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Carl Lewis: Welcome to The Connected Enterprise podcast. I’m Carl Lewis, your host from Vision33, and my guest is Jonathan Rosenfeld from Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers. Welcome, Jonathan. Please tell us about yourself and your company.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: Thank you, Carl. I'm a personal injury attorney. I've been practicing law for over 20 years, with my own firm for 12 years. We handle personal injury cases, from auto accident cases to nursing home negligence to drug recalls, and everything in between. I’m married with two wonderful kids and two dogs—so my days are full! I'm very fortunate.

Carl Lewis: In our previous meeting, you struck me as unconventional—you’ve continued working in the office. What’s that like?

Jonathan Rosenfeld: If I have an idea, I'm fixated on that idea until it’s resolved/accomplished. So, when I take a case, I'm fixated on that case for the duration. That’s not necessarily the best way because sometimes I’m not fully present with my wife and kids, but that's how I operate.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: I don't even think about being in the office. I compartmentalize my time there as the time I'm there. Long before COVID, I believed in being there 3-5 hours, doing what I had to do. I didn’t stay ‘til 5:00. I finished my stuff and then tried to beat the traffic and get home, whether to work more, do things with my family, exercise, etc. That's been my routine for a long time, and it works for me.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: I need a lot of physical activity to settle down. Sitting at a desk all day would be the end of me, and people around me would suffer. I need to get the energy out, so I'll work out during the day. People roll their eyes and say, "My gosh, it must be nice to go for a run at noon," but while I'm working out, I'm thinking about work, family, everything. So, yes, I’m unconventional. My wife might say I'm nuts, but I’m not a traditional attorney.

Carl Lewis: Do you think the old-school, pre-pandemic office setup is wrong for professionals?

Jonathan Rosenfeld: Absolutely. We learned that productive people are productive, and unproductive people are unproductive—no matter where they are. When I hire someone, I don't care much about their hard skills. I care about their soft skills: their attitude, work ethic, independence in getting things done. I don’t enjoy micromanaging people, so I prefer working with independent people.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: I’ve never strived for the traditional office setup. I've worked at firms where they had office hours, and we had to be there 8:30 am-12:30 pm on Saturdays. I was probably the most resentful, miserable guy in Chicago on those mornings. And those feelings weren’t unusual. Most people resented being forced to do things at a certain time. So, I've never believed in it, but the pandemic explicitly showed us that things can get accomplished on people's own schedules.

Carl Lewis: I focus a lot on how people stay connected with their coworkers, customers, and people they live with. You seem to have a way of taking care of yourself. You mentioned exercise. Do you have daily rituals? You don’t like other people to give you a schedule, but do you give yourself a schedule?

Jonathan Rosenfeld: There are things ingrained in my personality and daily routines. I'm a huge believer in routines. I grew up swimming competitively, which meant swimming in the morning, swimming during the day, swimming in the afternoon, swimming at night. Go, go, go, go, go. Now my shoulders are destroyed, and I probably qualified for child abuse, but looking back, it was good for me because I realized that when I had structure, I was more productive.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: If I woke up early for practice, I couldn't stay up till 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning like other teenagers. So, that was ingrained in me early on, and that's the takeaway 30 years later: get on a routine. Regardless of my tasks that day—court, meetings with clients or colleagues, etc.—I get up early. Like, 4:00-4:30 in the morning. I work out for longer than I need to or is healthy, but again, it settles me down. I get my ducks in a row and set the pace for the day.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: I’m in bed by 9:00 most nights. And I'm not saying everyone should do this because some people would be miserable, but it's something I don't have to think about. It’s autopilot and makes my day easier. 

Jonathan Rosenfeld: But the rest of the day is unpredictable. Sometimes my calendar is empty. I'll get two or three important emails. Maybe a phone call. I don’t always know. So, I feel like a better person when I get that ‘me’ time in the morning. Whatever happens after that, I’ve still accomplished something.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: People feel like they must accomplish tasks they set for the day, and that’s great if it happens. But there are days where it seems—on paper—like I haven’t accomplished much, but I have long-term projects.

Carl Lewis: I hear you. And I understand the swimming thing because I spent 8-12 hours a day on the tennis court during my twenties. I’m not sure it did my body any good either, but I understand having a routine and organization in your life makes you better at your work.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: Absolutely.

Carl Lewis: You mentioned the people you like to hire. What are you looking for?

Jonathan Rosenfeld: Happy people. Happy people are nicer people, and those are people I want to be around. I can teach anyone how to do a process, but grumpy people or toxic personalities will bring everyone down. My life is good, but like everyone else, I have problems. I avoid toxic people like the plague.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: I also want to be around people who are better than me and inspire me. They don't have to be wealthy or have amazing accomplishments, but I want to be around people I can learn from.

Carl Lewis: You like happy people who make it happen. What do you think makes people so unhappy these days? Because it seems like we have a plethora of unhappy people. We've been through a lot, but some people got through with a smile, and others got depressed. Many people were unhappy with their work and moved around in their jobs. What do you think is behind that unhappiness?

Jonathan Rosenfeld: Many people feel like they have no control over their lives. Maybe they’re stuck in a job with no future. Maybe they don't like their job but can’t quit because of family and financial responsibilities. Feeling stuck and not having control over your life sets you into a downward spiral.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: I spent a lot of time in Florida during the pandemic, and not to get political or anything, but there weren’t rules about what you could or couldn't do. Eat out, don’t eat out, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, etc. Whereas in other cities, there were mandates. Stay home, wear a mask if you go out, show the venue you’re vaccinated, and on and on.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: Florida people were happy and living their lives. But my fine city of Chicago was a ghost town. Everyone was miserable because of the lockdowns. So, there's a huge connection between your psychological outlook on things, how much freedom you have, and how much control you have over your destiny.

Carl Lewis: For me, it’s about our personal rituals that make us happy. If you do the things that make you happy, you're in a better place because you exhibited some control over your life—no matter what other crap is going on around you.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: Absolutely. Everyone has problems. It's just a matter of how you deal with them. It plays a huge role in your outlook on life.

Carl Lewis: Put your future glasses on, please. Will you or your business make long-lasting changes because of the last few years?

Jonathan Rosenfeld: Part of the reason we adapted to the pandemic so well was our policies. I don’t believe in giving people office hours.

Jonathan Rosenfeld: People need flexibility. Certain things must be done on schedule; not everyone can roll into the office whenever they want. But that’s 50% of the time. For the other 50%, it doesn't matter. Good employees will always meet deadlines. And everything will be happier—your office environment, your staff, you. I hope we can continue the policy. The key is hiring the right people.

Carl Lewis: Jonathan, I haven’t met many business owners who are as transparent about themselves as you. That's a gift. So, I thank you for it, and thanks for joining me today.  And for everyone else out there, stay connected.