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Failing

Let’s face it, failing is something that will happen to all of us (and multiple times); it’s a fact of life. We also all need a little pick-me-up when we’re mourning the loss of the goal we set our sights for. This is a bit of an ode to those experiencing their own version of grief and loss over that goal (for whatever it may be worth!).

Just like the inspirational quotes will tell us, what we do with our failure/s, depends on us. I doubt I’m the only one that then queries what the devil that is even meant to mean..

I appreciate that it’s easy to say that and less so to feel that there’s anyway beyond the feeling of failure. Of the many times I have failed, I try, with all my might, to reflect. Perhaps more than I should! But I reflect.

I recently had the distinct privilege of being involved in planning one of my favourite professional development conferences; the Queensland Law Society’s Annual Succession & Elder Law Conference. As part of the opening of the conference, an amazing woman, by the name of Dr Helena Popovic, graced the stage. Dr Popovic was there to talk to us all about brain function and boosting our brain and, in doing so, focused on a few tips to help us boost those beautiful brain cells. Now, Dr Popovic has quite a few ‘wow’ factors, but I want to touch on one thing that really resonated with me; feedback, not failure.

Interestingly, I had begun writing a post on failure about 3 weeks ago now, so it was certainly apt timing to hear Dr Popovic speak and reignite the words in my mind.

Turning failure into feedback is a pretty spectacular thing. It’s easy to say, harder to do, but boy are the benefits invaluable.

Being a typical lawyer, I like breaking things down, so lets do that.

Let’s look at some definitions – but lets look at them progressively and then in aggregate.

Fail (verb) – to be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal

Success (noun) – the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Goal (noun) – the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

Feedback (noun) – information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

Reaction (noun) – something done, felt, or thought in response to a situation or event.

Improve (verb) – make or become better.

When we think about goals we set ourselves in real life, we probably think of that one goal. But when you sit and break down each of the steps required to achieve that goal, there’s probably lots of mini-but just as important-goals within it. But deeper than that, perhaps the question is not “what is the goal?”, maybe it’s more “why do I want to achieve this goal?”. If it’s a professional accomplishment, is it for the accolades? is it to develop your skill-set? is it to put that achievement on your resume to get you a better job?

When you break things down in this way, you may find that your “why” is the real goal and the steps required to achieve the goal may be more intrinsic to your own personal growth then achieving “the goal” itself. Maybe there is more to be gained in the journey than the destination. In addition to this, your goals may (and likely do) change and evolve as you move through journeys, which means that you have even more chances to learn and grow from the experience of seeking that goal and more again if you don’t achieve it.

Which brings us then to feedback. If the real reason you want to accomplish that goal is for some other bigger reason or purpose, then, chances are, the steps involved in working towards that goal are likely to be seriously valuable to your personal development and growth. In my view, this means that those steps deserve meaningful consideration, for your own benefit.

[Side note] Yes, I agree that sometimes “The whole is greater than the some of it’s parts” (Aristotle), but I also believe in finding meaning in the experience, particularly when you are going through self-reflection, which can be distorted when you’re always looking at the ‘big picture’.

This then means that the same work that you have done to accomplish that goal is not misused or wasted time; it’s experience. Experience informs us and experience helps us improve. Improvement requires feedback. Although it’s hard to hear, it’s there to help us.

What you are going to achieve out of the process of seeking the goal is going to be unique to you, which means that you also, then, have the power to make it something worthwhile for you and your future.

The legal profession is, generally, pretty competitive. There’s lots of egos and everyone is seeking to “win” their case. When we go to Court, there’s a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’ so, of course, when we lose, it’s easy to feel the burden of failure. Mentally, there are other aspects of your own self-doubt and confidence taking a hit and don’t me started on “Imposter Syndrome” (a topic for another day).

However, without that failure, what do we learn? What feedback do we receive? If we win, do we reflect as deeply on that journey; maybe, maybe not. I suspect we’re not as likely to reflect and be constructive with our reflection if we have “won” because we’d probably feel pretty good about the outcome.

But, if we ‘fail’, we reflect and we reflect hard. We’re likely to be critical of ourselves (and maybe even others) and feel downright lousy that we haven’t achieved anything. But we have achieved something; we’ve achieved experience and we have achieved the delivery of information and now have the chance to react and feel something about that information we have received and now we can process that and use it to work towards making it better. Can you really say you’d have the same insight if you “won”?

Failure and feedback are things that will change you; you can either use it’s power for good or for evil.

If we lead with feedback and leave the word ‘failure’ behind, it can be empowering. You shift your mind away from the negative and it may even help you find purpose in the goal not being achieved in the way you wanted in the first place. Perhaps you may also find purpose in your goal changing.

