Ten years ago this month I opened my law office in Norman, Oklahoma. It has been a big deal for me because so much has changed in the last ten years. Certainly many of the appearances have changed, where it used to be just me, a computer and a phone line I now work with six other people, have a logo, a pile of cases, and no one laughs when I come down the stairs saying, “Oh my, you are so young!” I suspect that as much has changed on the inside, but no one sees that.
When I hung out my shingle I really wondered whether I would even be able to stay in business. It was a strange idea for me that I did not know where my next pay check would come from. It still seems strange to me that I don’t know who my next client will be, but after ten years of people coming in and hiring me to handle their cases, I know there is a strong likelihood that it will continue.
I started to get more work. After a year or so I hired my first part-time employee. More than a year later I hired my first full-time employee. In about 2008-2009 I wasn’t able to get all my work done. It seemed like there was always something else to do and I had days where I would get up from my desk several times at the end of the day only to sit down again because there was always one more thing I had to do.
During this same time my wife and I bought a house. I had grand plans for improvements. I wanted to have a fantastic lawn. Also, we have wooden siding, so I had plans to repaint some of the peeling paint. I spent lots of time and energy on the lawn, the siding, and repairing parts of our picket fence. It seemed to me that as soon as I finished a project another one was cropping up. As soon as I fixed a leak in the bathroom there was one in the kitchen.
At work, I was designing a set for fillable PDF forms for my client intakes, drafting content for my website, trouble shooting my practice management database and doing all my lawyer stuff too. Every time I would start drafting a pleading for a client, I would be running a second document to create a form that I could use next time. I stayed up late at home drafting charts and tables trying to automate parts of my practice.
This work was demanding and exhausting. I didn’t think about much else except work. I kept telling myself that I just had to get it all done and then I could relax and enjoy the fruit of my labor because everything would be in order. But there was always something else to do.
When I would come home after work there would be wooden pickets which had fallen off the fence lying on the ground. When I went to work there would be messages from client who couldn’t figure out how to save their data in the fillable PDF forms. When I ran a form there would be typos in the form that would make it into the final document. Last year’s paint on the garage would be peeling this year. Nothing would stay in place, and I felt like I was raking leaves in the wind – as soon as I raked a pile the wind would blow it back over the yard.
My initial response was to work harder. I kept thinking that I could get it all done and then I would be able to relax and enjoy myself. I mean, it seemed like I was so close to getting things in order. A big problem was that when I would end my day I would be too tired to do anything. I just went to bed.
In 2014 I went to some yoga classes with my wife. Yoga was interesting because basically we stretched and breathed for over an hour. I also was experimenting with meditation. In both I basically breathed and concentrated on my body. The idea seemed to be to concentrate on the present moment.
As a outgrowth of my thoughts on yoga and mediation I began to ask myself why I chose to spend so much time not enjoying what I was doing with the hope that I would soon be done and I would be free to enjoy myself. As I got older it became very real to me that I could spend my life slogging through piles of endless work and that the only time it was going to be over is when my life was over.
The decision I made was not to stop working. I actually really enjoy tending my lawn, designing forms, and sitting at my desk thinking about how to solve problems. What I decided is that I needn’t wait until the work is over to enjoy it. I better enjoy it now. The result of this change is that now ten years later I truly feel like I live my dream every day. I am lucky that I get to do the work that I do, and I enjoy doing it far more than the reward that comes at the end of it.