You know how all the hero stories are about a lonely champion fighting alone. He has no people. No community. No inner circle. He trusts no one and carries the future of the whole world on his shoulders. He solves impossible challenges and wins impossible battles alone. He’s not interested in discussions about “finding your people.” He does not need any.
Yet it is a myth.
Unlock the secret to finding your people
If you, my friend, are ready to transform your legal life, this myth about going it alone is not for you. Now is the time to start finding your people. Your community, your inner circle, your crew. The people who get you. The people who lift you, who support and encourage you.
I do not understand why we glorify charismatic characters who are alone. Being alone is not great. To achieve something alone is not better than achieving something together. On the contrary, shared joy is double joy. We are social species by our very nature, hard-wired to work with others.
It is scary to think about making big changes in your career and your life on your own. Especially if the shift is a journey towards the unknown. Toward something new that no one knows about yet or may not even exist yet.
But, loneliness is an illusion. In your current environment, you may feel alone with your thoughts. But that does not mean you are alone in the world. There are other people out there puzzled by the same ideas and dreams. They are your people.
So, one essential step in transforming your legal life is finding the right people. And surrounding yourself with them.
I do not doubt that you can make the change by yourself. The question is rather how far you want to go? How much of an impact do you want to make?
As Helen Keller’s famous quote says: “alone we can do so little together we can do so much.”
So, how do you start finding your people?
Who are your people?
You must pay attention to the kind of company you keep. Your inner circle of people says a lot about you and determines where you are going in life. To be successful with your change you must find the right people for you. A community where you feel like you belong and have a rightful place.
How do you recognize these people?
Your people are those who see you the way you truly are and support you all the way. They celebrate your successes without jealousy and bitterness. And give critical feedback when there is reason to do so. Your success is not a threat to them.
Look at what people do, not what they say. Talk is cheap. Do they support their words with actions?
Your people are the ones who dare to put their skin in the game. They are also making changes in their lives. They are looking for their people too. They are not armchair critics, offering opinions, wanted or not.
Your community celebrate every one of your successes, regardless of how small it may seem. For you, each small success may be huge. Your circle understands this. If you stumble, they will help you back on your feet.
They understand because they share the same experiences, the same joys and sorrows. Above all, they are ready to grow, be vulnerable and to share experiences. They are willing to learn and fail and be genuine and open about their own experiences.
Be careful not to look for pleasers or those who agree with you on everything. The right community values diversity and inclusion. It is about acceptance and appreciation of differences and justified opinions. As with friendships, tough love builds and strengthens trust. A good relationship gets even better by respectful criticism. And offers a new perspective in return.
How can you identify the people who are standing in the way of your change?
Warning signs include cynicism or criticism without goodwill or constructive suggestions. Staying in your comfort zone is the easiest thing in the world to do. You will hear: “Naah, it will not work.” The people who say those things are afraid of change. They are intimidated by you making the plunge.
Sadly enough, these cynical and critical voices are common in the legal space. Any new solution or idea, dismissed because it is new and “we have always done it this way.” Or it may work somewhere but it will not work for us. We are special. Yet, if you listen carefully, this is fear speaking. Cynicism and criticism protect the critic. (Tip: criticism doesn’t protect anyone.)
Cynical critics think it’s cool to doubt and look down on everything. They hope to say “I told you so.” New ideas, new openings: opportunities for ridicule and jokes.
The current stagnation in law is happening because lawyers do not feel safe to innovate. Or develop something new. The system does not work, but lawyers continue to stay. The status quo and echo chamber remain intact.
But you know better! Don’t let cynicism discourage you. There will always be sceptics to try to bring you down. As your success grows, and your life and career changes, you will scare the people afraid to make the change. Expect more of the same. You threaten the status quo and the choices the doubters have made in their lives.
But, this is about your life and future, not theirs.
So watch what people say and do. Determine the people who matter and listen to them. They are your inner circle: your people.
The rest are the people who have opinions of little use. They do not belong to your trusted support group.
And stick to your decision.
Belonging vs fitting in?
One of the most amazing books I have read is Brene Brown’s: “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.”
Brown writes about decades of search for true belonging. About the feeling of not feeling part of the community and always feeling a little like an outsider. And yet, on the journey, you can find a sense of true belonging.
Brown also writes about the concepts of belonging and fitting in. These are easy to confuse, but they are two completely different things.
With whom can you be the way you are? Your authentic and real self? Or do you have to change or hide yourself to fit in? The former is about a sense of belonging and the latter about fitting in.
It took me a long time to understand this. For a long time, I could not find my people among the lawyers. Because it is not safe to be on the outside, I tried to fit myself into the same mold to fit into the crowd. When I finally stopped trying, the impact was revolutionary.
I decided to be myself, to belong to myself and the effect was the opposite of what I expected. I was afraid people would leave and yet I was not alone. I discovered many wonderful people and opportunities to find even more.
Reach out and use your voice
It was a revelation. I had created an image of how lawyers behave so they will fit in. But I discovered it was all in my head.
When I let it go, I found a community of lawyers, ex-lawyers and other legal enthusiasts who were like me. They share the same passion and the same purpose. Even more incredible, they get me and what I am trying to do. And I keep finding more and more people every day.
I started by following interesting people in social media and gradually got confident to send messages and connect with them (they’re all just regular people, go figure). The world is much smaller than I ever knew.
I also started to use my own voice, to put my message out in the world for my people to find. And it worked – thoughtful and authentic posts resonated with people and found their way to completely new people’s feed. Those discoveries let to direct contacts, face to face meetings and even wonderful friendships.
The same is possible for you as well. Your people are waiting for you.
Courage to stand alone
Here is the secret of the story: the feeling of belonging is within you. You do not get it from anyone else. Brene Brown describes this wonderfully in her book. You cannot find your sense of belonging externally. It is something you carry in your heart.
It also means that the journey to find and connect with your people begins with the courage to stand alone. It starts when you take the first steps towards the unknown. Without any certainty of what to expect there.
So, my friend, you have to take the first steps alone.
But after just a few steps, the fog starts to dissipate. You begin to find your people. Those who have dared to embark on the same journey. Those who are as scared as you but are still moving forward. Those who invite you to go along and with whom you want to join.
It is those people who can take you much further than you would dare to go alone. And nothing will ever be the same.
The news is fantastic. I am one of your founding people. Your number one supporter.
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