Playing Up

about this episode

"I really get motivated when I have doubters." — Shaquille O’Neal


episode transcribed

Todd Burnham 0:00
Hi, this is Todd Burnham. I am a licensed practicing attorney. But just because you're listening to me doesn't mean that I represent you. This is for informational purposes only if you're good with that, then let's roll.

Chris Braden 0:20
Season One was about how Todd Burnham started Burnham Law in his basement and built it to one of the most prestigious law firms in Colorado by thinking outside of the box and surrounding himself with the best lawyers and staff in the industry. Now during a pandemic Burnham Law is still growing, how you ask walk toward the storm and face it head on and you have power the people that help get you there. It's time to execute. It's time to make some lemonade. It's time to burn the ships. This is Deep Bench with Todd Burnham. Hey, Todd, how's it going, buddy?

Todd Burnham 0:57
Good, man. How are you? Chris?

Chris Braden 0:59
First two in the book, man.

Todd Burnham 1:01
18 left dude.

Chris Braden 1:01
18, is that it?

Todd Burnham 1:03
Team left man this this Netflix series of ours is mean, I had ideas for two of them. Now what do we do?

Chris Braden 1:10
Oh, we're good to go. I tell you after those first two, I have plenty of ideas.

Todd Burnham 1:14

Chris Braden 1:15
!e talked about it, I think in season one, your idea of doing seasons like Netflix or, you know, there's so many apps now out there. I mean, the cable industry, the radio industry, everybody suffering except people that are like Netflix. Like it's just like, things just evolve, you know, if we don't have records or CDs or anything anymore, and there's a reason for that.

Todd Burnham 1:35

Chris Braden 1:35
But your idea to do seasons like Netflix. It was brilliant. And I'm gonna tell you, I'm gonna be honest with you. I've used it. And I haven't given you credit, but I'll give you credit now.

Todd Burnham 1:48
Thanks, man. I appreciate that. Yeah, it's, uh, it makes sense to me, right? We're telling a story. It's not like, it's not different timing the topics we're trying to like, get something across. And there's a flow to it. So it makes sense to me.

Chris Braden 2:02
No, it does. So I think today, we want to talk about playing up, you touched on it a little bit in season one, and in the first two episodes here. And so instead of going wide, let's dig deep on playing up. What's that really mean to you?

Todd Burnham 2:18
So I mean, so think about playing up is, you know, you're raising your level of competition to the person that you're playing against?

Chris Braden 2:25

Todd Burnham 2:25
So I think in the last episode, I talked to her the first one of the second season, I talked about Clara, my daughter. And Mae too, I mean, so Mae's in fourth grade playing against sixth graders, and Clara's in third grade playing against sixth graders.

Chris Braden 2:40

Todd Burnham 2:40
So she went out, and she plays and she's, she's always getting pissed off, like I said, about how she's just not getting the playing time. She's the shortest person out there, she can't catch the ball, when they throw it over her head, and she gets frustrated, my wife was like, you know, you're gonna run the risk of, she's gonna get sick of this, if you don't put her in with her age group. And it makes sense, you want to like, show what you have accomplished, even though you can't see it on the field. So if you're playing against girls that can or playing with girls on a regular basis that are playing against them that can pass and catch, then you're incentivized to really pass and catch.

Chris Braden 3:17

Todd Burnham 3:17
If you play against girls, your own age, my daughters at least, the talent level, at that age is so much less and they can't pass and catch. You're gonna have this false sense of accomplishment. You're gonna say like, well, I'm better than them. Cat, but you got to play up. That's how you get better.

Chris Braden 3:37
Right. That's not our measuring stick.

Todd Burnham 3:39
Everybody has their own thing that they can relate to. And I was thinking about the other day and like, for me, everything about this is sports. I just think sports is a metaphor for life. I was just reading something. LeBron James says, like he was talking about setting the tone for game four of the championship. And every permutation of our website that has happened, it has always been we set the tone.

