Do You Have “It”?

I was recently coaching a new client and I was explaining to her why I do this work. For those of you who have heard this rambling, let me summarize. When I was at my first, nationwide law firm out of law school, the shine eventually wore off. I was working all the time, struggling to find balance, and I became incredibly unhappy. At the time, I didn’t have the tools that I have now and I didn’t understand how to “fix” my situation. So I left. I cracked open the exit door just a few inches and I was quickly drawn out by another opportunity. I was hired by a rival firm to build a practice group from the ground up.

At that time in my life, I was roughly 29 years old. I had been practicing for about four(ish) years. I had a solid foundation and I knew enough to be dangerous but to start a whole practice group–pure silliness. What kind of maniacs would take that risk on me?! Despite it all, I sold them on the idea and I gratefully leapt from the arms of one task-master to another.

As I settled in and started to take an inventory of everything that went along with “running” a practice, I realized that I was going to need some support. I already felt myself bristling at the tired mentalities and structures that I disliked at my last firm and I could tell that many of the challenges I had run away from at my last firm would be waiting for me in this new place. So I hired a coach–a female attorney who had successfully built her own firm. I wanted someone who got it. I wanted someone who understood the subtext, the struggles, and the environment without my having to explain it.

(If you are interested in that kind of support, grab a free session now.)

In working with her, I was able to see and deconstruct many of the patterns that were following me into my new firm. I was able to shift into a different mentality — a space of confidence and unwavering belief that I COULD do it. That I did have what it takes. We worked through the imposter syndrome that many of us carry with us especially those of us that didn’t come from professional, college-educated homes.

Working with my coach, I was able to build a practice that was bursting at the seams within one year. Within one year, I had so much work and garnered the confidence and trust of so many large and demanding companies that I was drowning in billable hours. We hired two partners from opposing firms to come and join me…partners that were 20 and 30 years my senior and had been practicing for many years to great success without the oversight and wisdom offered by this 30-something little girl. So naturally, with that change, came all sorts of new challenges.

During that time, I was traveling all over the country selling our services to clients. Every day, my calendar was jammed with breakfasts, lunches, and happy hours where I was selling and schmoozing without end. I was asked to teach at a business school and then to also teach at a law school and I was constantly presenting at one conference or another.

My practice was thriving and I had done what I set out to do. I loved every minute of it.

The last time I related this story to a client, she asked me whether I thought my success was attributable to skills I had developed or whether I just had “it.” “Do you really think that is something I can do? I just don’t think I’m the type,” she explained.

This, people, is why I do this. There is nothing magical about my success.

“I am nothing special, of this I am sure.” – Nicholas Sparks

The only reason people aren’t going out and creating the life of their dreams is that they believe they can’t do it. Because they, like this client, allow themselves to consider that there is some innate “it” and you either have it or you don’t.

Let’s level set here. I am an introvert and I do not love to speak publicly. Prior to joining that firm, I hadn’t spoken publicly since COLLEGE. At my prior firm, I wrote the speeches, I prepped the slides but I was the silent partner — speaking was never permitted for associates. I was good at my job but I was not (and am not) any kind of a legal prodigy. Aside from leading bar crawls during my sorority days, I had never “led” anyone other than a secretary and a paralegal. I had no idea how to set budgets or project income, how to “sell” legal services, how to talk to partners who weren’t pulling their weight, and the idea of presenting my business plan to a Boardroom full of men made me sick to my stomach.

If there was some special “it” that made this stuff easy, I didn’t receive that gift.

I created my success because I INVESTED in myself. I put in the work. I allowed my coach to push me to do things that made me very uncomfortable. I got really good at uncomfortable conversations, I got really practiced at humility, and I learned how to “sell” myself authentically. Does it come easily now? No. It still doesn’t. But I have done it so many times despite the discomfort, I understand now that’s just part of the process for me.

I came to understand that in order to create a different career for myself, I had to do things differently. I had to take time to actually work on myself and that meant I had to get comfortable spending my hard-earned money on the fluffy stuff. I had to invest my money differently. I needed to acknowledge that, in order to create a different future, I was going to have to completely revamp my approach to practicing and that meant getting a coach on my team.

She pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do; things I WOULDN’T have done but for my respect and commitment to her. She helped me to see things about myself that were holding me back and she helped me to find my voice in a world where many of us just put our heads down and “accept” the legal profession with all its warts.

