Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Offense is the Best Offense: Creating an Indefensible Position for your Adversaries

In the movie The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey makes a comment that has more widespread significance than the writers probably intended.  He states that "the greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

People frequently say that the best offense is a good defense.  That actually doesn't make sense.  I understand the thrust of their proposition, but the best offense is an offense that is indefensible.  The best defense is a a defense that is impenetrable.  One way to make sure your adversaries do not have a impenetrable defense is by making them think you don't have a good offense.  That's why the devil's convincing the world he doesn't exist works so well.  Because people put their guard down.  They stop defending. 

A few weeks ago, the 13-0 Green Bay Packers came to Kansas City.  My wife gave me an early Christmas present by getting tickets to the game.  The Packers have been my favorite team since I was about eight years old.  And this was the only professional game that I'd ever been to. 

The Packers have been absolutely unstoppable this year.  And the Chiefs, well, have been quite stoppable.  But through the entire game, the Packers couldn't contain the Chiefs offense.  Not that the Chiefs scored a ton of points, but that it seemed as though the Chiefs could pass ten yards at a time, at will.  Why do you think this was?  I tend to think that the Packers were over confident in their own abilities and underestimated their opponents abilities. 

We can utilize these analogies in our own lives.  Make sure that people don't see you coming.  There is a time to be professional and competent.  And I'm not proposing to feign ignorance.  I'm just proposing that it would be much better to be underestimated and win, right? 

I know an attorney that sometimes seems unkempt and non-caring.  For instance, one day the right side of his shirt was completely un-tucked.  Suit, suit-coat, button-up shirt and tie . . . and half of the shirt un-tucked.  The next day?  Suit with no coat, french-cuffs with cuff links, but the cuffs were folded contrary to the creases and looked sloppy.  I don't know if he did this on purpose (and these were NOT the only two instances of wardrobe malfunction), but at first glace, you could question his ability to lawyer.  However, when you read his briefs or and saw him when he spoke, you instantly knew you had underestimated him and under prepared.  This guy was good. 

Its interesting to watch young attorneys interact with each other, judges, and attorneys senior to them.  Some of them try way too hard to seem competent.  Their behavior isn't congruent with their own beliefs about themselves and it shows as self-consciousness. 

Just because we're young doesn't mean we're incompetent.  You don't have to prove to others you're competent through your interactions.  If you're good, they'll know it by the trail of success you leave behind you.  Don't think that your young age, or few years of experience makes you any less.  Some may know of this quote, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example . . ."  Even Superman had to start somewhere . . .

And remember, if someone underestimates you because you're young, you just gained a powerful advantage.  They will not see you coming.  So utilize their over-confidence by using a great offense on their indefensible position.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sacking Armchair Quarterbacks: How to Keep your Critics from Ruining your Day

Critic: "One who tends to make harsh or carping judgments; a faultfinder."  That is not my definition.  That is one of three definitions one can find on my favorite dictionary source.  Dictionary.com. (I have downloaded about five apps for my phone.  I'm halfway embarrassed and halfway proud to say that one of them is Dictionary.com.  I'm embarrassed to say one of them is Pumpkins v. Monsters.)

A faultfinder.  Remember this term for a few minutes. 

Undoubtably, you've been the victim of critique.  Undeniably, you've been the subject of carping judgments.  Unquestionably, you've been the target of harsh and mostly unwarranted faultfinding.  It probably didn't feel very good did it?  You know what?  I know a secret.  I know how to make those feelings go away.  I didn't say I know how to make those PEOPLE go away.  They're like the mythological Hydra.  You chop off one head and three more pop outta the nasty stump . . . Anyway, I do know how to make sure you don't have those feelings anymore.

Remember to roll your Rs.  Like the Hydra, these three heads will repopulate as you implement them.

Recess - When you get criticized (and I mean unwarranted, unconstructive criticsm), just take a break.  Stop what you're doing, sit down, let the unsavory feeling of defeat sink in.  (Now don't over do it!  Don't throw yourself a pity party!)

This break will give you two distinct opportunities you need.  The first, and most ideal, purpose of this recess is for holding your tongue.  Critics love drawing you out.  Critics LOVE ratling you.  Don't let them!  Critics love making you squirm.  So don't squirm.  If you take a short recess, you'll find that you won't say something you regret.  And you get to gather your thoughts for a response (which I don't advise doing!)

Second, this recess will give you exactly enough time to determine if the critique has merits.  Even if the critique is from your most notable enemy, remember that they probably see you differently than you want to be seen.  In any case, take note of the critique long enough to evaluate your actions in light of your beliefs and morals.  If they check out, move ahead 5 spaces to "Recast." 

Recast - Recast means to reorganize or build up.  This second stage is vitally important.  You won't be able to move to the third step without it.  You should think about the critics and the event being critiqued.  Also think about the direction you're headed in and the purpose for your actions. 

What I've found is that MOST critics are only critics.  I mean THAT'S ALL THEY DO!  They aren't really progressing like you are.  They aren't going for it! They aren't putting their reputation on the line like you are!  They aren't really attempting anything! That's why they have the time to critique you.
A lot of them are armchair quarterbacks that won't make a decision.  But then they'll degrade everyone after someone does finally act.  (Remember MOST.)  Some actually are just grumpy that won't be happy at all.  But that doesn't take away the fact that you're still doing something.

Maybe you did mess up.  Remember, the word faultfinder? We all have faults. Your critics have faults. And to be honest, your critics are probably really good at identifying their own weaknesses . . .

Once you've realized that your critics don't have any REAL bearing on you or your situation, then you're ready for the next step.  If you are now smiling about your critics lack of drive and initiative, move ahead 2 spaces to "Release."

Release - This step is when the unsavory feelings go away.  Once you have evaluated yourself to determine if change is needed, and recast the situation to understand that you're progressing, now you must know that this criticism won't hold you back.  The only thing that is holding you back is hanging onto the upsetting words.  If you're bitter towards someone, I'll guarantee that they've moved on.  They don't care that you hold a grudge.  Chances are, they don't even know. 

