When it comes to starting a firm, fear poses one of the greatest obstacles. Fear of failure, fear of lost opportunity, fear of embarrassment or cricitism for having made what appears to others as a foolish decision. My able colleagues in the Solo Space, Susan Cartier Liebel and Sheryl Sisk Schelin have shared words of wisdom on combatting these fears here, here and here.
Recently, in preparing to attend my Twentieth Law School Reunion, I stumbled across an old essay I’d written about a similar theme – not so much overcoming fear, but how to deal with the thought that a decision has perhaps been a terrible mistake. I had turned down a biglaw salary to take a position at a government job at a third the pay and began to think, after just a few months, that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea, until I had another realization that even a dead wrong decision can sometimes be utterly and completely right. Here’s an excerpt from my essay below, and after that, the entire piece, in all of its dot-matrix printer glory (as proof of age).
[Your friends] all look so content, full of tequila and wealth and the newfound confidence that invariably accompanies money, while you are filled with a sickly fear that you’ve made a dreadful, irreversible and costly mistake. But then the fog in your head lifts and you remember back to the day when you made your ill-fated decision. Although visions of dollar signs danced in your head, you did not jump like a famished Pavlovian dog just because you heard silver coins clanking. Instead, you somehow distanced yourself and like a stern courtroom judge, made a rational decision considering all of the evidence and information which you had gathered before you. In retrospect, your decision may have been dead wrong, but the making of it, then and now, could not have been more right. Because in passing up that [biglaw salary], you bought yourself something more important – the self-knowledge that you have the integrity not to compromise what you believe is right — although your choices may be unconventional or finanically unwise. It’s that knowledge that will serve you well as a lawyer and that hopefully will keep you satisfied during the lean years ahead.
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