Turn and face the strange
Changes David Bowie 1971
I went back to my old law firm for an open house this week. It was the first time I had been there since leaving the firm to blog, consult, and practice law on my own. My former partners were very welcoming but curious about how I was doing. If I liked what I was doing and happy with the change. In a word, my answer was absolutely. My only regret is that I didn’t make the change sooner.
Change is sometimes particular hard for lawyers. I can’t tell you how many unhappy lawyers I know who can’t just seem to make the decision to change. To do something different, to do something they really want to do. I know, I was one.
Maybe it’s because, as lawyers, we always look for the worst outcomes in any situation. We are trained to identify and fully articulate all the bad things that can happen in any situation. This may be good for our clients sometimes, but it impedes our ability to evaluate risk and change accurately. Maybe it’s because we get too caught up in being a lawyer. As one of my partners used to say, practicing law is not what we do, it’s who we are.
But having made some big changes in my career, in looking back, three things stand out about my decisions to make or not a change and the ones I felt good about.
If you wait around hoping the situation will somehow fix itself or someone will fix it for you, nothing will ever change
First, if you want to feel good about career decisions, you have to realize something. If you don’t like what you are doing, the situation you are in, or even the person you are with, you have to change it. If you wait around hoping the situation will somehow fix itself or someone will fix it for you, nothing will ever change. Postponing thinking what to do till next week or next year, won’t change anything. Dithering is not a good strategy.
The truth is if you don’t like where or what you are, you have a choice. Either change the situation, change how you are thinking about the situation or resign yourself to live with it. But make a choice. Make an affirmative decision, not one of inertia.
If you’re going to follow your passion, you better be ready to get your ass kicked
Second lesson. There’s a funny thing about making significant changes: you have to take risks and step out into the unknown. To take risks, to make big decisions like I did, and do what you really want to do, you have to be prepared to be vulnerable. Like Brené Brown says, if you’re going to follow your passion, you better be ready to get your ass kicked. Because it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you fail miserably. That’s reality. Be prepared for it. And it helps to have a plan B.
I have made some big moves over my career. Each time, I could have failed. Each move I made might not have worked out. I could have failed monetarily, I could have failed personally. I could still: if blogging doesn’t work out, I may not have the time or energy to do anything else.
Finally, if you’re going to take some big risks and make big changes, do it because it’s going to let you do something you really want to do. Something you are passionate about. And it better feel like it’s the right thing to do. My biggest mistakes were when I failed to follow my intuition. When I made changes for the wrong reason. Once I left a job I loved to move to a city I thought would be more fun to live it. It never felt right and it wasn’t. Another time, I turned down a job I would have loved and that felt absolutely right because I valued the security of what I had over the risks of change. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t wonder what if.
Follow your heart and your intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
My career coach often asked me what I would want to do about certain situations. If I said I didn’t know, she would say you always know what you want. You just don’t want to deal with the obstacles. Our heart and intuition give us answers that we sometimes don’t want to face. But as Steve Jobs said, follow your heart and your intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
When I made the decision to leave the practice of law and become a blogger and consultant, I knew it’s what I wanted to do. It just took some time to swallow hard and do it.
So, if you are thinking about making a big change, make a decision. One way or the other. Be prepared to get your ass kicked. And make sure it’s worth it: make a change to do something your heart and intuition say is the right thing to do. And then, to quote an old Nike ad, just do it.