So draw out your confidence and get moving.  Keep progressing! And know that you'll get criticized again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

4L: What to do when . . . You get your first responsive pleading

From the Gemini Geek -
 thegeminigeek.com
Come one! Come all! Welcome to the emotional roller coaster! Step right up! And defy your inner constitution!  Your one ticket gets you one responsive pleading! Prepare yourself as you're taken to the top of the track and dropped 300 feet in two seconds . . .!

If you're a new attorney and you've already received your first responsive pleading, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you're not a new attorney, and you've received a reply brief, or Suggestion in Opposition recently, you're in the same spot.

Let's deal with the new kids on the block first.  Chances are, you've gotten an answer to a complaint.  And that first answer completely took the wind from your sails.  Well, here's the first piece of encouragement.  IT WAS A PLEADING AS A MATTER OF COURSE for your opposing counsel (OC).  OC didn't personally tell you're wrong, you're inexperienced, or you'll pay their attorney's fees.  That was probably one of several answers they filed this week, and most of them probably look very similar.  I'll bet they all asked for dismissal with costs paid by someone other than them.  That's just how it goes . . .

The other piece of encouragement comes now: Tom Bender, a very experienced, highly respected, successful attorney told a bunch of us youngsters something that I've tried to remember every day I file something against BigLaw.  He said this, "You younger attorneys, at the beginning of your career, are probably only 5% less competent than successful attorneys that have been doing it a while."  And I believe him.  After all, you do have the same degree and professional licensure.  You just have to learn how to use it.  And you will.   And you are.  Don't sell yourself short.

My story:  My first responsive pleading came one month after I became an attorney.  And the OC happened to be at one of, if not THE biggest, most reputable firms in the city . . . My next responsive pleading? Bigger city; bigger firm.  Do you know what these did to me?  I saw the outside of the envelope with "BigLaw" letterhead addressed to "Mr. Jonathan D. McDowell, Esq." and started shaking.  I started reading the answer and became nauseous.  Then I read, "dismissed with costs . . ." and it nearly knocked me off my feet.  I can remember reading it while standing in front of my office chair.  I sat down with all confidence sucked from my being . . .
From Boxing 360 - http://www.boxing360.com/

Once I recovered a few days later (by that I mean "after laying in fetal position for three days"), I did some research, I looked at my facts again, I realized my client's case was great, and then I responded.
 
For the experienced folks:  I don't think this changes, does it?  Although I don't feel AS bad when I get a reply, I still panic and think that my case is terrible and we're gonna lose!  The Chair of the Missouri Bar Solo and Small Firm Committee, Chris Wendlebo and I were discussing this exact issue.  He has been practicing for about 12 years.  He told me that almost every time he gets a response telling him he's wrong, he panics.  And then he looks at his arguments again, realizes they're strong, and understands he has the higher ground. 

From Tech Shout - www.techshout.com
Bottom line kiddos: You're not alone.  You're panicking with the rest of us!  However, just know that some of these responsive pleadings are a matter of course and are no reason to get excited.  When you do get the wind knocked out of your sails, try to get your sails back up as soon as possible.  You're not dumb.  You're not a loser.  You don't have a terrible case.  You're smart.  You're passionate.  You're competent. 

You're an attorney.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Wait of Glory

C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis authored "The Weight of Glory." It is a compilation of his sermons that he delivered for giving hope and encouragement to people aduring World War II.  Although some of my posts are not specifically for attorneys, this one is.

When a client calls on me to represent them in any matter, it occurs to me that these people are entrusting to me a very sensitive and delicate situation in their lives.  And not only that, they are glad to shell out a large chunk of money for me to do so.  Most times this happens, it strikes me how heavy this situation really is.  The 'weight' of this situation compels me to be thankful to the person that has chosen me.  There are months that I don't catch a new client and thus don't increase my income.  But I know that if I continue to feel the "weight" of gratitude, I will eventually come into "glory." 

For other attorneys that read this, I encourage you to send thank you cards to your clients (or the most recent clients if your client list is too large to make this feasible) with a genuinely thankful heart.  Your authentic thanks in a hand-written note will make a HUGE impact on your client.  And in turn your reputation will grow.  Your practice will grow.  Your fulfillment will grow.  And eventually you will not have to "wait" for "glory", but feel the "weight of glory."

I'm continually thankful for my clients.  I understand the trust that you've given me and I do not take it lightly.  Thank you.
From http://karlagarrard.wordpress.com/ - Karla's Blog

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

4L: What to do when . . . You get your first client

OK boys and girls! This is it! You've finally delved into the practice of law because you now have a client!!!!! Congratulations! Throw a party!  . . . and then become very afraid . . . (which you've probably already done).  But don't fret, because you're worth your rate even if you don't think so.  Well it IS true.  And now we're going to increase your worth.

Now that someone has actually decided to hire you, what should you do?  You need to decide where to meet the client, what to bring to the meeting, and what to say (or better yet, how to act).

Where to meet
That really depends on if you're practicing out of your house, your parents' basement, or an office.  If you're practicing out of your home, you should be aware of some issues that make it hard to meet there.

First, are you willing to allow a person you don't really know come into your home? When I practiced out of my parents' basement, and then out of my downtown apartment, I never was willing to do that.

Second, is your home ADA compliant?  If you're not in a wheelchair, it probably isn't.  In that case you should punt your meetings to another place.

Third, can you maintain a professional atmosphere in the home? And by this I mean DO YOU HAVE A FREAKING OFFICE IN YOUR HOME (my father would not approve of that euphemism, however, he has used it recently [at the age of 77])?  If you are going to meet in your kitchen, bedroom, or even at your dinning room table, you may consider heading to a quiet corner (CONFIDENTIALITY) of a Panera or Starbucks (this recommedation is in no way an endorsement of either business and until I receive advertising checks from either, it will remain that way ;-)). 

Also, if you practice from home, getting out will help you defeat the feelings of isolation and help create an emotional disconnect from your home workspace.  Take every opportunity you can to get out of the house if you practice from home.  The sun will do wonders for an unmotivated day.