I wanted to share this with you today because I want to dispel this notion that we can’t all have the lives of our dreams. There is no magical “it.” You have what it takes and we have to stop considering that we aren’t enough. Instead, I implore you to consider —

What if you are wrong — what if you have EXACTLY what it takes?

Snap Out of It

I love a good juicy, gossipy story. Unsurprisingly, I love terrible reality tv. I suppose this speaks to our human tendency toward the negative but there is something about having a good ranting and raving session with your girlfriends about the terrible thing that happened to you or someone else. It’s cathartic! But catharsis aside, when spending too much time extrapolating on the negative aspects of our lives, it can quickly devolve into what behavioral psychologists call the drama triangle.

Have you ever had that moment when your dramatic rant is abruptly halted by someone suggesting that the problem might just be YOU?

Blasphemy!

When we’re accustomed to dripping in negativity about our bosses or our jobs, it is jarring and somewhat offensive when someone suddenly stops playing along in favor of some new perspective.

It’s like that group of single girlfriends that spends every Saturday night together bashing their love interests and blaming them for their lack of happiness and then one night, one of the friends interjects, “What if the problem is us, not them?” Battle lines are suddenly drawn. The mere suggestion that the group perception of reality is skewed and subtly suggesting that they are co-creators of their imperfect reality, is blasphemous. It challenges the very foundation of their friendship and their understanding of who they are in their worldview.

Although the pursuit of a career is not the same as the pursuit of a meaningful relationship, our tendency to fall into certain patterns remains constant, no matter the circumstances. Our tendency to see ourselves as the victim and others as the villain is commonplace and often pervasive in professional environments. Overgeneralizations about dating like “all men/women are dogs” turn into “my boss completely ignores me.” In either case, we are playing a role in what Stephen Karpman calls the “drama triangle.”

Karpman’s drama triangle examines the connection between personal relationships and power in conflicts. The triangle identifies three characters that play a role in conflicts: the persecutor, the rescuer, and the victim. The victim is the primary character who interacts with the persecutor whom the victim blames for their suffering. Then, there is the rescuer who periodically steps in to try and alleviate the victim’s suffering.

In the complicated world of practicing law, I often see my clients vacillating between the victim role and the rescuer.

In the former scenario, their partners/clients/bosses are the persecutor and in the latter, they become the rescuer to the poor planning/demands/needs of their persecutor. 

In one role, we are angry and suffering in our victimhood, and in the other, we are energized by our action as we imagine that our rescuing will “mend” the relationship with our persecutors.

On the one hand, we blame the persecutors for our experiences but then we shift to rescuers, aiming to please our persecutors and seeking some kernel of appreciation from our villains. The dynamic is incredibly toxic and co-dependent and many women that I work with feel compelled to seek out that positive feedback from their persecutors. They spend their entire career aiming to please the seemingly impossible to please persecutors–they are perpetually “rescuing” others in hopes that their value will one day be recognized.

The solution to the drama triangle is the empowerment dynamic developed by David Emerald Womeldorff. The empowerment dynamic asks the victim to take ownership of their lives. To creatively solution their problems and start focusing on what they want and what they can control. Similarly, the rescuer shifts to a coaching role where the codependency is broken and they offer detached support, no longer making the victim’s problems their own These shifts are the only solution to the drama triangle.

In either case, resolution of the drama triangle requires us to take ownership of what is ours and let others take ownership for what is their own. Period.

I work with women every day to recognize the roles they play in the power dynamics of their careers. My work supports women to take back their power and take control over their careers. We may not be able to fix the difficult personalities attendant to practicing law but we can stop blaming them for our unhappiness; we can take control and start taking active steps to create the life we want, the life we deserve.

The goal isn’t to find a perfect workplace, the goal is to do our best to make it work; to actively invest in our own happiness, and stop giving them all the control. Your happiness is worth it.

Sign up for a free consultation today and get the support you need to live empowered and escape the drama. 


Photo by Annie Gavin on Unsplash

“Old School” Thinking (how to deal)

“Some humans are really bad at being human.”

Scott Mescudi

If I could teach my clients how to change other people, I would. If I could help my clients persuade their bosses that working from home periodically is not the end of the world, I would. If I could show women how to get their significant others to be more loving, supportive, affectionate, romantic (this is a long list), I would dive right in. But I can’t. Coaching is not about helping you become a manipulation magician or specialized in your methods of *helping* others see the light.

