December 22, 2014

Is There a Better Exit Strategy Than Death?—Part I: The Interviews: Roxanne Jensen—Balancing Work and Family While Staying Engaged and Challenged

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the August 2014 issue of The Colorado Lawyer. This is the third part of a 5-part series on Legal Connection. Click here for the introduction, click here for an interview with Kyle Velte, and stay tuned for more interviews.

Sandgrund-JensenBy Ronald M. Sandgrund, Esq., InQ.

InQ.: Roxanne, how old were you when you first felt that practicing law was what you wanted do as a career? How old were you when you first had serious thoughts about exiting the full-time practice of law? What prompted this change in your thinking?

Roxanne: I first thought I wanted to practice law when I was 22, and I started practicing full-time at 25. I continued to practice full-time until I was 38, when I had my first child. At 42, I had my third child and recognized that my firm’s international law practice was changing, becoming highly specialized, and that significant travel was required to put the right person in the right place at the right time for the clients. I thought I would try to find a way to regulate my work schedule more significantly, perhaps by teaming with lawyers who could handle a more significant travel load.

InQ.: So, what happened?

Roxanne: At some point, after having three kids, I simply realized that for our family, I needed to be more present. Although every family is different, my kids needed me to commit to a career path that would require less travel. My law practice at Morrison & Foerster absolutely and justifiably required significant travel responsibilities. My initial plan was to do contract work for lawyers until the kids were a bit older. I was able to start doing contract work pretty much right away, mostly for my former law partners.

InQ.: How did that go?

Roxanne: The plan worked, but I wasn’t satisfied without having more entrepreneurial, creative input into my work. So, I started looking around for a more committing framework, with less travel obligations—something more focused and sustained than project work, with long-term goals, and seeing matters or ideas through to completion. Contract work often doesn’t fill that need. Meanwhile, I missed practice in Big Law terribly—and I still miss it. The quality of practice and the caliber of my colleagues were unmatched. I’ll never find more fulfillment in a job than I did at Morrison & Foerster, including my several years as its Denver managing partner. I thought many times about re-engaging in the practice, but I knew the travel obligations would overwhelm me and my family.

InQ.: It seems that you gave some thought to reversing course; did you do so?

Roxanne: No, I didn’t, but I changed course again to find something more committing. In 2007, I left the practice of law and joined a national legal recruiting firm, to start their division for Lateral Partners and Firm Mergers. I grew that division very profitably. However, over time, I recognized that adding owners to law firms was not a staffing issue, but a strategic one. I exited the recruiting world to join the consulting world in 2011. I currently own EvolveLaw, a strategic consulting LLC, helping law firms set and execute growth strategies (including mergers and acquisitions) and refine their business models in a changing and challenging legal services marketplace. I also am a managing director with Catapult Growth Partners, a professional services consulting group that provides strategic planning, business development, and executive recruiting services.

InQ.: Some obstacles that lawyers face when retreating from full-time practice include not being able to imagine life not practicing law full-time, fearing not being able to fill the time, and dreading not having enough money. What do you think of each of these suggested impediments?

Roxanne: For me, there are always creative professional possibilities; I’ve never felt limited to practicing law, or concerned about how to fill my time. Being valued financially and professionally is important, so of course I have felt some need to use my gifts and experience well to serve and be compensated appropriately.

InQ.: How did your significant other react during the course of you exploring options other than the full-time practice of law?

Roxanne: Despite being by nature somewhat less entrepreneurial than I, my spouse has been fabulously supportive while I’ve remade myself professionally.

InQ.: Did any tensions arise between you and others, including your children, co-workers, and significant other, as a result of you withdrawing from the full-time practice of law?

Roxanne: No.

InQ.: Looking back, what, if anything, would you do differently?

Roxanne: I would think more entrepreneurially and creatively right away, instead of “ramping down” my practice by doing contract work.

InQ.: What assumptions did you make that turned out to be mostly or wholly incorrect?

Roxanne: I assumed my highest and best use would be in legal practice, when my training and gifts were in fact suited for a broad range of possibilities.

InQ.: How happy were you when practicing law full-time versus how happy are you now?

Roxanne: I loved the practice of law; but I’m also very happy now, using my many years of practice and management and my strategic thinking skills to help firms position well in the market.