When I practiced out of my downtown loft, we had a downstairs conference room and lounge.  I opted for that and it always seemed credible to my clients (I also had a security officer that would have to call me down so it seemed much more big-time than it really was).

I've also offered to meet at the client's home, and they've appreciated this depending on their situation. This can also be dangerous and I would not recommend female attorneys meeting at a male client's home (I'm old fashioned, but "old fashion" trumps "kidnapped and mangled death" . . . I win).

If you work from an office . . . meet at the office.

What to Bring
You need to bring a pad of paper for notes.  You need to bring two pens (if your only one stops working, you'll look unprepared).  You need to bring two fee agreements.  You need to bring a client intake sheet for their personal information.  You need to bring something to bring these in.  You need to bring a mind of research. 

Hopefully you spoke to the new client enough to know what AREA of law this is.  You should do some foundational research on the issue at hand, and some offshoot areas.  And this isn't because you're going to resolve the issue.  It is simply so your clients think you know what you're talking about.  You must instill confidence in them here.

What to Say (How to Act)
Control the situation, but listen.  Your new client will be expecting you to tell them what to tell you.  They'll be expecting you to tell them when to tell you.  They'll be expecting you to tell them what you know.  As this may be your only meeting before you go to court to argue a motion, or before drafting a pleading, get as much information as you can here.  Ask them to tell the story from the top, in excruciating detail.  And take notes.  Not so much that you miss it, but enough that you get the issues for later.  After they tell you, then tell them. 

Tell them the area of law.  Tell them what the courts generally say in these instances.  Tell them the TRUTH.  It they have a case that will lose, you better tell them! You'll be on the hook later anyway!  If they have a losing case, tell them how you're softening the blow, or at least protecting the amount they will lose.  CLIENTS APPRECIATE THIS. THEY DO. NO, SERIOUSLY... THEY DO.

Fee agreement time . . . dun, dun, dun . . . Why is it so hard to ask people for money for services you just don't believe in?  I know it is.  But the client believes in you, so don't let your feelings of inadequacy get in the way.  Say, "Ok, I can do [rattle off what you're going to do in their case] and here's what I charge . . ." (look at the market, but $175.00 - $225.00 per hour won't scare most clients in larger areas.  If you're in a smaller areas $125.00 per hour will do).  You have to be confident here.  Don't offer discounts, or lead on that your rate is too high.  I've done that.  I never got paid . . .

When I say, "You WILL PAY ME OR I'LL THROW THE GAME," I get paid . . . Seriously though, if you're confident in your rate, and ask for the money, you'll get the money.  Don't apologize. 

Get both agreements signed and send one with them.  Have them fill out the intake form while you're closing the deal.  Thank them for their time, tell them you'll be in touch (because you will be sending an engagement letter), and send them on their way.

Congratulations! You have a client.  Now get to work. 

Sincerely,

Your Dear Wormwood





Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why you suck as an attorney . . . No Seriously

You NEED to read this if you practice law.  If you don't, you may end up sucking.  This is from a client's perspective, so if you're wondering what they think about you, look no further . . .

READ ME! . . . and you won't suck . . . 

And we all know you don't want to do that . . .

With Love,

Lionheart

Sunday, November 6, 2011

4L: What to do when . . .

Law School,  It's prestigious. It's honorable.  It's professional.  It's tough, it's exhausting, and it makes you think like a lawyer.  It also gives you just enough tools to go out and get yourself into trouble.

 If you have recently passed the bar, you are now equipped to take your clients to court.  You are equipped to receive payment for the services you render.  You are now equipped to practice law.

The problem with practice, in any endeavor, is if you practice incorrectly, you begin to develop habits that keep your growth to a minimum.  And the problem with law practice is that you DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO START!

One thing law school does not do is help you successfully engage in the practice of law.  With the amount of law graduates that begin a solo practice right out of law school, or join up with other recent grads to make a small firm, there should be something out there that tells these armed-and-dangerous attorneys where to aim their weaponry and how to discharge it appropriately.

I'm not a genius, or a law practice guru.  But I am a young attorney that has learned some fundamental practice tips over the last year of practicing by myself.  I've learned with the help of experienced mentors and the school of hard knocks.  Thus, I will begin to periodically publish a series of practice lessons for the recent law-school-graduate-solo-attorney -- or more aptly called: the 4L.

Some of them will be:
- What to do When . . .You Don't Have Clients Part 1 . . . Relationships
- What to do When . . . You Don't Have Clients Part 2 . . . Learning the Law

- What to do when you meet your first client
- What to do when you get your first responsive pleading
- What to do when you write your first complaint
- What to do when you argue your first motion
- What to do when go to court for the first time
- What to do when when you need to file your first federal pleading using the ECF electronic filing system
- What to do when meet other attorneys to develop a referral base
- What to do when you rent your first office space
 - What to do when you get removed to federal court for the first time

I will also be answering specific questions that 4Ls (and anyone else) need answerin'.  If you have a situation that needs practice tips, please email me and I will make your question the next blog in the series.  And I don't mean questions that require you to do a little research!  Do your own independent research (and DO use Google) to get a foundational answer.  You will be better off when you actually ask.  Just remember, it is not like grade school, there are dumb questions . . . :-)

www.lawmcd.com


Here's to a safe and happy malpractice-free practice!



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones

Adversity.  Opposition.  Setback.  Why do these words bring us emotional discomfort?  Some of you are already thinking about specific circumstances you're going through right now.  And you're tensing up and getting anxious.

And that is completely understandable.  I face opposition on a daily basis in my law practice.  And typically I take the worry home with me.  Why?  Because I think I will lose the case.  Or I think I will lose my clients' confidence.  Or I think I'll look stupid in front of nine appellate judges.  And those worries are pretty minor to your cancer, or dying son, or you property foreclosure.

Now think about what life would be like without your adversity . . . Without your cancer . . . Without someone trying to harm you . . . Without your accuser telling lies . . . It may seem nice for a moment, but I don't think we would do very well without it.

Adversity is a motivator.  It forces you to move.  It is a teacher.  It forces you to make decisions.  It forces you to stand up for what really matters to you.  It forces you to evaluate what does really matter to you.  Adversity makes you strong . . . If you let it.

