Welcome Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc"!
Our guest blogger this month.
7 Steps for Turning Uncertainty into Transformative Opportunity
Doing Your Head Work, Heart Work and Homework
A good friend recently sent me a clever cartoon. A Buddhist-like character, wearing a loosely hanging white garment, shoulder exposed, is driving a car, seemingly in the dark. His car is filled with message bubbles: “Follow your bliss,” “The obstacle is the path,” and “if you aim for it, you are turning away from it.” The pithy caption: “Zen GPS!”
Not surprisingly, my friend is facing a tough decision fraught with uncertainty. In times of indecision and confusion, if not crisis, e.g., our ongoing COVID reality, what we need is clarity and structure along with a learning and sharing path more than certainty, perfection, and absolute truth.
As we have recently witnessed, facing chronic uncertainty, “can lead to acting irrationally and irresponsibly, from boycotting masks to throwing big parties in the face of all precautions — all products of frustration, fear and defiance in an effort to reassert control over the upended circumstances” (Kamila Sip, Jay Dixit, “LEADING THROUGH ADVERSITY: Brain-based leadership in a time of heightened uncertainty,” Chief Learning Officer, November 30, 2020).
With my friend, I texted back some pathway steps as she ponders making a life-changing decision. Consider these fleshed out seven steps for “Turning Uncertainty into Transformative Opportunity”:
Admitting Powerlessness as True Strength. Accepting that you are powerless in a vital decision-making realm is both a sign of honesty and strength. It is not evidence of failure, though our vulnerable ego or wounded pride may interpret a need to ask for help in this self-critical manner. You may need a shoulder to lean on to get the journey started.
2. Being Open to and Digesting New Info. While you should always consider the source of info, now is the time to get some “outside-your-social bubble” ideas and input. Also, key, taking time to listen to and assess your emotions: what is being stirred by such a new perspective and/or approach? And having done your emotional due diligence, now reflect on the new information and your reaction(defensiveness) or response (integration of heart and head) to the same. Pay close attention to any new questions that arise in your head, heart, and gut.
3. Conferring with Trusted Others. This can be challenging, as we often don’t like to reveal our uncertainty and feelings of vulnerability. Will others judge us to be weak or indecisive? So, at this part of the decision-making journey, try sharing your uncertainty, new info, new questions, etc. with trusted others. But even here, consider whether your friend or colleague might have their own bias or subjectivity regarding their feedback to you.
4. Initial Decision-Making. Formulate a new perspective or position, if not a complete strategy. If you have the time and energy, seek another round of feedback. Again, take time for digesting the new problem-solving gestalt through emotional reflection. You might even want to journal about pros and cons, fears, fantasies, excitements, etc.
5. Making a Decision. Now commit to a decision, however imperfect, incomplete, or unfinished it may seem. Perfection or absolute control is not the goal. As the Buddhists would say, “That’s an illusion.” And most important, act on your commitment. Again, to sustain a challenging new problem-solving step, first, expect some anxiety. This is natural during the early stages of a learning curve. And second, seek feedback and resources to help you sustain your new path, at least long enough to feel you engaged in a real test drive.
6. Preparing for Conflict. Remember, not all will agree with your decision, even folks who, in general, recognized there was a problem. Such doubters may have legitimate concerns; they also may be protecting themselves from recognizing that they too may need to break out of a self-defeating habit or comfort zone. If you have done your past and present head work, heart work, and homework, you can trust you are on the right path… for now.
7. Knowing You Can Change. Finally, as you travel along this new path, new experiences, conversations, and information will arise. If you feel you have given this new plan of action your best shot, and you are having doubts, wondering if you need to step back and reevaluate, then you can. You can reevaluate – from solo reflection to shared brainstorming – following the above steps. Most important, with this decision-making framework, a change of heart or plans is rarely an impulsive choice or rash decision. You are not avoiding or abandoning the issue but approaching it from a hard-earned wisdom perspective.
