What If Laziness Isn’t the Problem with Your Job Search?

Mid-February marks the time that most New Year’s resolutions have bitten the dust. Most likely, that also means that by now, many unhappy lawyers are beating themselves up about a whole host of things:

  • Not sending out any/many/enough resumes;
  • Not networking;
  • Not saving enough money so they can just quit already and go live on an island;
  • Not figuring out what they want to do when they grow up;
  • Not working out (enough), not eating better, or not getting enough sleep;
  • Not starting that novel;
  • Not—well, fill in your own particular blank.

If all these regrets don’t come with at least a tinge of “If I weren’t so lazy, I would have done this stuff,” I’ll eat my bra.

dog pink bra

That’s because attorneys tend to be plagued with guilt that they aren’t doing enough. I could write a few (dozen) posts about why that is, but that’s for another day.

The truth is, I don’t believe in lazy.

I particularly don’t believe in lazy when it comes to people who managed to make it through an academic career with the grades to get into law school. Also, I don’t believe it because lawyers make it through 3 years of grueling reading loads, killer exams, and a 2-month cram to pass an exam that determines their future.

What I do believe in is fear, because we’re human and we are wired to be on the lookout for threats. One way or another, fear is the root of behavior that we misguidedly call laziness.

scared kitten

Poor little kitten, paralyzed by fear.

I recently ran across a superb article by Dr. Devon Price, “Laziness Does Not Exist. But Unseen Barriers Do.” I love the lens that Price uses to look at so-called laziness, because it meshes completely with my own experiences, and what I see my clients struggle with. He writes:

[W]hen it comes to behavioral “laziness”, I’m especially moved to ask: what are the barriers to action that I can’t see?

There are always barriers. Recognizing those barriers—and viewing them as legitimate — is often the first step to breaking “lazy” behavior patterns.

The real crux of the problem for lawyers, particularly, is viewing their barriers as legitimate.

  • Didn’t catch an error because you had been working too much and were exhausted? That is not an acceptable excuse! says Lawyerthink.
  • Didn’t follow up with that woman you met—and actually found interesting—at the brown bag CLE? It’s only a short email! Quit checking social media and stop being lazy! says Lawyerthink.
  • Never found time to work on that novel for even 10 minutes/day twice a week? If you really wanted to be a writer, you would find the time. The truth is, you’re more in love with the idea of being a writer than actually doing the writing, because you’re lazy! says Lawyerthink.

None of this berating yourself is helpful.

If It’s Not Laziness, Then What Do I Do?

All of your mental tirades become part of the hidden barriers to creating the life and career you want. They are literally the last thing you need.

Instead, step back and ask yourself, “If my BFF were in this situation, what would I say? What barriers would I see that are plain as day?”

Rather than insist you uphold some dysfunctional, outdated concept of “toughness” to avoid that “lazy” label, maybe you could be kind and compassionate to that part of you that doesn’t thrive under pressure (hint: not a prerequisite for success in most jobs!).

Maybe you can give that part of you that feels lonely, trembling, and unsure a mental hug, and whisper, “it’s OK. We learned to walk, once, and we can learn this, too.”

Or perhaps you can admit that you just don’t want the money, prestige, status, or whatever your current job offers, if the price is your health, mental and physical. Maybe you can look at it squarely and say, “This is something that costs too much of my soul, and it will never hug me back, let alone have my back!”

Whatever you do, though, don’t call yourself lazy.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who occasionally still finds it easier to call herself lazy, rather than confront the underlying problem–such as her addiction to true crime shows. If you want help sorting out what’s behind your current inaction, drop her a line: jalvey@jenniferalvey.com.

If You Want a Different Career, Unhappy Lawyers, You Need a Personal Brand

I’m betting that most of you lawyers loathe the idea of creating a personal brand. Plus, I’ll double down and wager that when you need to revise your resume, so you can escape your current pit of lawyer hell, er, make a career move, is when your resistance reaches fever pitch.

If you adore the whole personal brand idea, and have a few iterations of resumes to support different facets of your brand, stop reading. Go grab a coffee or a cocktail, depending on the hour, and check back later.