How do we let suffering produce perseverance in us?  How do we let perseverance produce character in us?  We have to turn our stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

I had a situation that has been the single most stressful event in my life.  And then add trying to complete a law degree and a MBA while this is happening.  And at this point, I had just started a relationship with my then future wife.  I remember certain days that I was nearly nauseous with feelings of despondency.  I literally did not know what to do with my adversity on a regular basis.  At that time I thought everyone was against me.  I thought my career would be hindered.  I thought my dreams were collapsing in front of me.

Looking back, I can see that the ENTIRE situation was beneficial to me (well and to my wife).  Because I was faced with some unbelievable opposition on a daily basis, I was forced to take steps to rebuff it.  I was forced to encounter people to plead my cause.  I was forced to learn how to write assertively but kindly.  I was also forced to understand what many of my clients go through daily.  Fear and unfounded accusing.

One of the MOST important lessons from that time was that I developed life altering relationships with some of my favorite people.  I became closer to people that have been a blessing to me time and time again.

Not everyone was against me.  My career hasn't been hindered.  In fact it has been fantastically benefited.  My dreams were not crushed.

Although you may feel like I did, it is not true.  You are facing this for a purpose.  You are facing this adversity to be shown with high character.  You are facing opposition to be an example for others when they face their adversity.  

When you're faced with constant adversity, utilize that time to find out who you are, what you're good at, and where you're going.  With each act you take, see it as an opportunity to learn something new.  See it as an opportunity to build new relationships.  Turn your suffering into perseverance, and your perseverance into character.  Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Let's Get Meta-Physical



I'd like to hear Olivia Newton John sing that . . .

Meta-physics - the branch of philosophy that treats of first principles, includes ontology and cosmology, and is intimately connected with epistemology. Also, a treatise (4th century b.c.) by Aristotle, dealing with first principles, the relation of universals to particulars, and the teleological doctrine of causation.

Ontology - the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being as such.

Cosmology - the art or profession of applying cosmetics. . . . Wait that's cosmetology . . . Cosmology is "the branch of philosophy dealing with the origin and general structure of the universe, with its parts, elements, and laws,and especially with such of its characteristics as space, time, causality, and freedom."

Epistemology - a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.

Teleology - the doctrine that final causes exist.

Now that we got THAT outta the way . . .

So here's the deal. I hear all kinds arguments against the existence of God. I hear about how religious adherents are not intelligent (really, it's only Christians. I've yet to hear a person admonish an Islamist or an Atheist for using emotion instead of logic) . Nor are they tolerant. In fact, Christians in particular are intolerantly and disgustingly exclusive. These arguments are chock-full of metaphyiscal reasons why the atheist, or the evolutionist, or the existentialist is absolutely correct and Christians are wrong.





















Two observations:

Observation 1) Anyone who condemns the Christian for being exclusive while arguing an exclusive position negates their own argument. Even if they argue that everyone is correct in their arguments except those adhering to exclusivity. Now they are excluding the one thought and thus condemning their own argument. Furthermore, many times, the argument gives "evidence" that does not exist. This cartoon showing a baseball is never the case in these debates. Many times, the argument that Christianity does not have evidence for reason is "proven" without evidence (merely the supposition) that God does not exist, or that evolution happened.

For instance, the "there is no God" argument because of world suffering is intrinsically riddled with fallacies. If you argue that no just God would allow such things, you must assert the following: A) There is moral good and bad (because you are now telling me that suffering is bad and not suffering is good), and B) that moral good has been established by something (if there is a good or bad, which you assert, it comes from somewhere, if not from yourself as judging what is good and bad). So if morality is there and you are judging morality, then there must be a standard of morality. Now you must determine the source of morality. If you argue that we each have our own standard, then your argument falls on its face. If my moral standard is lower than yours, I can say that God would allow such things to happen. You say that your standard would not allow it, arguing for exclusivity of your standard of morality. Back to square one.

Logically, there is a better chance that all religions and ideologies are wrong and then there is of all being right.

However, giving the ontological reason for suffering (i.e., sin and fall of man) ceases the circular arguendo.

Observation 2) Between existentialism and Christianity, Christianity is the only logical belief system. Blaise Pascal, the SCIENTIST and mathematician put it this way: We cannot be certain of the existence of God or the non-existence of God. If you believe God does not exist and are wrong, you have everything to lose. But if you believe in God and are wrong, you still fulfill a existentialist's perfect reality. If you believe in God and are right, you are in paradise.

The best part about this blog post: it will not have any effect on those that adhere to the idea that Christians are stupid or exclusive. And in that, I prove my point.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Makin' a Comeback

Hey Friends!

It has been too long since I've been blogging.  I don't say "writing" because I've been writing everyday . . . just not the type that has general interest to most of the world wide web.  For instance, I have a brief due to the Missouri Court of Appeals on Monday, which means I'll have to send the original and nine copies today, or rush them off tomorrow.

However, I still have to tweak my last argument and put together the appendix (not my favorite part).

Some blogging topics that will be coming down that pike include to transform negative situations into growth opportunities, how meta-physics affect us all, and the some legal considerations businesses may have and not know it.

Stay tuned!


Reinventing the Wheel

New article of the Regent Global Business Review.

http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/rgbr/home.shtml

I authored the first article title, "Reinventing the Wheel: A New Spin on American Business Leadership."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Divining Your David: How to Tap into Your Inner Underdog. pt. 4 of 4 - Purpose



OK! So here we are at the final part. This weapon is the most POWERFUL of the underdog's arsenal. This last aspect of the underdog pulls, Pt. 1 - PreparationPt. 2 - Perseverance, and Pt. 3 - Grit together for the final conflict.


Purpose - No underdog can prevail without purpose. Think about it. Luke Skywalker's purpose was to turn Darth Vader from the dark side of the force. Rocky was avenging Apollo Creed. Nacho Libre reigned victorious for EncarnaciĆ³n and the orphans.

Whether it's for good over evil, friendship, or love, you must have a purpose OUTSIDE of yourself.  Why is this so important? Lets see what our three traits literally mean.