When it comes to other humans, coaching is largely about putting down the boxing gloves and walking out of the ring.

I recently had a client we will call Mary. Mary had a boss who was “driving her mad.” He kept trying to instill his values and beliefs in her, lecturing her about how to succeed (work more, obviously) and how to build a thriving practice (focus on high-value projects rather than projects you enjoy). According to Mary, he was always saying offensive things and flying off the handle. He wasn’t interested in training her and he was unwilling to give her any feedback. But at the same time, Mary saw some good in him and wanted to continue to work with him. If only we could figure out how to “get him to be better.”

Sound familiar? Sign up for a free consult now and let’s chat about your horrible boss.

Mary’s explanation of the situation and her description of this man were dripping in judgments and criticisms. “He just doesn’t get it…he’s completely offensive…he has a screwed sense of reality…he doesn’t understand me…” Once she was on a roll telling me about this ogre of a man, it was hard to get her to stop. She was energized and animated in her criticisms and she was fully invested in this story she was weaving. He was clearly the problem and we needed to fix him.

All that energy built up and invested in those criticisms and what was it getting her? Absolutely nothing. The truth of the matter was that she was wanting him to be different much the same way he was wanting her to be different. They were locked in this tug-of-war trying to get the other person to change. My advice to Mary and other clients in this same position: drop the damn rope.

You are never going to succeed in changing other people. When has that ever worked for anyone?

There are so many better ways that we can use that energy. When we stop wasting energy ranting about the faults in our neighbors, we can instead use that energy to figure out how to better deal with them. Rather than ranting and raving about how your old school boss won’t give you any feedback, what if you spent that energy figuring out how to make that feedback happen? What if you put that energy into scheduling meetings with the man and directly and sincerely asking him for feedback?

When we waste energy complaining about the humans around us and how their shortcomings negatively impact us, we give them all the power in the relationship. We overlook any opportunity to make it happen on our own terms. To ask for what we want and start taking actions to get it. When we believe that other people have to change in order for us to get what we need, we will lose every time. We will give them all of our power and relegate ourselves to the role of victim stuck in a never-ending drama.

When we let other humans be who they are we can allow space for the yin and yang of life. If you have a boss that isn’t great at being a boss, we can let him be and recognize that his shortcomings are part of the job description. When you recognize that we are choosing to have these people in our lives and we agree to let them be who they are, we take ownership of the 50/50 of our life. In Mary’s case, sometimes her boss is going to give her unsolicited advice she doesn’t agree with. He is going to say things that get under her skin and he is going to be reluctant to give her feedback. That is her 50/50. That is part of what she signed up for. Unless she decided to quit, she was choosing to engage in these challenges by remaining in that job.

We have to stop fighting reality and accept that when reality involves other humans, things are going to suck at least half of the time.

And. That. Is. Okay. Nothing has gone wrong here and nothing has to be fixed.

Well actually, the only thing that has to be fixed is our own thinking. We have to drop the rope and stop the “I wish you would change” tug-of-war. We have to stop swimming in judgment and criticisms of the other and start looking inward and asking “Who do I want to be in this relationship? How can I take my power back? How can I take action to get what I want?”

Ultimately, you know what just might help them change their old school thinking? Watching you find success your way with grace and integrity. It’s hard to deny hard evidence right in front of you, even for those stuck in “old school” thinking. Start creating success on your terms and stop battling old-school mentalities, use that energy in a way that better serves you. Need support? Grab a free consult now.

The Biggest Lie You Tell Every Day

I don’t know. Have you ever noticed how often we use that phrase? When we think about verbal pauses, many of us immediately think of “um” and “uh” but we often forget about this funny little string of words that we throw around to fill awkward silences or to deflect our discomfort. In honor of the close of the ultimate year of uncertainty (2020, for those of you not following along), today I want to consider how these three little words, when used unconsciously in this manner, can rob you of your credibility and make you a liar.

When you ask a child what they want to do when they grow up, they will quickly offer all sorts of fantastical imaginings. Flying to the moon, raising a gaggle of unicorns, and becoming a fairy princess seem to be fairly obvious responses (both then and now — who doesn’t want to fly to the moon on a unicorn dressed as a princess?).

What is most interesting about fantastic childhood plans is not the plans themselves but a child’s commitment to making them happen.