Smart at Lawyering . . .

Let’s be blunt: Most lawyers harbor a nuclear sub’s worth of skepticism about marketing in general, and about marketing their firms and practices particularly. Some of this antipathy stems from lawyers’ inherent questioning of everything. That’s part of what makes people successful lawyers, after all.

pouting toddler seersuckerBut another part of the hostility is that lawyers rarely understand much about marketing.

We were not the people who took business classes in undergrad, by and large. We took more intellectually oriented courses, like philosophy, political science, literature, or even engineering. And don’t think for a millisecond that we consider business classes to be on the same intellectual plane of worthiness. As if!

In addition, lawyers are generally decent with words, and bright enough to see through some more obvious marketing manipulation. So we assume that marketing is pretty easy, fluffy stuff, and accordingly roll our eyes through those endless seminars the powers-that-be force down our throats.

How am I doing? Ringing a bell for you?

. . .  but Dumb at Marketing and Business

The thing is, lawyers are also highly likely to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. What’s that, you ask?

Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence. And not only do they fail to recognize their incompetence, they’re also likely to feel confident that they actually are competent.

–Mark Murphy, Forbes

One of the most interesting parts of Dunning-Kruger is that the less competence you have in an area, the better you think you are at it. Lawyers, being an intelligent lot generally, often think that a quick scan of some articles on a “simple” topic like marketing means they are well-versed, although they’ve never written any marketing materials or planned a campaign. Or, they will reject the reasoning in those articles and substitute their own, despite a lack of any training or experience in marketing.

Sorry, You’re Already Branded

I do remember when the idea of a personal brand started floating around in the 90s. I instantly detested it. It seemed manipulative and somehow dishonest. That’s because, having done nothing but lawyering then, I had almost no idea what the whole personal brand idea was about.

Here’s the thing: Like it or not, you already have a personal brand. It’s really another name for your reputation. A personal brand is about how others experience you. But it’s not limited to in-person interactions. Other factors play into the mix, among them:

  • the tone of your emails,
  • whether you post on social media,
  • what you post on social media,
  • what groups you belong to, online and in person,
  • your hobbies and interests, and
  • your general attitude and disposition.

Also, that maxim about “actions speak louder than words” completely applies to your personal brand.

A personal brand isn’t about creating some fictitious persona. It’s about creating a reputation for yourself about attributes that matter to you. What do you want to be known for? A razor-sharp intellect? Great problem-solving skills? Unassailable ethics? Loyalty? Reliability? Superb writing? Those are the kinds of things you control, and should focus on when you consider what you want your personal brand to be.

fashion woman red fenceIf you’re planning on switching to a non-law career, a personal brand is key to knowing how to present your strengths to non-lawyer employers.

Who Does Everyone Think You Are?

When you’ve been working for a little while, you have a brand. (Yes, that includes you, brand new associates.) You aren’t working from a clean slate. So it’s a good idea to find out what your personal brand is right now, before you decide if you should change it or just sharpen it.

There’s a great idea for researching that in Dawn Graham’s book, Switchers, about career changers. (I haven’t made it completely through yet, but so far I like what I’ve read.)

Graham suggests emailing 10 people, who should be a collection of friends, family, and current/former colleagues. You ask only 3 things:

  1. What are my strengths?
  2. What areas need development?
  3. What am I known for in the group/family/company?

I know at this point many of you are terrified. Every one of your shortcomings have just flashed up on your internal movie screen.

shocked face bl whIt’s OK. Just breathe. That truism about you being your own worst critic completely applies here. Unless you ask people who you never got along with, your people won’t trash you.

Also, you may be very pleasantly surprised by some of your feedback. Something that you considered common may turn out to be prized by those around you.

One caveat: Since most of you have many lawyer colleagues, consider asking at least five non-lawyers for their feedback. A former assistant, say, or a paralegal you no longer supervise. Don’t forget people who knew you in college or before. Professors, classmates, coaches—that sort of thing.

It’s not that your lawyer friends aren’t lovely, but many of them tend to be a little deficient in emotional intelligence department, and can get hung up on minor things. That’s not the view you need.