InQ.: How much did financial considerations influence your decision to retreat from the full-time practice of law?

Roxanne: Not at all.

Is There a Better Exit Strategy Than Death?—Part I: The Interviews: Kyle Velte—Less Stress, More Time With Her Children

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the August 2014 issue of The Colorado Lawyer. This is the second part of a 5-part series on Legal Connection. Click here for the introduction, and stay tuned for more interviews.

Sandgrund-VelteBy Ronald M. Sandgrund, Esq., InQ.

The Inquiring Lawyer (InQ.): Kyle, how old were you when you first felt that practicing law was what you wanted to do as a career?

Kyle: I did not think about practicing law until after college and I entered the working world. I had planned on being a college professor, and I was taking a few years off before applying to PhD programs. I worked at the National Organization for Women in Washington, DC, where one of my jobs was to run the internship program. As part of that program, I took interns to a U.S. Supreme Court argument. One of the arguments I saw was Romer v. Evans. When I saw Jean Dubofsky argue on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender plaintiffs, I then and there decided to go to law school and become a lawyer.

InQ.: How old were you when you started practicing law full-time?

Kyle: I had two judicial clerkships after law school—one at the age of 28, the other at 30. (I completed an LLM in between clerkships.) I entered a firm when I was 31.

InQ.: How long did you practice law full-time?

Kyle: Nine years.

InQ.: How old were you when you first had any serious thoughts about exiting the full-time practice of law? Did something in particular prompt this thought?

Kyle: A few years into practice—around the age of 35—I began thinking about exiting to teach law. My pre-law school plan had been to be a college professor, so teaching law always loomed in the back of my mind as something I would like to do.

InQ.: How old were you when you first started making concrete plans to exit the full-time practice of law, and what was your thought process?

Kyle: When I was 40 years old (eight-and-a-half years into practice), I had the chance to teach an adjunct class at the University of Denver School of Law (Denver Law). I did that while continuing to practice full-time. I loved teaching. My thought process was to try adjunct teaching first, before deciding to make the big move, to see if I really did like it as much as I expected to. I did.

InQ.: Why did you want to leave the full-time practice of law?

Kyle: For several reasons. Although I was in a regional, mid-sized litigation firm, where my focus was commercial litigation, with fantastic colleagues and interesting and engaging work, I was growing tired of litigation as a whole. The constant conflict and stress, the travel, and the unpredictable and sometimes very large number of hours (particularly around trial) began to wear me down. In addition, I have children and wanted a more consistent, less stressful job to spend more time with them.

InQ.: Did you develop any sort of plan as to how to accomplish this goal?

Kyle: My plan was to try to teach as an adjunct first. I was able to do that, which in turn led me to my current position at Denver Law.

InQ.: How long did you expect it would take you to implement your plan?

Kyle: I wasn’t entirely sure. I had planned to continue teaching as an adjunct while practicing for at least as long as it took me to write and publish a law review article, which is highly encouraged to enter academia. However, I didn’t have to wait even that long, because my current position opened just a few months after I finished teaching my first adjunct class. I just got lucky on timing. The position I’m currently in opened in the fall of 2011, and I finished teaching my adjunct class in April 2011. I saw the opening, applied, and by November 2011, I was a full-time faculty member of Denver Law’s Legal Externship Program.

InQ.: What sort of obstacles cropped up, if any, impeding the plan’s implementation?

Kyle: The biggest obstacle was financial: figuring out how to manage a significant pay cut.

InQ.: How well did you manage this obstacle, and what strategies did you employ?

Kyle: I worked with a financial planner and figured out a way to make the financial transition.

InQ.: At any point in the process of implementing your plan, did you think about reversing course?

Kyle: Only briefly, when the financial obstacle had not been overcome. But I never reversed course. Except for a pro bono matter that ended in March 2013, I have not practiced law since November 2011.

InQ.: Some say that the biggest obstacle to retreating from the full-time practice of the law is the inability to imagine what life would be like not practicing law full-time. Others say it is a fear of not being able to fill the time. Still others say it is a concern of not having enough money later in life. What do you think of each of these suggested impediments and how, if at all, did they affect your thinking?