Have you ever asked a child where they plan to find a unicorn, let alone an entire gaggle of unicorns, or how they plan to fulfill their lifelong dream of raising unicorns in every color of the rainbow? Such a question may be met with a variety of unique and interesting answers but, amongst those answers, you will not hear a child respond: I don’t know.

Kids don’t care about the how. That is an adult problem that we have gifted to ourselves.

Kids don’t care about how they are going to accomplish their dreams. They simply commit. When pushed, they brainstorm all sorts of ideas as to how they might accomplish this goal. Their little eyes squint with focused effort and their little brains hum away offering all sorts of solutions to the problem. They get to work solution-ing the problem, without hesitation or doubt.

The beautiful thing about watching a child do this is that it is a living reminder that we too are wired in this way. We too have the ability to solution all of our problems. The trick is that we must stop investing in the phrase “I don’t know.” Those three little words slam the door – no eye squinting with thought-exertion, no brain humming away to work. Just pure silence. Dream foreclosure!

Using those three little words suggests that we must know how something is to be accomplished before we can get to work doing it. In what realm does that make any sense? Why does it matter that you don’t know how to accomplish something?

Isn’t it simply enough to want it and chart your course from there?

(Get support charting your course by taking advantage of limited free coaching sessions that I offer every week.)

Our world is not filled with problems that have secret, solitary solutions that must be discovered. Our world demands that we must get to acting and crafting potential solutions before we know what will work. We must acknowledge that we don’t know the how and get to work sorting that out.

Not knowing “how” is not a stop sign, it’s the starting line.

We know this intellectually but yet our brains freak out whenever we are tasked with something significant that we have never done before. That freak out sounds like this:

I don’t know.

You DO know. You may not know the exact right solution but without a doubt you can brainstorm your first step. If you force yourself to imagine what you would do if you DID know, you will develop a first step. You will start learning what might work and what won’t work. In contrast, if you resign to a world of I don’t know, you will most certainly continue to not know because those words never spurred anyone to action.

In a world of balance — yin and yang, up and down, good and evil — everything has its opposite. Everything has its counterpoint. Wouldn’t it then follow that where you are “not knowing” there also exists in you the corresponding “knowing”? 

When you use IDK as a means to fill the space and avoid taking action, you discredit yourself and your resiliency. You communicate to yourself and those around you that you don’t have the ability to brainstorm like a 6-year-old child. Furthermore, you communicate to those around you that it matters that you don’t know the precise solution to the challenge at hand. It doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is your investment in acting to discover a solution.

Lean into solution-ing like a child and give yourself space to be the problem solver that you are. No one is hiring you because they want you to know everything. People hire you because they trust you to craft a solution, no matter what it takes. That leaves very little room for “I don’t know.”

In sum, stop staying I don’t know and give yourself space to offer what you DO know. That is so much more truthful than “I don’t know.”


Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Timelines

As an unmarried woman tap dancing around 40, timelines are often a topic of conversation. People LOVE to talk timelines at me — baby timelines, marriage timelines, “when will you start acting like a grown-up”-timelines. We make timelines for marriage, kids and the white picket fence. We are acutely aware of the impact time has on our bodies, our skin, and our metabolism.

Our career trajectory has its own timeline and our days are constantly at the mercy of the clock in 6 minute increments. With all this focus on time, we have to take *time* to pause and reflect on all this rigidity.

Are the timelines we adopt in our minds really timelines or are we sacrificing our peace to arbitrary metrics?

Many of my clients speak of a mystical timeline for attorney-success. There seems to be some notion of when we are *most* marketable and when we lose that marketability. This timeline puts pressure on the decision whether to get serious about partnership or begin examining other alternatives.

Practicing law, like all professions, will certainly come with its own unique decisions to be made. Unless utilizing the ostrich approach to your career, you are undoubtedly going to have to decide whether partnership is something you want. You will be exposed to other opportunities. You will likely be courted by headhunters as your skillset is sharpened. You will have choices to make.

But these choices are yours to make. In your own time. As you see fit. PERIOD.

When we acknowledge that we have choices but then pile on arbitrary deadlines, the decision-making process becomes compressed and our emotions become heightened. Your legal career is not borne within some hourglass that tracks your marketability and viability. We are not counting embryos here. You get to decide when it’s time for a change. You get to decide what your path looks like.

There is nothing wrong with never making partner. There is nothing wrong with working at a firm for 9 years and then moving on. There is no expiration on your value and the contributions that you can make. When we buy into the notion that our marketability has an expiration date, we are selling ourselves short. We ignore all that we have learned thus far and make ourselves the victim to some arbitrary standard.