If you don’t want to collect all this data via email, consider using a free survey tool, like Google or Typeform. You might send out a note to all your intended participants before hitting them up with the survey, explaining what you’re doing.

Shape Your Brand to Honor Your Strengths

Once you’ve gotten your responses (and thanked everyone), find a few quiet minutes to look at them. What patterns or themes do you see?

Remember, this is not the Voice of God delivering permanent judgement; you’re just seeing what impressions people have of you right now. Those impressions can and will change, with time, effort, or both.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you agree with what those impressions are?
  • Are they how you want to be known, and what you want to be known for?
  • If not, what would it take on your part to change them?
  • Are erroneous impressions something you care about deeply? Just because it’s expected that you care, doesn’t mean it’s actually important to you.

The Core of Your Brand

For example—although I haven’t gotten my data back yet—I’m pretty sure that at least some colleagues would say that I could use work on being more organized, and maybe work on time management generally.

They would be 100% correct.

But, I am not willing to invest my entire being into changing that perception. Sure, I could and should improve some, for the sake of being a little easier to work with.

Being that person who plans out every project to the nth degree? And plots out my day in 10-minute increments? Nope. Not who I am and where I want to live.

Some of you may be appalled about that decision. I totally get that.

Yet I would say that being the person who is creative and innovative is vastly more important to me. It’s a core component of my brand, and more importantly, who I am. And from long experience, I know that creativity does not jump when I say when. It has to be wooed, and it will stomp off in a huff and a hair flip if I try to put too many expectations on it.

helen-mirren-hair-flip-hundred-foot-journey-premiere-02In other words, the more I put energy into being better at things I suck at, the less energy to plow into my important work.

Your brand should emphasize not just your strengths, but the strengths you care most about. Figure out what those are, and you are on your way to an authentic, useful personal brand. If you’re looking to change careers, paying attention to your personal brand is an important part of the process.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who helps unhappy attorneys how to find the work that makes them glad to get up in the morning—at least after they’ve had coffee. Email her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com if  you want some insight about what that work is for you.

Are You Scared To Admit You’ve Felt a Calling, Unhappy Lawyers?

A lot of you tell me you don’t have callings. You just want to find something that uses the skills you have, is stable, but is less miserable to do day in and day out. While I appreciate that being miserable in a job is a terrible way to live (I am a veteran of that, after all), the unwillingness to aspire to more is a way of avoiding your actual calling.

Men with loudspeaker and american hat

Which calling will you listen to? Inner longing, or society’s expectations?

Callings can be big, and scary, and seem incredibly impractical. Especially if you have been bludgeoned into believing that it’s pure foolishness, and economic suicide, to follow one. In this day and age, where money is king and business plans are worshiped via patent, it can feel like listening to a calling is akin to running in the streets during rush-hour traffic.

Callings Are Real. And Scary.

For centuries, even millennia, maybe, the mystics among us have urged us to follow our callings. They have been called seers, priests and priestesses, sensei, shamans, wise old men and women, hippies, therapists, and life coaches. For starters.

Turns out, there are many, many competent adults in the here and now who have followed callings to get to where they are. A recent Wall Street Journal article reports that in 2006, fully one-third of adults surveyed by Gallup agreed completely (not partially, COMPLETELY) with the statement: “I have had a profound religious experience or awakening that changed the direction of my life.”

I’m here to tell you, I have yet to hear of a profound spiritual experience that directs you to keep slogging at a job you loathe, or that you have to medicate yourself to bear.

Callings are scary because they ask us to believe we can be bigger than we imagine we are. They ask us to stretch out into faith—faith in ourselves, and faith in a higher meaning. You don’t have to be religious, or spiritual, to believe that ending some sliver of human pain or suffering has a higher meaning than your individual existence.

But What If I Don’t Want to Cure Cancer or End Poverty?

You don’t have to have a great and glorious-sounding meaning to pursue, to be called to do something. A call to be a painter, for example, doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a way to save humanity. But if that is your calling, you might just end up creating a painting that transforms a few souls. That seems profound to me.

