I wrote a guest post for Above the Law’s Career Center last week. I thought it was pretty good, and some readers did too. They thought the article was helpful, answered some top of mind questions for them and laid out what transferable skills lawyers possess in a clear and accessible way.
But some others who commented on the article didn’t feel it was so good.
Rabbitfever wrote: Casey, this blistering insight must come as a great relief to all of the unemployed attornies [sic] out there. Do you have any special advice for the minority who are not third generation venture fund inheritors? I guess their superior interpersonal skills should get it done, huh? That and the upselling. Never forget the upselling.
Atilla the Hun wrote: Interpersonal skills??? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA This list is like the author was dreaming about how wonderful his mommy would tell him he was if she were still on speaking terms with him.
And there were others.
My first instinct was to feel attacked. This post is something I worked on for a while and wanted to share with the world, and here were these anonymous readers criticizing me, and not in the most respectful or productive way.
Then, I felt like a disappointment. I envisioned everyone (my friends, my family, the whole world) reading these comments and coming to their senses and saying something like You know what, I agree, this Casey guy is a fraud. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
And then I wanted to help them. I wanted to let them know that leaving the law is a process. It takes time. It takes baby steps. And hard work, but that anyone can do it.
But what hit me the most was that these comments are a real life example of why many of us do not leave the law, of why many of us do not follow our dreams, of why many of us do not stop being [admittedly unhappy] attorneys.
We don’t do anything different because we are afraid of being criticized. We are afraid of being noticed. We are afraid of being unique. We are afraid of being embarrassed. We are afraid of being called out as a fraud.
There are three things I learned from reading these comments, and which I think can help all of us as we yearn to leave the law, grow our confidence, be creative and do something different.
1. If we’re being criticized, we’re likely doing something right. Or exciting, or new or different. All of us who are or yearn to be leaders and unique thinkers or to march to the beat of our own drummer will face some criticism from others as we begin to act on these urges. These critiques just mean that there is insecurity and fear and confusion out there in reaction to what we do, not that our actions are wrong. It’s them, not us.
2. It means we’ve decided to get out there. 80% of life is just about showing up. And when we show up (when we choose to leave the law and explore our Unique Genius and do something different] we will most likely elicit reactions and new conversations, good and bad. But these conversations can only help us learn. This comes with the territory of showing up and taking baby steps and acting. And remember, the converse is likely true too … if we’re not being criticized, it may mean we’re not doing anything worth noticing.
3. It’s very helpful to be called out. When we explore leaving the law behind, we actually want to seek out critiques and obstacles and challenges. These teach us to be flexible and open and courageous and honest and receptive to change. When we incrementally and gradually and sincerely overcome challenges, we build self-confidence and self-worth (Did I really just overcome that?) and momentum (You mean I got criticized, and I’m still standing, and my world didn’t end and the whole world didn’t laugh at me? Wow, I can do anything now …) to attain a growing income and passionate lifestyle and happiness.
As we are hesitant to leave the law because we are afraid of being criticized, or if we have begun to leave the law and we encounter critiques that hurt, we need to remember that these are only proof that we are on our way. They are not a sign that we should stop… rather they are a sign that we need to keep on moving.
Hey Rabbitfever, Atilla the Hun, I’ve got a new Above the Law article coming soon. I’m looking forward to your thoughts …