Pretty Little Thoughts

In my house this year, the holidays involved boxes, pizza, and beer galore. Rather than ringing in the new year in sequins and confetti, we celebrated in sweatpants and dust bunnies as we crammed our belongings into moving boxes and hoisted them into moving trucks. I had long lost track of clothes that weren’t sweatpants and didn’t manage to find any makeup until we unpacked a few days later.

Moving can be a lot of work and, like most humans, it left me feeling a bit frazzled and frantically searching for that one thing that “I know I put it in a box somewhere…”

Upon returning to work, I found myself struggling to focus. Every request for support or input ruffled my feathers and made me want to go hide until 5pm. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin…If I don’t get out of here and get some time to relax, I’m going to jump out this window…

In lieu of leaping from a tall building, I sat down and did some self-reflection. Why was I feeling so irritable? Why couldn’t I focus and enjoy spending a day NOT lifting boxes or cleaning our old house? Wasn’t this a nice respite?

I did a quick thought download and started working through each thought, quickly discovering the culprit: I am just so tired. It was like my mantra…I am just so tired. I just need a break. Over and over, I kept returning to those thoughts.

Admittedly, I was a bit physically taxed: my muscles ached, and my back was screaming but after a few visits to the company masseuse, I was really feeling pretty okay. I had gotten plenty of sleep and had made an effort to enjoy some nice long baths at the end of each moving day. So why was I feeling so irritable?

Because I kept telling myself I am just so tired.

When I sit with the thought I am just so tired, it makes me feel hopeless andd it creates an avalanche of similar thoughts: I have so much to do, I can’t handle this today, I don’t want to do any of this stuff, I just want to be left alone, etc.

Whenever I feel hopeless, it creates a lot of indecision. I spin out, second-guessing how to spend my day, agonizing over my to-do list, trying to figure what to do next, then I remind myself that I’m just so tired and then the feelings of hopelessness resurface along with all the other ugly thoughts and the day just falls apart.

In the end, my thinking I’m just so tired, created a cycle of indecision and unproductivity that made me feel worthless at the end of the day because I didn’t accomplish anything. I just spent my day spinning in mental misery, beating myself up and mentally wearing myself out. I was exhausted at the end of those first few days because I wasted so much energy in this cycle, going in 1,000 different directions and carrying around indecision, self-judgement and heavy hopelessness.

After this realization, I acknowledged that, while I may be physically tired, carrying around the thought I am just so tired was making me absolutely miserable and was truly making me exhausted at the end of the day. It wasn’t that I was “so tired” I couldn’t be productive and focus, it was the trajectory I created for myself when I kept telling myself I am just so tired. Physically tired or not, that thought was not serving me; it was making my current state even worse. Seeing this, I tried on another thought:

I can do hard things. I can be a good employee and a good partner during this transition period. I have done harder things before.

We all have days when we are tired and operating with a low tank of gas but when your thoughts compound that physical tiredness, it is a recipe for disaster.

Don’t let your thoughts compound an already difficult situation. Use your thoughts to shift from a meltdown to a triumph.

So many of our thoughts seem innocuous and others like I’m just so tired, can seem like hard facts. That is rarely the case.

Thoughts like this can seem so lovely and founded in self-care yet create all sorts of emotional chaos and stunted action. Only by examining your thoughts can you truly get to the root of the problem.

For me, it wasn’t physical tiredness that was bogging me down, it was tired thoughts and the feelings those thoughts created.

If you are feeling like you are in a funk or just can’t seem to get it together, just one coaching session can make all the difference. Check it out. I promise you won’t regret it.

Not sure yet? I get it. Try out a free coaching consultation to see if I’m a good fit to help you create the life you’ve always wanted. I would love the opportunity to meet you and see what we can do together!

Firms: Finding the Right Fit

In my legal career, I spent countless hours interviewing candidates trying to fish the good from the bad, and, in other instances, trying to “sell” them on the firm. Maybe we needed their specialty, maybe I wanted a fellow alumnae at the firm, maybe I just wanted another woman or a diverse candidate, or maybe I just really liked the person and wanted to hang out. Listen, hiring partners and committees make hiring decisions based upon a whole host of dumb, subjective reasons. Human beings will typically gravitate towards others like themselves and law firms are no different. Having worked at both a national law firm and a smaller, mid-size corporate firm, as well as handful of small 2-3 person shops, I have experienced countless strange interviews and had my fair share of bad hires. While I certainly don’t have the silver bullet for ensuring a good hire, I have more thoughts on what candidates should be doing to vet law firms. When I was teaching in a law school, the students often asked me how to know if a firm was a good fit.

