“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
Last weekend I went skiing with some of my best friends I’ve known since childhood. We rented a cabin right off of Lake Tahoe, in the mountains of California. Sounds great, right?
It was a great … but I have to admit, it started off really wrong.
I’m not sure if it was the elevation or the excitement of being with friends or something else altogether, but I had trouble falling asleep the first night.
A lot of trouble.
All of my buddies were asleep like babies, snoring, peaceful, relaxed.
And there I was, middle of the night, eyes wide open, awake on the living room couch.
All alone in the dark, my mind racing. Anxious. Nervous. Frustrated. Worried I’d be a wreck the next day. Trying to figure out what I had done to deserve this.
And I also tried really hard to fall asleep: I paced, I did pushups, I drank water, I looked out the window,
I spoke with a coaching student today. We’re beginning to work on her Unique Genius and she told me that she didn’t know which way to think any more. She was thinking so many thoughts.
She is excited to actually begin to leave the law because she is so unhappy as an attorney. She is motivated to find other non-law jobs out there that could align with her skills and strengths. She is happy to visualize a future where she doesn’t have to litigate and fight each day.
But she also thinks she should maintain the only professional identity she knows. She has doubts whether she could actually make it in an alternative career. She thinks that if she leaves the law it is proof of her weakness, that she couldn’t “make it” as a lawyer.
And I told her that maybe the point is to think less, and feel more.
What are our emotions telling us?
Maybe this is just how it starts. Maybe there is no big bang, or aha moment, or inspiration or external force telling us to begin to leave the law.
Maybe your leaving the law just started when you first felt that pang of unhappiness.
One of the things you’ll quickly notice about trying to leave the law and starting a new life is that you take one step at a time … to build confidence, to gain momentum and to learn what jobs and roles best align with your skills and strengths.
Yes, you must work at it.
(No one else will do this for you, you need to act)
Yes, you must do your research.
(This means meeting with people and learning about the non-law jobs they are in and how it might fit with your skills and strengths)
Yes, you may feel alone.
(This means mitigating your doubt and anxiety and fear of the unknown)
The question is, how do you take these steps?
You can re-do your resume, do informational interviews, find out what you’re good at, find the right alternative career, find helpful people …
I’ve got good news …
Today I’m excited to share that I’m opening enrollment to the Leave Law Behind Online Training Program.
This is just for our tribe,
It is easy to find a message from somewhere in our culture celebrating “being different”.
Celebrities and star athletes and politicians all interest us because of their public uniqueness. At a high level, we shower praise on those courageous enough to go for their dream, to fight back for what is right, to do what they love, to make good money, to stand out, to act crazy, to speak their mind, to say what we only think, to break barriers, to fight the system, to drop out of school or the rat race, to do the unthinkable, to be funny or coarse, to push boundaries, to be eccentric, to be themselves.
Be the same
But at our level, our day-to-day, in-the-grind, working-as-an-attorney level, we are often conditioned to be “the same”. To blend in. To think like all the others.
This programming can come from our upbringing. Or from our schooling. Or specifically from law school. Or from the other attorneys we work with and around.
But since we are unhappy attorneys, we are different. We feel different.
We feel unfulfilled practicing the law. We want to do something else.
It is raining very hard. It is very quiet and so I can hear what seems like every rain drop on our roof and windows and balcony. It is very quiet because it is Saturday night and it is dark out and my children are asleep and my wife is asleep and the dog is asleep.
A big storm is passing over California. All week. We have had years of drought, so we all rejoice when we have wet winters.
But actually the television weather people don’t seem to be rejoicing much – they only gloomily talk about how there may be flooding and downed trees and power outages and food shortages. I prefer to listen to the rain and be thankful that we now have water.
I wondered a lot about what I was going to write this week, and so I ended up not writing much. I wondered and wondered and wondered. I wasn’t getting anywhere in my mind wondering so I didn’t even start writing. And that’s how I got to watching the weather on television.
I didn’t write because I didn’t have anything to write.