Chris Braden 4:01

Todd Burnham 4:01
Okay, so LeBron James is stealing my, my thunder here, right.

Chris Braden 4:05
But if you listen to Season One...

Todd Burnham 4:06
He probably did. So that's the thing that I think of is, is you know, so how can people relate? And I was thinking about it, and I, I saw someone like planting a tree the other day, and I said, Okay, if you're really into planting trees, then it's the same concept. For me. It's lacrosse, or it's sports, and someone is planting a tree. They're like, alright, well, what kind of soil you're putting in? That's your foundation. Are you watering it? That's your education. So I'm just you just kind of find that thing that relates to you. And so for me playing up is just really setting expectations higher than you normally would have.

Chris Braden 4:41

Todd Burnham 4:41
So playing up for me is, you know, when I got here, and, you know, I had my first trial, and I got blown out, because I didn't study I didn't know the law. I didn't know all the things and it was that moment where I'm like, screw this. Like, that's never gonna happen again. I'm never going to go into court unprepared. I'm Never gonna go in there not knowing the law cold. And then from there, it's like, yeah, how else can I get better? Because I'm my own worst critic.

Chris Braden 5:06

Todd Burnham 5:07
Doesn't matter if someone, someone says something, you know, like that it was meant to be painful or something like, Oh, you were bad in that moment, like, yeah, but doesn't matter what you say, because my house will be up until 4am. Thinking about it myself.

Chris Braden 5:22
Right. So you play and you learn from it.

Todd Burnham 5:25
I always have to learn from it. And so but at the same time it you know, it gave me a taste of when playing up is such an important thing to me and in sports, and it totally relates to this, like, if Stephanie is going up against a new lawyer on the other side, and she crushes them. She doesn't feel as good about it, because she it's like pursuing a lawyer. Right?

Chris Braden 5:47

Todd Burnham 5:48
So you know, when you have those cases, and we have like hard cases, difficult cases. And regularly, you know, even in civil with Aaron and Ashley, you're up against the 17th Street firms that have that mahogany desk and all that stuff we talked about.

Chris Braden 6:03

Todd Burnham 6:03
That's your measuring stick.

Chris Braden 6:05

Todd Burnham 6:05
And so playing up for me is really a way of saying, make sure you have the right measuring stick, don't get a false sense of greatness about yourself, because you get a win. You got to analyze the win. And always keep thinking to yourself, how do I get better, always playing up in your mind and never being satisfied? I think that that is really what playing up for me is and so with the girls that I see, guy had them. Like, Clara went and played this past weekend with girls her own age.

Chris Braden 6:36

Todd Burnham 6:36
And it was it was dominant.

Chris Braden 6:39
Oh, yeah.

Todd Burnham 6:40
And her confidence and her feeling about herself was like, you know, the Okay, Clara, come out and show us this one. And I'm like, Oh my gosh, and she's doing moves that she would never be able to do on a sixth grader. But she saw the sixth graders doing it by her.

Chris Braden 6:53

Todd Burnham 6:53
And so she's learning from playing up.

Chris Braden 6:55
Oh, yeah.

Todd Burnham 6:56
So every moment everything that you're doing, you're always kind of comparing where you were beforehand, and where you are now. And when you're trying to build a business or build a law firm. It was always about the talent. And so when you think about the talented people, and luckily, and I think people that have good work ethic are, by and large, generally good people.

Chris Braden 7:18

Todd Burnham 7:18
Just to kind of just a thing that I've seen.

Chris Braden 7:20
They kind of go together a little bit?

Todd Burnham 7:21
Kind of go together, they have some emotional intelligence to them. And so when I see these things, and I watch it, it's also important to like, also recognize that you're getting better. And hey, you won these five cases in a row. Congratulations.

Chris Braden 7:35
Nice work.

Todd Burnham 7:36
None of them had lawyers. So in that moment, you're like, okay, yeah, good job. You didn't screw it up.

Chris Braden 7:44

Todd Burnham 7:44
But you're not playing up?

