WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., July 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — One of the best analogies used to describe the kind of pressure lawyers face was written by Will Meyerhofer, JD LMSW, an attorney turned psychotherapist. The following is paraphrased.
Imagine running a marathon and making it to within the final hundred yards, gasping for air, legs burning, and the only thing pushing you forward is the fact that the finish line is within sight. You dig deep to tap the last of your stamina and there is just no way you are going to quit; there are thousands of onlookers and sweet relief is just a minute or so away.
Then, one of the senior partners emerges from the crowd to tell you, “Listen, we forget to tell you that there’s another marathon starting immediately after this one, we need you to run that one too.”
You’re a pro, so you take the news without breaking stride. You tell yourself that if there’s another marathon, there’s another finish line, AND once you cross this one, you’ll get some rest. You’re hurting but you’re still running so things could be worse; no sense in complaining.
As you approach the finish line another senior partner appears out of nowhere. They run alongside of you in order to convey an important message, “I hate to tell you this but there’s a third marathon starting right after this one. We need you to be a team player and finish this one as well, we just don’t have anyone else we can lay this off on.”
You keep running.
Balance and Variety
It is a well-known fact that the most successful attorneys, and all other effective professionals, are the ones that maintain a rich and diverse life. An influential career devoid of balance is as sustainable as shooting a cannon off of a canoe. You’ll probably hit your mark but you’ll have difficulty maintaining your impact.
Successful people are not just astute in their area of expertise, they are charismatic and energetic because they bring a myriad of exciting and interesting ONGOING life experience to the table. They possess the same curiosity they did when they started out in business and do not succumb to the mundane.
Mediocrity extinguishes productivity when the Type A attorney becomes obsessed with working harder instead of being better.
Alan Weiss, founder of Summit Consulting Group, Inc., works with clients such as Merck, Hewlett-Packard, GE, Mercedes-Benz, State Street Corporation, Times Mirror Group, The Federal Reserve, The New York Times Corporation, Toyota, and over 500 other leading organizations.
Life Balance: The Power of an Eclectic and Diverse Life
Perhaps nothing has impressed me as much over the past year as the relative equilibrium and superior judgment of those leading balanced lives. Not only is the “workaholic” lifestyle an unhealthy one, it has also turned out to be an ineffective one. Both managers and employees who have indulged in recreation, family, private interests, a physical regimen, and other diversions have tended to recover from disaster faster, employ better perspective, and provide others with vital assistance and guidance during turbulent times. The literature has long reflected the fact that people who see themselves as their jobs (e.g., I am an accountant, or a senior vice president, or a loan officer, or division president) tend to lose their identify and self-esteem when that job is threatened or eliminated. However, those who evaluate themselves in terms of their contributions (e.g., I provide financial well-being, lead people in highly competitive environments, acquire new business, etc.) retain that sense of contributing and performance across jobs and through turmoil. More than ever, the secret to success is not in working hard, but rather in working smart. And the route to working smart is best followed by broad interests, personal growth, and time to enjoy loved ones and life. Key Point: What are you doing to broaden your life, improve learning, and spend quality time with loved ones? The first question I ask every executive whom I coach is this: “Are you having fun?” If the answer to that is “no,” then I know that performance is suffering and so are those within that sphere of influence.
Learn Before You Burn
In every high-demand professional field, burnout is a very dangerous ongoing career killer, especially with attorneys. The attorney doesn’t just become miserable, they may incur serious physical and mental issues that are not easily cured.
In a recent Forbes article by Paula Davis-Laack, she identifies three personal markers that led her to realize she was burning out as an attorney:
First, I was exhausted, and it was a different kind of tired than I had ever experienced. Getting out of bed to go to work had become exceedingly difficult, if not emotionally painful. Every work or life curveball, no matter how minor, became a major deal.
Second, I had become cynical, even by lawyer standards. People generally just started to bug me and rub me the wrong way. I just wanted to be left alone in my office.
Third, I started to feel ineffective. I never lost confidence in my ability to be a good lawyer, but I stopped seeing a clear path for myself through the legal profession.
Fix Career Fatigue, Don’t Mask It
Someone once said, “If you’re tired then sleep. If you’re still tired, then exercise. If you’re still tired, then re-evaluate your life.” They were probably an attorney, most likely a litigator.
Upon realizing that you’re just not as enthusiastic as you once were, business achievements no longer provide the sense of satisfaction they once did or you just can’t remember what it feels like to be on top of your game, then it’s time to slow down, not speed up. Moving faster is not going to get you anywhere if you’re just going through the motions.
