It Really is So Big

by Byron on September 25, 2014

Decker and Gibson,

Whenever I fly into Baltimore – whenever I fly into our home – I try to get my bearings, kind of see where I am.  Where are the landmarks?  Can I see the city?  My favorite spots?   Can I see our house?

Sometimes I see the city of Baltimore – the harbor, the stadiums, maybe even I-95.   However, I’m almost never able to concretely identify much else.  I look and look.

A few days ago I flew home from Chicago.  We were headed straight at Baltimore, then turned north a little east of Frederick.  We went right over Owings Mills.  I saw Grandma and Grandpas neighborhood.  I saw our neighborhood.  I saw all of Greenspring Valley, which truly does look like a valley.  I saw where the Beltway met the Jones Falls expressway.  I saw the Cathedral on Charles Street, I saw York Road turn into Greenmount Ave.  I saw Baltimore.  I saw Hopkins Hospital as we worked our way east.  I saw the entirety of east Baltimore in one sweeping glance.  We made a hard right out over the water and I was home.

What I noticed is how small it all looks from a few thousand feet.  You don’t even have to go all the way up. Just a few thousand feet and you see all that some people live and die for.

One of Mom’s co-workers was shot and killed less than a week ago.  He was waiting at the bus stop to go home and see his baby boy.  Some gang members drove up on the bus stop, aiming to kill someone else at the stop.  That someone else used Mom’s co-worker as a human shield.  Both died.  Really gruesome shit.  Shit that shouldn’t exist in this life, and hopefully won’t in the next.  But it does exist.

If only all those folks could see what I saw.  It’s just so big.  I don’t care how much power you think you have, you are really just tiny.  When you try to be bigger than life, control an area, exercise dominion over your fellow man, you set yourself up for failure.  From just three thousand feet up, even the biggest characters looked so tiny.

But that doesn’t make either of you boys any less majestic.  A star shimmers from far away, lighting up that which is dark around it.  The closer you get to it, the more you realize how bright it actually is, how much it does for the universe.  The light it gives off can support so much life around it.

You guys are stars.

I thought I knew where I was going with this, but now I’m not so sure.  I was impacted by what happened to mom’s friend and I was impacted by the majestic view I got of Baltimore City and I think those two things might be related in some way, even if I haven’t done a good job in showing you how.

The bottom line might be: some plane rides can make you appreciate both how small you are and how many people need your light.

Love you guys,

Dad

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Being a Hater Gets You Nowhere

by Byron on September 22, 2014

Decker and Gibson,

AVVO is a company in the lawyer marketing space.  For some time, I was an AVVO hater.  They will never work.  They don’t offer any value.  Blah, blah.

I took me too long to learn a lesson I hope you guys can learn earlier than I did: Don’t be a hater.  It gets you nowhere.  No matter how competitive you might be, be happy for the successes of others.

I said to myself early on, shortly after AVVO raised their first round of venture capital – “They will not succeed.  Their lawyer profiles don’t offer anything.  I can do it better.”

I didn’t take enough time to pause and say, “Can they succeed?  What will their success look like?  How can I be part of it?”  I simply said I can do it better and I will.  In some ways, it was simply blind envy.

I built InjuryLawyerDatabase.com to be the AVVO with true value add… Statistics on lawyers.  I created lawyer profiles with real statistics from real cases.  I had big dreams.  I was going to get all the federal cases.  I was going to go state to state and get a record of every case.  It would be the biggest, most useful database of litigators ever created.

Ultimately, I’m in a position where what I’m doing with InjuryLawyerDatabase will not scale.  It will not be the wide solution I was hoping for to connect consumers with the appropriate lawyer.  On the other hand, AVVO just raised $40million in additional venture capital.  Now, my projects are succeeding in their own right and $40 million in additional venture money will not guarantee AVVO success.  However, it was their scale and widespread application that I was envious of and hated on.  They continue to have scale, I continue to not.

I guess my point is, why would you disparage someone or something unless 1.) you were envious or 2.) you otherwise don’t feel good about yourself and want to make yourself feel better or 3.) you’re an asshole.  None of those options are particularly flattering.  None of those options are things you want to be or qualities you want to have.  The only real solution is don’t disparage.  Don’t hate.

If you guys wind up being competitive and driven like me, this may not always be easy.  Sometimes it’s tough to watch others have successes you haven’t had yet and both be motivated by them and yet not disparage them.

I’m at the Clio conference in Chicago  right now.  Clio is the case management software our law firm uses.  I was excited to start using Clio.  I have been excited to continue using it and excited to be part of the community and ecosystem they are building.  By not hating, I embrace them and their developments.  This brings me a tremendous advantage.  For instance, last year at the Clio conference, I met Ed Walters.  Besides being a really nice guy with a son a few years older than you two, his organization named me part of their 50 most innovative people in law in 2014.  Pretty cool.  This year I met Mark Britton, the CEO of AVVO.  Pretty cool.  Who knows what the future brings …

For all I learn and all I do and all I become, I am most excited that I get to share it with you two and your Mom.  I love you guys.

Dad

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