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What My Mom and Dad Taught Me About Being An Entrepreneur (Issue #7)

I started my legal career with no clients and big dreams. Playing basketball down by the ocean in Laguna Beach, California, was my marketing plan. A decent jump shot was my business card.

My journey from our family ranch in Tucson to attend law school in Orange County, California, required me to leave everyone behind. Some of my friends said I was foolish to leave. My instincts told me I was making the right decision. It was time for a change, and I need to get out of Dodge!
For about the first 20 years of my life, I enjoyed watching my mom and dad own and manage the “Saddle and Surrey Guest Ranch.” Every day they took good care of our guests who came out to the ranch to relax and ride horses. My dad would lead horseback rides and take guests hiking and hunting throughout Southern Arizona.
When my mom wasn’t modeling (here’s a picture of her on the cover of Newsweek Magazine), I watched her build relationships with guests during a Sunday night campfire cookout or hitting balls on the tennis court. Everything my parents did was oriented around providing a memorable experience to the guests.
I watched my mom and dad hire and train a new ranch crew of 8-10 employees each season (September through May). I watched them deal with the ups and downs of managing employees and being small business owners.
Sometimes the ranch was full of guests and other times, because of an up and down tourism industry, not so much. Sometimes the ranch crew was on its best behavior, and at other times they’d leave in the middle of the night.
At all times, the bills need to be paid, the work needed to get done, and the marketing never stopped.
My mom and dad created a lifestyle that allowed them to make their own decisions, both good and bad when it came to building out the business. We had many well-known guests visit with their families, and I had the chance to meet amazing people from around the world. All influenced how I approach life today. Here’s a picture of Walt Disney on my mom’s horse Rome.
Growing up in this environment and being exposed to how my folks ran their business, I wanted to create a lifestyle as a lawyer that would allow me to represent who I wanted to represent and, frankly, do what I wanted to do.
After moving from Tucson to Orange County, California, I traded my boots for an old pair of basketball shoes and the horse corrals for the basketball courts down at Main Beach in Laguna Beach.
All of my friends from law school took jobs with medium to large-sized law firms. They made more money in their first year of practice than I did in my first two or three years combined. I was OK with that because I didn’t want the lifestyle they had. It wasn’t for me.
My first office consisted of trading a few hours of my time each week for a small corner in their conference room and the use of their address and phone system. My satellite office was the two large boxes in the back of my red Nissan 300ZX, which was financed with high hopes and signature on a piece of paper that wasn’t worth all that much.
During my first year of practice, I started almost every morning playing ball around 9 am. My marketing and branding consisted of talking trash and winning a few games. Because of all the high fives and people I met, the phone slowly began to ring.
Two of the guys I ran the basketball court with ended up being my first two clients. I’ve never looked back.
For me, success in law would be like learning how to saddle and ride a horse. I was going to learn things one horse and one step at a time.
When marriage and kids came along, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my wife and kids. I wanted to create a business model that would allow me to take the afternoon off, coach my kids in sports, watch them participate in their school activities, and be part of their lives. I wanted to be able to travel with the family and be happy both personally and professionally.
My secret to success in the early years was two-fold. First, I never spent more than I made. I wore the same trunks and basketball shoes almost every day. The one or two suits that I owned and wore to court lasted several years. All I did 24/7 was learn the law and hustle for new business.
The second part of my early success was doing my best to be friendly, helpful and meet as many new people as possible each week. This networking formula wasn’t complicated, but it worked.
It was the exact formula I watched my folks use while growing up on the ranch. They always lived within their means and always went out of their way to build relationships and create superior client experiences for the guests.
Now I will say that when I wasn’t playing hoops or chasing Lisa (my future wife and partner) around town, I did everything I could to learn the business of practicing law. I took things seriously when I had to. 
In law school, I clerked for nine different lawyers and made an effort to remember what worked and didn’t. I made it a point not to repeat their mistakes and to duplicate their success. 
In my spare time, I studied how the best trial lawyers in the country got the results that they consistently obtained for their clients. I didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, I adjusted things a bit to fit my personality and never looked back.
The work habits I learned on the ranch are the same I took into the practice of law. There’s no substitute for taking action and hard work. I know that’s not sexy to say, but truth be told, much of my success over the years came from learning how to “read the room” and outworking the other side.
The excitement and freedom of doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, was all it took to keep me moving forward each day. Living my life this way gave me the same feeling as riding bareback at full gallop through the Tucson mountains.
Looking back thirty-five years later, I can honestly say that everything fell into place in my practice because of the work ethic and mindset I learned from my mom and dad on the ranch. 
There was no such thing as failure. Starting my firm out of the back of my car and working to make each day just a bit better than the last was the success formula that worked for me. I didn’t have time for goals; I was too busy taking constant action.
As you can probably tell, I never did and still do not define “success” by the amount of money someone makes. Over time, that part of the practice worked out nicely. But, for me, success was always about the quality of my life and being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. It’s about saying “no” when others are forced, for whatever reason, to say “yes.”
Not much has changed since my early days on the ranch, playing ball down at the beach and trying my first case. Sure, my riding skills and jump shot aren’t what they used to be, but I’m OK with that. 
Today, I’m at the top of my game as a trial lawyer. I also know what to do as a business owner and entrepreneur. As much fun as it was to hit the winning shot on the basketball court, it’s ten times more satisfying for me today to coach a young lawyer to a successful jury verdict.
So that’s the short version of my story. That’s what I learned from my mom and dad and in my early years of being a lawyer.
What about you?
How are you embracing social media and the modern day 24/7 digital basketball court to build community and referral relationships?
Look, life’s a journey. Do all you can to pass the ball and make other players in your life look good. Have fun, don’t take things too seriously, and never stop making each day your masterpiece.
I hope you found value in this story. I hope you can use it as a compass when building your digital brand.
Stay safe!
Streaming.Lawyer (my audio and video blog)
LegalMinds.Lawyer (mymastermind)
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Mitch Jackson, Esq.
Mitch Jackson, Esq. @

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Mitch Jackson, 65 Enterprise, Third and Fourth Floors, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656