Chris Braden 7:46

Todd Burnham 7:46
And so when those when that happens at the firm, we elevate those lawyers to different levels of cases.

Chris Braden 7:53

Todd Burnham 7:53
It's, it's always looking at the big picture. It's also I don't want to have someone stuck in the same position doing the same thing repeatedly. Because then they're not growing, they're not playing up.

Chris Braden 8:06

Todd Burnham 8:07
And so that's why you have supervising lawyers. So so we have, you know, new lawyers, this we have a Kristein Weaver, this young baller, who I'm really excited about. And we got another one too in Aly. And so in the beginning, they're like, up, she came in and, and we have this stuff going on in the firm, like, we'll send emails out and say, Hey, Kristin had this great case, she took it from start to finish. And she was always supervised. When I read that stuff, and it happens over and over again, I'm like, Alright, she needs to play up. So she needs to go and start taking those better cases, the cases that are a little bit more complex, with oversight, and then again, she gains confidence as she gets better. And so you're constantly trying to play up in what you do, unless you're trying to just make money. And then the thing is, many firms I think most would keep Kristin, in that lower tiered case level, for forever, because there's a market for that.

Chris Braden 9:05
Oh, yeah.

Todd Burnham 9:06

Chris Braden 9:06

Todd Burnham 9:07
But I'd rather just bring in a young lawyer and player up or play him up as they get better, and elevate Kristin or Aly or whoever it is, in those positions, because that's how they become great. And that's how you get that bigger foundation. So it's, um, you know, I hate to be like Tony Robbins, or say, all this is about mindset, because that's not like nuts and bolts.

Chris Braden 9:29

Todd Burnham 9:30
You know, anyone can just say like, get your mind, right. But really, the the key here is to really invest in your people and encourage them to keep getting better. And you do that and help them by getting them outside their comfort zone and don't go after the money. The money comes by if you're great at what you do.

Chris Braden 9:48
So you talked about comfort zone, how do you get people to play up, come out of their comfort zone? Because getting little wins is always good. You know what I mean? And sometimes when people are winning a lot, if they play up a little bit, it's gonna be more difficult. And maybe they'll have a setback or two. How do you get them to have the mindset to play up?

Todd Burnham 10:10
Well, I mean, I think that you have to, you have to be really honest, in your interviews, when you're talking to people, and you say, Look, this is, this is a place where people become great lawyers, like, if you don't have that, that desire, then this isn't a good fit.

Chris Braden 10:27

Todd Burnham 10:28
So then they're expecting it. And you'd be amazed that a lot of young people coming in now, they want to be great. It's really shocking to me, actually, because I see work ethic of some younger people. And it's just not there. You know, they just don't, you know, they've been given everything. I went to law school, and then I went to....

Chris Braden 10:48
It's a thing.

Todd Burnham 10:49
It's a thing. But then there are other ones that are grinders, and that want to be great at what they do. And those are the people you invest in. So like, if I have someone that has a work ethic, then they're going to want to play up.

Chris Braden 11:04

Todd Burnham 11:04
And so it really comes down to like the core principles, work ethic, and wanting to be great. And if you have those things, I don't care where you went to law school, I don't care what your grades are, like will will train you up. And as long as you're able to take constructive criticism, that's the big key. No one wants, their feelings hurt. And sometimes it happens, right? When I send out emails to people, and I'll say like, look, this is an email I sent out in 2015. And it was it's along the burn the ships timeframe. And it's when I started to get better at leading, and it was, it's not inspirational, it's just degrading.

Chris Braden 11:39
Super critical?

