Archive for the ‘Mindset’ Category

“For the first time in my life, it makes me deeply question what women can achieve in this society.” “I still can’t believe all this is real.” “There is no silver lining here.” Many reacted to last night’s election with so much shock and pain. I feel the pain and despair too, very deeply. But I get a perverse kind of comfort from the thought that I—and so many others—feel pain and despair, on a smaller scale, almost every single other day too. To work for the little guy, in isolation and in anonymity, with little or no financial reward or social recognition, and sometimes with no success, is to feel despair on a daily basis. I don’t have the mantle of authority that comes with being part of an organization, especially a respected white-shoe firm or district attorney’s office. I’m just me, a young, inexperienced, soft-spoken, slight, insignificant woman, who works in an attic […]


October 16th, 2012 by Briana Cummings

If there’s one thing that the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and reformers have in common, it is an unusually high tolerance — or even appetite — for risk. For example, Jeff  Bezos says he makes decisions according to a “regret minimization framework.”  As in, do whatever it is you think will cause the least regret when you’re 80 years old and looking back at your life.  In his case, that meant taking a huge risk and starting Amazon. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good quote to steel up your resolve. So I’ve collected some here that have given me encouragement: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain Security is mostly a […]

Although “quitting” a failing project or business is often seen as a sign of failure, it is really a perfectly normal part of the creation-destruction process, and a necessary step in responding effectively to new knowledge and changing circumstances. Much has been written about the ossification of education – from K-12 up through graduate and professional schools – which in most major ways looks strikingly similar to the outdated education models that were created a century ago, if not earlier. As described in a 2008 McKinsey Quarterly article, resistance to change – and staying with a failing and/or outdated model – is a common problem in business too. A number of studies indicate that executives tend to stick with a losing project, business, or industry when clear signs indicate they should get out. I’ve outlined some of these finding below because these lessons apply as much to building and running a law […]

Last month, Inc. magazine surveyed the founders of Inc. 500 companies who had launched successful start-ups in the midst of the economic collapse of 2008 to see what drove them to start a company in such a shaky economy. Only 4% cited the loss of a job as a factor in their decision to start their own company. As for the rest, 50% said they had an idea for a business model that would do well in an economic downturn, and a full 46% said they were aware of the increased risk posed by a teetering economy but decided to take it anyway because “I’m an optimist and this is my dream.” Some examples of the cock-eyed optimist crowd: Larry Borden launched Aardvark Event Logistics two months after Lehman Brothers collapsed and six months before his second child was due. Chris Pershing, the sole provider of a family of five, walked […]

I keep reading and hearing that the things I want to do as a lawyer are impossible: Open my own practice straight out of law school. Offer affordable legal services to low- and middle-income clients while supporting my heavily debt-laden self financially. Raise a family while maintaining a thriving career. Any number of things, really. It is sometimes hard not to listen. Even if I shrug it off at a conscious level, deep down in my bones is a terror that keeps me up at night. It is all well and good to go through law school and job interviews talking about one’s interest in providing legal services to people who need them blablabla. But when you sit down to try to define concrete actionable steps toward that goal, you start to realize you have no idea what you are doing. But I—you—can’t listen. Don’t listen to the voices that say […]

I’m 6 months into starting my own practice out of law school and the emotions have been world-beater elation one day followed by my wife taking me off the ledge the next. (Source: Comment, “I Just Want to Practice Law Postmortem,” Starting any kind of business is an emotional roller coaster. The most blasé entrepreneurs I know have resorted to medication to handle the stress that comes with starting a practice. I don’t recommend medication, but learning to control the anxiety is critical. Going solo is hard enough, but doing it right out of law school can seem impossible and terrifying. Below are some strategies for quelling anxiety. Focus on the present, not the past or the future Take one day at a time. Don’t worry about the future. Plan for it and prepare for it, but don’t get anxious over it. A man who suffers before it is necessary […]

If you are struggling with anxiety, it may help to know that it is likely in large part the product of particularly American cultural forces. America’s anxiety epidemic The following is taken from a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, called “Trickle-Down Distress: How America’s Broken Meritocracy Drives our National Anxiety Epidemic“: Americans lead the world in anxiety. A World Health Organization survey found that 31% of Americans suffer from anxiety at some point in their lifetimes, compared to 25.3% of those in Colombia and 24.6% of those in New Zealand, the countries that rank second and third in rates of anxiety. “[P]eople in developing-world countries such as Nigeria are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans, despite having more basic life-necessities to worry about, ” writes Taylor Clark, author of Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool. But when […]

As author Taylor Clark argues in a recent Slate article, Americans have a cultural intolerance for bad emotions. “We vilify our aversive emotions and fight them.” Psychologist Steven Hayes says we’ve fallen victim to “feel-goodism,” the false idea that “bad” feelings ought to be eradicated with medication. This attitude not only ignores the fact that negative emotions are an indelible part of the human condition, but also that negative emotions can be ennobling (when they are unavoidable) — not necessarily a reason to feel shame — and, when we take time to understand them, educational.  The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn’t mean something is wrong. – Pema Chödrön Fear, pain — the emotions that Americans too often treat as “bad” — can be our greatest gifts. Fear, says Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, introduces us to all the teaching we’ve ever had. “When things fall apart,” when we lose the security we seek, we can […]

[Acting] didn’t strike me as very difficult [when I began it]. The awful thing is, I don’t know quite how to explain it, but things get more and more difficult as you go on. When you start in the theater, and I suppose really when you start with anything, you have a kind of extraordinary conceit. It doesn’t really enter your mind that it is going to be as difficult as it is. It’s . . . the more you do, the more you realize that, well, about my profession anyway, that it is an extremely difficult one. ~ Maggie Smith Along the way to achieving anything there are setbacks. This is as true for someone starting a business or law practice as it is for anyone else. In his class speech to startups, Paul Graham said, “The low points in a startup are just unbelievably low. I bet even Google […]