Preparation - any proceeding, experience, or the like considered as a mode of preparing for the future.
There must be a point in the future that preparation is moving towards.  Without purpose, preparation will be unfocused, inefficient, and undisciplined.


Perseverance - steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
Perseverance is persistence towards a purpose! Without an ultimate purpose one cannot persevere as with an ultimate purpose.


Grit - firmness of character; indomitable spirit.
How does a person begin to embody a firmness of character? By having a reason to do so. Think about the things that do not matter to you. Will you be firm in your decisions or actions? Think about the things that matter a great deal. You will have a firmness in character, or grit, in those things.


What is purpose? 
"The reason for which something exists." I like to think of a person's purpose as "calling." A calling is a summons from someone or something. What is your calling? Why do you exist? Stop for 5 seconds and ponder this . . .


What was David's purpose?
In I Sam. 17:46 David tells Goliath why he's fighting him. David challenges Goliath with this: "This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee . . . that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel." David's actions all point to this calling. He has been preparing for a future event and is now fearless in the face of intimidation and adversity. He doesn't let a lack of resources deter him, and no one can stand in his way. He is resolute in his actions to prove to all that "there is a God in Israel."

What's an underdog story without an ending? Remember when David promised he would take Goliath's head with a sling?

"As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran."

Find your purposeprepare for it, persevere to it with grit. Join the underdogs in a dramatic and memorable victory in your life-changing encounter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Divining Your David: How to Tap into Your Inner Underdog. pt. 3 of 4 - Grit

So far, we've found out the first two characteristics of an underdog.  In Part 1 - Preparation, we determined that underdogs are prepared first, then have an opportunity. They do not necessarily prepare for the opportunity at hand.  In Part 2 - Perseverance, we saw that underdogs maintain a single-course mindset.  Although they may be derailed by events, circumstances, and discouragements, underdogs return to a path that will lead them to their life-changing encounter. This time, we'll see the inner resolve of an underdog and their dogged determination to keep getting back up.

Grit - One of the things that makes underdogs so fascinating is their ability to keep getting back up. At first glace it seems as if these characters have resilience . . . and they probably do. But upon a deeper examination, it can be seen that underdogs have more than resilience. They have grit.

Grit is that intangible, immeasurable inner strength that gives birth to mental toughness. Think of Rocky. In his fight against Drago, he is getting absolutely destroyed. Rocky is much smaller, he's bloodied, he's tired, and he's expected to lose. Somehow, somewhere inside, Rocky continues to find the inner strength to keep standing back up. The only way Rocky will not stand is if he cannot physically stand. But his mind won't listen to his body and he continues to rise . . .

David shows the same mental toughness, but against a different foe: intimidation. We last saw David attempting to wear Saul's armor. He's not used to the armor and probably cannot move around well so he decides not to wear it.  Instead, David goes and equips himself with a weapon that he can use. "[H]e took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand . . ." I Sam. 17:40.

So David is heading into battle with his shepherd's staff, which is basically a thick stick, and a sling-shot with five rocks . . . David heads out to Goliath. A man that stands over 9 feet tall, with 125 pound chain mail, a bronze breastplate, bronze helmet, bronze shin guards, and a spear with a 15 pound spear-head.

Goliath sees this small, ill-equipped youth and lets David know his fate. "Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field." I Sam. 17: 44.  Goliath isn't going to beat David up . . . He isn't going to humiliate him . . . He's going to kill David, and then leave his body for hungry scavengers! At this point I would start thinking about the reasonableness of my situation. But David doesn't! He has grit!

David tells Goliath, "I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases [sic] of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth." David is no only threatening Goliath with death and decapitation, but that Goliath's entire army will be devoured! Does David expect to take off Goliath's head with a stick . . .?! Or slingshot . . .?!

There is an inner strength that all underdogs possess.  It is a unstoppable drive to keep moving into the direction of the enemy. To keep rising from the mat. To keep bearing down into the battle. Why have you not encountered your life-changing battle? Did you stop pursuing your dream for fear of failure? Did you stop defending your position because the company is too big with too many resources?

If you want to win, you cannot quit. You must have "an indomitable spirit." You must have grit.

Stay tuned for the final characteristic tomorrow . . 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Divining Your David: How to Tap into Your Inner Underdog. pt. 2 of 4 - Perseverance

Last time we examined how underdogs are fully prepared for their lifetime opportunity. You can read it here: Part 1 - Preparation. This time we'll explore the underdog's ability to stay the course to reach that opportunity through . . .

Perseverance - Think about your favorite underdog (either from part 1, or on your own).  I'll use Luke Skywalker.  Luke had many setbacks, failures, discouragements, and fought seemingly insurmountable odds.  However, not once did he question whether he would finish his training and battle Darth Vader again.  Perseverance is not just the ability to keep going when it's tough (we'll examine that in part 3).  Perseverance is the dogged perspective that the path ahead leads to one thing: the life-changing encounter. Luke understood that every step on his path would lead to an encounter with Darth Vader. Everything he did increased his skills and abilities for that one opportunity . . . That one chance . . . That one battle.

Let's look back to our case study of the once and future king, David.

Once David decided he would face Goliath, nothing would sway his mind. He knew that any circumstance that befell him would not deter him from facing the giant.

King Saul let David use his armor for the showdown. David, a shepherd, probably never had put on armor before. As we learned in part 1, he fought a lion and bear, without armor, and was victorious.  When David begins to equip himself for a real battle, against a 9 foot armed man, he feels awkward and cumbersome. I Sam. 17:39.  He even says that he's not used to the armor and will not use it! That could be the beginning of discouragement, or even a valid reason to quit!

This does not deter David though.  Even though he is going to fight a heavily armed man, not having armor of his own does not dissuade him! He still knows he is going to fight Goliath.

If we are going to fight and win our unlikely battles, we must know that we are going to fight them. We cannot have a contingency plan and we cannot let limited resources hinder us. We cannot allow any circumstance, failure, or setback to blur our vision for our ultimate battle.

