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
I've heard everything now. According to an aol article (yes, aol.com), about the top ten positions perfect for introverts, the paralegal position is right up there with graphic artist and civil engineer. Huh????
Here is what the article states:
"As an introvert, finding a position where you can really shine while working on individual projects can seem challenging. But with some research, you'll find plenty of positions where your skills and personal contributions are valued. Many jobs include opportunities for some teamwork as well as the kind of independent work that allows introverts to recharge. No matter which industry you consider, companies are eager for self-starters who are able to work independently."
Well, that much is true. You need to be a self-starter, able to be a good team player and work independently. But if you need to do a lot of teamwork, that means interfacing with other team members which to me means interaction. Interaction/Introvert...hmmm.......Interaction/Introvert.....does that seem compatible to you?
I guess if you're stuck in a basement donning the latest in hazmat wear while combing through documents looking for insurance policies from 1948, being an introvert might be a good thing. I'll give them that.
Here is what they say that paralegals do:
Average annual salary: $62,853
Paralegals often draft contracts, do research and sift through records. The job is rewarding for those who love research and don't need the buzz of constant interaction with a team. Since some guidance is provided, the career is a great stepping-stone to other areas of the legal field.
Oh, hmmm...what happened to works independently, needs to be a teamplayer? Provides a great stepping-stone to other areas of the legal field. Well, that much is true, too.
However, just about all paralegals I know do very little legal research. The reason? Attorneys generally do not trust paralegals to perform legal research. Heck, they barely trust associates to do it. Where do people get their information?
The paralegal job is for an introvert? You need to work with attorneys and other paralegals. That hardly makes you an introvert. Have you ever confronted an attorney who is clawing at the windows in a desperate attempt to get his work immediately? That doesn't exactly inspire an introvert to take this job. What about a nervous client chewing the phone lines up as she reaches out to you for an update on her case because the last time she was able to get the attorney on the line was 1998? An introvert would run, fast, the other way.
Maybe I'm wrong. Readers? Would you say you're an introvert, extrovert or a combination of both?
"I grew up the child of teachers. Besides learning the obvious lack-of-privacy lessons ('Does your father know you left the house in that outfit?' my high school history teacher once muttered to me), I also internalized the idea that in the working world, people get home every day at 4 p.m. and have summers off. To this day, it feels to me as if spending a beautiful summer afternoon sitting in an air-conditioned office goes against the natural order.
"I'm getting a sense that more and more people are on the same page -- or a nearby one. Don't we all want more time away from work?
"Yet at the same time, the office seems to be increasing its demands on our hours. One of the stickiest elements of the traditional working world is the often intractable and sometimes irrational insistence that people put in plenty of face time. The problem is especially acute in law firms -- places where associates [& paralegals?] actually worry about taking a 10-minute bathroom break. (Is it billable?) It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see a link between attrition and the legal world's obsession with the clock.
"'But are the law firms listening? They have done a brilliant job of creating initiatives with fancy-sounding names. More than one firm boasts that it offers flexible schedules, sabbatical time and varieties of telecommuting. Press releases tout all these wonderful programs. But try to find a lawyer who's made partner and worked a truly part-time schedule: It's about as rare as getting a seat on the bus at rush hour."
Ah, I'm sure every reader has run across such situations. Good news -- this Business Week article offers helpful advice:
"Sometimes, even casual exchanges can set co-workers off. When you hit a nerve, learn from the experience instead of snapping back
"It's pleasant to walk into the office on a sunny morning and hear 'Good morning!' from your cheerful co-workers. It's something else entirely to say 'Good morning' to a colleague and be met with 'Keep your good morning to yourself!' But that's what happened to a friend of mine at work not long ago. Talk about a hostile work environment!
"As we all know, there are people who are always in a sour mood and never fail to let people know it. Fair enough—if you know that John is evil on Mondays or that Janice gets cranky after lunchtime, you can avoid those people as much as possible at those times. What can take you by surprise is people's hidden sensitivities."
The complete article offers several useful tips.
Author "Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace, a former Fortune 500 HR executive and the author of Happy About Online Networking: the Virtual-ly Simple Way to Build Professional Relationships. "
So, what do you do for this big day? Take your kids to work? Does your firm or company participate?
"Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day has grown from a modest scope in its pilot year to include businesses large and small, unions, hospitals, manufacturing plants, arts groups, social agencies, schools and government offices. The latter list has included NASA, the CIA, the courts and legislative bodies.