Or maybe you are the person who can figure out how to make something work better—an institution, say. Maybe it’s even changing part of the law culture. Sounds nice and safe, you say, compared to saving souls. How can it be a calling?

When you help a culture get healthier, the people in it benefit. Even if those people are fairly privileged, it’s still a good thing; those privileged people have less-privileged people who work for them, and trust me, you’re improving the lives of admins, support staff, and their loved ones when the flow of toxicity from the privileged slows to a trickle. Like an inverse ripple effect.

Tune In, But First Tune Out

If you haven’t heard a calling yet, I have a few ideas to get in touch with it.

  • Detach from your electronic pacifiers. Refuse to answer emails/texts after 8pm or before 6am. I know, you’ll get fired if you don’t respond to those urgent 3am  texts. To which I say, if your job requires you to live without any decent boundaries, it isn’t your calling and you likely won’t be able to hear a calling while working there.
  • If reining in your electronic pacifiers isn’t enough, then book a 3-day weekend in a remote state or national park. Tell your bosses there’s no wifi at your cabin/tent/lodge/whatever. Get out and take a gentle or vigorous hike. Go swim, or zipline, or ride a horse, or get in a boat. Go check out cool local venues, preferably with great food, music, art, crafts, etc. Talk to people in person. Be curious about them and their lives. (I know, it’s a radical idea. Go with it.)
  • Go to a retreat. It doesn’t matter what kind, really. Yoga, art, hiking, marathon training, even a week spent in complete silence. Get away from your normal, and hang out with people who aren’t lawyers. Focus on something that feels good to your soul. (Doesn’t have to be about your calling at all.) Recalibrate your inner compass.

When you are able to hear at least a few of your very own thoughts, desires, and dreams, keep asking yourself: What would feel like the most amazing thing I could do with my life? What lights me up?

I will tell you right now, if you think of something that makes you feel tingly, and then immediately hear some version of “but I’ll never make enough money doing that!” your inner critic has crashed your party. S/he needs to be gently escorted outside to the curb, where s/he is welcome to stay. But without an invite, no critics are allowed into your party.

I’m not suggesting that practicalities should never be considered. But their place comes much later in the process. First, you need to discover your calling, then commit to it in your heart. Later, you can get creative with the details of how to get there.

The important thing, to quote those great philosophers, Incubus, is to not “let the fear take the wheel and steer.”

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who suspects her calling might need to include more writing and crafts. If you need help uncovering your calling, contact Jennifer at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com to schedule a discounted sample coaching session.

You Need Crazy Dreams, Unhappy Lawyers

So here we are on the threshold of a new year, when everyone gets their panties in a twist about changing their lives for the better. Now, don’t get me wrong, all you unhappy lawyers, I am a big advocate of change that makes your lives happier and more fulfilling. It’s just that most people go about it bass-ackwards.

Disappearing Cheshire Cat

Are your dreams weird enough?

“I need a new job! Then my life will be better.” Yes, there’s a lot of truth to that, particularly if you work in the highly toxic, PTSD-inducing environment that is most law firms. In your desperation to escape—and I don’t blame you—you’ll take a lot of jobs that, in hindsight, you may just smack your forehead and say “My God! What have I done? This is not my beautiful job! This is not my beautiful life!”

You know what? It’s OK. Because no one said, except maybe an inner critic’s voice in your head, that you had to make your escape from law in one perfect, Hollywood moment of a move. Many times, you need to take that slightly-less-shitty job to learn some stuff. It can be job skills, or how non-lawyers operate businesses, or even stuff about yourself.

The key is to simply take a step in the right direction.

But what if you aren’t sure what direction that is? That’s where dreaming comes in.

More Than Pretty Pictures

I’m not talking about nice, safe career dreams you can discuss with relatives or other cranky people in your life. I’m talking about the kind of dreams you have at night, the ones that are a non-sensical jumble. The ones that leave you with a sense of longing, wonder, and a whiff of fear and confusion.

For example, when I was plotting how the hell I could leave law, I kept trying to articulate that I wanted to do something visual. Something with images. But how on earth could I even think to do that? I had zero training in graphics. (This was the late 1990s, remember, before you could learn everything on YouTube or Pinterest.) I had nearly zero experience in visuals, unless you counted fiddling with all the font colors in Word, and a little work I had done on supervising photographing of exhibits for summary judgment. So I dismissed that thought as irrelevant.