Todd Burnham 11:40
Oh, my God, like, your billing sucks. This is terrible. This was a big mistake. How did you drop so quickly? Like, all that stuff. And, and I think a lot of it, you know, a lot of reflection of it was, well, if you ask the right questions, Todd, if you had any vision whatsoever, you probably would have realized that this is exactly the person that you should have had at the time, because you were a shit show, you know? So. But as you get better at these things, and grow and growing, the person that's trying to inspire people, I'm coming across the time now where I'm I want to chime in, and I see these emails, and I'm like, Oh, that's a good time to do this, right. And so instead of doing that, I then call the person that I'm putting myself in their shoes and saying, here's a good way to do this. And so it's not about me leading anymore, as we talked last couple episodes, but it's about inspiring people to want to play up even in the way that they mentor, even in the way that they're trying to give constructive criticism or feedback. And I think to that extent, it's, you keep constantly are honing what you're doing. I hear ads on the radio, which I just don't believe in, I think we talked about this.

Chris Braden 12:54
Radio sucks.

Todd Burnham 12:56
It's just not, you know, like, if you want to sell DUIs, then yeah, do it on a sports radio. But if you're if you're trying to, I just I just don't, I don't, I don't. I've done radio harder

Chris Braden 13:09
to own your message on radio than it is doing the way you've been doing.

Todd Burnham 13:13
Yeah. Because you know, everyone's different. And you have to find people like, maybe NPR, you know, people that think that are like, I don't know, I don't know, what do you what, what do you think? Tell me what you think. Where would you advertise?

Chris Braden 13:28
For me, I think what you're doing is great. And I think for businesses, once they get the message, which you have,

Todd Burnham 13:35

Chris Braden 13:35
you can do it anywhere. I mean, at that point, it just is about clicks. It's about getting in front of people. It's actually ROI. That's, and that's where the hard part with radio is right now, today, and like we talked about this off the air, it it's more of it's evolving, it's hemorrhaging, it's hurting, it's evolving...

Todd Burnham 13:55
Something good, something better will come from this. Yes. You know?

Chris Braden 13:58
100% and, and I think they're getting smart, like I heard has the app, you know, yeah, and you know, stuff like that. So it is evolving. But I think your message, your message is so crystal clear that you could put that anywhere and it would work cuz you evolved it. We didn't talk about this in the last one. Because you said divorce sucks. Your lawyer shouldn't.

Todd Burnham 14:18

Chris Braden 14:19
I saw the shirts that said COVID sucks your lawyers at the golf outing? I don't know I saw on Facebook or something. I was like, Yeah, that's so perfect.

Todd Burnham 14:26

Chris Braden 14:27

Todd Burnham 14:27
But that's like, I don't know. Like everything playing up is really just an example just from lacrosse, I guess. But it's it really talks about it's really just the the mindset of continuously trying to get better and challenge yourself.

Chris Braden 14:40

Todd Burnham 14:40
And sometimes the challenge is not to do something. I don't want the volume. I don't want it's not the beginning of a firm for me.

Chris Braden 14:50

Todd Burnham 14:50
So in the beginning, you're just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Chris Braden 14:55
Well, that's the fear of revenue.

Todd Burnham 14:57

Chris Braden 14:58
I mean, like people don't really think Think about that when you start something. It's terrifying.

Todd Burnham 15:03

Chris Braden 15:03
I mean, and it always comes down to money. Me and my wife have had that conversation a million times. And that's a conversation you don't really ever want to have a good one. No, it's a horrible one.

Todd Burnham 15:15
No, it you know, there's there's so many pieces to this. That to me is Is it his gut?

Chris Braden 15:22

Todd Burnham 15:23
It is instinct. And it's not necessarily true that you're either born with it or not, it is absolutely something that's learned. And it's something that, like, we were talking about the Clifton Strengths test. So mine, my one of my we did five and it's, you know, gives you your top five leadership indicators or like factors, right?My number one was competition. What was yours?

Chris Braden 15:48

Todd Burnham 15:49
Okay, so you got to believe in the cause?

Chris Braden 15:52

Todd Burnham 15:53
I'm trying to win.

Chris Braden 15:54

Todd Burnham 15:54
That's really like, what our things are, but if you have the message that's authentic, your message isn't going to necessarily be competition as the biggest one?

Chris Braden 16:03

Todd Burnham 16:03
Mine is. And that's my...