We must have Perseverance: "a steady persistence in a course of action."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Divining Your David: How to Tap into Your Inner Underdog. pt. 1 of 4 - Preparation

David vs. Goliath. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. Rocky vs. The Russian. Nacho Libre vs. Ramses. What does the first party in each contest have in common? Each of them are winners. And we love winners.

But each of them was also an underdog. And we love the underdog. We love rooting for someone that has their back up against the wall with nowhere to turn. We love seeing a more apt, more powerful foe succumb to the perseverance, grit, and determination of an unlikely hero. When we read, hear, or see stories of underdogs winning, it makes us feel like we can conquer the world!

So what makes an underdog an underdog, and how do we tap into our own inner underdog? We'll find out through the story of David and Goliath, which can be found in the Bible in I Samuel 16-17.

Before we get to the traits of a winning underdog, lets look at one underdog and his competition.  David was the youngest of eight brothers. He was a "youth" of small stature (some scholars think about 5 feet tall) and ruddy (meaning "red," probably from being in the sun all day). I Sam. 16:7, 10; 17:33. Goliath was a "champion" that stood about 9 feet tall, wearing an armor plate that weighed about 125 pounds, and armed with 15 pound spear. I Sam. 17:4-7. Saul tells David that Goliath was a man of war since his youth. I Sam. 17:33.

I think that if you examine most underdog winners, you'll find that each has four specific traits. We can deliberately embody these traits and win our unlikely battles.


Preparation - Yes, preparation. Even though the underdog seems to have less resources, less experience, and even less confidence, the winners on our list were ALWAYS prepared. The kid in our case study, David, was only a shepherd confronting a huge man.  However, listen to his response when Saul tells him he can't defeat Goliath: "Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered [the lamb] out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and smote him, and I slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear . . ." I Sam. 17:34-36.

David had been prepared for fighting Goliath by killing much fiercer combatants. He didn't blindly challenge him without skill or practice. And he didn't sit around waiting for an opportunity to then prepare for.  He was already prepared to take the opportunity when it presented itself.

We also need to prepare for the opportunity.  We need to prepare now! When the challenge presents itself, we will be ready to win, through diligent planning and preparing. What do you need to do? Study an area of law? Get to the gym in your off-season and increase muscular endurance? Finish your degree? Rise up to your future challenge by preparing now.

Stay tuned for the next trait . . . 

www.lawmcd.com

Monday, May 16, 2011

Inflate the Facts: The Rest is Just History

"The national debt under Obama is the highest the United State has ever had!"

"The jury has given a $380 million verdict. The highest in history!"

"The New York Public school janitor has the highest salary in school janitor history!"

Which of these statements is grossly disproportionate to harm? Ok, ok loaded question, I know. . . How 'bout this? Which of these statements can blame be placed on  few people . . .? Maybe even one person? I know, loaded again . . .

I bet I know your answer depending what hockey position you play (left wing, right wing, or center [if you don't play hockey I'll base it on which news show you watch]).  Most right-wingers (or Fox News adherents) will say statement one shows sole culpability. Most left-wingers (or MSNBC devotees) would say statement two is grossly disproportionate (unless the verdict is against a mean ol' corporation). Before you let me box you into a stereotype that you publicly resent (and privately fit), think about these two factors that affect all three statements: 1) inflation and 2) inflation.

1) Inflation: My first class in undergraduate school was "Statistics for Political Science." I was seventeen and remember little.  Two of the few things I remember are the "f" of "x" portrayed as f(x) and statistical inflation (I don't remember what f(x) actually represents but the pronunciation "eff-of-ecks" is solidified forever). Statistical inflation can be achieved easily on a bar-graph.

If I have two statistics on a x/y axis I can make one of those seem visually greater by magnifying the graph.

For instance, I ate 7 cookies and you only ate 5 cookies.  If I display this on a graph with the upper limits of the y-axis at 15, distributed in 1 number increments, the difference between my 7 and your 5 will look very small.

If I change the upper limit to 8 with a distribution of 0.25 your 5 cookies will now look 12 points lower than my 7, instead of the original 2 points with lower magnification. These graphs next to each other will show my 7 cookies much "farther" away from your 5 cookies on the magnified graph with an upper limit of 8. (This can also be amplified by starting at a high ordinal. Instead of the x-axis beginning on 0, start on 4 and see how "low" your 5 looks. Keep this in mind for later).

2) Inflation: Financial inflation rates impact nearly every aspect of our lives. It helps determine our minimum wage, the price of our cars, the price of our homes, and amount of our jury verdicts. In 1980 the inflation rate was over 13%. 1981 gave us a rate over 10%. Between 1988 and 1999 the rates bounced from over 5% down to 2%. The inflation rate coupled with the power of your country's currency will dictate how much your milk costs compared to 1965 (this is a gross oversimplification of the Consumer Price Index but it should depict the idea).

We all know that  a bag of groceries cost more today than it did in 1965 and we don't think twice about it. Newspapers don't exclaim, "Milk costs 3.65 a gallon! This is the most it has EVER cost!" Why then, do they exclaim that "Obama has brought us the highest national debt in history"? Actually, no president has had a lower national debt than their predecessor. When Eisenhower was president in 1953 he brought the debt to a historically high $266 billion. Up from $259 billion under Harry S. Truman. When Bush took over for Clinton, he too had the highest national debt in history. For a better gauge of our president's fiscal stewardship, maybe we should look at how much the president added to the debt (remember the starting point for the x-axis) when considering the power of the dollar, the CPI, and inflation rates.

To make matters worse, janitors are making more today than they ever have . . . and frankly that's disgusting.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Be a World-Class Trumpeter (Or Anything Else You Pursue)

There is a fine, fine-line to follow to be a World-Class Anything.  Although I won't blatantly say it (I may blatantly think it), musicians may have a steeper incline to climb on their way to the top.  I have played the trumpet off-and-on (through high school, college, grad school, and law school [performing in groups and bands at all stages]) for 15 years.  I am in no-way a world class trumpeter.  But I have again returned to the horn to prepare for an expected debut at "The Phoenix" in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri.  I have seen remarkable increase in skill this time 'round.  I've seen more increase this time than any other time.  The lessons I've followed are the secret to becoming a World-Class talent in anything you pursue.
Eliot Elisofon painting found at Art.com

1.) Don't Care How it Sounds - This is counter intuitive and nearly impossible to do, but it is a REQUIREMENT for success.  When you are practicing your talent you must ignore the ugly sound that is coming from your instrument.  You're getting an ugly sound because your body has not been strengthened to handle the stress that playing requires.  Like any skill, that skill must be developed and honed.  Once the skill is developed the sound will change.  Playing will become easier, the sound will be musical, and your body will be strengthened to continue building.