Kyle: The first two concerns never entered my mind. I knew that I would find enjoyable and fulfilling work in teaching law. The money issue was the biggest challenge, and it gave me great pause.

InQ.: How did your significant other—if you had one—react during the course of exploring options other than the full-time practice of law?

Kyle: As a single parent without a significant other, making this change was a particular challenge for me. No matter how wonderful a private firm is, litigation never stops, and when you’re in trial, everything else in your life comes to a standstill. Now that I am out of practice, I have a very predictable schedule; my stress level is way lower (which makes me a better parent); and I’m much more involved in my kids’ lives, volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, being home at night to help with homework, etcetera.

InQ.: What sort of activities have you embraced to fill the time you formerly devoted to the full-time practice of law, and how satisfying have those activities been?

Kyle: I still work full-time, so there is no need to fill any time. In addition, because I am no longer a litigator and no longer have a billable-hours requirement, I have been able to do more than when I was practicing. I now sit on four boards of directors and I am active in specialty bar associations.

InQ.: During your decision-making and decision-implementing process, what mistakes, if any, do you feel you made?

Kyle: Looking back, I don’t have any regrets and don’t feel like I made any mistakes.

InQ.: What, if anything, would you do differently?

Kyle: Nothing!

InQ.: What assumptions did you make that turned out to be mostly or wholly incorrect?

Kyle: I had assumed that it would be difficult to find an opportunity outside practice that would still be engaging to me and also one for which I would be qualified. However, I also assumed that if I were to find such a position, I would be able to find a fulfilling and satisfying professional experience outside practice. The first assumption was wrong: there are, contrary to my assumption, many non-practice opportunities that are engaging, interesting, and fulfilling, and for which practicing attorneys will be given serious consideration. My assumption that I could be professionally satisfied outside practice was completely accurate. In fact, I’m more satisfied now.

InQ.: Did any tensions arise between you and others, including your children, as a result of you retreating from the full-time practice of law?

Kyle: No.

InQ.: How happy were you when practicing law full-time and how happy are you now?

Kyle: I was content while practicing and sometimes happy. I am extremely happy with my career now, and often think to myself: “I really love my job and am so lucky to have it.”

InQ.: How much did financial considerations influence your decision to retreat from the full-time practice of law?

Kyle: As noted above, it was an obstacle—and a scary one—but I overcame it and have learned lessons about what I really need to be happy.

InQ.: In retrospect, did you give financial considerations too much, too little, or just the right amount of weight?

Kyle: Just the right amount.

InQ.: How, if at all, did having children affect your decision-making process?

Kyle: It impacted it for sure, because I had to make sure that I could still provide for them. Once I figured that out, I knew that leaving the practice of law would be a big benefit to them, as well as to me.

Life in the Gap (Part 4): Things Could Get a Little Bouncy Up Ahead

Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a four-part series of job search and career transition articles. Parts one, two, and three are also online.

The Gap is a violent clash of energies – turbulence to the nth degree.

On the one hand, there’s the energy of What We Want:  visionary, idealistic, imaginative. It puts a gleam in our inspired eye, fills us with passion, makes us reach for the stars. It’s fun to think about the new possibilities. We feel determined, purposeful.

On the other hand, there’s the energy of The Way Things Are: reasonable, established, entrenched. It doesn’t see what we see when we’re all inspired, and it doesn’t care anyway. All it knows is that there’s a right and wrong way to do things, and what we have in mind is definitely the wrong way. Sit down before you hurt yourself. You’re rocking the boat.

Throw those two energies together, and they’re like the Capulets and the Montagues crossing paths in the marketplace. There’s gonna be trouble.

What’s worse, the Gap is our handiwork. We hit turbulence when we take off in the pursuit of our big ideas. We cause it. As long as we’re moving ahead with our plans to create something new, it might get a little bouncy up ahead. (Don’t you love it when the pilot comes on the intercom and says that?)

When we move in the direction of accomplishing something new, we stress our relationships, our routines, our habitual ways of thinking and believing and doing things. We have to, because if we don’t, nothing’s going to change. That’s why, whenever we chase a new dream or goal or big idea, we also chase storms. No, more than that – we create storms. And the bigger the change we want, the more violent the storm is going to be. A little bouncy? When it comes to the Gap, it’s more like Storm-Chaser.

