Our Unique Genius is something I like to write about a lot.
Our Unique Genius are those skills and strengths and enjoyment that come so naturally to us, so authentically to us, so easily to us that we don’t even think of them as a skill. We just do them.
Unique Genius is something I am always working on for myself. It’s something I am always talking with my coaching students about.
It’s something that is the crux of leaving the law: Instead of pursuing jobs and a career based on not-the-most-fulfilling reasons (money, status, title, security, what other people think is right), we can use our Unique Genius to help inform and identify a more authentic and aligned and happier career path and job search.
For me, throughout my life I have kind of had an idea of what I was good at (speaking, writing, interpersonality).
But, admittedly, I never had a firm grasp on what it was. I didn’t ever think that critically about it.
And that’s because I didn’t really need to think that much about it –
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 Sheila Agnew, a Leave Law Behind reader, former family law attorney and now published author. She has a compelling life story, of leaving the law … going back to it … and now finding her Unique Genius as a writer. I hope you enjoy.
In 2003 I was a new, lateral, commercial litigation associate at a fairly small firm in downtown Manhattan. On my first Tuesday morning, a senior partner stepped into my office:
“Welcome to the firm Susan. How are you getting on?”
“Fine,” I said.
I didn’t point out that my name wasn’t Susan. I didn’t care enough to bother.
“Wonderful,” he boomed, “we’re quiet in commercial litigation at the moment but there’s lots of work for you in matrimonial litigation. There’s a case going to trial in a few weeks.”
It was not my dream as a little girl to grow up to be a divorce lawyer.
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.
Two people I recently worked with have just now left the law for alternative, non-law jobs that are in real good alignment with their skills and strengths and enjoyments.
Needless to say, when they told me they had received and accepted the job offer, I was ecstatic. They were ecstatic. It’s why we do this.
One comment jumped out. Constructing her Unique Genius narrative, one student told me, was how she was able to gain real momentum and confidence in leaving.
Once she felt good about her narrative, based on her Unique Genius skills and strengths, she could finally talk about herself (to friends, family, at informational interview coffees, in hiring interview meetings) with confidence, pride and clarity.
To put it another way, she said she could finally talk about herself without worrying she sounded pitiful or, alternatively, like a conceited *$&(%^$#.
Unique Genius, a refresher
One of the main tenets of Leave Law Behind is to not worry first about finding a non-law job, or what title our non-law job should have or what salary the non-law job should provide or what stature this non-law job carries with it.
Last week we discussed specifically how we can get over our fear that we can never make as much money in a non-law job as we do now as an attorney.
We now know that as we explore and identify and become comfortable with the skills and strengths we have that make up our Unique Genius, we then are in a great position to align with a job whose requirements call for these skills and strengths. This in turn then allows us to take the first step to professional alignment and clarity and happiness.
And we can make good money doing it.
To give this a bit more color and context, I thought today, it might bode well for us to get a handle on what money really is.
A very quick history of money
In short, money is a physical medium of exchange. We people can conveniently, reliably, and securely use money to acquire something (a product, a service, a set of labor, an experience) that we value.
A long, long time ago, before the invention of money (and yes,
As I’ve written about before, my five year old son is devoted to one thing in his life right now … Star Wars Legos toys.
These Lego sets and ships he entertains himself with on his play table (and that I help construct) are not that simple to complete. That’s why Lego provides a detailed set of instructions for each ship. These instructions can run over 60 pages and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to complete. The instructions help turn a disparate set of multi-colored pieces into a gleaming, proportioned, fully integrated Lego toy to admire and play with.
It can be a lot of hard work following those instructions to the detail. I feel so accomplished and productive when I’m done.
So recently, I was a bit startled when I saw that my son had partially deconstructed and adapted what I had worked so hard to build, into some crazy, cockamamie ships and sets.
He added Gunguns to the Wookie Gunship. He moved around the trees of the Ewok Village. He had Luke and Anakin both flying in the Interceptor with red (and not the standard green) missiles.
I was on vacation recently with my wife and two kids. And while it does take some time for me to disconnect from my normal life when we go on vacation, we were able to ultimately arrive at a nice and mindful and fun routine.
One way we did so was by catching up on movies (read: Pixar and Dreamworks kid movies) each night. We watched a number of them including Night at the Museum, Planes 2 and Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
He shouldn’t have listened
The main character of Mr. Peabody is a highly intellectual and accomplished cartoon dog that has adopted a human boy, Sherman.
In the movie, Peabody and Sherman suffer the usual suspects: a bully at Sherman’s new school, bad people who don’t understand why a dog would raise a boy, and history and world influencing mishaps while traveling back and forth in their time machine.
It’s the time traveling part that I found interesting and applicable to us.
In one scene from the Renaissance time,
The issue many of us run into when attempting leave the law is we have no idea where to begin.
By its nature, leaving the law is kind of a formless, unstructured exercise.
Sure, there is precedent of some kind in that other lawyers have left the law and we can read their stories.
But even though their stories may be inspiring, it still can be so difficult to muster the courage or find the motivation or suffer the desperation that these (now ex-) lawyers faced. Each of our situations is still unique.
And then besides just finding which step to take first, we are held back by so much more: Managing the weight of our student debt, our (sometimes) tortured relationship with money, the fear of relinquishing our identity as a lawyer, finding the time in our busy week to devote to identifying our Unique Genius, or dealing with the doubters in our life who don’t understand how an esteemed lawyer could ever be unhappy.
So we don’t do anything.
We may google “alternatives to legal career” or “non-law jobs for lawyers” or “how to leave law”,
I love reading the submissions I receive from Leave Law Behind readers through the confidential survey we have on the site. It is a great way for readers to send me anonymous thoughts and ideas and feedback and to flat out vent. And I find it an extremely valuable insight as to what the community is thinking – I always stop what I’m doing when a new one arrives.
One recently caught my eye. To the question “What challenges are you facing in leaving the law behind?” a reader answered that he or she is having a lot of trouble in deciding and determining exactly what career to move to once he or she leaves the law.
And I know this reader has voiced what many of us think: If I only knew what I wanted to do, if I only knew what I was good at, if I only knew what new professional area would be a good fit for me, I’d leave the law right now.
Before we do anything, we lawyers want it all figured out.
That sounds great,
It’s the end of December, and many of us are making new year’s resolutions for 2015.
Carrying through with these resolutions, however, can be difficult. This happens because they can be too demanding, unrealistic or vague. By the end of January, our discipline often wanes.
And if we specifically aspire to leave law behind in 2015, I would suggest that we take a small baby step and consider one resolution. Just one.
The resolution I would recommend us to follow is to, in no uncertain terms, speak and think about ourselves in a positive, proud, self-respecting and appreciative way.
The most important goal we can make for 2015 is to celebrate ourselves.
Let’s mitigate the fear-and-doubt narrative we perpetuate each day.
What does this really mean?
This does not mean we are being boastful or arrogant. It does not mean we are being touch-feely. It does not mean we are thinking positive just for the sake of thinking positive.
No, this means something completely different. It means we begin to move our mind away from focusing on all we lack,