I have spent a lot of time during the holidays going to new movies with my two kids. As with many of you, we like to go to movies to have fun, to be distracted, to laugh as we relive the stories later on and to be inspired by how the characters overcome obstacles.
We can use the same idea to help us battle the obstacles many of us face in leaving the law … except this time, we are on stage.
When you envision your life as a movie, with you the hero or heroine and main star and an audience of ticket payers watching your every step and listening to your every line, you allow yourself the excitement and freedom to enjoy every minute of your life, and to find the courage to perform feats most people wouldn’t.
Stuck in traffic commuting? The audience is watching you look cool with your elbow hanging out the window listening to tunes.
In the middle of a stressful settlement meeting? The audience is rooting for you and on the edge of its seat to see how you will perform.
Hesitant to make a dramatic life choice?
One of the major obstacles to leaving the law is our need to be perfect. Our need to not make mistakes.
I shot this short video for you (it’s 3 1/2 minutes long) delving into this fear we have of imperfection, and if you prefer reading, I jotted below some of the points I talk about in the video.
Celebrate the mistake
Of course, as a practicing attorney, we need to be perfect (or close to it). We have our fiduciary duties, we have judges to impress, counsel to oppose, clients to serve. We need to be perfect or close to perfect, and that is part of the job.
It’s also a main source of all the stress and anxiety that we feel as attorneys. There isn’t much cushion to make a mistake as we practice law.
But in leaving the law, it’s actually quite the opposite. In leaving the law, in being in a non-law job, and in succeeding in the world out there, making mistakes is welcomed.
Making mistakes is often celebrated.
Making mistakes is recognized as necessary.
I’m always on the lookout for stories from the Leave Law Behind community, of people first realizing they want to do something different to those people who take that first step and actually leave and do something else.
Here is the story of Joseph Castelli, a Leave Law Behind reader, who recently left his BigLaw job doing M&A. He asked me if he could share how he just left the law.
Here it is. I think you’ll find it insightful, actionable and inspirational. I did.
The decision to leave my six-figure law firm job didn’t come quickly. But as I looked down into my desk drawer, I realized I had to do it. Lined up neatly were orange prescription bottles of Adderall, Xanax, Effexor, and various headache medicines. I had the Adderall to wake up in the morning, the Xanax to relax at night, and the Effexor as a backup if I had to stay all night at the office.
I knew the statistics. Lawyers suffer from depression, anxiety, and substance abuse at higher rates than most professions. I could see it around me;
I shot this short video for you (it’s less than 5 minutes long) describing how I found what I’m good at and my Unique Genius is in alignment with the new podcast I’m launching (click here to sign up for free) …
… and if you prefer reading, I jotted below some of the points I talk about in the video.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR UNIQUE GENIUS
As you may know, one of the most important parts of leaving the law behind is exploring our Unique Genius. And I put together this blog post to tell you a story of how I’ve continued to find out what I’m good at … what skills and strengths I excel at and enjoy doing.
In the past, we have gone to school and looked for jobs and planned a career based on criteria not necessarily in alignment with who each of us really are as a person. Our consideration in large part might have focused on money or security or stability or because our parents told us to or something else.
I shot this short video for you (it’s less than 3 minutes long) describing the best advice for leaving the law …
… and if you prefer reading, I jotted below some of the points I talk about in the video.
Recently my family and I attended a fantastic free science fair event at the baseball stadium at which the San Francisco Giants play.
We were part of a group of thousands of people on a sunny Saturday, getting to not only play and run around on the baseball diamond, but also to participate in tons of science experiments and activities set up on the field and throughout the stadium: Local companies, museums, science institutes and non-profits set up tents and stands educating us all about insects, chemical reactions, robotics, the environment, physics, curing diseases, traveling to Mars and more.
The best advice
One of the participatory exhibits about gravity encouraged my daughter and me to hook a small “ship” made of wooden popsicle sticks powered by a rubber band wound propeller to a thin plastic zip line a few feet off the ground and watch it go.