Chris Braden 16:05
competition is number four, I think, second was focus and stuff. And like, for me, I could have got your competitive one, that would have been easy for me. And I think mine came out kind of the way I would have sought to, but you had four that I didn't even have.

Todd Burnham 16:20
Or you had four that I didn't have?

Chris Braden 16:21

Todd Burnham 16:22
But that's what makes it unique. And so like, even the top what playing up, playing up is like taking a little extra step, doing a going on to Clifton Strengths gives your top five leadership qualities or traits. Hmm, this isn't like a paid advertisement.

Chris Braden 16:36
Nah, go do it, it's insightful.

Todd Burnham 16:38
It's from my sister, Brittany, who runs HiiT It with Britt in Albany, New York.

Chris Braden 16:42

Todd Burnham 16:43
She runs a gym during COVID Talk about like,

Chris Braden 16:45
That's a rough business in COVID.

Todd Burnham 16:47
Or it's an opportunity to dominate. So like, you got to think outside the box, and how do you do all these things? So she turned me on to it. And it's it's one of those things that was like, enlightening, I'm like, Yeah, and that helped shape my, my vision for the website. All of these things is big, or because I'm thinking.

Chris Braden 17:05

Todd Burnham 17:06
It's not because I'm sitting back. I don't know what's on Netflix, you know, if I'm doing anything other than, you know, even spending time with my family, I'm constantly thinking about people. That's where my mind's at now. It's not about marketing. It's not about sales. It's not about numbers. It's not about transfers. It's not about cases that we have. It's the people and how can I help them get better at certain things in a constructive and inspirational way? That is me playing up right now.

Chris Braden 17:38
See, that's cool. And I wanted to I'm glad you said that. Because I think when you're trying to get someone to play up, the fact that you would go to them and say, Hey, I think you're ready for this.

Todd Burnham 17:50

Chris Braden 17:51
If you've hired the right people, that that you've said, You've done the way you guys vet, everybody that is exciting to them, and the fact that you believe in them enough to know that they can do that.

Todd Burnham 18:02

Chris Braden 18:03
I mean, that goes a long way with a lot of people.

Todd Burnham 18:05
Well, it should go a long way with all of our people if we hired right. And so like, all these things are connected, but it takes time and like in the beginning, I always had a sense of urgency.

Chris Braden 18:17

Todd Burnham 18:17
Always. Okay, it was borderline impatience. Okay. It was impatience, but I like to spin it as a positive.

Chris Braden 18:24
Your wife said it was impatience.

Todd Burnham 18:26
She's, you know, she's wrong sometimes. Yeah. So, when I think of these things, and there's a, there's a balance of, I'll give you an example. Aaron Belzer. He is a civil litigator. He is someone that is extremely intelligent, very committed to his craft. He wants to be just an amazing litigator, civil, and constantly get better. Sure. Okay. And so, in hiring practices, I'm, and he's been right half the time I've been right half the time, I think, I think we'll get him on the podcast and you can talk to him.

Chris Braden 19:00
Yeah. He's interesting too, man. I like talking to him.

Todd Burnham 19:03
Oh, man, ask him about him following Phish for a decade. I mean, it's pretty yeah. He is a trip. So I, we constantly go back and forth. And I think that he, in the beginning would have this sense of when he's talking to people or prospective employees, it would be taking way too long for me to like in my comfort zone of yeah, we're scheduled to talk next Thursday. I said, homey, it's Tuesday.

Chris Braden 19:31

Todd Burnham 19:32
And he's like, well, and he'll have rationale for it. And what I'm trying to get him to do is more and more as to feel it is to feel the have a sense of urgency, but not desperation.

Chris Braden 19:45

Todd Burnham 19:46
And he's like well, that feels if Morris feels like, you know you don't you want to give them some time to think and thinking of all these different things that he doesn't really he didn't have much experience in and where he's at now is a really good place which is not me. But it's him, it's his authentic self of the way he's doing things. And now these a partner I find I see him, you know, he's he's more engaged in the why, what's the rationale behind that? You know, why did you say this? And he can come back and like, he's, he's running civil. He's like, Yeah, I hear you. I'm gonna do it this way. But I hear what you're saying. And I'm not like "You will do what you're told!." You know? It's...

