Your Unconscious Enemy: Identify, Strategize and Eliminate
He held his breath on the final step, and the panic drove him to near unconsciousness. His vision blurred at the edges, closing to a single pinpoint of light, and then…he floated…Fear was behind him on the mountaintop…
Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week
I vividly recall the moment I walked through the lobby and out the door of my law school after completing the final exam of my third year. It was eerily quiet. I exited the building and turned to look back. Never again. I had slain that dragon and walked away in victory. Relief, but not much excitement. Because the cruel joke about law school is that while that dragon lay dead, there was another coming right up behind it: the BAR EXAM.
In California, the exam is three excruciating days of aching necks, sweaty palms and shaking hands. At the time, the pass rate hovered around 40%. Clearly a formidable opponent.
Fortunately, I was surrounded by a group of lawyer-friends who gave me all manner of advice about how to take the bar. But one statement stuck with me, not just during the exam, but in many situations where the next dragon appeared in different form:
Point A is where you are. Point B (getting licensed) is where you want to be. The bar exam stands in your way. It is your enemy. How are you going to eliminate it?
Lately, lawyers have been faced with more than their share of what feels to be enemies. Mid-career lay-offs. Delay or revocation of job offers. Advent of the legal services industry. Technology. Globalized competition. Brave new world.
But here’s the point: these things are not your enemies. They are your circumstances. Like law school and practicing law, there are industry changes (Point A) and the ability to succeed in a new professional environment (Point B). Is there something standing in your way? It is your enemy. How are you going to eliminate it?
- Identify it. What stands in the way is more intangible than the bar exam. For most, it is fear. It may disguise itself in many forms: disillusionment, arrogance, disbelief, stubbornness, lack of motivation. No one said anything about being an entrepreneur. Now, instead of finally getting your hands on those six-figure jobs, you’re faced with figuring out how to stay off the unemployment line. This isn’t fair. But underlying all of those feelings and opinions, there is fear. Fear is what stands between you and getting what you want. It is your enemy: how will you eliminate it?
- Strategize. Educate yourself. Understand the drivers in the marketplace, how you can best design your practice to succeed in it, and find the tools to make that happen. Take webinars, read blog posts and access mentors on the future of law, technology options, and emerging trends on project management and alternative fees. Learn to use mind-mapping applications to spur creativity in designing a practice that will withstand the continuous evolution of our profession.
- Eliminate. You’ve armed yourselves with information, strategized your approach. Panic may be setting in. Your vision may be blurred. But you are fully equipped to eliminate the fear that stands in your way to a successful career. Now’s the time to jump, and leave fear behind on the mountain top.
Sound easy? It’s not. Neither was the bar exam. But just because it’s not easy, are you going to let it stand in your way of getting from Point A to Point B?