As I get older, a life of pulsating dancefloors and 5am finishes has given way to more measured social pursuits. One pastime never to be underestimated is the humble board game. My favourite? It’s called Pandemic where players attempt to defeat a deadly virus spreading rapidly across the fold out, cardboard world. Uniquely, all human players work together to win. This collaborative approach ensures friendships stay unbroken and couples stay undivorced. Your best chance at survival is to agree on a strategy early, use each player’s special abilities fully, and ensure you completely eradicate a virus (or it just comes back again and again). If that approach is good enough to win the world’s best board game, surely it will beat law’s toughest problem.
And you already know what the problem is.
At our best, lawyers can be clever, driven, focused and unbreakable. The sense of intellectual flow, pride in financial independence and working with great minds can be euphoric.
But law’s underbelly is dark.
We can be anxious, depressed, addicted, breakable and then broken. And let’s be frank, at your very worst, the virus completely consumes you and all players lose.
I’ve never been to breaking point, but I’ve seen it multiple times. It’s ugly, difficult and common. And although it may seem naive and inexperienced, I refuse to accept that’s who we are and what we signed up for. We can crack this. But we can’t solve the problem by sitting alone in our silos thinking of the solution when our thoughts themselves are the problem. Only collaboration, expertise and experience will save us.
So a few weeks ago, I sought to answer a single question:
How can young professionals surround themselves with happy, positive people?
I asked four people who have spoken with 1000s of young lawyers between them. These are their responses:
Fiona is a living example of the power of a positive player. Her sessions bring great energy to groups of young professionals, particularly young women to whom she is an experienced coach and mentor.
Fiona mentions a quote I love: “The 5 people you spend most time with shape you as an individual.” This is the contagion theory of positivity and success that can lead to “a positive, constructive attitude to life and career.” And on attitudes to avoid? “Do your best to distance yourself from the tittle-tattle and gossip of office life”, she adds. “At the very least, when it gets nasty, get out.”
Jerome and his book (The Wellness Doctrines) deliver a powerful lesson on asking for help with courage. “Most if not all people want to help, and they like to be asked. Seek guidance from both those whom you think can help, and those whom will add meaning and purpose to your personal or professional direction. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
And don’t worry if your happiness team doesn’t materialise overnight: “Surrounding yourself with friends who are positive can be a matter of trial and error”, he says. “Over time you’ll be in a position to pick and choose who you spend your time with.”
Clarissa has built a community of happiness-seekers through her Happy Lawyer, Happy Life book and podcast. She has captured insightful discussions on fulfillment and career development over 50 lawyers from Supreme Court judges to baby lawyers like me.
Clarissa advice is about self-improvement: “You need to start with yourself”, Clarissa explains, “are you someone who is largely positive, who supports those around you, who celebrates the success of others?” This resonated with me. Who doesn’t feel a sense of frustration when our friends seem to be getting more money, more promotions and more kudos faster and seemly easier than us? These are toxic thoughts. Forget envy. Celebrate wins of friends and colleagues openly and wholeheartedly. It’s the first step to a collegiate, win-win environment through an abundance mindset (if we’re both great, we both win and the pie expands).
Michael is the energetic co-founder of Beyond Billables tasked with making lawyers better, healthier people with better careers. Mike also runs a podcast and is author of several great articles that inspired me to start writing again.
Michael chats about podcasting and meeting an incredible diversity of positive people. “It was a mix of naturopaths, photographers, chefs, accountants, cartoonists and logistics operators! Positive people are everywhere, and the cool thing is they don’t try and hide it so go to events where you are interested in the topic, and you’ll find like-minded people you want to connect with.”
But the first step is up to you and it’s unlikely to be in your own backyard, particularly if you’re trying to break out of a negative environment. As Michael adds “Broadening out your network is so important if you want to surround yourself with the best people, because they all don’t just exist in one place.”
So do yourself a favour – read their books, listen to their podcasts and feel the warmth of players on team positive. Because law’s toughest problem has some seriously tough solution-makers.