Fast-forward 5 years, and I was the editor-in-chief of a magazine. Yep, a magazine, with tons of art elements accompanying stories. Despite myself, I had managed to find that job with visuals. To this day, it remains one of the best jobs I’ve had.

So let yourself dream those crazy dreams, even though they don’t make sense. Access them through a vision board, or just visualizing your ideal house, office, or even the clothes you want in your closet in 5 years. Go for walks, or visit new and different stores, and see what speaks to you. Just because you love looking in a bakery window doesn’t mean your secret inner desire is to be a baker; often these longings are less direct than that.

Your job is to pay attention, make notes, and be open to dreaming. The more you are open to that, the sooner your dreams will start to emerge.

Here’s to your year of dreaming.

Chalk Drawing - If Your Dreas Don't Scare You they Aren't Big En

Are you scared yet? I hope so!

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer whose visions are usually far more challenging than sugar-plums. She’s learning to be OK with that. If you want to talk to her about your crazy, but-what-if-I-could kind of dreams, email her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com to set up a sample session.

Wanted: High-paying, non-legal job. Keep the change.

As you might imagine, I get a fair number of emails from potential clients. Many of them tell me tales of misery, failing health, failed relationships, and a deep despair over the legal work that they are doing. “Soulless,” “ridiculous,” and “pointless” are some of the adjectives that they use.

People who write me these kinds of emails are ready for change, and usually a big one. They have come to terms with the idea that their soul is more important than their bank account’s robustness.

"What if we don't change at all ... and something magical just happens?"

Then, there are the emails from those who kind of dig the money they make, and if they’re miserable, they blame it all on law. If only they could find that magic bullet of a job that pays like law firms do, but doesn’t involve actual law firms, their dysfunction, and the people in those firms. If only.

I Just Need a Job That Doesn’t Suck

I get it. I get that right now, the worst-feeling thing in your life is working for a bunch of dysfunctional jerks, doing some excrutiatingly boring, meaningless shit. And if that part of your life would just get better, it would all be easy-peasy. And you would be happy. Plus:

  • You wouldn’t fly into rages over the simply irritating dailiness of life.
  • You wouldn’t have to fake that smile of “Fine!” when your mom or old, unemployed college friends ask, “How are you?”
  • You wouldn’t have to question where you stand in Maslow’s hierarchy, because you feel like crying on the way to work, every single day.
  • You wouldn’t have to wonder whether you’re just an entitled, unrealistic brat for wanting a job that you don’t loathe 87% of the time.
  • You would stop your online binge shopping, because you wouldn’t have to create little UPS events to look forward to.

Then, There’s Your (Messy, Vulnerable, Hideous) Truth

I wish I could tell you that all of this were true: That you would stop using all these coping mechanisms, and you would be that well-adjusted, hip, relaxed person that you envision yourself being.

But I would be lying through my non-whitened, coffee-stained teeth.

Sure, you might get rid of one or two of the coping mechanisms you’re clinging to right now to survive. Particularly the ones that reflect law’s cesspool of toxicity, such as yelling, outsize irritability at minor mistakes, the astonishing lack of lawyer social skills, and all the general “get an A in Lunch” behavior you’re drowning in.

So whose path are you on, anyway?

So whose path are you on, anyway?

The perfectionism, the blame-shifting, the behaviors designed to numb your pain? Not so much. Though they’re common behaviors among lawyers, they are by no means unique to them. Those are the ones you’re going to have to dig into, whether you find a “perfect,” high-paying job, or choose the path of courage by following your wise, inner guidance.

Am I saying that it’s impossible to have a fulfilling job that pays well? Hell no!

What I am saying is that looking first and foremost for the high pay, without delving into the messy reasons you aren’t happy in law, is following the same path that got you into law in the first place. Sooner (usually) or later, you will be at this same point again, just with a different job title.