We can stop anytime, and it won’t be turbulent anymore. But making things calm down comes at a stiff price: we need to stop moving toward the goals we want to achieve, the new thing we want to create. Do we really want that? Of course not. We set out to change things. Giving up is a shortcut back to status quo. Been there, done that.

So if we’re on the path to change, we need to buckle up. It could get a little bouncy up ahead.

Five years ago, Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. He recently reopened his law practice, while continuing to write (screenplays and nonfiction) and lead workshops on change for a variety of audiences, including the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His latest workshop, Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It!, was held January 10, 2012. Watch for a follow-up program this spring.

Life in the Gap (Part 3): Hell Hath No Fury Like an Ego Scorned

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a four-part series of job search and career transition articles. Parts one, two, and four are also online.

What we’re up against in the Gap is “ego.” By that, I mean what makes us who we are – the dynamic organizing principle that gives our lives psychic shape and physical expression, that creates and sustains who we are, what we do, and what we have.

Ego accounts for how we make decisions, our likes and dislikes, our areas of competence and ignorance. It draws reality into orbit around itself, defines what’s normal and what’s not, what’s safe and possible and predictable, and what isn’t.

Ego was formed when we were young, to make us feel safe in a scary world. It gives us our sense of self, creates boundaries that differentiate us from others. It’s the summation of the beliefs and behaviors that shapes our habitual experience of life.

Ego is why we resist change – even the change we want. Ego blocks new ideas not on their merits but as a matter of policy, because it has created – on a deep, subconscious level we’re probably not in touch with – beliefs that some things are possible for ourselves and some things aren’t. When we challenge those beliefs, they resist us, and until we root them out, they’re going to prevent us.

The Gap comes into existence when we dare to defy those beliefs by moving toward what we want. The Resistance we meet in the Gap is ego shuddering in the face of our passionate commitment to change. The bigger the change, the greater the threat, and the fiercer ego’s resistance. Ego began as a normal part of psychological and social development when we were kids. Now it turns on us. What was once our friend and teacher and bodyguard is now our Resistance.

Ego can’t create the new, but it can and will sabotage our efforts to do so. Either we break ego’s control over us or we go back where we came. The Gap is where we settle the issue.

And hell hath no fury like an ego scorned.

[to be continued]

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. Now, he writes screenplays and nonfiction and leads workshops on change for a variety of groups, including the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His latest workshop, Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It!, was held January 10, 2012. Watch for a follow-up program this spring.

Life in the Gap (Part 2): Take a Facer (Not a Bow)

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four-part series of job search and career transition articles. Parts one, three, and four are also online.

We got inspired, we went for it. So now what? Time to take a bow while the world applauds our resolution? Nope. The bows will have to wait. What comes first isn’t a bow, it’s a facer . . . into the Gap.

The Gap is Resistance with a capital R. It’s the distance between what we have now and what we want have when our dreams come true. If we want our Big Ideas to come to fruition, we must live through the Gap, because that’s where we’re equipped to meet the challenges we need to meet and make the changes we need to make in order to finally prevail.

It’s not so bad at first, when we’re still freshly charged with inspiration. Meeting challenges is fun. We find resourcefulness we didn’t know we had. There’s a sense of triumph in overcoming. But after awhile the challenges get tougher, and it’s not so fun anymore.

Change is tough; there are a thousand reasons to quit, and sooner or later one of them is too alluring to resist. Sooner or later we hit one too many obstacles, become overwhelmed and afraid, bail out and scurry back to the safety of whatever we left, leaving our half-executed plans and unrealized visions strewn behind us.

That’s life in the Gap. No wonder people give up on their dreams.

Life in the Gap is about hitting barriers, and hitting them hard. A friend of mine calls this “crash dummy syndrome”:  you hit so many brick walls that after awhile when you hit a new one it’s not a catastrophe, it’s just another day at the office. Brick wall incoming! BAM! Go back and do it again. BAM! Do it again. BAM!

Crash dummies save lives. In the Gap, we’re the crash dummies. Is that any way to live?

It is – when the life you’re saving is your own.

Once we’re in the Gap, the only way out is through. And to get through, we must overcome not only the Gap’s challenges, we must also overcome ourselves.