"This year, the U.S. Senate expects 300 participants. That body now has 16 female senators. Fifteen years ago, it had two.
"Some workplaces simply invite employees to have their children, or someone else's, shadow them for the day. Others hold organized activities.
"The law firm Cohen & Grigsby, which has held events on and off over the years, will introduce about 50 children to a range of careers, including paralegal, accountant and technology expert. They'll also visit the courtroom of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward."
Calling all workaholics! Be smart & take some time off for a rejuvenating nap..at work!
"The Power Room at one Raleigh law office isn't a place where high-profile deals get done or important meetings occur.
"It's for snoozing.
"As workers log in longer hours, there is increasing interest in the revitalizing power of naps. One company in New York sells 20- minute sessions in nap pods. A recent study in Greece showed that regular naps can reduce the risk of heart attacks.
"Honestly, who hasn't had stressful workdays when an afternoon siesta would have hit the spot?
"Put the partners at Kilpatrick Stockton in the pro-nap camp."
Documentaries focus on insiders' view of autism [registration req'd], including a film made by a paralegal:
"When Taylor Cross was 14, he told his mother he wanted to earn money to pay for the Christmas gifts they planned to give a needy family.
"Keri Bowers was moved by her son's display of empathy. Cross was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at age 6 and struggles with social skills. Bowers suggested household chores he could do to earn the money.
"No way, he said. He wanted to make a movie and sell it.
"No way, she said. As a paralegal in the entertainment industry in California, she feared the venture would flop.
"In the end, the mother and son collaborated on Normal People Scare Me, a documentary on people with autism. Its success led to a second documentary, Sandwich Kids, for siblings of people with disabilities."
Talk about making a huge career change! Of course, it's good to follow a dream whenever you can:
"She’s not yet well known as a performer among Twin Cities jazz audiences but that’s beginning to change. Over a decade ago, Rhonda Laurie gave up a career as a full-time paralegal/part-time vocalist to become a fulltime music educator and performer, and 'never looked back.' Having performed recently at the Dakota and Rossi’s in the heart of Minneapolis, Rhonda now brings her savvy interpretation of jazz classics and less familiar repertoire to Excelsior at the 318 Café on April 10th, accompanied by one of the area’s most distinctive guitarists, Joel Shapira.
"After high school graduation, however, Rhonda was persuaded by her parents to pursue something more practical than show business. While completing her degree in pre-law at SUNY-Buffalo, however, she continued to take classes in art and dance, and even had some singing gigs in local bars. Still thinking about law school, Rhonda obtained training as a paralegal after graduation, and soon found herself working on Wall Street. Yet, 'I knew something was missing.' An 'Open U' class, 'Discover Your Voice,' led to classical voice lessons and ultimately a voice coach who involved Rhonda in cabaret."
You go, Rhonda!
Not exactly on topic, but what paralegal doesn't need a boost now & then? These quick "how to be happy" tips look good to me!
"You can make yourself happier – and this doesn’t have to be a long-term ambition. You can start right now. In the next hour, check off as many of the following items as possible. Each of these accomplishments will lift your mood, as will the mere fact that you’ve tackled and achieved some concrete goals.
1. Boost your energy: stand up and pace while you talk on the phone or, even better, take a brisk ten-minute walk outside. Research shows that when people move faster, their metabolism speeds up, and the activity and sunlight are good for your focus, your mood, and the retention of information. Plus, because of “emotional contagion,” if you act energetic, you’ll help the people around you feel energetic, too.
3. Rid yourself of a nagging task: answer a difficult email, purchase something you need, or call to make that dentist’s appointment. Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a big rush of energy and cheer, and you’ll be surprised that you procrastinated for so long."
"If you know you want to work part time as a lawyer, which fields of law or types of jobs are best for you? At the blog Concurring Opinions, William & Mary law professor Nate Oman recounts that a student recently came to him with this question and, 'I am embarrassed to say I don't know the answer.' The student explained that she would like to work full time for a few years after law school, then pull back to fewer hours.
"Not knowing the answer, Oman turned to his blog and asked his readers for their suggestions. Among the responses so far, comments suggest licensing, trademarks, trusts and estates, tax and employee benefits as fields of law amenable to part-time work. As for jobs, in-house counsel jobs are sometimes part time, and government offices sometimes allow flexible schedules and job sharing."
So, what practice areas do you think might be good for part-time paralegals? Surely not litigation, right? Would the areas listed above also fit paralegals?
BTW, are you a part-time paralegal now? Are there any drawbacks?