When you’re ready for that big change, drop me a line.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer. Occasionally, she feels courageous. Mostly, she just tries to hear and follow her inner guidance about career and life, even though she isn’t at all sure it’s going to work out at times. She embraces the mantra of “turn fear into curiosity.” Schedule a sample session by emailing her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com.

The Space Between Wanting Out and Getting There

December is a hard slog even for round pegs job-seekers who are looking for a round-peg jobs. It’s an exponentially harder time for those who want to make a dramatic change. Like, all you unhappy lawyers who want to get out of law and do something that makes your soul sing.

Feeling hopeful.Society, whether it’s media, parents, friends, spouses, colleagues, or your cat, puts enormous pressure on job-seekers to look productive. How many resumes have you sent out? How many interviews have you gotten? How many recruiters have you contacted? Have you let all your friends know you’re looking? How is your LinkedIn profile? Are you sure you’re looking at all the right websites for job postings?

The truth is, you can answer all of these questions perfectly, and still not get a job. Or, not find one that you really, actually want. To get that kind of job, you might just have to wait it out.

That is not the kind of truth that you or anyone around you wants to hear. Our culture worships at the altar of certainty. The idea that you are not the captain of your destiny, and that you can’t steer inexorably toward that destiny in a lovely linear line, makes more than a few heads explode in impatience. Sadly, these explosions don’t alter the truth.

I Don’t Want To Wait!

The path to a fulfilling job for lawyers who want to become ex-lawyers usually requires Continue reading

Choosing the Right Job Match for Your Lawyer Personality

I just spent a week teaching art camp to children between 6 and 11. We did some super-cool projects, and the kids got to do real art. As in, the non-Pinterest Perfect kind, with room for experimentation and failure, and the kids’ own brand of creativity. No one’s projects came out looking alike. It was all the things I love to teach about creativity.

But by the end of it, I was a an exhausted, irritable, impatient mess.

How can that be? you’re probably thinking. She’s doing something she loves and believes in. And, what does any of this possibly have to do with being miserable in law?

Only everything, grasshopper.

What’s in a Personality?

Let’s start with some personality basics. I’m an introvert, like 3/4 of lawyers. Introverts not only process life primarily in their heads, they also get overstimulated and thus overwhelmed by constant noise and action. When you’re dealing with a bunch of 7 year-old boys, trust me, the noise and action are non-stop. Every year, I walk away from this art camp in awe of pre-school to 2nd grade teachers, who every work day step into what feels to me like chaos. I could never, ever do their job and expect to stay out of the looney bin.

Bolting the wrong job to your personality feels even more uncomfortable than walking around with staples in your skin.

Bolting the wrong job to your personality feels even more uncomfortable than walking around with staples in your skin.

So if you’re an introvert and in a job that demands regular, sustained interaction with others, you’re going to feel stressed. Ditto if you are subject to constant interruptions. While it may not be 7 year-olds whining. asking for help or acting out, you may get constantly pinged by emails, texts, phone calls, or even actual humans appearing in your office. This creates a lot of stress, because you just can’t finish a thought or a project. It’s very stressful to many introverts.

On the other hand, if you’re an extravert and work constantly behind the computer, and don’t have much interaction with others, you will feel equally stressed and out of sorts. Lack of stimulation can be a very serious problem for extraverts, particularly if they’re in law. It can make them feel flat and depressed. Moreover, extraverts tend to be misunderstood in law. Their need to process out loud can be viewed as irritating, and as wasting their colleagues’ time.

Either way, being in an environment that pushes you way past your default personality traits can make you hostile Continue reading

The Summer Reading List for Miserable Lawyers Who Want to Change

It’s officially summer, though here in the South, it has been dripping hot for at least 6 weeks, probably more. The heat and particularly the humidity long ago fried my brain. But I digress.

If you’re working on a big deal, big case, or big project, you probably don’t much care that it’s summer. It’s not like you’re going to get to enjoy it, right?

Even if getting away to the beach isn't in the cards, a book could take you there, or lots of other places uninfested by lawyers.

Even if getting away to the beach isn’t in the cards, a book could take you there, or lots of other places uninfested by lawyers.