How do you get your interviewer to pull back the curtain and tell you how things really work without all the sales-ey pitching?

Here are few suggestions from my own experience and from those candidates who successfully got me to “spill the beans”, so to speak.

Ask about diversity and exit rates

If diversity and inclusion are important to you, and they should be, that is something you need to sort out before you take the job. Law firms are notoriously terrible at diversity and inclusion. Law firms are also notorious for having plenty of smart people who will devote time and energy into dressing up their warts. Most firms can easily tout their diversity awards and achievements and minority representation and show you a long list of “diverse” organizations they support and how much D&I training they spent loads of money on. That means absolutely nothing. Do not be fooled by the smoke and mirrors. The only way you will truly know whether a firm is a dinosaur promoting only like-minded individuals from the same demographic group is to start asking questions. Here’s a few examples:

In the last 3 years, what percentage of your attorneys who left the firm were women or minorities?

These numbers do not lie. If the rate is abnormally high, run. People leave firms for all sorts of reasons. In my experience, if there is a significant percentage of women leaving a firm, it is not because they all just “found the opportunity of a lifetime” or found an in-house opportunity they “just couldn’t pass up” or their partner found a job in another city. Those excuses and explanations are all break-up speak–“it’s not you, it’s me…” Those are things attorneys tell leadership when they are fed up and leave, because at that point, what good will it do to tell them the ugly truth? Besides, by the time you get to that point, you’ve probably already had the conversation 100 times and they ignored you each and every time. Why would they listen now?

Here are a few questions that might assist this evaluation:

Where do most of your candidates/new hires come from?

What law schools do you recruit at? Why or why not?

Where did most of your current attorneys attend law school?

See if you can find someone who used to work there.

You will have to lean on your network or your law school career center for this one. People who have left will be the only ones able to tell you if they truly took off because they found their “dream job.” Take them to lunch and explain your situation and any concerns you might have. If they know you are picking up on some of the firm’s true underlying issues, they will likely confirm or deny your impressions.

Meet separately with attorneys you can relate to

If you are still interested in considering the job, ask to take some of their female/minority associates to lunch or, ideally, drinks. Get them away from the firm and away from the partners/supervisors. Use this opportunity to see what their life is like, how the partners work, and how the firm operates. Ask them for recommendations as to who else you should meet with – other attorneys who have left or other attorneys currently at the firm. Get them talking. Questions to consider:

If you had the opportunity to work in (whatever practice group you are applying to), would you do it?

 Law firms are like small fiefdoms. Each practice group or office location likely operates pretty independently and according to its own norms. Most firms have a few practice groups that are notorious for destroying associates and churning through staff. Figure out which groups those are and ensure you don’t get stuck in one of those, unless you really want to learn some unnecessarily hard lessons.

Questions to consider:

In your experience, why have others chosen to leave the firm? Do you see any trends or common reasons?

What is one thing you think the firm needs to improve upon?

Have you found that people are willing to help you learn and guide your development?

Tell me about your typical day/month? When do you arrive at work and when do you leave? What about weeknights and weekends?

Do your diligence

Check online AND AROUND TOWN  for any reviews—social media or on other websites. Negative reviews of law firms likely signal a larger issue. Be sure to take all complaints with a grain of salt, but if your social media searches and casual inquiries reveal a barrage of negativity, be wary.

Check out the firm website. Is it up to date? Are the postings 3 months old? How about blog postings? How important is it to you to be part of a firm that has a sophisticated online presences? Not only will the website be your first introduction to your clients when you join the firm, but for now, it may indicate how much support you will get to market yourself and your business. Does the firm appear to have a strong marketing department and marketing presence? It may also indicate how much of your time you may be required to spend preparing blog posts for yourself or your partners (read: nonbillable time burdens).

