Each year, at the annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning (known simply as "Heckerling"), InterActive Legal hosts a luncheon for our subscribers, prospective subscribers, and Advisors. The luncheon is our way of thanking those who support us (in addition to providing some sustenance in the middle of a marathon week), and each year we provide a program that we hope our attendees will find interesting and enlightening. This year, our program featured InterActive Legal Advisor and respected Florida estate planning attorney Alan Gassman, as well as guest speaker, Dr. Srikumar Rao. Dr. Rao is a celebrated author, speaker, and coach, helping professionals better manage and improve their lives and work, and the balance between the two1.
In the weeks since Heckerling, I have reflected on Dr. Rao's comments during our program, and in the materials I read and watched in preparation for the luncheon. Like any expert teacher, Dr. Rao weaves together several conceptual threads to illustrate his overall lesson, which is intended to guide his audience on the path to a more fulfilling life and career. To loosely paraphrase Dr. Rao, one of those threads is the notion that we, as part of our human nature, focus too intently on the results of our actions, eager to evaluate those results and categorize them as good or bad. Rather than focus on those results, Dr. Rao teaches, we should instead set a goal and then focus on the process we take to achieve that goal. By doing so, we are more present in our daily lives, and able to benefit from the process itself, regardless of whether the result is as we expected. Ironically, by focusing on the process, we often are more likely to achieve the desired result.
I know that many of you reading this will think of it simply as new-age babble, not applicable or helpful to you in your busy workday and life. I know it because I also felt that way at first. We are in a results-driven business; estate planning is just that – planning in order to bring about a certain result. Our clients come to us seeking that result, and we have a duty to do our best to achieve it, if possible. Accordingly, teachings like Dr. Rao's seem, at first glance, not only unhelpful, but anathema to what we are trying to do in our profession. However, being the diligent student, I tried to apply the concept in my work and my life, and I now see the benefit in it. By being cognizant of what we are doing each step of the way toward our goals, we are better able to learn from each experience. We are able to be more flexible and adjust our behavior along the way, which may very well lead to better results in the end. More importantly, even if the result is not what we expected, learning from and appreciating the experience allows us to understand that we have accomplished something through the process, even if not what was intended.