The Secret of Wisdom
Words of wisdom. Most of us seek them. I immediately think of two of my favorite sayings. Jonas Salk, the great scientific pioneer observed: "Evolution is about getting up one more time than we fall down, being courageous one more time than we are fearful...trusting one more time than being anxious." And along with a sense of persistence, everyday struggle and appreciation for even small triumphs is the need for serenity: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can...and the wisdom to know where to hide the bodies." No...Just kidding. ;-) "And the wisdom to know the difference." And the older I get, the more profound "The Serenity Prayer" seems. Yet, a fundamental question remains: how the heck do you get the wisdom?
Okay, folks. Here it is...The Secret of Wisdom.
Once there was a young woman who heard that an old wise woman had the secret of wisdom. The young woman was determined to track the old woman down. After traveling many months, the young woman found the old woman in a cave. She entered and addressed the old woman: "Old Wise Woman, I hear you have The Secret of Wisdom. Would you share it with me? The old woman looked at the youth and said, "Yes, you seem sincere. The Secret of Wisdom is good judgment." "Good judgment, of course," said the youth, thanked her mentor, and started to leave. However, as she got to the entrance of the cave she paused, turned back and said, "Old Woman, I feel funny, but, if I may ask, how does one obtain good judgment?" "That's a good question," said the sage. "One obtains good judgment through experience." "Experience, of course," said the young seeker, and proceeded to leave. But once again she stopped in her tracks, and humbly walked back to her mentor. "Old Woman," said the young woman, "I feel foolish, but I have to ask: How does one obtain experience?" The old woman paused, nodded her head, then proceeded: "Now you have reached the right question. How does one obtain experience?
. . . Through bad judgment!"
Errors of judgment rarely mean incompetence; they more likely reveal inexperience or immaturity, perhaps even boldness. Our so-called "failures" can be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that ultimately enrich - widen and deepen - the risk-taking passage...If we can just immerse ourselves in the these unpredictably rejuvenating waters.
And just remember...Practice Safe Stress!
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and webinar speaker and "Motivational Psychohumorist” known for his Get FIT – FUN-Interactive-Thought-provoking – programs for both government agencies and major corporations. In conjunction with Legal Estrin Staffing, the Doc has been co-leading Stress Resilience/COVID-19 Webinars and an HR/Legal/Manager Support Group, and continues to lead Stress Resilience, Diversity/Inclusion, and Team Building programs.
Having taught Crisis Intervention for ten years at Tulane Univ. Graduate School of Social Work, he has been a Stress/Critical Incident Consultant for various organizations and for the Nepali Community in the BWI area. He has run numerous Stress Resilience & Team Building Leadership Retreats for the US Army. Mark is definitely battle-tested as a former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service. He is the author of Practice Safe Stress, The Four Faces of Anger, and Preserving Human Touch in a Hi-Tech World. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – www.stressdoc.com – called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).
For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email email@example.com or call 301-875-2567.
To reach Chere Estrin: firstname.lastname@example.org
With things the way they are in this upside- down world, the day has caused me to review my current situation: My business, legal staffing, is the third largest industry to be hit next to hospitality and retail.
Everything was going so well in the first quarter. In fact, it was going to be one of my best years ever. Then, along with the rest of the world, I woke up one morning and poof! It was all gone. Finito. Say bye-bye. No one was hiring. Every firm had a hiring freeze. It looked as though we were absolutely dead in the water.
Let me whine just a bit. This week has been tough. My wonderful husband has been in and out of the ER 6 times plus 2 emergency trips to the doctor in 10 days. It has been a series of Mr. Toad’s Wild Rides in the dead of the night to a hospital an hour away along a pitch- black winding mountain road in the midst of thunder and lightning storms. Not really my idea of fun. Actually, I am sitting here writing this piece right now in the hospital. He does not have the virus and fortunately, he is going to be fine.