The example that illustrates this is doing push-ups.  If you haven't done push-ups in a while (or EVER!) it will be difficult to finish 10.  But you can't worry about not making it to 10.  You know that next time you'll do 6 . . . and then 7 . . . and then 10!  And you will be heading towards 20 before you know it!

This is the same in leadership, business, law, engineering, ballet, baseball, mathematics, etc. (whatEVER you do!).  Your first few attempts will be ugly and unrefined.  You will feel inadequate and feel like you're attempting something outside of your giftings.  Ignore the sound and keep playing.  You'll begin to become skilled.


2.) Don't be Afraid of the High-Notes - Other trumpeters will understand this immediately (even though every other trumpeter out there is cocky to a point of nausea (yes, even you and even me).  The higher notes on a trumpet are harder to play.  The lips must be tight enough to restrict the air-flow increasing the pitch while pushing through enough air to make a sound.  Strong muscles and intense air-flow create a higher note.  I see a note above the staff and I freak-out.  I think, "Oh man! This is going to take a lot or I'm going to mess up!"  The failure is what scares us cocky trumpeters.

found at ilearnmusic.com
As I've been practicing alone, knowing that the high notes will be hard, I've had to decide I will not be afraid (and not care if it doesn't sound good - see how that works and why its fundamental).  I decided to embrace trying.  The more I attempt to reach a note, the more my muscles will recognize when I do it again and again.  Eventually I'll hit that note with ease.  I've actually been playing Gs and As above this high F pictured (which I haven't before).

The Application? Ok, ok, be patient . . . High notes are the trumpeters glory.  Whatever you're pursuing has a pinnacle of success that says, "When you can do this, you've arrived."  Think about what you want to achieve in your field. That is your high-note.  Do NOT be afraid of going for that high-note.  When you go for it, don't care how it sounds and understand your first attempts are strengthening your resolve to reach it later, which you will.


3.) Play to Failure - As I'm practicing and my lips get tired, it becomes harder to keep playing.  The higher notes become the sounds of silence and my tone suffers.  When I attempt drills and the last few notes of the drill are nothing but wind, playing to failure becomes my mantra (although it is hard to recite this over and over with a hard piece of metal jammed against my lips and teeth).

Playing to failure is the only way to increase your ability.  When those sounds stop, and my wind and mouth are still going, I'm building the skill to play longer and harder next time.  The next time I'll be able to play a few notes further, and then further.  But I CANNOT care that my tone is bad (or even silent).  I must FINISH the drill or measure of music.  Stopping in the middle ceases the muscle growth and halts progress.  I'll rest for 15 seconds and do it again.  This time I play higher or longer.  I don't quit because my instrument quits.  My instrument is only as good as I am.  I keep going, and growing, and succeeding.

In your pursuits, you WILL absolutely fail.  You should begin to understand that this is your only path to success.  Every time you fail you should be excited for the growth during the last few notes of silence.  Every time you fail you should rest and pick up where you left off.  You will continue to perform longer and higher.  You must play to failure.  Your failure will transform into excitement, your excitement into success.

www.lawmcd.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Love that Conquers All

From NFL.com
The National Football League (NFL) is on the receiving end of antitrust litigation.  The players, unionized under under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) as the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), are suing the league owners to enjoin them from a lockout.  For the remainder of this post I will assume that you reader, don't understand this topic.  I normally give much more credit than that, but for some reason the NFL/NFLPA disputes are shrouded with mystery and intrigue.

The NFLPA filed to decertify themselves as a union and then filed a lawsuit.  Decertification may sound like the players are disbanding and will not play again!  But in all actuality, it is required for the players to use the courts for relief. Under the National Labor Relations Act a group of workers is allowed to form a union and negotiate using an elected official.  Both parties (in this case the team owners and the NFLPA) must negotiate to form an agreement called a collective bargaining agreement.  Both parties must come to the table and negotiate in good faith.  They don't necessarily have to reach an agreement, but they must fail in good faith.  Neither side can go to the courts while negotiating a CBA.  This is why the NFLPA decertified.  It doesn't mean they are going on strike. It means they can now pursue legal remedies available to a group of plaintiffs that are not available to a negotiating union.  Once the NFLPA decertified, the owners locked the players out. The infamous (as in The Three Amigos definition: "More than famous") Judge David Doty of the United State District Court of the District of Minnesota will again determine the fates of the new American Pastime.

From Blecherreport.com
A lockout is a stoppage of all league activities.  No trades, no negotiation, no planning for next season . . . nothing.  If a lockout continues, the 2011 football season will cease to exist in the NFL.  Why such extreme measures?

The NFLPA wants to increase the salary cap (the amount each team can spend on player salaries), keep the season at a 16 game schedule, and increase the retirement pension benefits paid to retired players from the owners (there are many other demands not listed here). They would like to have a revenue based cap that increases as the teams revenue increases.  Basically, as the players bring more money into the team revenue, they have the opportunity to by paid more (that makes sense in a performance-based, capitalistic society . . .).  The NFL is a $9 billion a year industry, a player's average time in the NFL is 2 - 3.5 years.  The owners seem to have a secure financial horizon, whereas players can be removed quickly from the industry that is on their backs.

