I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which explores those factors that contribute to extraordinary success. Though I’m not quite finished with the book, I’ve already found so many nuggets that help explain why some lawyers who start a law firm experience wild success while others flounder. I’ll share some of these reasons after I’ve finished the book, but for now, I’ll focus on just one factor that matters: fulfillment.
Some experts would have you believe that you can snap your fingers and poof – without breaking a sweat, a successful law firm materializes, one where you work four hours a week and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s not the way starting a firm works, at least not in my own experience. And in fact (and this is something that in a world full of Four Hour Work Week wannabees, I’m almost embarrassed to admit), I wouldn’t even wish for a magic potion that would produce an insta-lawfirm because putting in the work is what makes starting a firm so rewarding to begin with.
Of course, long hours doesn’t have to mean drudgery, and that’s what Gladwell emphasizes. Those who find grand success don’t shirk work; they embrace and celebrate it because it doesn’t feel like a burden to those who love what they do. Writes Gladwell (p. 159):
[…]being an entrepreneur — as cutthroat and grim as it was — allowed people like the Borenichts (a successful garment industry business family) just off the boat, to find something meaningfull o do well. When Louis Borgenicht came home afer first seeing that child’s apron, he danced a jig. He hadn’t sold anything yet. He was still penniless and esperate and he knew that to make something of his idea was going to require years of backbreaking labor. But he was ecstatic, because the prospect of those endless eyars of hard labor did not seem like a burden to him. Bill Gates had that same feeling when he first sat down at the keyboard at Lakeside. And the Bestles didn’t recoil in horror when they were told they had to play eight hours a day, seven days a week. They jumped at the chance. Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not hav meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of think that makes you grab your wife [or husband] around the waist and dance a jig.
You know what it feels like to dance, don’t you? Those nights where you spend eight or ten hours on a brief that fly by in seconds, or those mornings when you wake up and can’t wait to get to work, or the moments when your thoughts fly straignt from your brain to your keyboard, manifesting in a blog post that rocks your audience.
Finding work that makes you want to dance a jig doesn’t guarantee extraordinary success. But it’s an integral part of being an outlier. And more importantly, even if you don’t succeed, at least you can take satisfaction that the trip was worthwhile.