When we buy into beliefs the our choices (our FREE WILL) has an expiration date, we compound the difficulties that are inherent in life. It is hard enough to decide what we want to do with our lives, why add an arbitrary deadline to it?

What I often see are young attorneys who have concluded, after 3-5 years of practice, that they MUST make a decision about what they want long term. They visit with me in hopes that I can provide them with some clarity about the right path for them.

While there are a variety of factors that will play into the decision to leave a firm, expiration of your value should not be one of them.

I have seen senior attorneys, without any book of business, get hired to build their own practice group. I have seen tenured in-house attorneys, practicing 20+ years, return to big law practice. I have seen associates start their own firms after practicing for 1 year. There is no limit on your value and there is no deadline for determining your next step.

If you could believe that you were under no deadline make a decision, what would you do? That is the only relevant inquiry.

If you are investing in some sort of timeline–for your career, your relationship, marriage, procreation–I invite you to explore how that timeline came to be? Is it founded in “good law”? Is it serving you? Don’t let dramatics cloud your judgment and your decisions. This is your life. You get to make the timeline, no one else.

The majority of my clients are driven to find a coach because they are looking to make a change in their career–they are either seeking to show up differently in their current environment or they are looking for  a dramatic overhaul. If you are looking to make some changes, schedule a free consult and let me support you in gaining clarity.

Being On Call 24/7

In everything that we do, we are expressing our values not only to ourselves but those around us. In that expression, others will learn to anticipate where they fall on your hierarchy of values. If your choices communicate to them that they will always be #1 no matter what, they will come to expect that treatment every time. Why wouldn’t they?

When you get that phone call late at night, you are choosing to value it more than your time at home with your family.  You are choosing to place greater value on not being yelled at than getting a full night sleep.

You are always making choices where to spend your energy.

Your job is not robbing you of the balance you seek. You are opening the doors and burning down all your guard towers. Why then are we so surprised when they keep doing it? You set the precedent by communicating where these types of interactions fall on your list of priorities: right at the top, above all else.

The only person you need to be mad at for constantly pushing your boundaries is you. Other people will not naturally violate our boundaries — they are taught what is acceptable. WE teach them what is acceptable by our actions. When they continually do so, it is only because they have become the monsters WE CREATED.

We’ve all seen those attorneys who just don’t give a F about not responding immediately to calls and emails. Everyone knows it, everyone gossips and gripes about it, and everyone is secretly jealous that they don’t have the guts to do the same. Not only do those attorneys still have a job but they also have all the balance we’ve been craving. People learned not to call them after 6 and deduced that they won’t respond to late night emails unless it’s truly an emergency.

They made a choice about what they valued more — not being gossiped about or having work life balance. For them, having more balance is worth so much more than being gossiped about for not be “responsive” all the time.

They made conscious decisions about their values and where the demands of the job fell with respect to those values. They clearly communicated their values and they stuck to their guns.

It can be as simple as that.

You do not have to respond to every email just because you saw it and just because someone else decided it was an emergency.  Develop the art of cultivating your mail and only responding after hours to true emergencies (here’s a hint: they never are, we’re not ER doctors) or when you REALLY want to.

Humans are creatures of habit. If we allow others to call on us at all hours of the night, they will continue to do so if it yields the result they want. And they will stop if it doesn’t get the result they want.

You are not a victim to others.

You are only a victim to your own choices and luckily for all of us, we can start making better choices. Choices more in tune with our values.

Sick of the constant barrage of emails and phone calls 24/7? Get support figuring out how to chart a new course at work by signing up for a free session.


Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

“Yes” Women

Impostor syndrome: “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”

Many of the women that I work with suffer from various manifestations of imposter syndrome. Recently, I have noticed that many of my clients “handle” their imposter syndrome by slipping to a persistent helper role.

Imposter syndrome persistently tells us that we are a “fake” and that we will be found out; that eventually everyone will realize that we don’t belong and they will get rid of us. One tendency to combat these fears is to make yourself irreplaceable. For many women, this takes the form of caretaker or helper.

I recently had a client who expressed how important it was to her to always been seen as reliable and someone that others could always count on. She was always offering to support new projects and teams even when she knew that she didn’t have the time or capacity. More often than not, she would come to our sessions operating on fumes. Completely exhausted and frustrated that no one can do anything without her. She was burnt out and wanted to change this pattern.

