“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,
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.
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.
Last week I asked readers to schedule a time to speak with me. To talk about anything – to vent, to ask questions, to brainstorm next steps.
I’ve spoken with many of you. It’s been great. I hope I’ve been able to help, and I know I’ve learned so many insights from many of you.
And I wanted to share with everyone the three main, consistent themes that have surfaced in these talks.
For those who prefer auditory learning, I shot at the above short video for you (it’s short, just a bit over 3 minutes).
And for those of you who would rather read, I continue in more detail below.
We are not alone
So many of us looking to leave the law are battling with anxiety, self doubt and the fear of the unknown.
We are kicking ourselves for going to law school and doing work we don’t like. We feel we have wasted our time, our potential and our money. We don’t feel confident anyone else will every hire us.
And we feel we’re the only ones struggling with this.
Sure, we want to leave the law.
But we have so much else to do …
- Our day job as a lawyer.
- Taking care of our kids.
- Paying our bills.
- Trying to stay in shape and eat healthy.
- Trying to have a social life.
- Getting sleep.
- And what seems like more and more work …
So while we want to leave the law, it can be difficult to find the time.
In this week’s video, I discuss some ideas and ways to stay motivated and incrementally build confidence and momentum.
Want to take the next step in leaving the law? Check out the new Leave Law Behind, self-paced online course.
Need some more support in leaving the law? Click here to learn more about the one to one Leave Law Behind coaching program.
The hurdle so many of us run into when trying to leave the law is that all we have known ourselves to be in recent years is an unhappy, unfulfilled, not-the-best-but-not-the-worst lawyer.
What we in essence have been saying to ourselves is “Because I have been an unhappy lawyer, I still am an unhappy lawyer.”
“And I may always remain an unhappy lawyer.”
This logically doesn’t make sense
We know things change all the time. Nothing is set in stone.
So why are many of us so set in the stone of lawyer drudgery, non-mentoring partners, little professional training, stressful fiduciary duties, anxiety ridden deadlines, money issues, and overwhelming amounts of work?
Because we think our past has everything to do with our now … when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
We cannot constantly focus our mind on all of the active, negative thoughts we have about our career as a law student and lawyer. Just because that is who we are now doesn’t mean we therefore still need to be that way, or still need to think that way or will always be that way. Continue Reading
We want to know what non-law job we will get. We want to know how it will all work out. We want to know how and when we’ll be happy.
We need certainty. We’re lawyers, and we are naturally (or we were trained to be) risk averse, and we have people in our life who may not understand why we would want to leave, and we have student loans we need to pay down and we can’t risk time without a salary.
And if we can’t find out what our future holds for us now, right now, then we don’t know, we’re just not sure, maybe we won’t do this whole leave law behind thing after all.
We want certainty.
But let’s look at this another way.
What if in the beginning of an engagement, our clients came to us and said:
“Will this plea deal get done? And if it does, what will I be able to do?”
“Will I get custody, and if I do, will it be full or partial?”
“Will we sign this agreement? And if we do,
I came home one evening this week after work and was eagerly greeted at the door by our dog. My wife and kids were out of town, and our dog had been home alone for a while, and she wanted to get outside.
Let me first tell you something about our dog: she’s a big 72 pounds, a Golden Labradoodle we rescued from the SPCA, is the sweetest thing alive and has tons of energy. Tons of energy. All she wants to do is run, sniff something, go to the bathroom, and then run and run and run more and more and more.
I do love her energy. And it’s actually been a forcing factor in getting me to run more. Almost every day, we jog our neighborhood loop in the morning, and then again in the evening. When she sees me walking towards the closet where I keep my running shoes, she knows it’s jogging time.
But this evening I did not feel like running. I was tired. I was hungry. And I was nursing a sprained ankle from my Sunday basketball game. There was no way I could run. I would only be able to walk her.
Last week, we discussed why we unhappy, dissatisfied attorneys need to forgive ourselves for all of the things for which we had previously been hard on ourselves.
Our true self is not to be unhappy. Our true self is to be happy and full of self worth using our skills and strengths to add value to others.
It sounds great. And it is really true.
Now let’s act
And we also need to act. We all need to put things in motion, we all need to visualize, we all need to manifest … in order to bring about this true self.
It’s not necessarily hard work. It’s not necessarily work that’ll take forever.
But it is work that takes action … incremental, confidence-building action.
That is where baby steps come in. The “baby step” is the basis of leaving law behind. The baby step is so essential because leaving the law can be so difficult and overpowering and murky. Leaving the law takes internal exploration, courageous action, and consistent follow up.
I began law school in the Fall of 1996 here in San Francisco.
Around that same time here in the San Francisco Bay Area, Netscape went public (1995), Yahoo was founded and began hiring (1995), and Google was founded and began hiring (1998).
I can’t tell you how many times I have thought to myself why in the heck did I go to law school when I could have gotten a job, any job, any entry level job (and stock options) in one of these companies and made my riches by the time I was 27.
Like many of us lawyers who strive for perfection I was very hard on myself for not excelling in this thing called life. I would rip my insides up, compare myself to others who did “make it” and wish I had taken another path in life that didn’t involve going to law school.
But I don’t think this way any longer.
I forgave myself
I don’t think this way any longer because I forgave myself.
More specifically, I let go of feelings of resentment I had towards myself for things I had done,