[to be continued]

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. Now, he writes screenplays and nonfiction and leads workshops on change for a variety of groups, including the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His latest workshop, Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It!, was held January 10, 2012. Watch for a follow-up program this spring.

Life in the Gap (Part 1): How to Get Over an Inspirational Hangover (Or, Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work)

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a four-part series of job search and career transition articles. Parts two, three, and four are also online.

At the gym where I used to work out, the regulars used to gather this time of year to complain about how crowded the place was with all the “The Resolutioners.” But don’t worry, they’d say smugly, they’ll all be gone by mid-February. And they were right, year after year.

New Year’s Resolutions rarely work. Why not?

We make them because we’ve had some time off, got relaxed, found ourselves reflecting about the things in our life that chronically make us dissatisfied. We tell ourselves this time we’re going to do something about it – get healthier, change jobs, start a company, take up a new hobby, whatever. Maybe we even dare to share our new thoughts and plans with someone else.

And then we wake up with an inspirational hangover. What were we thinking? Inspiration flew the coop overnight, taking all those new thoughts and ideas with it, and we’re left hoping we didn’t do anything too stupid while we were under the influence.

We mean well. We start well. We don’t finish well. Why not?

Because we’re not prepared for the ferocity of the Resistance with a capital R we run into when we try to change things in our lives. Everybody who’s ever tried to make good on a New Year’s Resolution knows about Resistance. It always shows up, never misses its cue, and it’s always pissed off. And it always brings the same message:  What were you thinking? Don’t you realize you’re making a fool of yourself? We wither under its barrage, go limping back to status quo.

Resistance is a fact of life in the world of change, and there’s no use trying something new without knowing how to deal with it. The good news is, we can learn, and when we do, we get to be one of those smug regulars the next time January rolls around.

The first thing we need to learn about is life in the Gap.

[to be continued]

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. Now, he writes screenplays and nonfiction and leads workshops on change for a variety of groups, including the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His latest workshop, Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It!, was held January 10, 2012. Watch for a follow-up program this spring.

Where Change Begins: Impossible Mission, Unlikely Hero (Part 3)

Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a three-part series of job search and career transition articles. Part one and part two are also online.

Why does its seem like our grandest visions bother to come to us when they could’ve found someone a whole lot better qualified?

Inspiration does that to you. It surprises you, lays the whole glorious vision out there in high def, then drops the impossible mission on you, knowing full well there’s no possible way you could ever do it. And then it asks whether you’ll accept your mission anyway.

A few years back, I launched out to pursue a big dream of producing a stage spectacle. People were encouraging – they told me it wasn’t completely outlandish to think I could do it. I was a lawyer with a creative streak. So what? There are lots of those around. Surely the combination of right-brained aptitude and left-brained education and experience would help me out. Right?

I appreciated their support, but knew better. A career of advising small business owners wasn’t going to help with a multi-million dollar business plan or its capital requirements. Running a law firm of five lawyers and support staff hadn’t done anything to prepare me for managing a cast and crew and other independent service providers and product vendors totaling over 70. Diddling around in theater hadn’t taught me the artistic and technical intricacies of putting on a multimedia stage spectacle. And on it went. There was no way I could justify to myself that I was the man for the job.

How did I deal with my lack of qualification? In the end, I didn’t. I didn’t pursue my Big Idea because I could, I did it because I was called – because when no one else wanted the job, it was up to me or I was going to have to let the whole crazy idea go. And I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. It had its hooks in me too deeply. So I accepted the impossible mission.

That’s what we do when inspiration gets its hooks in us. There will be all sorts of sound and well-educated reasons for doing the thing we feel inspired to do – or not – but in the end none of them can explain that initial moment of inspiration when we see and hear and feel that thing that moves our hearts so much we just have to give it a try.

If that’s not a calling, it’ll do until the real thing comes along.

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. He has led two workshops for the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His next one, scheduled for January 10, 2012, is called Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It! Click here for registration information.

Where Change Begins: Wake Up Call (Part 2)

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series of job search and career transition articles. Click here to read Part 1.

