Re-defining your focus isn’t a switch, it’s a process.
I’ve said this to at least three different people over the last few weeks, each of whom was sharing apprehension about his/her new endeavors with me. I was the cheerleader in these interactions: focusing on how exciting (and difficult) it is to start something new, how much courage it takes, and how fun it can be. I’m quick to remind folks in upstart mode that creation of something is not a switch—something that you say you’re going to do and voilá, it’s done. Rather, it’s a process (I regularly remind folks I mediate for of the same thing).
When I share this (often unsolicited) piece of advice, it comes out so easy. I say it. I mean it. I truly believe it. I seem to have a hard time living it though.
As I write this, I’m in the midst of re-focusing my practice. Winding down my last couple of litigation matters in order to exclusively work on what I call “neutral” matters: mediations and employment investigations, in particular. I’ve been handling these types of matter for years—just not exclusively. It’s become increasingly more satisfying to me to work as a neutral—assisting parties with problem solving, or assisting employers in litigation avoidance.
I turn down litigation referrals on a nearly daily basis. That’s real work, real money, and work I’ve historically been pretty good at. As a result, I’ve got down time. More than I anticipated. So I say to myself: this is a process, not a switch; it takes courage to re-invent yourself; it’s hard to turn away paying work. But nothing happens. I don’t feel any better, and I don’t have more mediations.
But when I get a call from an attorney who heard I’m doing mediations and would like to set one with me, it all makes sense. When I hear other attorneys say “I’d like to do that, but…,” my resolve strengthens. Because it is hard to reinvent yourself—but it’s not impossible.
I recently read a blog post on all the things we can’t do with a law degree. The gist of it being: anything so long as it’s in law, but really nothing outside of law. I disagree. I think anyone can do anything, if you’re willing to go through that unsettling feeling of uncertainty on a nearly daily basis. Reminds me of a often cited quote: Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like other’s won’t so you can spend many years like most people can’t.