As we explored her patterns, we came to understand that this was completely a mess of her own making. She consciously took on more than she was able and was reluctant to give up that part of her practice. On the one hand, she knew that it was making her miserable but at the same time, she didn’t want to give up that important position. She didn’t want people to gripe if she said no to work. She didn’t want people to judge her if she scaled back and she imagined a parade of horrible comments she believed her co-workers would make if she stopped helping everyone. She wanted to be needed. She wanted to be an essential player on every team. It made her feel safe and secure.

This is what imposter syndrome does! It creates patterns of coping with our fears of inadequacy. We craft ways to “cover up” our perceived shortcomings to keep our secret safe. In my client’s instance, she was bending over backwards to be available to anyone for any project, at any moment. She was constantly cancelling personal trips and social gatherings to jump on new projects. It had become part of her persona and it was what made her feel like she belonged–it helped to soothe the fears of inadequacy. It silenced the negative rantings in her head — they couldn’t possibly fire her even if they discovered her inadequacies, too many people NEEDED her!

The patterns that accompany imposter syndrome are not sustainable. It is neither fulfilling nor rewarding to be at everyone’s beck and call. While it filled my client with a momentary sense of pride, more often it made her angry and frustrated. She felt trapped and out of control. She believed she had nowhere to go but to a full-fledged, out-of-nowhere explosive resignation. But in order to avoid that meltdown, my client needed to take a hard look at her helper tendencies and invest in making some changes.

What is it costing you to say yes to work and projects that you really don’t want to do?

What is really motivating you to take on all these things?

What would it get you if you were better able to set boundaries?

What would it be like to be able to unplug and enjoy your personal life?

Changing how we think of ourselves and how we show up in our lives is painful. Facing the fears associated with setting boundaries is hard work — it is FAR easier to just keeping saying yes to every man, woman, child, and dog that want your time and energy. The only way to truly make the shift is to first get really clear on what your current pattern is costing you and what it will cost you in the long-term if you fail to make a change.

Are you sacrificing your personal life and relationships because you are afraid to say “no” at work? What is that costing you?

Some day, you will leave that job and your friends and family will still be there. Your body, your health, your mental well-being will still be with you. Are you investing in those as well? Is your pattern costing you all those things that will remain once this job is done?

Our patterns are persuasive and convincing. It’s easy to believe we are doing the right things. Those tendencies likely created your immediate success, after all. In order to break this cycle, we have to open our eyes and see that these patterns are costing us more than they are getting us. We have to start believing that if we remain in place, we will destroy everything. Because it’s true. We have to see the forest for the trees. We have to do the hard work.

In order to change we have to understand the cost-benefits of staying where we are versus evolving. If you need support deconstructing your current patterns, grab a free session and start re-investing in your own wellbeing. After all, it’s just a job…

Toxic Beliefs

There are going to be people in your life who are going to challenge you. As an attorney, I can fully buy into the idea of toxic work environments and all the challenges that go along with them. But today, I want to back up the conversation one step and examine what it means for someone or some place to be “toxic”? What I have found is that this idea of “toxicity” is filled with more drama than fact.

Typically, when we identify something or someone as toxic, we are the only ones who show up ugly and toxic.

I focus my coaching on recognizing our own innate power to create our reality and our own happiness. My clients will tell you that I have helped them see the role they are playing in their own struggles. However, as a reiki master, I can also agree that our lives are filled with energy–our energy and the energy of those around us. When we characterize an environment or a person as “toxic” there is so much work to be done on that conclusion. Through coaching, I help my clients more closely examine that conclusion and challenge it BUT we are not doing that today.

Today, I want to allow space for this concept of toxic people and toxic environments. I want to go along with the idea that people and things can be toxic and ask:

When we characterize a person or an environment as toxic, what is the impact that has on YOU?

Our brains are not capable of processing all the information at our disposal in every moment. Rather, we give our brains direction and focus with our thoughts. We tell our brains where to focus its energy and our brain will buzz along compiling evidence to support that thought-directive. Evidence from both our past and present experience.

This is critical awareness because when we believe that someone or something is toxic, we become the victim of our own confirmation bias. Our brain is only going to gather data to support that directive and it is going to disregard data to the contrary. We essentially put on information blinders.