A former Marine drill sergeant once told me how they “greeted” new recruits – stomping into their barracks at 3:00 a.m., shouting and cracking whips. “I guess you could say we gave them a wake up call,” he chuckled. Then he got serious. “They needed to know right away that they weren’t in Kansas anymore. Otherwise they weren’t going to survive boot camp, let alone the kind of combat we send them into.”

Wake up calls jolt us into a present, unpleasant reality. They leave us disoriented, lost, afraid. They create tension, discomfort, dissonance. They ask us to take an unflinching look at what’s uncomfortable in our world – what’s making us unhappy, what we’d like to change. And not just what’s in our world, but what’s in us.

Lots of people have gotten nasty wake up calls the past few years:  the tough economy, job loss, business failure, downsizing, foreclosure, bankruptcy. Sometimes wake up calls aren’t so harsh, but come more subtly, from inside – a restless longing to pursue a dream, a resolve to reinvent ourselves in midlife, or a vague sense that all is not well in our world.

How wake up calls come to us ultimately isn’t important. What’s important is how we deal with them. It takes courage to wake up. It takes more courage to stay awake, and get moving in the direction of the change we want to see. There are always an overwhelming number of good reasons not to change – which is why most of use go right on living our lives of quiet desperation.

And to make it worse, our dreams just won’t leave us alone. They keep coming back – a nudge, an invitation, a crazy idea. Each time is more forceful than the last. If we keep putting them off, next time the wake up call might come drill sergeant style.

Just be warned, that’s all.

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. He has led two workshops for the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His next one, scheduled for January 10, 2012, is called Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It! Click here for registration information.

Where Change Begins: Inspiration (Part 1)

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three part series of job search and career transition articles. Click here to read Part 2.

Change starts with inspiration. Inspiration ignites us. It is both fuel and fire, the match that strikes and the blaze that bursts. Inspiration makes the impossible possible. Without inspiration, we’d never change or create anything.

At the core of inspiration is this one idea: something else is possible . . . and because it is, everything must move aside to make room for it. No, more than that – everything else must become new.

Inspiration invades our numbed lives, overwhelms our defenses. It disconnects our habitual sense of what is normal and possible, detaches our allegiances to status quo. One minute we have an ironclad case for The Way Things Are; the next we’re tearing it down. One minute we’re drifting and purposeless; the next we have a cause to throw down for.

Inspiration is our beginning. It is also our destination – the shining new reality we will inhabit when our idea unites with our hope and takes shape in our lives. What we see and think and feel when inspiration greets us is what we’ll see and think and feel on that grand and glorious day when we finally arrive where inspiration calls us to go.

Sometimes, inspiration comes with visions of glory. When it does, it thrills us with new passions and possibilities, shocks our unused neural pathways into unaccustomed life. It shakes us awake in the dead of night, urges us to our feet and outside to gaze into deep space. It plays a new tune on a new instrument, until our long submerged essence resonates with a new boldness, stunned at the robustness of its own long-silenced voice.

Inspiration awakens us to glory days we live with abandon. We revel in their freedom, joy, and passion. They are the days of newness and discovery, celebration and vigor – the days of wildness and courage and daring, the sweeping dive of new love, the dizzy freshness of everything that’s good about life.

At other times, inspiration isn’t so kind or so pretty. [to be continued]

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. He has led two workshops for the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His next one, scheduled for January 10, 2012, is called Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It! Click here for registration information.

Want Change? Transformation 101 (Part 3)

Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a three part series of job search and career transition articles. Part one and part two are also online.

“Self-awareness is the gentle motivator for change,” a friend of mine used to say.

Maybe so, but who’s got time for that? Take time for “Know thyself”? Sorry, I’ve got something going on that night.

Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Good advice, which most of us don’t follow. But self-awareness isn’t optional when we’re after our dreams. Which is why, once we decide to set our dreams free from where we’ve been hiding them, it’s all about us, all the time.

No, that’s not an accusation from a relationship gone bad. It’s what happens when we dare to answer inspiration’s call to create change in our lives. The bigger the change we want, the more we can’t just change things. Big change means we have to change ourselves as well. And that’s not going to happen without a big dose of self awareness. Our unexamined life is about to become examined. Big time.

Self-awareness goes digging, rooting out those pockets of resistance. It tells us when we’re trying to get the new by using the old, when we’re believing one thing while trying to do another, when we’re trying to get there by being reasonable. And lots more. Gotta have it.