It’s getting tough to stay positive. Let’s not overlook that COVID19 is still raging. It seems like a lot of people have accepted the new normal and have become a tad desensitized to what is going on. With 40+ million people unemployed and many cities still in lock down, you would think it would be foremost on everyone’s mind. However, I notice that people are actually adapting the “new normal” and getting just a tiny bit too comfortable. This has become a way of life. Holy, moly. We want to live life like this? Can we rethink this here?
Then we have global civil unrest. The world is protesting to the injustices that have gone on for hundreds of years. While it’s good to protest, I wish it were at a healthier time. With thousands and thousands of people in demonstrations, rallies, along with the partying at bars without wearing masks or practicing social distancing, the virus will be going on a long time. That’s not a good thing.
It’s interesting what the virus is bringing out. People I haven’t spoken to in years are calling. Even my cyber stalker is back. She's a paralegal down in Georgia who seems to have forgotten we know who she is. (Thank goodness, this time around there are laws - criminal and civil - to protect me. Not so, several years ago when she started.) The callers are reaching out. I think that’s because they can’t hug or see anyone and are looking for people who can bring back good memories and better times. In a way, the world is getting closer despite social distancing.
I am examining my life on this Big-O birthday. Los Angeles (where I come from), is the land of the skinny, the beautiful, those who drive the most expensive cars and those who live on the correct side of the boulevard. Since nothing there really applies to me, I thought I could at least improve my appearance. I am now, after all, a woman of a certain age.
There’s this permaderma-something-or-another product I saw on TV that you rub on your face and in 10 minutes, all your wrinkles and deep lines disappear. Oh, wow! Now, we’re talkin’. For $19.95, I can compete with L.A’s beautiful people! It does have one teeny, tiny caveat. It wears off after 10 hours. I can just see myself having a gourmet dinner in L.A,'s most trendy restaurant with important potential clients. The 10 hours are up and the perma stuff starts slowly wearing off me in front of god and everyone. Drip, drip, right onto my collar. There I am, aging 10 years before the very people I am inaptly trying to impress - rapidly changing from a middle-aged beauty to an old lady. Somehow, I don’t think I would get the account.
Staying in the framework of positivity, pandemic or not, I decided I was not going to go through the horrible down time that most of us did in the Great Recession. No siree! This time, I had a Plan B. I reasoned that pretty soon, all the people who got the virus are going to get angry. Very, very angry. They will start to sue. Who will they sue? Doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, employers who made them come to the office, products liability for faulty ventilators, institutions they believe gave them the virus, toxic tort, mass tort, class actions and more. What will law firms and insurance companies need? Medical records summarized, of course. So, I opened up MediSums, medical records summarizing. Bullseye! I now have a team of 26 doctors who can summarize up to 16,000 pages per day. There is absolutely no way I am going to go down like in 2009. Not going to happen.
Then I started branching out in legal staffing. I landed a great client in Bahrain. Yes, that Bahrain over in the Middle East. They are seeking a corporate lawyer along with a litigation lawyer from a major law firm with excellent schools and major firm background. OK, so I had to drop the fee a little bit. However, I can now say I’ve gone international. Always push and keep that career advancing! That's what I always say.
Then, I realized that there are hot areas the Corona virus has brought to the forefront. Those are: trust & estates planning (people are getting their affairs in order, just in case); divorce (after sheltering in, people are deciding they didn’t sign up for this); med/mal; workers comp; employment litigation; personal injury; mass tort; bankruptcy (yes, that area is going to be very, very busy); products liability; BigPharma; corporate restructuring and others. I segmented these specialties and went after those areas. Suddenly, I was no longer dead in the water. Right now, we are so busy, I may have to put on another recruiter.
What am I trying to say? The best thing you can do in very disturbing times is to stay positive and ride the horse in the direction it is going. Those ole adages: make lemonade out of lemons, put your mask on first before you help others and a zillion other trite adages, suddenly apply.
The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging us in ways we could never have predicted just a few months ago, from unprecedented amounts of family time to homeschooling to working remotely — or not working at all. These sudden, rapid changes in the way we live, coupled with uncertainty, can feel overwhelming. While we may know that it’s usually helpful for everyone in your inner circle to stay positive, it’s sometimes easier said than done.
Here are some things to remember:
- It will not be this way forever. This is a difficult time, but it is just that — a time.
- Recognize what you are doing well. It may be tough right now, but you have managed some things very well. Think about the physical, logistical, mental and emotional struggles you may have encountered in the last few months and the good — even great — way you approached and handled those challenges. Yay you!
- Remind yourself of what is good in your life. Some circumstances right now may be hard to change or may contribute to your feeling helpless. But there are other things in your life that are good and inspire gratitude. Making a list of the good things that you appreciate — large or small — can help shift your focus in a positive direction.
- Start your day with a positivity routine. Don’t immediately check the news as soon as you wake up. It’s too depressing. Take a few minutes to find yourself – and smile. You’d be surprised at how incredibly powerful a morning smile can be in helping you start your day on a positive note.
Incorporate humor and laughter into your day. This is one of the most important steps to take in improving your positivity and benefiting from a more optimistic disposition. Numerous studies have confirmed short-term and long-term benefits of laughter on the human body and mind. Whenever we start to get a bit frumpy, my husband and I reach for the AutoCorrect bloopers. Laugh? OMG…..
- Walk away from distressful conversations and situations. In today’s highly stressful pandemic environment, it is easy to get pulled into negative interactions and exchanges that can leave us feeling distressed, frightened, insecure and pessimistic. Recognizing these encounters early on and removing ourselves from these situations can help us manage stress and contribute to our positivity.
- Have faith. I’m not talking about religious faith here. I’m talking about having faith in humanity; science; technology; our health care heroes; the good in people; our resilience; perseverance; in our ability to overcome even the most outrageous of obstacles. Believe strongly in our future; in life after Coronaville and everything we will have learned after all of this is done. Life is always changing. With each birthday, you can look back and see from where you came.
In times of constant negative messaging, you need an antidote so that you can keep your positive attitude and march forward with determination and hope. Be deliberate in activities that are positive, heartwarming, stress reducing and laughter producing! Together, we’ll get through this. I guarantee it.
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Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums, medical records summarizing. She is the Co-Founding Member and Vice-President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: email@example.com.
One of our favorite guest bloggers is back!
Barbara Haubrich-Hass, ACP/CAS on:
It is important to memorialize the sequence of events in any given incident. One way to accomplish this is to obtain statements from the percipient witnesses. Nailing down a witness’ version of how an incident occurred early in a case can be one of the most important components of a thorough investigation. A paralegal should not determine which witness to statementize; that is a decision for the attorney to make. It is also up to the attorney to decide who conducts the interview with the witness. It is best if the attorney conducts the witness statement so that the attorney understands the facts of the case, obtains all of the information needed from the witness, and can evaluate the overall credibility of the witness.
However, some attorneys have their paralegal conduct the witness statements, while other attorneys hire investigators to conduct the witness statements. At a minimum, paralegals play a big role in locating the witnesses, setting up the interviews, and obtaining the physical evidence for the attorney to use to conduct the interviews.
In the pre-litigation stage of a case, an attorney cannot compel a witness to give a statement. When a witness refuses to provide a statement, then the statement will have to wait until litigation has commenced. The witness can then be compelled to testify at a deposition through the use of a deposition subpoena.
A. Preparing for the Interview
Knowing what information you want to obtain from the witness is the first step in preparing for the interview. Prior to the interview, review the evidentiary documentation in the file so that you have an understanding of the dynamics of the case, and how the witness fits in with the case scenario. It may be necessary to obtain additional documentary evidence before the witness statement is obtained.
