatever needed to be done and then do it myself. And it usually eventually works.
But this is a recipe for failure as well. If I do everything myself, then I do not have time to do the most important actions — the next, right things.
There is only one solution.
4. Build the Team First: Nothing Else Matters
“Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.”
— Brian Tracy
There is something better than delegation. It is elusive, but powerful. And it is often the difference maker — the game changer — for the people that I know who achieve the most.
If you want to do something greater than anyone else, you have to make building your team a priority.
There are limits on what one person can do. We are limited by time, energy, health, sickness, and biases.
But when you put together a team, those limits can be lessened, and even eliminated.
In any endeavor, building the team is one of the most important projects.
- When I advise businesses, one of the first things I share is that you need to have a team of advisors. They can be internal or external. But you need a team of advisors: accounting, legal, insurance, finance, and others depending on the industry.
- When I started investing, I built a team of advisors so that I could make good decisions. In fact, the first thing I did — before making a single investment — was make a list of all of the advisors that I needed to be successful. Then I filled those “seats” on my team. Only then did I actually invest. The results have been incredible.
You will need different teams for different tasks. A business owner needs a different team for someone running for office. A schoolteacher needs a different team than an athlete. A writer needs a different team than a doctor.
But you always need a team.
Stop trying to do everything yourself. Building the team is the most important thing.
5. Don’t Put Everyone On Your Team
“If you loan someone $20, and you never see them again, it was $20 well spent.”
Most relationships do not last.
Meeting a new person can be exciting, especially if there is a connection. And many business or professional connections can have massive promise at the start.
But many relationships fade. Or falter. And then you might have to make a tough decision down the line.
Many times someone makes a commitment, but fails to follow through. Or the person violates the relationship.
The truth is this: building the team is an essential part of any endeavor, but not everyone is supposed to be on your team.
Sometimes it just makes more sense to cut ties rather than to keep pouring into a relationship that drains you.
My friend Jerome Vierling is actually willing to pay people more in order to facilitate moving on even faster. His belief is that if someone is not supposed to be on the team, then the sooner we know that the better.
I agree with Jerome Vierling. We have made some of these tough decisions together. We have paid vendors more just to have the relationship end faster. In the situation, it was not about the money. It was about moving to the organization’s future faster.
Building the team means adding to the team — but also keeping the right people off of the team.
Having the wrong person on your team — or in your life — can be more expensive and costly than not having anyone in that role at all.
When I managed a media department, I was so eager to get help that I brought in multiple people to work for me. A few of the people worked out, but certainly not all. I have learned that in most cases it is much more effective to add to the team only when the fit is right.
Your key relationships — your team — should be the product of intentional and deliberate addition.
It’s okay to not put everyone on your team.