Yet even if that’s true, you can pretend, to a certain extent. One way I’d suggest doing that is creating beach reading time for yourself, even if your only travel plans are to and from the office for the foreseeable future. If you really want to embrace the idea, put on your bathing suit and find an umbrella to sit under. At the very least, get a cold drink, stick a tacky paper umbrella in it, curl up on the couch, and put your nose into a book for a few hours.

Most of the books listed below aren’t new, and aren’t necessarily bestsellers. But they’re absolutely worth your time.

1. Be Who You Are

The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown.

If you really want to crack the code of your unhappiness, Continue reading

Stop Sucking It Up, You Miserable Lawyer You

You may think, since I no longer practice law, that I lead this idyllic life and never struggle with shit. Particularly since I’m a career and life coach. Let me let you in on a secret: I struggle all the time! I struggle especially when it comes to things that sound or look right, but my gut says “No Way, No How.”

If you're not saying no to things that make you feel boxed in, you're doing it wrong. Crawl out of your box and into freedom.

If you’re not saying no to things that make you feel boxed in, you’re doing it wrong. Crawl out of your box and into freedom.

I was asked to be part of a new group forming in my area, whose purpose is to help give women in transition the tools they need to empower them. Sounds right up my alley, right? Of course it does. So I went to an organizational meeting. We decided to have a big, brainstorming, white-boardy meeting this month, to flesh out ideas, put a schedule together, etc.

The closer the date got, the more I felt myself not wanting to go. I didn’t move a client call that conflicted with the meeting. I started fixating on what I didn’t like about some of the people involved. I started rationalizing that I really needed to go to they gym regularly, and this group’s schedule conflicts with my gym time.

But part of me kept on: What is wrong with you? This is a great opportunity to make a difference! You need to get out and meet more people, this is perfect! And, I felt guilty because I’d made a commitment. Plus, I really like the woman who asked me to be part of it, even though she does financial services and I usually have a severe allergy to people who focus on money for a living. She had in fact said to me, “We really need you. We need someone with your skills.”

Well, trust me, flattery can get you pretty damned far with me. I become a total sucker Continue reading

Shedding Light on Lawyer Creativity

When I first read The Artist’s Way (still the best book on creative recovery out there), I kept searching and searching my memories for those Creative Monster moments. Those are the ones seared in your memory, where someone makes you feel about 2 inches small over some creative effort. The teacher who crumples up your precious doodle and throws it in the trashcan, and lectures you about not wasting time. The person who sniffs at your very first attempts at writing poetry as “not exactly Shakespeare, is it?”

Play by the moonlight, or anywhere else. Just play, and the light will follow.

Play by the moonlight, or anywhere else. Just play, and the light will follow.

Except, I couldn’t really dredge up anything. I had no huge scarring experience to heal from. I felt so wimpy—why couldn’t I just get over my fear of doing something highly creative, of writing the novel I long to write?

Hell, I coach people all the time about vulnerability, and I practice it in many ways. I am pretty darn good, I must say, at detaching from a lot of society’s judgments and not feeling “less than.” I often go without makeup (at 47, this is getting more and more daring!), I don’t value myself by how much stuff I have or whether or not I go on exotic, glamorous-sounding vacations.

But yet, the fear ran deep. And I kind of despised myself for being unable to just get over it. (Yep, we all have our issues, life coaches included.)

Peering into the Past

A few months ago, I got together with both of my sisters and their kids. It was the first time in a couple years we had all gathered at one of our houses. We embarked on a game of Quelf. (If you haven’t played it, I highly recommend it. Lots of wacky yet intelligent fun, great for a wide age range.)

In Quelf, one of the possibilities is drawing a card that requires everyone to come up with synonyms to a word. The word on one particular turn was “night.” There was the predictable “dark,” and a few other equally predictable synonyms. Then it was my turn.

“Inky,” I said.

“WHAT????” exclaimed both sisters. “How is that about night?”

“You’re kidding, right?” I asked.

“No, how is ‘inky’ about night?” they demanded.

My inner dialogue went like this: “Am I wrong? Maybe they’re right, maybe it’s a big stretch. Maybe I am just weird. No, wait Continue reading