Whoever said, “Don’t bring your work home. Work when you work and play when you play,” CLEARLY wasn’t The Patent Professor®.
Now, “Don’t bring your work home” is fine advice when you’re just working to pay the bills and you’re not passionate about your job. But that house of cards is delicate, and it collapses readily under the weight of its own biases and assumptions when you consider people who are blessed enough to earn livings ranging from perfectly reasonable to outright absurd—doing the things they love most. Tiger Woods and golf. Michael Phelps and swimming. Adele and singing. Steve Jobs and tech innovation. And John Rizvi – The Patent Professor® and patents.
These people bring, or in Jobs’ case brought, their work home, for better or worse. Their work is work, but it’s also play to them. It’s their pleasure. It’s their passion. It’s their calling. It’s directly tied to who they are, deep down at the core, and even if we never knew their names, faces or voices, I think they’d still be doing the same.
In much the same vein, I take my work home with me on a regular basis. Never anything that may compromise client confidentiality or endanger their patent applications if the documents were to be found by someone craftier than they were ethical. But it’s not uncommon for me to spend my nights and weekends poring over intellectual property periodicals, looking up the esoteric details of breaking court cases and otherwise generally nerding out over all things in my professional sphere.
If you want to be on our team, you must be PASSIONATE about the world of inventing. One question I often ask applicants that want to work at my patent practice is whether they find themselves thinking or dreaming about patents. Why? Because if they don’t think about patents while sleeping or in the shower,” they’re not a good fit for my firm. I mean this in jest of course. Well, sort of.
I firmly believe that people that love what they do will do a better job than people that are just seeking a job. If you get so knee-deep in your work on a patent matter sometimes that your coffee gets cold or you forget to eat, you have the passion to work for The Patent Professor®.
After all, this is the kind of passion our clients bring to their idea when they work on something new that they want to launch. Why shouldn’t they expect it from the firm representing their innovation?
This may seem like a strange and perhaps random conceit, but this philosophy has served me well throughout my career. In law school I found the courses which I got the most out of, and the instructors I remember best, were the ones who didn’t just stand at the front of the lecture hall, droning away about the ins and outs of the subject matter. They found ways to make even the driest material engaging and interesting, using humorous or even outrageous activities and repetition. As an adjunct professor, I strive to apply this concept to my own instruction, in hopes students will retain the information better and enjoy the classes more. I’ve also learned that firms, attorneys and staff who are inspired, passionate and dedicated to their practice and the best interests of their clients, while also remembering to keep their sense of humor, tend to get much better results. They win more cases, have a higher success rate and retain more clients. As T. Bert Lance famously said in 1977, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Recently, I went to my wife, Saba, and laid out yet another one of my wacky, crazy but inspired ideas, driven by this passion I have for patents and the law that backs them.
“Honey, I want to hang a bunch of authentic replicas of famous patents all over the walls of our living room,” I blurted out to Saba one evening.
The room went so painfully silent I could hear my own heartbeat. Saba paused, folded her arms and chewed on her lower lip, thinking it over.
I let her, mostly because I’ve had my share of wild ideas over the course of our marriage. And your share. And your dozen closest friends’ shares, too, come to think about it.
It’s not every day you tell your spouse you want to start a goat farm because your daughter is gaga over Capra aegagrus hircus, despite not having born anywhere near the sign of Capricorn. It’s not every day you tell your spouse you want to chuck your cushy, prestigious but unbearably dull career in New York City, move a thousand miles away, move in with your parents and start from zero with two small children and another on the way. Those were wild enough, and Saba was gracious and kind enough to roll with them because of her faith in me and my determination, if not necessarily my wisdom. She’s my biggest fan, supporter and believer, and I work every day to make sure she knows that I know it and strive to reciprocate.
But this is her meticulously decorated and styled sanctuary, which she had painstakingly curated to her tastes, we’re talking about here. And here I came with my boyish, geeky excitement, proposing to trample all over her decorating to create, in effect, a shrine to the inventors I call my heroes.
Saba raised an eyebrow thoughtfully. “I suppose you could have one wall. ONE. WALL.” She held up a finger for emphasis. “You’re not taking over the entire living room, but if you want to pick ONE wall—” The finger came up again, this time with a bit more iron in it, tempered somewhat by the gentle smile on her lips. “—Then I suppose that would be all right.”
I whooped, hugged her and after some careful negotiation, helped along by lavish praises of her beauty, charm, elegance, forbearance and general tolerance (all of which are qualities she has in liberal, nay, copious amounts, and which I make a point to take note of often even when I’m not angling for something that will indulge one of my whims), a wall was selected and I got to work.
Fast forward to today. My living room has an amazing wall with a mounted replica of Thomas Edison’s original patent on the lightbulb. There’s also a replica of Thomas Edison’s original patent on the telegraph. Abraham Lincoln’s Patent No. 6469 for a device to lift boats over shoals, which sadly was never produced commercially. The Wright Brothers’ Kitty Hawk Flyer. Walt Disney’s animation drawing board. Henry Ford’s combustion engine. The original Nikola Tesla motor. And a host of drawings from the patents for other iconic inventions, such as the original Ferris wheel, the McDougall Anchor, the original stock ticker used in the New York Stock Exchange, and the first piano patent drawing.
It looks great. And I managed to leave the rest of the living room unscathed while creating my passion wall, much to Saba’s relief.
The point is, I think if you don’t want to take your work home with you, or you dread going back to work on whatever your schedule dictates is “your” Monday, you’re probably in the wrong job to begin with—and you should be looking for something else. You won’t feel your best or do your best, which means the people who count on you won’t GET your best.
Because life is short. Jobs are plentiful. But jobs that bring you true joy and make you feel like your best version of yourself are rare prizes. Trust me—I literally wrote the book on this topic!
About the Author
John Rizvi is a Registered and Board Certified Patent Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Intellectual Property Law, best-selling author, and featured speaker on topics of interest to inventors and entrepreneurs (including TEDx).
His books include “Escaping the Gray” and “Think and Grow Rich for Inventors” and have won critical acclaim including an endorsement from Kevin Harrington, one of the original sharks on the hit TV show – Shark Tank, responsible for the successful launch of over 500 products resulting in more than $5 billion in sales worldwide. You can learn more about Professor Rizvi his patent law practice at www.ThePatentProfessor.com
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I’ve helped hundreds of inventors successfully prosecute their patent applications, from initial filing to final award and look forward to helping you with your new idea.