Look at the attorney profiles. What is the attorney demographic like? Do they all look the same? Did most of them attend the same law schools? Do not be fooled by this. If the attorneys all seem to be the same person with only minor variations, and none of those attorneys are similar to you, take it as it is. No matter what they say they are doing on the D&I front, it is obviously not working. That indicates a MUCH bigger, underlying issue and that is likely a general lack of buy-in by the firm about D&I. Do not be persuaded otherwise and give some long and serious thought about whether you want to be the “other” and whether you believe this homogeneous group will truly be open to you (as a person) or your ideas (as an attorney).

In the end there is no perfect law firm and you will always find room for improvement. The key is being able to identify those shortcomings before you start so that you aren’t blindsided. The goal should be to find a firm whose shortcomings are ones you are willing to tolerate. In summary:

  1. Ask the hard questions
  2. See if you can find someone who worked there
  3. Isolate candidates that you can relate to
  4. Do your diligence:
    1. Check their reviews — online and around town
    2. Check out the firm website
  5. Do not seek perfection!

Are you looking for a new firm or your first legal position? Coach with me and lean on my years of experience working in and recruiting to large corporate law firms. Let my past mistakes benefit your future.

Why You Aren’t Taking Action

Have you ever considered why you aren’t taking action? You want to write that book you always imagined, you want to break out and start your own practice or change practice areas, you want to tell your spouse that you aren’t happy.

Why is it that we don’t do those things?

For many of my clients it’s because they are afraid of failure. They are afraid of how they will feel if that book gets rejected by every editor, your solo practice tanks, you realize you hate this new practice area after all, or your spouse decides to leave you. They are afraid of failing.

Given that this thing, failure, is standing in the way of so many dreams and preventing us from honoring ourselves, I think it makes sense to see what this failure thing is all about.

If you put “what is failure” into your magical computing machine, you get all sorts of interesting feedback. Wikipedia tells me that “failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.” As you go down the internet rabbit hole, you will also find other interesting tidbits. Success.com says that failure is caused by lack of persistence, lack of conviction, rationalization, poor self-esteem, etc.

Putting this all together, it seems that the reason we are not writing the next Harry Potter series or asking for that promotion, is because we are afraid we will not be successful — we will not meet the desired result or objective.

So, instead of trying and failing, we choose to fail in this very moment.

Rather than try and not achieve the desired result, we are not trying and not achieving the desired result. Do you see that it’s certainly possible that we will fail in either event but in one instance we are actually taking authentic action and in the second we are giving in to the lack of persistence, lack of conviction, rationalization, and poor self-esteem?

Rather than taking the chance and failing in the future, you are not taking the chance and choosing to fail now.

What’s more is that most of my clients also choose to give themselves the gift of those negative failure feelings right now. Instead of first trying and riding the waves of motivation and excitement to pursue their dreams and then fail, they are not pursing their dreams at all and feeling terrible now for not pursuing them. They are beating themselves up as if they actually tried and failed but in reality they did nothing. What lunacy is this!?

So what’s the big deal with failure anyway – whether it’s now or in the future – why do we let it keep us from our goals? The truth of the matter is that failure is NOT a big deal. It’s not a big deal until we choose to make it a big deal.

Until we decide what it means to us . . . what it means about us. Failing is simply not meeting your desired objective. It does not mean you are a bad person, it does not mean you can’t achieve your dreams, it doesn’t mean anything until you ascribe a meaning to it and have thoughts about it!

You can choose what to think about your failures and how you think about it will drive how you feel about it and how you feel about yourself. Why are so many of us choosing to make it mean something so negative? When we make failure mean something negative about ourselves, we allow ourselves to fear failure because we are afraid of how we will feel when we fail. That fear is paralyzing so many of my clients and it’s all because of a choice they are making.

Henry Ford famously said “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” He knew that every. single. time. you fail you learn how to not do something. You learn something about yourself, you learn something about the process, you might even learn that you no longer want that goal. Fearing failure is nothing more than being afraid to learn and grow.

If someone said to you, “I am going to win a gold medal at the Olympics on my first try and I am never going to lose a race on my way to the top,” you would think they were crazy. We know failure is a precursor to great success. So why is it that we can’t give that same rational grace to ourselves?

To attain your goals, you are going to have to get comfortable with failure and treat those failures as simply getting you one step closer.