Your goal may even change as a result of this perceived “failure” but, if you turn that failure into feedback and use it to fuel a new fire in your belly, would that be such a bad thing?

Feedback, not failure.

Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.

Winston Churchill
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Work Zen-ness of Nature

Ever have those days when you need to get stuff done and you’re uncomfortable in your normal work space. Perhaps your area is cluttered and you don’t have the time (or inclination!) to clean it at that very point in time as you have more pressing things to concern yourself with (or, at least, that’s what you tell yourself).

I love being outdoors. I love the fresh air, the birds, (not so much the flies), and the general zen-ness of nature. My reading of all things introversion tell me this is a common trait among introverts!

I recently got asked if I would become a regular contributor to my favourite Queensland Law Society publication called the Proctor. I’ve got some serious #nerdlove for that publication (I’m one of those weirdo’s that will get excited by the hardcopy delivery and ready myself with a fresh coffee to read it without delay!). So, you can only imagine my excitement when I heard that the Proctor was going online! Add to that my crazy excitement when some people in the QLS and Proctor world read my writing on this little blog and subsequently asked me to have a regular column for the new online Proctor. Now, how could I say no?!

My first assignment; write an intro-like post to the new m.a.d. about law column. Well, crap. That was a little harder than I anticipated. I started it a few times, but couldn’t get the zen-ness that I normally feel when I’m writing. I put it away for later.

I thought i’d try something that I hadn’t tried before really; something I had always wanted to try but thought it would be ‘weird’ (why I was worried about what others would think of it, is really beyond me!).

I had a house visit to go and do and then I was off to collect my eldest small human from school. I thought ahead and decided I would take my itty-bitty laptop and if I finished early, I would park up in a park with some lunch and give it a go.

I wrote my post in about 20 mins and it felt goooooooood. It was actually amazing and I seriously considered building an outdoor office!.

It’s amazing how a change of location, pace, surroundings can bring clarity you probably didn’t think you were really lacking. It didn’t feel like work (in fact, in all honesty, writing rarely does!). It was nice to not have the distractions of my usual workplace.

From now on, I will not only surround myself greenery indoors, but outdoors as well. Find my work zen-ness and let the creative juices flow. The beauty of technology today really does allow us to take our work wherever we want/need. I think the pandemic has really taught us some valuable lessons in that department. I also think the pandemic, and particularly lockdown, has really demonstrated how much we enjoy being out, engaging with people and society, but also how important it is to stop for a moment and smell the roses and appreciate the little things in life.

I live out in an semi-rural area (toward Beaudesert) so naturally, I’m surrounded by some pretty spectacular spots only a few minutes away and I just love it out here. In fact, the picture I’ve used for this post is the picture I took at the park on that very day!

My little adventure actually made me think of camping. More and more people go camping, nowadays. Ever thought why? Is it a desire to go back to basics? Is it a desire to just be surrounded by nature? It could very well be a bit of both. I find myself thinking about work when I’m out camping and when I was writing my piece the other day, I felt like I had the best of both worlds, bringing the serenity of camping to my work and vice versa. It was eye-opening and a little liberating!

I feel like a found a bit of work zen-ness when I worked from the park the other day and I am sure I will absolutely do so again.

Where do you find your work zen-ness? Do you mix it up a bit? Do you have a favourite place?

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished

Lao Tsu

Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash with grateful thanks.

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Power of Perspective

Recently, the good ol’ socials shared with me a really interesting (and funny!) TED Talk video. It was about an inventor who liked building robots but would regularly “fail”. This inventor purposefully changed her way of thinking about her ‘failures’ with her robotics, and instead decided to explain ‘why you should make useless things’ and set out to ‘fail’ at making these crazy robots every day. This way, she considered, she would enjoy a 100% success rate. She changed her perspective when approaching her projects.

It got me thinking about perspectives and how powerful (and sometimes debilitating!) they can be and how we hold the key to opening the door for growth and our own self care.

perspective (noun)

‘a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view’

attitude (noun)

‘a settled way of thinking or feeling about something’

Looking at these definitions, I see one thing in common; it’s internal. Your perspective and attitude are both things that are internalised which means, you control them. You choose to either accept or reject a perspective or attitude, because they are within you, they are in your control.

Considering this in practice, our clients, our colleagues all have different perspective. They are driven, encouraged and grown from their own background, experiences (good and bad) and will ALWAYS be different to yours.  This does not mean, however, that they are wrong or right; they’re just different. I think it is fair to think that some people acquaint the word “different” with some form of negativity; I challenge that. Being different comes with it’s own motivations and creativity. Imagine if we were all the same and how dull life would be. We wouldn’t have the intensely inspiring debate that we have in our Courts, nor be inspired by the great legal minds we have had the privilege of enjoying in our justice system (#KirbyFanForLife).

