July/August 2003  Volume 29, Issue 5
July/August 2003 Issue
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Personal Technology: Reinventing Technology, Reinventing Yourself
by Stephen J. Harhai
Are you familiar with the "use it or lose it" principle? Then try something different. Master a new skill.

This installment of Personal Technology takes on a topic a little older than the microprocessor: the wheel. You may think that most of the heavy development in this area was completed several millennia ago. But I was reminded of some much more recent breakthroughs while taking our son John to get some new sports equipment. A new bike? Nah. Pneumatic wheels have had their basic structure established for decades. The hot zone for wheel technology is skate wheels.

If your last skating experience was on two-by-two skates with clay wheels in a roller rink, you have missed some really exciting developments. In the 1980s, two Minnesota brothers rediscovered an old idea of putting wheels in a line instead of side by side and realized that this system would be terrific for off-season hockey training. Rollerblades, the first inline skates, were born and the rest is history. The development of polyurethane wheels and extremely low friction bearings has raised the performance level of inline skates to remarkable levels.

What does that technological innovation mean to Personal Technology readers too old to play junior roller hockey? Be patient and read on.

Head in a New Direction
Skating is a great fitness routine for every age because it develops three of the four essential fitness areas, which are (1) aerobic capacity, (2) strength, (3) flexibility and (4) balance. Each area operates on the "use it or lose it" principle. Skating, in its various forms, provides an aerobic workout, strength training and a wonderful balance tune-up. Taking on new physical challenges is also a way to keep mentally limber and ready to adapt to new challenges in the office.

I have expanded my skating horizons in a different direction: vertical. One of the running routes that my buddy Ken and I take regularly leads past Coors Fields and on to the Platte River, right past the Denver Skatepark. Watching the skateboarders and inline skaters zooming around the concrete piqued my interest enough to cause me to pack my skates and pads in the car and drive over there one weekend.

My first reaction was abject terror as I watched the kids glide over concrete moguls and drop face first into bowls the size and shape of empty swimming pools. But with coaching and encouragement from the friendly teenagers who appear to live at the park, I eventually managed to skate across a depression the size and depth of a wading pool without having my skates fly out from under me. I was hooked. Moving your body through changes in relation to gravity with speed and precision is a real rush. Now I regularly try to work up the nerve to try a new bowl or ramp to build new skills.

The same principle -- gaining new energy from different directions -- applies to law practice.

Paint a Different Picture, Get Better Results
When I feel myself getting stale in the office, it's not a sign of career burnout. It's just my subconscious telling me I haven't been pushing my limits enough lately. Every task gets boring once you've mastered it. The trick is to find a new twist to make it more interesting -- and get better results in the bargain.

Example: I'm a family law practitioner, and one day I found myself stymied trying to describe an extremely complicated financial trail winding over 30 years of marriage. It led through multiple companies and tens of millions of dollars.

Solution: I gave up trying to do it in words and started drawing pictures in EDGE Diagrammer, my favorite drawing tool. In an hour, I had a diagram that squeezed out the superfluous and highlighted the important financial elements of the divorce.

Result: The judge loved the presentation and essentially wrote the order following the diagram.

EDGE Diagrammer is an award-winning diagramming and flow-chart program from Pacestar Software, at www.pacestar.com/edge. It comes with hundreds of predefined shapes and symbols and includes various predefined diagram templates, such as flow charts, block diagrams, organizational charts, network diagrams and general purpose diagrams. Better still, you can create your own styles and make custom diagram templates that represent your personal diagramming methodologies. The program is simple and enjoyable to use-and it lets you try something different every time.

The cost: $129.95 for a single-user license for EDGE Diagrammer 4.15 for Windows.

Stay Smart: Challenge Yourself
If you find yourself bored or frustrated inside or outside of the office, consider taking on a new challenge. It doesn't have to be terribly difficult or unusual, just something that interests you and develops an aspect of your body or mind that would like some attention. The effort will be repaid many times over by the satisfaction of mastering new skills.

Stephen J. Harhai ( steve@harhai.com) practices family law in Denver, CO. He is the author of the Colorado Divorce Handbook site, www.COdivorce.com.