Once you step back a few feet and get a better vantage point on your career, your life and your overall well-being, you may come to a realization shared by many professionals: you simply forgot how to have fun. It’s an easy trap to step into.
If your interpretation of the “work hard, play hard” philosophy entails getting to happy hour as quickly as possible, that may be the first activity you want to remove from the equation. It is essential to recharge without depending on dinner and drinks, or just drinks and drinks, as your primary method of decompression after you leave the office.
When you’re ready to change, and only when you’re absolutely ready, take one small step forward. It took years for your ship to fall off course; don’t expect to be able to steer it back on track in a matter of days or weeks. You’re going to rebuild some old habits, so this is about lifestyle change, not immediate results. Start doing things right and things will once again start going right.
Make a list of all the things you once enjoyed doing, even if you believe you were sure you’d never do them again. Draft a chronological account of all your old “healthy and creative” activities beginning with your high school years and ending at the last time you can recall being at your top of your game.
There exists a distinct possibility that Frisbee and Air Hockey may come to mind but don’t be dismissive; add them to the list. No matter the pursuit, regardless of how juvenile it may seem, don’t eliminate it from the inventory. You were once passionate about these things, so that makes them important.
Once your inventory is complete, take a shot at one or two of the simplest, most accessible activities first. Since there may not be a rock-climbing wall or an Olympic-size pool readily available, your old cycling routine may be the way to begin.
You’re building a new version of your old routine, so there will be some trial and error. The pursuits that feel organic will probably be the ones that stick, but the more challenging ones may be pursuits that maintain your interest. One of the benefits that come along with being a bit older is that you possess a greater degree of patience and concentration than you did as a youth. For many Type A professionals, unless there is a challenge there is no satisfaction.
Spending Time and Wasting Time
Do not embark on a new routine that is unsustainable. It’s natural to be overly enthusiastic at the beginning of a new path, but temper this excitement with some pragmatism. The fact is that you do indeed have a high-demand career, and time is a precious commodity. Re-integrate old pursuits and integrate new ones as if you’re seasoning with salt; start off slowly, as you can always add more.
Bruce Lee was never an attorney, but his philosophical insights are still quoted by life coaches and motivational speakers who work with corporate professionals.
Lee said, “To spend time is to pass it in a specified manner. To waste time is to expend it thoughtlessly or carelessly. We all have time to either spend or waste and it is our decision what to do with it. But once passed, it is gone forever.”
This observation is easy to misinterpret. In the case of the attorney faced with imminent burnout and the premature demise of a successful career, the goal is to recharge, not to accomplish “more” in the traditional or tangible sense. Should they come to realize that by dedicating one day a week to seemingly frivolous activities is what recharges their batteries, they are not wasting time because this is their intended “specified manner.”
The belief that successful people accomplish something every single day is a fallacy. Successful professionals accomplish great things by working consistently over a prolonged period of time, not necessarily daily. They maintain their focus and persistence in the workplace by abiding by a carefully designed lifestyle based on the principle of self-preservation and physiological strength.
Superstar attorneys already understand that there are an abundance of organic obstacles on the horizon, and if their efficiency is compromised, they will lack aggressive problem-solving skills to overcome them.
As an attorney, or any other notable professional, having the strength of mind to accomplish anything is rooted in the serenity to be able to enjoy the accomplishment itself.
Attorney Laura Anthony
Laura Anthony, Esq. is the founding partner of Anthony, L.G., PLLC, a national corporate, securities and business transactions law firm. For more than two decades Ms. Anthony has focused her law practice on small and mid-cap private and public companies, capital markets, NASDAQ, NYSE American, the OTC markets, going public transactions, mergers and acquisitions, registered public and exempt private offerings and corporate finance transactions, Regulation A/A+, securities token offerings, Exchange Act and other regulatory reporting requirements, FINRA requirements, state and federal securities laws, general corporate law and complex business transactions. The Anthony, L.G. PLLC team has represented issuers, buyers, sellers, underwriters, placement agents, investors, and shareholders in mergers, acquisitions and corporate finance transactions valued in excess of $1 billion. ALG has represented in excess of 200 companies in reverse merger, initial public offering and direct public offering transactions. Palm Beach Attorney Laura Anthony is also the creator and author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the host of LawCast™, Corporate Finance in Focus and a contributor to The Huffington Post and Law360.
Laura Anthony, Esq.
Anthony, L.G., PLLC
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