Changing your perspective, even for a short duration, can mean the difference between being a barrier and a solution. Our clients may have had difficult experiences in their life with lawyers. Maybe they feel they have really struggled with communication with their last lawyer and that has created trust issues, or maybe they didn’t get the outcome they thought just. That will change their perspective on engaging with us. It may mean that we have to work a little harder to ‘win them over’, but it also means that you have the power to change their perspective and attitude toward the legal profession as a whole. That is powerful stuff.

Conversely, you can change your own perspective or attitude toward a situation in your work environment. Your colleague may be quiet, introverted and not outwardly spoken as other colleagues; this may be perceived by others as being unsocial or uninterested or even rude. But, is it? Your attitude toward someone harbouring those traits may be wrongfully conceived (and that’s OK, we are human and we make mistakes) and now, it’s up to you to learn more and possibly correct that ‘settled way of thinking or feeling’ and changing your perspective of that colleague which may change your perspective of your workplace for you, your quiet colleague and maybe even the entire workplace by creating a more inclusive workplace. That is powerful stuff.

Next time you face a challenge, consider the perspectives being adopted. Learning about and taking different perspectives is incredibly powerful stuff. All you need is an open mind.

As Simone Giertz, the inventor who makes useless things, says “The true beauty of making useless things [is] this acknowledgement that you don’t always know what the best answer is. It turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. Maybe a toothbrush helmet isn’t the answer, but at least you’re asking the question.’

You are not always going to know the answer, but at least you are asking the question.

Photo by MICH ELIZALDE on Unsplash with grateful thanks.

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Your own version of success

Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live

Anne Sweeney

Lawyers are competitive creatures, in one way or another. Even if you’re not outwardly competitive, you still likely have a burning desire to be the best at whatever you do (whether it’s the best presentation at a conference or the best drafting of that one clause in that big Deed).

So, when it comes to measuring success, it’s likely that we might look outside of ourselves to find out what that truly is. But, is that really the right place to be looking?

Respectfully, I don’t think so.

There’s oodles and oodles of books about success and there’s even more quotes about it. I wonder, however, whether we take that literature too literally and forget that our success is ours to own and live. This means that what ‘success’ looks like should also be developed from what success actually means to us! If we continue to look outside of ourselves for success, we’re likely to be continually unhappy and, moreover, unsuccessful. Success and happiness are permanently and critically interlinked.

Let’s take a closer look:

success (noun)

‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose’

aim (noun)

‘a purpose or intention; a desired outcome’

purpose (noun)

‘the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists’

What is interesting about the above is that not one of those definitions involves another person.

The words purpose, intention, desire and reason are all intrinsic words that only you can define.

Take law school for example: in law school it’s common to have this concept of making partnership in a law firm as the epitome of success. However, that is not necessarily going to be the case for everyone and there may be a multitude of reasons why and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

The important fact remains that your purpose, intention, desire and reason are all yours to be developed, sought and achieved. They are what YOU want, not what someone tells you you’re meant to want.

If you seek someone else’s idea of success as the yard stick to which you measure your own success and happiness in law, you will likely be left forever wanting, unhappy and confused. However, if you spend the time to think deeply about your purpose, intention, desire and reason you work in the law, you can begin to build your path to your own version of success.

Your success in law could be in running a well-oiled machine of a law practice and having cultural harmony among your people. It could be enjoying good and ongoing quality work in your chosen practice area. It could be part time practice and part time side hustle of sewing colourful frocks and golf shirts. It could be lecturing and educating in law and writing about the law. It could be working in legal publishing and contributing to the history of legal writing. It could be working in policy and contributing to law reform.

More broadly, it could be working for yourself and doing kid drop off/pick up regularly or taking the kids to karate or gymnastics. It could be working half the year and travelling the other half. It could be working as in house counsel for your partner’s business and enjoying lunch with them every day.

The options are limitless. They are as limited as the greatest reaches of your mind and heart.

There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking.

Brian Tracy

I implore you to consider what makes you happiest in your world and write them down. Write them with a good old fashion pen (OK, I’ll allow an apple pencil or stylus, if I have to!) and when you’re finished, read them back over and over. Visualise them. Does it make you smile? Does it make your mind wander? Does it make you feel harmony or even joy?

If you’re one of the many people (like me!) that got into the law to help people, have you considered whether you’re helping yourself as well? Are you helping yourself to enjoy what you do and how you do it? Are you helping to be the best version of yourself? Are you helping yourself to walk and own your own journey? Are you seeking out your own version of success?

If not, take a moment for yourself; you deserve it.

If you own this story you get to write the ending

Brene Brown