Archive for August, 2018|Monthly archive page

More ups than downs

I’m committed to being positive. I believe that intentionally choosing positivity, gratitude and happiness has great power to bring about those outcomes in real life. This mind frame, for me, is a gateway to being the best version of myself.

But it’s naive to think that negative thoughts, situations and experiences can be completely eliminated, by positive thinking or otherwise. We, individually, can’t control all variables that contribute to whether an experience is positive or negative. And, frankly, it’s simply unrealistic to think that every day, every interaction, every thought will be positive or happy.

That’s not a reason to stop being intentional and proactive in striving for happiness and committing to positivity. Perfection would be nice, but it isn’t required for a full life. Shooting for maximum is always my goal and I’m satisfied when the overall outcome is more up than down.

To that point, I think it’s worth occasionally examining the balance of the mix. By honoring the existence of the negative, even the failure, we encounter, then the value of the positive and the success becomes all the more pronounced. So, here’s a short list of my recent mix of hits and misses. I’m happy that the overall balance remains on the up side.

  1. I may have celebrated the pain-free mouth situation a bit too soon. Had a bit of a setback with a disintegrating temporary crown and now, after the replacement, the constant throb from what should be a feeling-less tooth is a little disappointing. But, on the bright side, I have a path forward and I’m determined to have it permanently fixed in the next week or so. A down with an up chaser.
  2. I chuckled today when an outside consultant, with whom I was meeting for the first time, confided that he would not have guessed that I was a lawyer if I hadn’t told him. He said my personality was too friendly and not arrogant enough to telegraph my profession. Imagine that…I’m not quite the ogre I’m made out to be by the sales guys! 🤣 A definite up.
  3. Sometimes I think the theory of 3 – the idea that similar things cluster in threes or multiples of three – is real. Seems especially true when is difficult, unpleasant, tedious things that cluster together. Of course that’s all bunk. But the seeming veracity of this phenomenon makes me suspicious and tends to erode my confidence in positivity. I’m fighting the tendency right now, as all the litigation cases I’m managing seem to converge, all having their filing deadlines stack up together. But I have a good team and we’re keeping up, so not too much of a downer.
  4. Autumn is coming! The leaves are being to turn and the evenings are cooling down. Soon it will be cool enough for jackets and sweaters! Can’t wait! That’s always a definite plus for me.
  5. I’m so looking forward to a long weekend this week. Butch bro time with a pal and a bit of a break from routine has me watching the clock, antsy to be off to the fun. Huge positive!

I’m blessed that my life is full of good, happy things that outweigh the irritating downers. That’s my hope for you, too.

Fast Positive

Man, this week has flown by! Being super extra busy at work does make for a short-feeling week. That’s a good thing. But it’s not my fast little positive that I want to share.

The positive out of, literally, the pain? Today I had the last dental procedure of this harrowing summer and I am now dental-pain free for the first time in decades. The last numbness just wore off and I took a sip of my cold soda and intentionally let it wash over my teeth. A few hours ago, and for as long as I can remember, that action would have sent a spike of pain directly to my brain and I’d have to blink back tears. Now? Blissfully, nothing!!

There are a couple spots that are tender where the needles went in, but that’ll wear off in a day or so. Aside from that, no actual pain in my mouth. I don’t think I fully realized how much pain and discomfort I’ve been putting up with for so long. But now that there isn’t any, I’m so glad!

Yay for, as my good friend Holly said today, “butching up and getting it done”!

I hope you have something blissful to be thankful for tonight. 😁

Success Costs


I want to preface this post by saying that I haven’t given up on positivity, nor my challenge to find something positive to say for every negative thought. This isn’t a pity post and it isn’t even a vent or rage post. It’s just a stream of thought that I feel is important to get out onto (e-)paper. I actually view the realization as a positive – by coming to understand this about myself I have the opportunity to do something about it. It’s an important step to resolving the internal conflict. So, please, don’t view this post as anything other than my musings, my effort to puzzle out the lesson to be learned. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled focus on positivity in our next episode. 😃


There is a cost to success.