Chris Braden 20:25
Have you tried that?

Todd Burnham 20:27
Never works out well. And so but that's what I want. That's true. That's authentic leadership, is his voice. And I think that I've added some value to it that I want you to have a little bit more sense of urgency, but also have the attention to detail that I often miss.

Chris Braden 20:44

Todd Burnham 20:45
And so those things are, it's it's so much, it's so nice and refreshing for me to be able to not focus so much on the business, but focus on the people in the business and helping them. And I'm very in tune with probably everyone, most people and knowing especially leaders like what they should be working on what vision I see for them, based on things that I can add value on and also knowing when that's not my strength. I'm not going to comment on that.

Chris Braden 21:17
Well, you know, the funny thing is, is I think you did a great job hiring because just from the outside looking in, whether it's Donna, or any of the attorneys I talked to I talked to Donna last week, man and she's just amazing. She works her she works her tail off is funny, because I know a paralegal. And I listened to them. And then I listened to Donna and Donna is just like one of those people that gets things done.

Todd Burnham 21:40
Yeah. She know my sense of urgency.

Chris Braden 21:42
I even told her that I go well, my aunt does this. And I was like, man, I would not want to do it listening to my aunt, but I would like listening to Donna. Oh, yeah, we could do this man.

Todd Burnham 21:54
She's now the firm manager.

Chris Braden 21:56

Todd Burnham 21:56
Yeah, she like runs it. Well, good for her. Yeah, no, it's great. It's awesome. No, and you know what the thing is? It's easy to say now like I have we haven't? I don't I don't remember the last time anyone was let go. But in the beginning, it was we have really good people now because we attracted them.

Chris Braden 22:13

Todd Burnham 22:14
But also, it's because we learned how to hire better. A bad hire is a sad fire. And I'll tell you the story. This is the beginning of when I first started, I worked at Jenn McCallum's office in in Erie, Colorado. And I was growing a little bit and, and I had this applicant come in and I was desperate. I was desperate for like a receptionist like someone that's going to answer the phone, someone's going to help with billing and things like that. And this person had a fraud in their background, literally stealing checks from their employer. And I was like, Dude, I really need this person. So I'm going to hire them. And they said, they're not going to do it again. You know, they learned their lesson in jail. And, and I had people with me, and they're like, What are you stupid? Like, you're clear, like, these are people that have been that have hired people before, right? So the way that I have grown, it's like, that was literally step one, right? I was gonna hire this dude that was convicted of fraud, because I needed him. And that's, it's kind of like drafting for need instead of talent.

Chris Braden 23:20

Todd Burnham 23:20
So when I look back, and like there's a lot of people that were hired and fired and early like, and I learned in also to, you know, your first loss is your best loss, right? So if you know they're not going to work out, what are you doing? Why are you letting them try to figure it out for six months? Because you're going to have six months of crap that you're going to have to fix and now you're overseeing everything. So I learned it's only now it's like the benefit of it because I put the time in and I tried to keep not be satisfied with just okay, or average or getting stolen from

Chris Braden 23:54
So those guys that talk to you out of hiring that person, did they get at least a free lunch or something off of you?

Todd Burnham 24:00
Jennifer McCallum and Susie Germany, trademark patent lawyer in Erie and then trusts and probate and they're just enthusiasts. They both have their own law firms. And I think I bought them several lunches in the beginning. They were you know, people that you trust. I got lucky with people that were invested in me succeeding.

Chris Braden 24:22
Well, that's playing up man and you guys do a great here at Burnham Law and good stuff, Todd.

Todd Burnham 24:28
Right on, man. Hey, thanks for listening. Make sure you subscribe, and until next time, keep getting better.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai