Insecurity Delays

When you start you legal career, you enter a period in your life when the metrics aren’t clear and feedback is few and far between. It is often difficult to know if you are doing a good job; however, it is rarely difficult to know if you aren’t doing a good job–that type of feedback is readily provided.

So in a profession where the only feedback you typically get is negative feedback, how do you keep those experiences from making you paranoid?

In today’s blog we focus on getting clear on where negative feedback fits in your life and how to keep it from bogging down your best work.

You are practicing law. You are doing the hard thing. You might feel like you are operating blindly, unsure if that last email you sent made any sense or addressed the appropriate legal issues. Projects are submitted and become part of a vast cone of silence. It is often difficult to know whether that silence is an indication of your failure or a silent thank you for a job well done. In the midst of this silent treatment, you periodically receive some feedback. Negative feedback.

That shouldn’t have take that long.

This shouldn’t have been that hard.

You missed an important issue.

You clearly did not understand the scope of the project.

You completely missed the point,

When many of us receive that feedback and when that is the ONLY feedback we receive, it breeds an odd form of professional paranoia. We know that we didn’t do a good job in those particular instances but we don’t have any clarity on when we HAVE done a good job. It’s like being blindfolded and sent to navigate a minefield. It’s no wonder that this type of consistent negative feedback, without more, makes it difficult to get back on the horse. Usually the result is that we spend more and more time agonizing over every minute detail of every later project hoping that we are getting better at anticipating the mines. The delightful insecurity delay!

We take that negative feedback and camp out with our self-created paranoia.

While we would like some positive feedback, we would almost prefer the silence than the sudden, surprising criticism, like a slap in the face. When we live in that paranoia, projects take longer and our brain becomes filled with self-doubt and negative chatter. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand in between beating yourself up for your mistakes and worrying that you are about to mess up again. The natural result is that we spin in this insecurity, take longer to get simple tasks done, and start to cower in fear of any future mistakes. (The mistake spiral.)

When your work is greeted with silence punctuated only by negative feedback, it can be difficult to be confident. In order to dig out of this pit, you have to start pursuing additional facts and facing some new realities.

You are not perfect. You will never be perfect. No one else in your professional orbit is perfect.

The first step in getting through insecurity is to get your head out of you @$$ and get some perspective. You are not perfect and neither is anyone around you. We all make mistakes in our practice and we all especially make mistakes when we were just starting out. Do not allow yourself one F-ing moment to believe anything else. No one has it easier than you — what does that even mean?! — and everyone is learning. You are not a special snowflake. You will make mistakes just like everyone else. Get over it.

Seek and ye shall receive!

Recognize that lawyers are busy myopic beings. We focus on the dumpster fire at hand and leave little room for much else. That means that normal, professional courtesies go out the window. Providing constructive feedback is not likely at the top of their priority list so if you want more constructive feedback, you are going to have to ask for it. You are not at the mercy of your bosses or your work. Constructive feedback is not parade candy — you don’t have to sit back and hope that they throw some your day. Get out there and rip the candy out of their miserly little hands! When you receive negative feedback, it is perfectly acceptable to ask if there were other aspects of the project that DID go well that you can continue to improve upon.

Schedule periodic check-ins following/during large projects to see how you are doing.

Ask the questions — am I on par with where you would want me to be? Are there areas where I excel? What other areas can I improve upon?

If you don’t start taking ownership of your career and asking for the type of feedback that you want, you will be left in a vacuum of negative feedback and nothing more. You will be at the mercy of your bosses’ individual experiences–whatever is happening in their lives behind the scenes that may or may not play a role in the ass-chewing you just received. You have to seek out more information. You have to seek out both sides of the story. Remember that we all have a bias toward negativity so you are going to have to work to gather the other side of the story.

Any feedback is a sign of their investment in you

Focus on the fact that they are giving you feedback; it is a sign that they are invested in your growth and improvement. The only time I withheld feedback — negative or positive — was when I had concluded that the attorney was a lost cause, a bad fit. If they are giving you feedback it means they know you can improve. At some level they believe in you. Do not overlook that fact.

Be honest with yourself

When you find yourself reeling after some negative feedback and it is making it difficult to execute any task, start focusing on your internal self-talk. Listen to the things you are telling yourself. Ask yourself why you are having a hard time moving forward. Usually it sounds something like this: You can’t mess up again; he thinks you’re idiot; how did you miss that? What the hell happened?  You are never going to do a good job from that headspace. If your friend had received the same feedback, would you let them talk to themselves the same way?

If the reason you aren’t sending that email is because you are afraid of messing up again — send the damn email. Do not let your fear of more negative feedback impede your success. Accept that negative feedback is part of it and allow yourself to be open to the possibility that you are, in fact, good at your job — if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be there. Recognize that the reason you aren’t sending the email, finishing the project, whatever is, is because you are afraid. Is that a good reason to delay? Do you feel good about letting some vibration in your body (fear) keep you from doing your best work?

Recognize your fear and your negative self-talk and start being honest with yourself about where your real work lies. When you allow negative feedback to paralyze you it’s because of what you are making that feedback mean about yourself. It means that you have more work to do.

Get support

Whether you sign up to work with me or not, the fact of the matter is that we all need support to do hard things. From professional athletes to CEOs, they all have a support team. Find yours. Whether it’s a mentor, an affinity group, or a close friend, find someone who will help you keep a clear perspective on things. Free support is available all around you. Find it and stop twisting in the wind.


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Getting Clarity

In today’s hectic world and in our chaotic practices, it can be easy to get swept up in the action of it all. When we lose ourselves to the momentum of our lives, we often overlook the most important question we need to focus our energies: what do you want?

Starting a legal career is much like a mad dash toward a finish line. We spend years working and stretching and pushing to get there. But when we finally get there, we don’t stop. We just keep running. We don’t even realize we are doing it. We just keep going without asking: what’s next?

In order to truly own our power, we must, in every aspect of our lives, pause and allow ourselves to set our course — where are we going?

It’s jarring to wake up one day and realize that we don’t know what we want next. We have gotten so good at following the orders provided to us. We received a recipe for becoming an attorney and we executed. We have long forgotten how to sharpen our tools of agency. We have become disconnected from ourselves and our wants! We crossed that finish line and we just kept going without considering where we wanted to run to next.

It has been far too long since we stopped and asked–where to after this?

No one wants to run a race without knowing where they are going. We set a destination, plan a course, and run until we get there. When we go grocery shopping, we have a list based upon what we want to prepare. We don’t hop in our cars and just start driving aimlessly unless we are running away from something — are you running away from something by aimlessly allowing your career and life to run on autopilot without a destination?

Why is it that in the most important aspects of our lives, we fail to set a course? We don’t try to see the bigger picture. We are running without a destination.

There is only one rule:

When asking yourself what you want and where you are going, don’t allow yourself to be confused. There are no right answers in life. There is no secret path you need to discover to find your way to happiness. When we indulge in confusion, we implicitly believe there is a right or wrong answer. That confusion keeps us stuck until we can know with certainty what’s next. It keeps us running blindly–why stop running if we’re confused about where to go next?

The name of the game is growing, evolving and challenging yourself to become the best version of yourself. You are not going to evolve or challenge yourself when you are operating automatically.

Identify your why — why are you in that relationship? Why do you stay in that job? Where does your current experience fit into your overall plan?

Nothing has to be set in stone and you can change your answers any time you want. The point is that we need to give ourselves some direction. Why? Because to do otherwise is to allow other people, events, and circumstances to run your life.

Failure to identify where you want to go next places your life at the feet of those around you — your boss, your spouse, your kids, your partner. When we don’t set our own course, others WILL step in and fill that void for us.

Do you really want them to determine where you are going?

Your free will and ability to make your life anything you want it to be is the greatest gift you have been given; don’t squander it by floating in the breeze. You are better than that. You are in the driver’s seat.

Every day, reconnect with your whys and wants. Get clear on what you want from life so that you can set your sights on your true north. To do it any other way is to surrender all of your power.

When I work with new clients, the first thing we do is set that intention–what do they want? What is their dream? From there, we start taking massive action to making that dream reality. Work with me and start creating your life from a place of intention.


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Excuses

Whether we admit it or not, we all make excuses from time to time. Lately, I have been seeing so many more excuses founded in the pandemic. It’s easy to blame the pandemic for our weight gain, bad habits, and not taking action. It’s easy to buy into these statements and carry them with us as our justifications for not taking action. But the pandemic is not to blame for your inaction. None of your excuses are factual. They are simply opinions; opinions that are keeping you from living the life you really want.

I’m waiting for the pandemic to be over before I get back into working out, it’s hard to eat healthy because I don’t want to go to the store too often, networking is too hard when everyone is working remotely, it’s just not a good time to look for a new job, no one is hiring right now

We provide ourselves all these reasons why we aren’t acting but as we chip away at each of these excuses, what we often find is that it has nothing to do with those reasons–we just don’t want to do the hard things sometimes.

Admittedly, there is certainly some shade of truth in these beliefs that makes these excuses appealing. Things ARE different. Our approach to certain things is going to have to be different.

But since when does different necessarily mean harder?

Since when we did we decide that different meant stop?

Before you allow yourself to put your goals on hold while we wait for life to “normalize,” we must get honest about what’s really going on. Does it matter that you don’t want to go to the gym because you are limiting your public activities? Can you work out at home or find another way? Does it matter that networking is now virtual? Does that really diminish the connection and make it more awkward?

Just because we can’t do things the way that we would want to, does not mean that we shouldn’t take action in the ways that we CAN.

If you have a goal that is important to you, it is likely that the goal requires some change from your current state. It might require you to get up earlier to write your book or get in a workout. It might require you to operate outside of your comfort zone.

It is going to be uncomfortable. If it wasn’t, you would already be doing it.

Recognize that any goal worth having is going to challenge you. In challenging you, it is going to bring up that part of your primitive brain that wants to keep you safe and in the cave; safe in your cozy routine. Your brain is going to craft all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t be acting.

Whether it is the pandemic or something else, your brain will develop roadblocks for your dreams. It will advocate for the comfort of your present state. KNOW THIS and do the work anyway.

Don’t allow this pandemic to pile on to those excuses. When the pandemic is over, you will create new excuses and you will allow those excuses to derail you too because you are really good and believing excuses. When you allow the pandemic to convince yourself to stay put, you are practicing inertia. You are practicing your current state. You are really good at it. The better you get at your present state, the harder it will be to ever make lasting change.

If you want something else, you are going to have to get really good at strategizing around those excuses and doing the hard thing anyway.

What are you using your pandemic time to become good at? Don’t let excuses and avoidance be one of your pandemic skills. Set the goal. Strategize the obstacles. Get moving. Your life is not on pause during this pandemic, why are you acting like it is?

Want support to kick it into gear? Take advantage of a free session and get back to work.


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Are They Freezing You Out?

When it comes to employee relations, law firms are among some of the worst employers. HR is typically impotent in addressing issues amongst attorneys so the rules of the game are largely left to the players.  In lieu of actual feedback, it seems that most firms opt for obstinate silence and the good ‘ol freeze out in lieu of actually providing constructive feedback.

Over the years, many firms have beefed up their periodic review process as a nod to HR that they do, in fact, need to actually address performance with their attorneys at SOME point. Even when those meetings occur, oftentimes the feedback is light and airy unless and until a decision has been made that you need to find the door. Then suddenly, the feedback shifts and years of evidence to support your shortcomings are lain before you  for the first time.

I have heard these stories so many times from my clients and I have witnessed them first hand with colleagues, associates, clerks, and friends. The legal industry is notoriously terrible at providing good feedback at the right times. Usually, when an associate is struggling they are left to twist in the wind. And when the powers that be have given up on an associate, they simply freeze them out. Suddenly there is no more work for them and the review discussions become focused on the lack of work and low hours. Eventually those performance metrics form the basis for the breakup.  A real discussion about the performance issues rarely occurs.

So what do you down when you sense that you are getting roped into this long goodbye?

Get very clear on what is happening.

Make a list of everyone you have asked for work and their responses (or lack of responses). At all times in your practice, you have to  be prepared to be your best advocate! That means you are going to need to document your efforts to fill your plate as well as evidence when all of those efforts have been rebuffed. This exercise will also help you get clear on whether your imagination is running wild or things are starting to get a bit chilly at the office.

Take a hard look at your performance.

Go back through each of your working relationships and examine projects that did and didn’t go well. Be honest with yourself. Take a look at those email strings where a project got off the rails — did you miss something critical that you shouldn’t have? Were the parameters of the project clearly communicated? Did you rush through the memo and forget to spell check? Take an inventory of your work and be sure to include your wins. Did you handle all the client interfacing on that last deal? Did you successfully apply what you learned in earlier projects?

Having a clear view of your performance will not only arm you for a performance discussion, it will help you see things from their point of view. You may have to ask yourself — am I not living up to my potential? Are they right? Do I need additional support?

Have the discussion.

Do the hard thing and have those conversations that are being withheld from you. For each key relationship, prepare a summary of your performance. Be sure to include both WINS and LOSSES. Remember that as humans, we have a bias toward the negative. Your attorneys might only be focused on the last mishap and might be forgetting all the other good things you have done. REMIND THEM! The goal of this meeting is threefold:

  • Tell them what you have accomplished.
  • Acknowledge where you have room for growth.
  • Tell them where you would like to improve and present your plan for improvement (be sure to invite their support as well).

This is not a place to defend yourself or make excuses. This is a time to take ownership of where you are–what have you succeeded at and where is there room for growth. This is a space for you to re-communicate your investment in the work, in the team, and in your growth.

An example of how this conversation might go is this: I want to thank you for the opportunity to visit with you. I’ve been taking an inventory of my work and I wanted to get your input and support on how I can take my work to the next level. Over the past six months, I have really gained a better understanding of how a deal evolves from beginning to end. I was really able to take my experiences on Project Zero and apply them to our last deal which really streamlined the diligence process. I can see that sometimes I have a tendency to rush through things and respond too quickly without taking the time to fully understand the issues or ask follow-up questions. I am working to balance my desire to be responsive with my goal of gaining a deeper understanding of the big picture. I’ve only been doing this work for two years and I know I have so much more to learn. I would really like to focus on learning more about the structure of the deal and the parties involved so I can start getting a better understanding of how my work fits into the whole. I think if I could participate in the earlier project discussions with the client, that would help me see the big picture. I would appreciate any feedback you might have to help me improve my contribution to the team.

Lawyers are busy. We focus on what is in front of us and that is typically it. Scheduling time for this discussion will force them to focus on YOU. It’s easy to be annoyed with an associate when you are in the heat of deal. It’s easy to be dismissive when you are stressed. When an associate proactively schedules time to discuss their performance and their career, it forces us to all take a hard look at how we have been treating you and how we have been (not) supporting you.

Be sure to schedule the discussion during a time when things are low stress (as much as possible). You want your attorneys to have space from those challenging projects to see clearly their role in the relationship as well.

Remind them of how long you have been doing the work and recognize that you have room to grow. As partners, we often forget how long you have been working as an attorney and it can be jarring to be reminded what level you are at. I often overestimated how long associates had been doing the work and realized I had been setting way too high of standards for newly minted attorneys. We forget how hard the work is and we forget how little we knew coming out of law school. Sometimes, it was helpful to be reminded of that by my associates and clerks.

This conversation might yield a significant change in your relationship or it might fall flat. Either way, this is a fact-finding mission. This is your best opportunity to figure out whether you are being frozen out; to ask for the feedback they are withholding from you. If the conversation is an utterly waste of time, simply document it and continue on with your other discussions. If you are asking for feedback and support and guidance and it is not being given to you, that is an important fact to discuss with others in your circle. Difficult conversations are the key to a successful career. Use this as an opportunity to start honing that skill.

Whether they like it or not, law firms need associates to function and associates want feedback and guidance. Law firms cannot afford to have mid-level and senior attorneys freezing out their associates and driving turnover. Force these conversations and document your results. Use those exercises as more evidence of your commitment in later conversations with other attorneys.

This is your career. You are not a victim. If they are freezing you out, take active steps to understand what is going on. The worst thing you can do is allow them to force you out without gathering all possible learnings from the experience. Work to gather information about your performance so that you can use that information to continue to improve and develop, whether it’s at that firm of the next.

Taking ownership and control of your career is at the foundation of my work. If you are concerned about your future at your firm, sign up for a free session so we can strategize and get you back in the driver’s seat.


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Relationship Decisions

Have you ever considered what it is that makes a relationship? Is it  set of standards we keep for ourselves and the other person — promises we commit to upholding? When I say I have a relationship with someone what does that even mean?

I believe that our relationships with the people in our lives are based purely in our minds. Our relationship does not exist independently of each person; rather, the relationship is completely dependent upon each individual. Each person has their version of the relationship that they keep and create within themselves. Each person may see the relationship differently and they most certainly will see themselves differently within the relationship as compared to how the other person may see them.

Having reached that conclusion, it follows that:

 our relationships with others are simply a compilation of thoughts about the other person.

That’s it. Knowing that, we then have complete autonomy to make the relationships in our lives whatever we want them to be.

There is no such thing as “I have a terrible relationship with my sister.” That is only an opinion. That opinion is one that the holder inevitably has all sorts of support for: evidence culled from the parties’ history to *prove* that the parties have a terrible relationship. That interpretation of the past and that perception of the evidence is completely one-sided. It is all founded in opinions of the individual person. Those opinions, when taken together, do not create a fact.

When we decide to believe something–my boss is jerk–our brains will get to work finding all the evidence of that belief within our present and past existence. Our brain will not sort through the data in an unbiased manner and weigh the information to determine whether that belief is true. We have already concluded that it is true and now our brain will seek evidence to support it. This is confirmation bias, in its simplest state.

We must become aware that we make decisions in every moment about our relationships.

We have made conclusions about our relationship with each person we encounter. If we want better relationships or different relationships in our lives, we have to change the way we think about the people in our lives. If you want a better relationship with your sister, you have to stop believing that your sister is a selfish little brat. You have to stop telling yourself that the two of you will never see eye to eye.

When we treat our perceptions of relationships as factual, we foreclose the possibility of ever having a different relationship with the people around us. So often, we wish we had better relationships with others but we overlook our role in the relationship–the only reason a relationship is “good” or “bad” is because of where you are choosing to focus your interpretation of the relationship. You will never have a good relationships with someone when you are only focusing on the negative aspects of the relationship.

I find it easiest to put into context with people we love implicitly–whether that’s a parent, a child, a niece or nephew or even a pet. There are people in our lives that we love completely. They have faults and shortcomings that we overlook because we love them. We choose not to focus our energies on the facts that they always borrow your clothes and never return them, are always broke, or can’t help to stop peeing on the carpet.

We focus instead on all the positive aspects of the relationship–that is why it is so easy to think of them so fondly! It is not because the relationship is inherently good; we have simply chosen to perceive it that way. There could certainly be people in this world who would not be willing to overlook a partner’s messiness or irresponsibility with money, who can’t get over a pet who periodically has an accident. For those people, those relationships will not be characterized as good because they are not choosing to focus on any of the goodness.

This does NOT mean we have to think lovely thoughts about all the people in our lives.

What this does mean is that we have to start taking ownership of the relationships in our lives. We get to choose what kind of relationships we have. We get to choose how to think about the people we encounter. In that way, we are choosing the types of relationships we participate in. We have complete control over whether  a relationship is good or bad.

How we interpret and participate in our relationships is a focus of many sessions with my clients. Whenever you feel challenged by a difficult relationship, it is an opportunity for you to take control of your life and start making decisions about the types of relationships you want. It is an opportunity to do your own work and examine why you are choosing to focus on certain aspects of the relationship. If you have a relationship that is challenging you, there is no time like the present. Sign up for a free hour of coaching with me and let’s see what we can do!


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The Grind

I’m a firm believer that life is yin and yang. Good and bad. Not all days are will be your best days. While that is easy to accept logically, when you are in the middle of the grind, this 50/50 concept takes a backseat. Instead, we find ourselves wondering Is it supposed to be THIS hard? Maybe I went the wrong way. When you are stuck in the grind and your passion project becomes a chore, how do you know when it’s time to course correct or stay the course?

“Doing great work is a struggle. It’s draining, it’s demoralizing, it’s frightening – not always, but it can feel that way when we’re deep in the middle of it.”

― Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy

When you are working toward a new goal, there will be days when the goal seems unimportant. When the path you chose to the goal seems like a mistake. You can start to doubt your prior decisions and it seems logical to take a break and reassess. It is in those moments that having a good coach can make all the difference because your task must then become separating your fears from your good logic. It is those moments of breaking through the morass that will set you apart from all others who gave up and went home.

We set goals and we make plans. That is the easy part.

We have something we want to attain so we identify it and we get to executing. We make choices about how to best achieve that goal and we take action on those choices. But then, days/weeks/months later as we continue holding steady with those prior decisions, we start to second guess. We start to doubt and question whether we made the right decision. That questioning might be founded in good deductive reasoning but most often that questioning if fear-based.

We agonize over whether we made the right decision.

Whether we chose the right approach. Whether we should be spending our time elsewhere. NONE of those thoughts are founded upon the results of your current experiment. None of those questions are based upon your current course. They are all rooted in fear and self-doubt. Fear about making the wrong choice, fear about squandering your time, fear that it should be EASIER THAN IT IS. None of those fears are rationale but when they bounce around your head all day long, they are damn persuasive.

So how do you know when you are letting fear drive the boat or whether it really is time to make a change?

You have to ask yourself why you want to make a change midrace. Are you frustrated that it’s not going well or that it’s not as easy as you hoped? Are you feeling unmotivated and uninspired? Those are NOT REASONS TO CHANGE YOUR COURSE! That is part of the bargain. It is supposed to be hard!

When we believe that our path to a goal should be inspired and we should be filled with passion and motivated every step of the way, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We are denying the reality of yin and yang! From that space the only option is to abandon ship every time it gets hard. We spend our lives chasing happiness and running away from challenges. That course will never bring your dreams to fruition.

The take away here is this: if you want to change your course, do you like your reasoning for doing so?

Would your future self agree with your rationale?

What would it be like to stick it out a little longer–what will that gain you?

What will it cost you to change course?

Whenever we set goals, I encourage my clients to make them very measurable and clear. If you are going to start a website and a blog, identify the steps and tell yourself how long you are willing to commit to a particular course of action. Maybe you will commit to trying to make it all on your own for 3 weeks. After that point, you can decide whether it might be best to hire a web designer. The point is to trust yourself enough to commit to a course of action that makes sense to you.

Give yourself the opportunity to either fail or succeed in taking action toward your goals. Don’t leave room for half/a attempts. Don’t give space to commit for a few days and give up when it gets hard. Expect that it will be hard. The grind will come and commit to riding that path through it. Don’t allow yourself to quit during the grind! Decide how long you are willing to commit to you selected path and just. do. it.

Make a decision and have your own back.

After you have pushed through the grind and honored your prior decision-making enough to power through, THEN you can re-evaluate how to best proceed. At that time, not only will you have identified one approach that does not (or does) work but you will have also fostered trust in yourself. You will have developed confidence in yourself that you can make commitments to yourself and execute, even when it gets hard. You honor yourself and your decision-making when you stick to the plan. After all, there was a reason you decided to take that approach–give yourself the benefit of the doubt and stick with it even when it gets hard.

Unsure about whether it is time to change course? Get some free coaching today. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective to see things differently.


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Asking for Help

By nature (or creation) most attorneys are notoriously terrible at asking for help. We are conditioned to do it all on our own and figure it out and so far, it has worked out well for ourselves. In the practice of law, however, this reluctance can not only be detriment to ourselves but also our clients.

In my opinion, this starts with the study of law. Law school and the pursuit of lawyer-dom is a solitary pursuit. We spend hours and hours alone, reading casebooks, working on our outlines, and reviewing class notes. It’s not that the solitude of legal studies is unique from other kinds of scholarly pursuits but it is unique in that, becoming an attorney means becoming a business of one. People hire an individual attorney based upon their knowledge and skill set.

There is some expectation that we, standing on our own, will have the answers.

Pair that implicit expectation with the study of law and those long hours of solitude and drop in the competitive gauntlet of the legal job market. Everyone is competing for positions at the top firms or clerkships; you have to lock down a job before your last year of law school even begins lest your career be over before you even graduate.

This solitary, competitive realm breeds attorneys who are silo-d. We get really good at the grind and problem solving. But this environment also breeds attorneys who are not very good at asking for help.

There are going to miscommunications and disconnects between you and the rest of your team. Partners will omit essential information and facts when giving you assignments. People will make false assumptions about your background or skills. When we resist asking for help or seeking additional clarification, we are ignoring all of those truths.

When we don’t ask for help we are choosing instead to believe that we have been provided all of the facts, communication was clear, and no one made any assumptions.

We ascribe absolute perfection to others involved in the project and assign absolute imperfection to ourselves. The wildest part about these scenarios is that we KNOW, logically, that the partner or assigning attorney is far from perfect. They may have a habit of omitting pertinent information or forgetting to provide key documents or they may simply have a reputation for providing terrible direction. But in the heat of the moment, we are so busy focusing on ourselves and our failures in the situation that we overlook the roles of others involved.

We provide no room for compassion toward ourselves. It’s so much easy to be hard on ourselves!

When you fail to ask for help it is usually because there is some nasty thing you tell yourself in that moment. You make asking for help mean something negative about you. The next time you find yourself spinning your wheels in confusion, ask yourself what you are making it mean if you went to ask for help or clarification? Do you believe that it means you aren’t good enough? You should not be an attorney? The partner is going to judge you and think you’re an idiot?

You are none of those things. You already are an attorney. If you weren’t able to do the job, you wouldn’t have made it through the LSAT, 3 years of law school, the bar exam, and landing your first job. Don’t let something as simple as a miscommunication or misunderstanding erode all of that value.

Approach the situation with curiosity–why am I struggling? Why am I confused? What am I missing? And get to work sussing out that information.

That may require you to seek some additional support and follow-up with the assigning attorney. Remind yourself that the other attorney is not perfect either and it is possible they omitted something or miscommunicated something. In fact, that is more likely true than the possibility that you are an idiot who shouldn’t be practicing law.

Open yourself up to alternative possibilities and stop making it all about you!

Your team and your clients are counting on you to put aside your ego and get the job done.

Take advantage of an opportunity to take this work deeper and apply it directly to your practice. Sign up for a free one-on-one coaching session with me. I would love to help you reconnect with your value and get your career back on track.


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Disappointment

As my clients learn to take more ownership over their feelings and their actions, one of the challenges they face is how to address negative experiences. Their immediate inclination is to shift to a new thoughts to try and feel better about the situation. But reality is that sometimes things will happen in our lives that we don’t want to feel good about. So what do we do?

Many of the things we do (or don’t do) in our lives are because we are chasing (or avoiding) a feeling.

We get married because we want to be happy. We don’t volunteer to speak up because we don’t want to feel embarrassed. We don’t ask for more money because we don’t want feel ashamed if they say no.

We spend a significant amount of energy in our lives calculating how certain events may or may not make us feel and we then choose to act based upon those estimates. It seems logically self-protecting. Why would we set ourselves up for a failure or embarrassment? Why would we take any action that would make us feel terrible?

This recently came up when I had a client tell me how she blew an important deadline. She was overloaded and low on sleep and it just slipped her mind. Despite the fact that is wasn’t a career-ending mistake and was completely salvageable, my client felt terrible. She was overcome with disappointment in herself — I should have been more organized, this shouldn’t have happened, I let everyone down. She explained to me that, in the days that followed, she just kept trying to shift her thoughts to a “better” thought. To one that didn’t make her feel so terrible, but it just wouldn’t stick.

The problem was that my client was resisting her feelings of disappointment. She was trying to cover them up by manufacturing prettier thoughts. She was running away from that experience and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t working.

Why? Because she was disappointed. She didn’t want to feel good about her oversight. The truth was that she WANTED to feel disappointed (but she didn’t really want to FEEL disappointed). She didn’t want to feel good about it but she didn’t really want to experience the disappointment either.

Whenever we have an experience that we don’t want to feel good about, we cannot give in to the temptation to try and cover it up. We must allow the feeling of disappointment to be there. To run it’s course. We can’t try and cover up the 50% of our life experiences that aren’t sunshine and roses.

There will be hard days and we cannot simply write off half of our lives.

Half of the time it’s going to be hard and painful. We have to practice accepting that. We also have to practice processing emotions.

When we resist negative emotions and try to bury them with better feelings, the negative feelings simmer below the surface and compound. They will eventually make their way to the surface. It might not be today but it will likely be at some inappropriate time–when you are stuck in traffic on the way to meet a friend for happy hour and you burst into tears….when you spouse asks you what time you will be home for dinner and you bite his face off.

Those feelings will find a way to get out and whomever is on the receiving end likely doesn’t deserve it.

Aside from the fact that resisting those emotions is futile, there is a practical reason for allowing yourself to feel the disappointment. If we don’t accept that negative 50% of our emotional experience, we never get good and experiencing those emotions and moving on. Instead, we create patterns where we resist and avoid those emotions so we start to believe that we can’t handle them.

When we spend our whole lives avoiding those negative vibes, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn how to experience them. To learn that they won’t kill us. To learn that we can experience those emotions and keep moving. Think of it as emotional aversion therapy — we have a hang out with those emotions so we are no longer afraid of them.

When we create a pattern where we fear those emotions, we spend our lives trying to avoid them. It makes perfect sense that we would avoid those emotions that aren’t familiar and that we don’t understand. Of course, they would seem scary! But what if you could explore and come to intimately understand those emotions? What if those emotions were no longer so scary?

Consider what you would do with your life if you weren’t afraid to feel embarrassed? What would be different? What would you accomplish?

As I mentioned at the outset, we spend our entire lives taking actions or not taking actions because we are chasing or avoiding certain feelings. Those feelings are just vibrations in your body. They won’t hurt you. They are created by your thoughts and you have complete agency over those thoughts. But rather than using your brain to try and erase negative emotions, what if we allowed ourselves to experience negative emotions when it is warranted? What if we became practiced and comfortable with those emotions we typically avoid? Then our lives become a series of actions we take simply because we want to; because we know that whatever the outcome, whatever the feeling or negative result, it doesn’t matter because we have no reason to avoid it.

Allow yourself to experience the 50/50 that is our lives. What other choice do you have?!

As attorneys, I know that some days, weeks, and months can feel more like 80% negative and 20% positive. If you need help working through the yin and yang of your life, set up some time to get some free coaching. What do you have to lose?


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Self-Confidence

I spend a lot of time with my clients envisioning their ideal future and ideal self. One of the things I often ask them to examine is how that future self would be talking to them. What would her internal self chatter sound like? Invariably, the brains of our ideal selves are filled with affirming thoughts, focusing on our strengths. Our ideal selves are confident. They trust themselves implicitly.

We all want to be more confident and when we think about our ideal selves, that woman lives in a bubble of quiet confidence. She is never afraid to speak her mind and she trusts her ability to do anything. So, if our work together is help you move one step closer to that ideal version of yourself, the next question invariably is:

How do I get there?

How do we build self-confidence?

We have to practice failing.

Stay with me here….as attorneys and women who excel at examining options and weighing risks, many of us struggle with action. We thrive when we are planning and analyzing. We excel at PREPARING to act. The problem is that we don’t have any clear metric as to when our preparations are complete and it’s time to act.

How will you know when you have fully vetted all the alternatives? How will you know when it’s time to act?

The truth is we don’t. We never do. And that is why it’s so easy to remain stuck–stuck planning to act but never actually doing anything.

All action must acquiesce to the truth that there is no such thing as being fully prepared.

There is no way to ensure success. We must simply act. Only through acting will we ever know if our preparations were in vain. Only through acting will we see whether we overlooked anything. But many of us get stuck in the faulty belief that we aren’t “ready yet.” We tell ourselves we have more work to do, more data elements to analyze. So we just keep preparing. And. We. Never. Move. Forward.

My rationale for drawing out that point is simple:

If we want to build self-confidence we have to start acting and stop preparing.

We have to start acting even when we might not be 110% ready. Why? Because only through acting do we force ourselves to experience the pressures that create self-confidence. When we are stuck in inaction, we never get the chance to really see how we perform under fire. We are so busy believing that we must do it “right” that we don’t allow ourselves the chance to simply TRY.

Passive action robs us of the opportunity to develop confidence through action.

When we act and fail, we might experience embarrassment, shame, or guilt. But when we commit to continued action despite those failures and the crappy feelings, that is where we build self-confidence. Self-confidence doesn’t mean we never fail. Self-confidence means that we know we can fail and get back up and keep going.

Self-confidence means that we trust that we can experience any emotion and keep moving.

We trust in our ability to handle whatever fallout may come our way. Self-confidence acknowledges that we have a goal and we are going to start taking action to get there, no matter how many times we have to face-plant on the way. Self-confidence means that we aren’t going to sit and wait and plot and plan until we can do it perfectly–because we trust in our ability to have compassion for ourselves and keep moving even when it doesn’t go perfectly.

When we know that failure simply means one of our theories didn’t pan out we can keep moving. It doesn’t mean we did anything wrong. That is self-confidence. We trust ourselves, despite the failure.

You aren’t going to grow self-confidence in your analytical lab.

You aren’t going to create self-confidence strategizing and planning. You will only create self-confidence when you put a time limit on the passive action and get out and start taking massive action. Stop with the planning and start practicing at failure. Once you master that, you will have all the self-confidence you could ever imagine.

Self-confidence is one of the most highly sought after skills my clients want. I have so many ways I support my clients to get out there and get moving. The transformation I see in them is why I do this work. If self-confidence is something you want, let’s get you some free coaching and see what we can do together.

Cheers!


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Productivity and Perfectionism

Many of my clients describe themselves as perfectionists. They don’t want to do something unless and until it can be done properly. While that sentiment sounds noble and worthy, its impact on our lives is much more nefarious.

The truth underneath that notion is that when we allow ourselves to delay action until it can be done perfectly, we are really just trying to protect ourselves from failure.

But what I often see happening is that perfectionism morphs into complete inaction; permission to remain in place. I’m not ready to move forward yet so I’m just going to stay where I am.

It is not logical to believe that we can plan everything to such an extent that we can eliminate all risk of failure.

You are going to have to risk failure if you are ever going to act.

Those that work with me regularly know that I believe perfectionism is for scared people and I’m not the only one who objects to perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism is a just a prettier word for self-protection.

While I agree that we must all act in a manner that protects ourselves in the highest sense, that self-protective impulse is not relevant when it comes to commonplace activities — applying for a new job, reaching out for support, finishing a large project, sending an email. So many of us apply that self-preservation impulse to those every day tasks and the net result is that we don’t apply for the job, we never reach out for support, and we agonize over the tiniest details of projects and simple emails. Our work takes longer and our emotional fortitude wanes.

When we allow ourselves to linger in preparation mode rather than simply acting, not only do we prolong our current state (assuming we will EVENTUALLY act, which is not always the case, some of us prepare indefinitely) but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to create self-confidence.

Self-confidence is not something we are born with; it is something we create for ourselves.

How do we build it? We take action and fail and develop the ability to move forward despite the failure. When we know we can survive failure, heartache, embarrassment, shame, humiliation and all the other fantastic emotions that accompany failure, we learn to trust ourselves. We realize that we can weather any storm, overcome all those negative emotions. In that experience we develop confidence in ourselves because we know we can do and survive anything that comes our way.

Naturally, that means that in order to become more confident, we must fail. We must take action and set ourselves up to experience failure. If we don’t ever experience failure and adversity, how can we learn to trust in our ability to do and survive anything?

If we play it safe forever, allowing ourselves to linger in preparation so that when we do act, we can act perfectly (as if that ever really works) we prevent ourselves from simply acting and taking the chance that we might fail.

At the same time, we rob ourselves of the possibility that we might act and do it perfectly the first time. It just might work out! All those details you wants to distress over and sift through might never even matter. But you won’t know until you take the risk.

When we linger in preparation we imply that it is possible to know exactly what is needed for success and what is necessary to prevent failure. That is ridiculous.  If that were true, our lives would be very different. The truth is that we never know what will work or won’t work until we start acting and learning all the things that didn’t work.

When my clients explain to me why they aren’t taking action on things or why they are taking so long to complete their work, I challenge them to experiment with the concept of B- work. What if you allowed yourself to present B- work where it was warranted? What if you allowed yourself to recognize that sometimes done is actually better than perfect? What if you accepted that all the minutia, all those nagging second-guessing thoughts might not actually be important to the overall project? What if a client wants a B- answer and doesn’t want to pay for a A+ dissertation-worthy response?

What is the worst that could happen if you just committed to acting and stopped second-guessing?

Embarrassment…shame,…guilt…?

Those are all just vibrations in your body, caused by your thoughts. YOU and how you talk to yourself when things don’t go as planned, THAT is what causes those emotions.

The beauty of it all is that you control those thoughts and you can decide what you want to make it mean when your commitment to action is met with failure. 

It doesn’t have to mean that you are a failure or that you aren’t cut out for your job. It could simply mean that you learned how to not do something; you can add that learning to your arsenal, practice experiencing the feelings of embarrassment of guilt and just keep moving.

Without acceptance of failure, you will never create meaningful success. The price for success is repetitious failure. The process of repetitious failure creates self-confidence. What do you have to lose?

Are you wanting to take action but can’t figure out how to get moving? One session can make all the difference. Sign up for free session and get started creating the life you really want.


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