What right do we former lawyers have to be bitter and unhappy? I mean, when at least half of attorneys surveyed say they would not choose law again, obviously nothing is wrong with the structure and culture of the profession. It’s—‘DOH!— our bad personal choice to go to law school that is to blame.
I remain amazed at how well the Uh-Oh Bingo technique works to defuse anxiety, so I thought it was high time to share it. The holidays are filled with potential (likely?) landmines of unmet expectations, both yours and those foisted on you. Rather than get all worked up about Aunt Gertrude’s insensitive comments about your weight, your lack of children, your lackluster career or your lack of $1M in the bank, put her likely carping on the card. Then sit back and laugh.
You’re taking a huge risk by not following your calling. You are risking that you will survive, physically and mentally, in good enough shape to one day be able to follow your heart’s desires. Considering the high rates of depression, addiction, suicide, and chronic illness among lawyers, that’s a pretty damned risky path, too.
My own view is that often, creatives arrive in Lawyerland because pattern recognition is also an important part of analytic thinking. I can’t tell you the number of clients I’ve had who tell me they just can’t take a job that doesn’t require analytic skills. They say that they get huge satisfaction out of analyzing problems and finding solutions. Some of those clients really are meant to use those pattern recognition skills as a lawyer does, but most of them, not so much. What they crave, but don’t understand they crave, is using pattern recognition in creative ways.
Some fears are actually useful. The ones you have when a car is heading straight toward you at 40 mph, or when a gun is brandished. But the truth is, most lawyer fears are nearly always critic-created fears—that’s why they sound so convincing! Confronting those myths we’ve created for ourselves is indeed an integral part of creating a life and career that you love.
But guess what? The paths we think are clear and logical often don’t work out, either. We just delude ourselves that they always will, if only we can squeeze ourselves inside someone else’s cramped, soul-killing box.
If your dream job and life seem like a million miles from where you are, your next job probably won’t be your dream job. But with some dreaming and then some thinking, you can make that next job one of the bridges that gives you more of what you need to get you there in the end.
When I say “use your creativity” to lawyers and non-lawyers alike, I get some highly revealing responses. Sadly, a common reaction is “I’m not creative.” I blame traditional schooling, Martha Stewart and Pinterest, and our consumerist society for this false belief. Every human being is born creative. At its most basic, creativity is solving a problem for which there is no known (to them) solution, or for which the current solution isn’t working.
But usually, lawyers derail themselves because they can’t see every arc and bend of this new, uncertain path. Because, like the rest of us, they’re not psychic. But unlike many people, lawyers are somehow convinced they must know the end, and every step along the way, before they begin.
lawyers quit when the going gets tough at anything they’re not already pretty good at. Things they tend to suck at, like relationships, compromise, and dreams, for starters. Because they’re so used to being smart and good at the smarty-pants stuff, they’ve set themselves up for motivation by external validation, and haven’t worked much at resilience. Resilience is, essentially, the ability to bounce back after a failure or set-back. To have hope in the face of disappointment. Looking back, I can count on my hands the number of lawyers I’ve known who are resilient at anything but work.