I suppose I’m including every dimension of success in this concept, professional, personal, monetary, metaphysical, and any other type that might occur. It very likely applies to any and all of them. But when this thought occurred to me, it was really just the generic concept of success, the condition of having succeeded at a given goal, that weighed on my mind.

It strikes me that success at a singular purpose has a high cost: every other possibility is lost in winning the one outcome sought. Not just the negative, even catastrophic outcomes, but all the other equally or exceedingly good outcomes are lost as well.

The cost of achieving success is the loss of the journey, of the purpose for the struggle.

When the goal is sufficiently defined and the desired outcome’s reward sufficiently generous, maybe that’s a reasonable cost. Maybe the unknown or uncertain greater possibility isn’t too difficult to forego. Especially when that possible greater reward isn’t alive to your conscious mind, or isn’t revealed as a reality, not knowing something more is available isn’t a sacrifice and the cost never comes home to you.

But it is particularly bitter when the greater reward is revealed only after you’ve paid out in time and effort and heartache a cost that prohibits further expenditures, foreclosing your opportunity for that now tantalizing and unobtainable gift. More pitiful still is when you realize that your effort was put toward the wrong goal or an unintentional goal.

I suppose that last bit, discovering your success at a goal you didn’t know you were pursuing, is really just unintended consequences and the bitterness that goes with understanding that you must live with them regardless of your intentions. Yet, when that unlooked-for bar is crossed simultaneously with the realization of a long-sought prize that disappoints, the gall is that much more stinging.

I’m coming to terms with this caustic combination in my own life right now. It turns out that when you pour all your heart and soul and energy into your career, along the way building mental and emotional bulwarks against distractions and the risk of painful vulnerability, the cost of success is arriving at the peak of the mountain alone.

Isolation looks very much like desolation when the joyful shouts of achievement echo hollowly from the walls of an empty canyon formed by the battlements built to hold out the stinging arrows of others’ disappointed expectations.

Seems that while I’ve been hard at work, focusing all my effort on building my career, gathering professional respect, accumulating achievements, that I’ve built myself into a box (a cell, really) without realizing it. All those rules I’ve set for myself – keep a separation between work life and personal life, don’t fraternize, stay aloof and don’t get personal, don’t share your feelings, stay at arms length, etc. – have hemmed me in and cut me off from everything but my job and the work-defined trappings of achievement. Anything outside of that narrow view of the world seems to have slipped beyond my reach.

Today I came to the shocking realization that I don’t know how to be a person. I am amazingly good at being a corporate transactional attorney and quite a good boss. I’m quite good at being a provider, too, paying the bills and keeping a roof overhead. I think I’m also a passable sister, aunt and colleague/acquaintance. But being a person without a label, existing as an actualized individual undefined by occupation or relationship to another label, seems to have evaded my skill.

I don’t seem to know how to be, or even what to be, if not “the boss”, or “X’s” sister or “Y’s” aunt, or “Z’s” acquaintance. Every time I try to describe myself without starting with what I do, or what I possess, or who I know, my head fills with fuzzy, static buzzing, like the sound of a billion crickets and cicadas all singing at the same time. There’s just nothing to describe if not placed in context of those attributes. Unless I’m the SVP of Global Legal Operations for the XYZ COMPANY, or the Aunt of ABC ACCOMPLISHED NEPHEW/NIECE, or Sister of LMNOP DISTINGUISHED BROTHER, I’m not anyone or anything.

I’m just filler human, an extra in the scene of someone else’s dramatic production.

That sounds so pitiful. I don’t mean it to be. I’m not fishing for compliments or internet hugs and endearments. It’s just a realization that I’ve come to, a sad recognition that an entire dimension of my existence has been neglected to the point of atrophy.

Two things brought this into sharp focus for me today. First, the second of two work friends in as many days came to say goodbye to me before they left my company. Each of them emphasized that a huge part of their decision to leave was that their job didn’t fit well into their lives, didn’t fit who they were. In other words, they have lives beyond their job descriptions.

The second catalyst of this epiphany was the result of an impromptu afternoon outing. I left work early today. It’s a beautiful summer day, not too hot and with a pleasant breeze and sunny blue skies. I’m just back from a tiring, challenging business trip and I felt the need for a break after spending the day catching up on emails and pending tasks. It started out well, with an uncharacteristic sense of adventure. I was going to go to a bookstore/coffee shop with the intent to be sociable and maybe meet someone new. People watching, chatting idly with friendly strangers, had an unexpected appeal this afternoon. But as each place I thought of came into view, some obstacle was in my way. Construction blocked off every visible entrance to the first shop I wanted to try. An accident and school getting out snarled traffic so badly approaching my next target that I was detoured miles away from where I wanted to go. I finally found another bookstore and went in, but it was so out-of-the-way that it was empty of all but me and an ancient gentleman with his 8 year-old great granddaughter and no books of interest enough to hold me there. Faced with the fact that I didn’t have anyone to call or visit and didn’t know where to find anyone to socialize with, I just went home. Sitting here alone with a shameful feeling of social failure sitting heavy in my chest, I decided to write it out, get it clear in my head.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve drawn: My colleagues going on to new jobs are more than their professions, undefined by their occupations; whereas I am only what I do. That old guy and his grandkid chatting animatedly over various storybooks had a community of interest; I couldn’t find anything in that store or in my imagination to stir interest enough to build community and no one with whom to build it.

I’ve achieved my intended target: professional respect and a position of leadership in a good company in an honest, respectable industry. I’ve also achieved success at the unconscious, secondary goal of eliminating obstacles to achievement of the primary objective: a distraction-free, relationship-free, empty-labeled life.

It’s a lonely place to exist. I don’t know how to change it, or even if it can be changed.

Focus is Hard

I’m at a conference of my company’s senior leadership team. The objective for this week’s work is to clarify plans for closing out this year’s business and strategies for setting next year’s goals. I thought I’d share something I gleaned out of today’s sessions.

In his opening address kicking us off, our COO emphasized that achieving our goals requires fierce focus. He challenged us to define a single tactic or initiative to focus on to move us forward toward the enterprise’ stated goal for this year. His call to action is intriguing, but the idea is not new or unique. It’s a common refrain in most management philosophies and motivational methodologies: concentrating effort on a single, well-defined objective eliminates distraction and simplifies execution.

But there are some gotchas in there. First, “well-defined” is it’s own challenge. Articulating an actionable scope of work is trickier than you’d think, especially when you’re limited to a single task among many competing priorities. The parameters of the objective are everything and selecting the details can make or break the outcome.

Second, is the reality that no company has a single goal, so choosing only one item to focus on puts other goals at risk. It takes insight and careful consideration to select the one with the greatest potential for yielding the largest return for the effort. The resultant pressure can easily result in analysis paralysis.

And the ‘X’ factor, as is so often the case, is that everyone involved has a personal agenda in addition to the corporate objective. It’s a huge temptation to choose relatively easy, low-hanging fruit that let you show immediate results, over more lofty goals that usually take more time and effort and yield results more slowly.

So, truly focusing is hard.

Frustratingly, there’s no answer, yet. We haven’t chosen that single thing, yet. We haven’t even chosen a method for whittling the list of options. But the open, lively debate and sharing of ideas is valuable in its own right. I’m looking forward to continuing the exercise tomorrow.

I hope you are finding ways to challenge yourself and experience wildly successful results.

Something Good

I don’t know which commercial, tv or radio, that has planted the ear worm in my head, but I’ve been hearing a bouncy, catchy clip of “tell me something good!” in my head for days. Every time I go to write an email or talk to someone, I have to catch myself before I sing it out loud and hopelessly embarrass myself. But it occurred to me that it’s a good mind-setting entreaty – it perfectly frames thoughts to focus on positivity.

So, let me tell you something good…well, three somethings:

  1. Today is my annual summer team building event for my local staff. We’re going to a local AAA baseball game. We get great seats in the shade behind home plate, snacks and a fun day out with no shop-talk. It’s always a hit and I am really glad to have the freedom and resources to give them this treat.
  2. I’m almost back to 100% with my dental issues. I’ve been able to eat real food for almost two weeks and I only have one more, relatively painless, procedure left to go. Can’t wait until the last vestiges of hot/cold sensitivity is gone and I don’t have to worry about which side if my mouth to use. 🙄
  3. I was pleasantly surprised to find truly laugh-out-loud comedy in a new book I read recently. Stumbled on two authors that I had never read before and took a chance. If you like romantic comedy (not a lot of heavily explicit descriptions, just enough to tell the story) lesfic, do yourself a favor and read something by Robin Alexander and Clare Ashton. I’ve binged half a dozen of their books and have seriously guffawed more than once in every book. Some of them had me laughing so hard I nearly didn’t make it the bathroom in time! Especially enjoyed “Just Jorie” by Alexander and “The Goodman’s” by Ashton. Hilarious, truly.

Enjoy something good today and be sure to tell somebody about it.

Humility or Insecurity?

A thought occurred to me today as I was thinking about my job, my role as a leader, and my professional aspirations. It seems to me that there is sometimes very little difference, to the observer, between humility and insecurity and I wonder if demonstrating either trait is ever truly beneficial to career advancement?

Probably not a question I’m ever likely to definitively resolve for myself or anyone else. But it’s something I ponder. Not out of fear, really, but genuine curiosity. Because I’ve resigned myself to the knowledge that I’m always going to have a certain level of doubt or insecurity about myself. The instinct to question if I’m good enough, doing the best I’m capable of, smart enough, etc. is deeply ingrained in my psyche. Those questions have served to propel me into greater effort, igniting my senses of competition and duty, spurring me strive in academic, personal and professional endeavors. They also can be detractors, internal critics that erode confidence and self worth, inhibiting courage.

Like so many things in life, taken to either extreme, this instinct to question myself can be harmful, a weapon against self growth. But, given its proper place, monitored and employed carefully, it can be beneficial, a useful tool for self improvement and advancement.

That’s how I distinguish between humility and insecurity for myself: humility is constructive, insecurity is destructive.

I’ve tried very hard to build my professional skill and expertise, to achieve professional success and earn the respect and confidence of my colleagues and clients. I’m proud to say that I’ve done that and enjoy the results of that achievement and respect in the form of a trusted leadership role in my organization. Although I have consciously worked to inhibit arrogance along the way, it is not always easy to detect when confidence and pride in accomplishments slips into conceit. I hope that my recounting in this blog of my thoughts and the accolades I’ve received don’t spill into that category. But I do know that, despite having achieved much in my career, I still get a giddy kick out of unexpected compliments on my skill and work product.

That happened twice today and it’s a pretty great feeling having my colleagues’ trust and confidence confirmed. The instance I’ll share arises from something small and ordinary, but it illustrates my point, I think.

My boss is out of town on a well-deserved vacation, and one of the senior leaders who usually relies on my boss to provide review and approval of certain public releases was frantic at not being able to reach him. The issue is not one I normally address and providing a response would take me out of my comfort zone a bit. But there was no call for me to interrupt my boss’s vacation for this – I’d just have to carefully examine the task, review applicable statutes and case law, and apply good judgment. After all, that’s the core of an attorney’s job, right? Nevertheless, I felt compelled (out of both humility and insecurity) to warn him that this isn’t my area of expertise and practice, and give him the chance to ask outside counsel or consider waiting for my boss to return. He said waiting wasn’t an option and that he had confidence in my judgment. So, I took on the task, even though I was a little nervous.

When I was able to provide the necessary answers and approval in a short turnaround time, with a high degree of confidence in the accuracy and appropriateness of my conclusion, I thought the guy might actually cry in relief. When he thanked me for my help he said it was a great relief to know that my boss had such a reliable “right hand” to keep the business going while he’s away.

That was a big ego boost and a compliment I’ll keep in my pocket for those days when the doubts turn toxic and loud.

Have a great rest of your week and I hope you find reason to celebrate your own victory over insecurity.

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