Major Goal: be my best at my job/stay connected to my vision.
I continue to struggle with my daily routine. I did a better job this week, but it was still very piecemeal as a result of (1) the stress of actually starting my new job; and (2) commuting on pretty intense highways (the Long Island expressway, among others) for over an hour when I haven’t driven on any highway in over ten years.
What does that mean? Another week of recommitting.
The good news is I don’t really go into beat-up anymore. Somewhere along the way I realized the price I pay for that is just too high. It’s better to look at what you failed to accomplish without heaviness, think about what you can tweak to do better, then try again.
There’s a great line in a song by Little Bigtown called “Happy People” (a country song, of course). The line is this: “Happy people don’t fail. Happy people just learn.”
That’s my goal for how to be about “failure.”
In terms of my job, I have a major win, but it did not come easy.
When I officially started in NY this week, my boss gave me an assignment that seemed like it was specifically designed to gauge my ability as a lawyer. It was a rebuttal to opposing counsel’s argument for an upcoming mediation. This is a case my boss has lived with for months. He already knew what his responses were, and he had no plan to write up anything in advance if I weren’t here. Still, I knew that even if it was a “BS” assignment, for me, it wasn’t. He’d be scrutinizing the hell out of it to see how “good” I am.
This put me in a tough position. After a day or two, he began to suggest that he felt like I was taking too long. Since I was sort of closed (in terms of demeanor) in addition to not yet turning anything in, I could feel that he was beginning to have doubts about me. I resisted the urge to impulsively turn in something I knew wasn’t done (and it wasn’t done because it wasn’t yet my best) and held out another day.
What made this hard also was that, commuting 2 hours each way, I was short on time. The only time I could work on this assignment was at work, in addition to setting up my office, my email account, etc. When I got home, I had to go back to being a mother. With one baby there would be no other option — with two there most certainly wasn’t. Jimmy needed a much-deserved break, for one thing. For another, I don’t want my boys to forget who I am.
The day before I turned the assignment in, I was stressed. I still felt like it wasn’t “done,” I still wanted more time. I got up super early that day and put the pedal to the metal. Then I turned it in.
My boss response was very, very positive. In short, something that started off as a “BS assignment” will now be the centerpiece of our mediation on Wednesday. He’s going to walk opposing counsel — those big fancy firms I used to work for who have endless resources and the best talent money can buy — through my written rebuttal in order to show them that they are going to lose the case and therefore must settle. This isn’t some bullshit case; we’re talking a multimillion dollar settlement.
I was really happy with myself, but afterwards, I brought myself back to Earth a little.
The truth? This is nothing new for me. I have excelled at my job my entire career. I should rephrase: I have excelled at doing the WORK for my job my entire career.
There is an area, however, where my performance has been lacking. Relationship.
I have the capacity to build very strong relationships, and I have several times in my life. I hardly ever use that ability in the working environment, though, even when a boss or mentor invites me to form a closer relationship with them. This is partially due to gender concerns — as a woman in a male-dominated area (yes there are many women lawyers, but still very few women litigators, which is what I do) I am always on the defensive. I always feel the need to fiercely protect myself. I also still worry about my relationships with men. If I’m too nice, too open, too friendly, are they eventually going to do something inappropriate, because that’s just what men do? This is a lingering limiting belief that, while much improved, still plagues me.
To put it simply, though, I fiercely protect myself in the working environment because I do not at all trust the people around me. If you told that to other lawyers in my field, they would say well, that makes sense. This is a highly competitive atmosphere.
Want to know how ruthless it is? I overheard my new boss insist that a very nice man who works at the main office in Boca Raton be fired. My new boss was himself just added to the firm, but he’s a former big-wig and wields a lot of power. The result? I think the guy is being let go, for one mistake.
How do you lower your walls in this environment?
I have no choice, though. I have a lot of talent and a lot of ability, but it always only gets me so far. I can do well, and have some job security, and make a good salary, and be respected and praised, but, that’s it. This time that won’t cut it. My vision requires more. So I get to step up and be more, and risk a little, because otherwise I will get what I’ve always gotten — which is good, but not phenomenal. Not life-changing.
It relates to the integrity buddy role, too. I rarely put myself out there as a leader; as I said when I talked about my feelings about taking on the role, typically my attitude is you deal with your stuff and don’t bother me. To instead take a role where I am supposed to interact with folks about being their word is a stretch. I’d rather not listen to feedback about how I’m coming across. I recognize, though, that I need to, because it’s part of the shift I have to make. That doesn’t mean I modify what I do based on every comment — but if it strikes a note, or even part of it rings true, I’ve got to pause and take a look.
That’s my commitment not only for the role of integrity buddy, but for this major goal.
Cultivating humility is a big piece of it. Jimmy is synonymous with humility. He doesn’t think so, and that just proves the point. He took me to an AA meeting Friday night after we went out and had an amazing dinner in a little seaside town. I usually like going to AA Meetings; it’s a neat experience, like something out of a movie. This time, though, I found myself in judgment of the people there. It was in a church basement, as they often are, with beat-up metal folding chairs. The people all looked downtrodden, like they’d lived life too hard, in oversized T-shirts and old jeans.
I actually noticed myself judging and took a bit of a time-out with myself. I realized that every person in that room represented something I have always struggled with: humility. These people were teachers, not people I was in any place to judge, particularly considering my own less-than-great history with alcohol.
I want to get to where they are. That’s the truth.
Goal 2: Singing.
I acknowledge myself for doing exercises in the car like I said I would, even though the commute has been stressful. I was mapping it every single time, re-routing constantly because of traffic, and yet still pulled up my exercises and went through them.
Even so, while I went through the motions, my commitment was missing. I did it just to check it off; I didn’t do it with a commitment to the end-result. This is what gets to change this week.
Tomorrow I post a re-do of Song 1, and a “rough draft” of Song 2.