There are lots of paths to self-awareness. Choose one. And forget the shortcuts – there aren’t any. And besides, this is too important.

Personal transformation is not just a good idea for the enlightened, consciousness-raising few – it’s essential to achieving every person’s Big Idea. We cannot achieve the change we want, cannot create the lives or the world we want, without first changing ourselves.

We aren’t prepared for this. We think we can just shift what we’ve always been and done – what we’ve believed, what we’ve known, how we’ve made decisions and how we’ve acted, all our customary tools and habits – to our new project.

We’re wrong. We and the new thing we want are created together, or not at all.

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. He has led two workshops for the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His next one, scheduled for January 2012, is called Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It!

Want Change? First, Change Everything (Part 2)

Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a three part series of job search and career transition articles. Part one and part three are also online.

Inspiration is strong energy. It comes asking the impossible – impossible not just because of the task to be done, but also because of who’s asked to do it. Especially who’s asked to do it.

Inspiration speaks with such conviction that we rarely doubt its ideas and visions. If we’re going to doubt anything, we’re going to doubt ourselves. But, despite what we think, we are always the most qualified candidate for our dreams. Big Ideas come to claim their own. If it’s my idea, dream, vision, then only one person gets to be its champion: me.

Then why does it seem so impossible? To begin, it’s helpful to realize that “impossible” doesn’t exist on some grand cosmic level. It’s only impossible for us because we’ve never done it before.

The mission of creating the change we want is impossible for who we are used to being and what we are used to doing, thinking, and believing. Our dreams and passionate ideas haven’t come true because our lives aren’t organized around making them happen. Instead, they’re organized around not making our dreams happen. We’re not yet in the right energetic shape to do what it will take to create the change we want.

“Energetic shape” is shorthand for all the ways we habitually shape our lives – psychologically, physically, emotionally, in our relationships, and in all our other habits and ways of going about life. We don’t have the lives we want, we haven’t reinvented ourselves and seen our Big Ideas come to fruition, because we haven’t restructured ourselves and our ways of going about life in a way that will make them happen.

To get something new, we need to become something new. And that means changing everything in us and in our lives that doesn’t support the new thing.

Whoa. That’s intense. Did you say everything?

Yes.

No wonder we blanche when inspiration comes calling. Remake everything? Who’s going to take a deal on those kinds of terms?

We are, if we really want something new.

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. He has led two workshops for the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His next one, scheduled for January 2012, is called Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It!

Want Change? Be Unreasonable (Part 1)

Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a three part series of job search and career transition articles. Part two and part three are also online.

If we want to create something new in our lives – a new career, a new relationship, a new firm, whatever – then we can’t be reasonable about it. That’s a tough idea to swallow for people who make their living being eminently reasonable.

We can agree that George Bernard Shaw was a reasonable man, right? But listen to what he said about this:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

From Maxims for Revolutionaries.

“All progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Why? Because reason can only look backward. It makes sense of what is and what has been. The trouble is, new, by definition, is what hasn’t yet been. Therefore reason doesn’t know about it, doesn’t understand it, can’t trust it.

Reason is all about precedent. It can only project and extrapolate. It looks at where we are now and how we got here, then projects its conclusions into the future, reverse engineering what happened in the past so we can do more of it in the future.

We call people who think like that realists – reasonable people – and credit them with being more in touch with reality than daydreamers and visionaries. We trust them not to lead us astray.

But what if we want to be and do something we haven’t yet been and done? What if we’re inspired to do something new?

Inspiration isn’t at all reasonable. It wants idealists, not realists. It wants people who are consumed with an idea about what could be, not what is. People like that don’t give a rip about reverse engineering. Instead, they buy what Einstein said about imagination being more powerful than knowledge. They’re willing to push boundaries, believe what’s considered irrational, illogical, impossible, even irreverent and heretical.

Inspiration wants response, not reason. It hooks our hearts, then reels us in. Want change? First get hooked by an inspired idea. Then get unreasonable.

Kevin Rhodes left a successful 20+ years career in private practice to pursue a creative dream. He has led two workshops for the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. His next one, scheduled for January 2012, is called Work With Passion: Find Your Fire and Fuel It!