From Schooloan.org
So here comes the big question: Why would either side risk SO much money for their demands?  I think that both sides realistically understand that there will be a 2011 season.  I think both sides will give in before it comes to not having a 2011 season.  The players do not have the time to strike and the owners cannot sustain not having a $9 billion industry.  Actually $9 billion is only the amount the NFL sees.  What about countless pizzas bought on Sunday night, Monday night, or Thursday night? What about countless beers consumed through the time frame of a televised game? What about enormous amounts of money poured into Sunday afternoon wing parties at Buffalo Wild Wings, Wing Stop, and Hooters?  How about the fuel costs to travel to your rivals city to jeer the home-team fans?  And the body-paint, posters, ink used for programs . . . And don't forget about the big-screen TVs purchased for "The Big Game" (the NFL has attempted to receive copyright protection of the phrase "The Big Game" and I'll probably owe money from this blog post).

The owners? The players?  What about our economy?  I don't think our economy can sustain the failure of the NFL and NFLPA to reach a new CBA.  I hope the NFL and NFLPA figure out they cannot afford to not play.  I hope their love of money conquers their stubbornness.  I hope they agree to continue pleasing us with bone-crushing hits, nail-biting 2-minute drives, and relationship building (and ending) fantasy football office pools!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Off With His Head!

"The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. "Off with his head!" she said . . ."
John Tenniel's Queen of Hearts
found on Wikipedia
~Lewis Carroll

According to the New York Times, and reported by the ABA Journal, a Louisiana prisoner was surgically castrated this past week after being charged with sexual assault.  The man accepted a plea bargain and agreed to the procedure (this also happened in Chicago in 2000).

I can imagine the uproar and upheaval that will come from civil liberties groups accusing the judicial system of "cruel and unusual punishment."  The phrase "cruel and unusual punishment comes from several places, including the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  This has been debated over and again, but I think everyone can agree this refers to torture and other socially unacceptable forms of criminal punishment (some have even broadened it to mean "humiliating" punishment . . . which probably wasn't the intention when put in place).

I'm not going to argue whether or not castration is cruel or unusual (I don't think it is, and I may commit a post to the reasons why, but I'll save it for later).  I do think this piece of news brings up a few issues that should be discussed by those legislating for our nation.

The first issue is the whether a convicted sex offender should have a choice, plea bargain or otherwise, in the punishment.  Realistically, what message are we sending to sexual deviants with our justice system?  After the sexual assaulter is convicted, serves a little jail time, and is put on parole, they register their names in a database.  A database that must be searched out.

Recidivism is very high among sexual predators.  Many sex offenders return to molestation immediately on release.  And then they go through the same motions as before.  They may serve a little more jail time, but essentially, they'll be out on the hunt again.  Should they be allowed to choose whether they will be castrated? Does our system believe that a multiple conviction deviant has a right to choose the punishment when countless victims were forced to receive cruel and unusually deviant assault on their innermost physical and mental sanctums?  Are we, as a nation of laws, really going to tell sexual predators that the worst that could happen to them is castration . . . if they so choose?

The second issue contains a broader debate that may not have a resolution.  I'll explain it in an example.  If all punishments for all crimes are the same severity, it nearly incentivizes committing the more severe crimes (for if stealing a pencil receives the same severe punishment as stealing an automobile, it makes it reasonable to try for the auto).  If all punishments are equally passive, it incentivizes the same direction (for if stealing an automobile receives the same light sentence as stealing a pencil, it makes it reasonable to steal the auto).

If sexually molesting a 9 year old girl receives the same punishment as writing a number of bad checks (three months of jail time, with 12 months of a suspended sentence, future parole) then a message is sent to sexual predators.  The message? "If you're going to break the law, break it in a way that satisfies your deviant mind and ruins, nay, TAKES the lives of many."

By the way, the prisoner that was castrated was charged with 6,000 counts of aggravated oral sexual battery and molestation of a juvenile, with accusations of molesting young girls for more than 20 years!  He plead guilty to 3 counts . . .

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Prepared to be Dazzled . . . or at least Razzled

From Wikipedia
I started to read "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything."  I was intrigued to say the least.  I have always wanted to understand economics better, and have even attempted self study.  I feel like I am supposed to understand it with both a law and business degree.  But I really just don't.  So I thought, "Ooh, here's a book that is catchy, in a narrative, and maybe I'll pick up some economics . . . better yet, some Freakonomics . . ."

So I began to read.  I read a book in an artful way, like the way Mortimer Alder guides us in "How to Read a Book" (by the way, if you haven't read this book, you're fooling yourself if you think you know how to read a book, and if you think you know how to read a book, this book will in fact correct your deficiency in book reading . . .).  I start at the cover.  I read the inside flaps, I read the back, I read the table of contents, the reviews, the explanatory note, the preface, the disclaimers, the theses, etc.  I haven't even gotten to the first page of content but the expectation for Freakonomics is palpable!  The authors have already told the reader their credentials, their claims to fame, the artistic intelligence.  I turn, with excitement, to the introduction, titled, "The Hidden Side to Everything."

I began to absorb their narrative.  They begin to explain that crime dropped drastically in recent years, in large, dangerous cities.  They begin to unfold the story of mayors, police chiefs, councilmen, politicians, and other civic leaders that take the glory for keeping the streets clean and safe.  Then they uncloak the mystery of the real reason for the drop in crime . . .

Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the early 1970s.  1972 to be exact.  Twenty years before the massive drop in crime.  The two authors theorize that the freedom to abort an unborn baby brought a drastic drop in crime because these unborn babies in particular would grow up to become criminals.  Their mothers were
"poor, unmarried, and teenage."  Sounds to me like abortion solved a national crisis...

from Zazzle.com
Except for the fact that abortion may not have solved the crime problem.  Correlation does NOT imply causation.  Picture this: You're driving down a rural highway and you begin to see more telephone poles.  You begin to see more at increasing intervals.  Then you realize that you begin to see more cows.  And you begin to see more cows at increasing intervals.  Would it be wise to say, "The increase of cows is the cause of the increase in telephone poles"?  No, you would say, "That's probably a coincidence."

Can we know that the only women needing abortions in the 1970s were "poor, unmarried, [ ] teenage[rs]"? Of course not.  Can we know that the drastic reduction in 1990 crime rates was because criminals were not born? Of course not (for after all, many law abiding citizens were also not born).  My zeal to learn anything from Freakonomics has been quelled.  The authors are probably brilliant.  But to lead with a feigning right hook leaves me cold.