B. Types of Statements
Witness statements can be written or recorded. A written statement is obtained in person as the questions and answers are written down by the interviewer. When the statement is concluded, the statement is either provided in handwritten form to the witness to review and sign; or the statement is typed and then provided to the witness to review and sign. Either way, before the witness dates and signs the statement, it is important to ask the witness to review the statement for any corrections.
A recorded statement is obtained either in person, over the telephone, or by other audio or video means. This method is particularly helpful in obtaining long distance witness statements that you otherwise may not be able to secure. At the beginning and end of every recorded statement, it is extremely important for the interviewer to have the witness acknowledge that he or she understands that the statement is being recorded and to grant permission for the statement to be recorded.
In order to lessen the likelihood that a witness statement may be discoverable in litigation, it is good practice to insert a sentence at the end of the written or recorded statement, as follows:
This witness statement was taken by an attorney. It contains the responses of the witness to questions formulated by the attorney based upon the attorney’s legal analysis, and reflects the impressions, conclusions, opinions, legal research, and theories of the attorney. This document is protected by the attorney work product doctrine.
For purposes of this article, an attorney is interested in obtaining statements from percipient witnesses (aka eye witnesses). However, there are other types of witnesses, such as character witnesses, lay witnesses, and expert witnesses that will not be discussed in this article as those witnesses do not fundamentally fit the criteria of this article.
Within the scope of percipient witnesses, there are “friendly” witnesses and “hostile” witnesses. A friendly witness is someone who is favorable to your side of the case and is a cooperative witness. In contrast, a hostile witness is someone who is against your side of the case and is adverse to your client’s interests. Generally, attorneys do not want to statementize hostile witnesses.
Stayed tuned! Tomorrow: Comprehensive Interviewing Techniques
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We all get those annoying e-mails. You know, the ones that purport to know our name, recognize that we're "friends" with the sender when in fact, we haven't a clue who they are. Well, Ken Magill is proud to report that he is the first private citizen to have been officially called stupid in an e-mail from America's first African-American president. Heck, he may be the first private citizen to have been officially called stupid in an e-mail from an American president ever!
Magill, who writes for a magazine called "Direct", says in a recent article that his history-making moment came when Barack Obama sent his first message as president of the United States to his 13 million name e-mail list urging recipients to "spread the word" and build support for his economic plan.
"Stupid," Magill's began. "The economic crisis is growing more serious every day, and the time for action has come."
Why did Obama call him Stupid?
Well, last February - holy, moly, it's been a year.....Magill registered his e-mail address with the name Stupid Poopyhead on Obama's campaign Web site to test a reported flaw that allowed people to enter any e-mail address and sign up any name, even a ridiculous one.
"How many people can claim that such a major political figure calls them Stupid on a regular basis? None, I bet."
It worked. As a result, Obama addressed Magill in e-mails as Stupid throughout his campaign. Using the last name "Poopyhead" apparently was considered too much of a formality.
Moreover, when Obama selected Biden, Magill began receiving e-mails also addressed to Stupid. They were all one big, happy, campaign-trail family. But after Obama was sworn in, his campaign manager, David Plouffee - who had called Magill Stupid in the past- sent a message addressing him as "Friend." Magill was crushed.
Now his campaign manager was addressing Magill as the political equivalent of "occupant." Was Obama trying to distance himself from Magill? Could the relationship be cooling off a little? Was he lowering his expections? Or now that the campaign was over, had his tone necessarily become more formal? He is in the Oval Office, after all.
But when Magill read Obama's first presidential e-mail to him, his heart soared. "YAY! He was still Stupid!" "And not only that, he just made U.S. - no, wait - world...yes, world history!"
Magill writes that he is honored that President Obama will be calling him Stupid for the next four, possibly 8 years.
And he is considering printing that e-mail out and framing it. Hey, you only get to be the first private citizen to be called Stupid in an e-mail by the first African-American U.S. president once, you know.
Imagine if you were the paralegal assigned to gather the e-mails and assign search terms if this ever were to happen. We thought you should read about it here first.