We all like to believe that we are open-minded and willing to see things from someone else’s point of view. But it is not possible to be open-minded when we are running around with these types of beliefs in our minds. It is not possible for us to see the opposing evidence when we allow ourselves to draw these types of conclusions!

A belief, any belief, will inevitably overlook contradictory facts and opposing evidence.

Furthermore, when we characterize those around us as toxic, this can be a subconscious green light to show up like a total asshole. Our negative characterization of the other person will impact how we show up and, let’s be honest, it’s not often our best. We see these toxic people as not worth the energy to be polite or kind to: we give ourselves a pass to show up as so much less than our best.

This robs us of the opportunity to grow. “Toxic” people are your perfect opportunity to show up as your best self. You don’t have to be affected by what they say or do. Practice disconnecting your emotions and thoughts from their actions. Practice allowing other people to be whomever they want to be — it only has to affect you if you let it. It only affects you if you allow their actions to shift your own energy.

It’s easy to label people or circumstances as toxic. The hard work comes from honing our ability to show up as the best version of ourselves. There will always be difficult people — practice dealing with them and stop practicing running away from them.

When you find yourself challenged with a “difficult” person or situation, be cautious not to place a negative label on it. That label will cloud your judgment and prevent you from being the open-minded person you strive to be. You will be blinded by your own confirmation bias and you inhibit your ability to show up as the best version of yourself.

So what do you do when you find yourself pulling your hair out and frustrated about a person or situation? Get curious. Stop investing and participating in the drama and become an observer. Watch the scenario as if it were  a movie — a movie staring you and your boss the chauvinist!  Whatever it takes, make efforts to disconnect from the drama and your judgments. Examine the experience from outside of yourself. Ask yourself what the situation has to teach you. Get curious about why people act the way that they do and try to foster some compassion. Be open to seeing the good in the other person — what might they be struggling with?

It’s hard work but no one ever said that being the best version of yourself would  be easy. Look around at the people in your life you have labeled negatively and start using them as your greatest teachers. How much better would your life be if you could transform those relationships? Get started transforming those relationships today.


“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Career Changes

At some point in your career, you may find yourself wondering if it is time for a career change. Many of my clients grapple with the notion of leaving their current career path in favor of another.

When evaluating whether to make a career change, the most important question you can ask yourself is: why not?

I’m a firm believer that is something is nagging at your consciousness – like the question of a career change – there is something going on that is worth paying attention to. Most people disregard those nagging feelings because when they are asked “why not make the change?” their justifications are based on fear. It’s easier to stay put than it is to take the risk and try something new. Just because something is “easy” or “comfortable” doesn’t mean it is the right decision for you.

When you are 80 years old looking back on your life and your career, are you going to be happy you choose to remain put because it was easy? Are you going to regret not shaking things up?

When you ask yourself “why not do the damn thing?” and you don’t have good reasons, you need to take a hard look at your life. If your reasons are fear-based or comfort-focused, you are selling yourself short.

Stay because you WANT to stay. Stay because you like your reasons for staying.

If you are questioning your current path, that feeling rarely goes away. If anything it will only amplify. If you accepted that as true, what would you do with your life? If you knew that every job, every position, was simply a different and evolving season of your life, what would you do next?

I like to think about my life and my choices like the evolution of fashion or tastes. What I once thought was my most promising fashion choice in the 80s does not hold up well today. We change. We want new things. We become different people. It’s perfectly natural to want to be challenged in a new way or to experience new things professionally.

When you find yourself asking whether it is time for a new career choice, honor yourself by giving space to that question. Why do you find yourself asking that question? What is lacking in your current experience that you are wanting. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and explore what is going on with you that is arousing that question.

We must learn to honor ourselves and respect the questions we present to ourselves. Ask the questions. You are the only one who can ever determine if it is time for a change but if you keep ignoring those nagging questions, you will never get to the right answer for yourself.

Our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

—M. Scott Peck

Of course, prior to making any type of  a significant change, I believe that we must act from a place of peace and happiness. Big decisions should not be made when we are feeling emotional or when we are worn out. Part of what I do as a coach is help my clients clean up all the mental garbage they have bogging them down so that they can make decisions from a place of clarity: decisions based upon sound reasoning and intention. If you aren’t in a good mental headspace, you must first work on your relationship with yourself. Good decisions will then flow from that place. Need support? Grab a free session while they are still available!


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Insecurity Delays

When you start your 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 your @$$ 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 way. 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 information on 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