If you want to do something, if you have a dream or a goal or a conversation you want to have, don’t be afraid to take that action and learn from your experience. Don’t anticipate that failure and plan on how you will make that failure mean something negative about yourself. Failure means nothing until you have a thought about it – good or bad – so why let it hold you back? However that experience turns out, you will learn something and, who knows, you might actually write the next Harry Potter on your first try but you won’t know until you act.

I think we should all commit to failing regularly. Ask someone out on a date, try a new workout class, pick up a new language, ask for that raise . . . whatever that might be. If the only thing that is holding you back is the fear about how you will feel if you don’t achieve it, you are allowing your life to be dominated by the fear of failure. Don’t fear failure. Embrace it like a badge of honor because the more you fail, the better you are going to know how to succeed.

After all, fear only hurts if you make it mean something negative.

I teach my clients that they need to be failing massively and often. They take the fruits of those failures and build their dreams. It’s amazing to see what people can do if they adjust the way they see failure and its necessary place in our lives.

Having an uncomfortable dream means being willing to fail and knowing that you can think about those failures however you want — positive or negative. In the end, it’s all progress toward your dreams.

Overcoming the fear of failure and learning to fail forward is at the heart of my coaching practice. Join me and let’s see what fearless looks like on you.

How to be happier

Do you want to be happier in your life? Do you want to find your purpose?

We all do. Let’s be honest, no one has ever declined the possibility for more happiness. The problem is that most of the people I work with are looking for something to make themselves happier, something to bring “purpose” to their life. Usually this search is tied to something concrete and measurable…a job or relationship that will finally make them happy.

Once I lose 10 pounds, I can finally figure out my life.

Once I find a good guy, I will be so much happier.

When I get my law degree and start making money, life will be so much easier.

Most people know better than to tell themselves that doing XYZ will make them happy. They know they are not supposed to say that. But while they are not outright saying it, it is in there quietly driving the search.

It is hidden in the motives they are not questioning or challenging. When you ask yourself why you are doing something or why you want something, THAT is the first step in getting to the heart of the matter and truly understanding where you are and what is driving you.

Often times, what is driving people is the belief that once these things are attained, they will feel happy/fulfilled/worthy, etc.

That. Is. Impossible.

For some of us who are lucky, we lose those 10 pounds, we find that great guy or we finally get that career. But then it sets in. That heavy, dark feeling when you have achieved all of the things and yet you still feel lost. Confused. It didn’t feel like you thought that it would. Didn’t make you happy like you wanted. Everything still feels the same. So now what?

For many people, we recognize the feeling but continue on with our daily lives, riding the merry-go-round…around and around, day after day. We are making good money, we wear nice clothes, we are doing everything we are supposed to be doing, so what if we don’t feel completely fulfilled?

So what?

So what is that you don’t have to feel this way. The root of this problem is that we have been so conditioned by advertisers and the media that our happiness lies outside of ourselves. If we get that power office, that partnership, lose those last 10 pounds, THEN we will have it all. Then we will be happy. Whenever I have a client who tells me that they want to make partner at their firm or get a better job, I ask them why.

Why do you want that? What will be different for you? What will be exactly the same?

Most people have convinced themselves that once they attain these goals, they will finally feel a certain way. That is the crux of this problem. A feeling is something we create for ourselves. A feeling is a direct result of what is happening in your head. It is not something you can get externally. You create your happiness. Period.

You also create your own unhappiness. If you spend your time thinking about how your life is sub-par right now but if and when XYZ happens, then your life will be better, the mental space you are currently living in is not conducive to happiness.

In what realm do thoughts about lack and not being good enough, create a positive and happy life?! You cannot create success from a place of lack.

You cannot reach your dreams while residing in negativity about your current accomplishments. No one who achieved great things did so from a place of victim-hood or emptiness; they achieved success from a place of confidence, peace, and belief in themselves. Their mind was not filled with all the things they disliked about their present state.

Your happiness has nothing to do with what pays the bills or how you spend your days. It is not your career, your status as a parent, or all those parts of our resume we use to define ourselves. Your happiness is created by you and you alone.

Do you want to be happier? Learn to manage your thoughts and understand your motivations. That is the place were happiness can be found and fostered.

Only once you identify those toxins, can you start to build happiness that is unflappable because it is 100% within your control.

That is the power and beauty of a coaching relationship. In my coaching practice, I support you in examining your mindset and the thoughts that are holding you back. Coach with me and uncover the ugly thoughts that are handicapping your happiness.