The Mercenary Within

 In Law, Living Our Best Life, Practicing Law and Life

I have a confession to make. I’ve been a mercenary.

I took a job because it’s what I thought I should do. Not because it felt right at my core level.  Have you ever done this with an important life decision?

Not living according to your truths is akin to being a mercenary whose allegiance is to the highest bidder.

The Power of Rationalizations

My ability to reason and rationalize away the truth was surprisingly powerful. “It doesn’t really make a difference” or “I can’t change now” , “What would I tell my friends and family?”, “It would change everything”,  ” I have too much to lose”, “But the benefits and perks are so good. I’d be stupid to give that up.”

And the worst part, wrapping it up in a box that is sealed as tightly as possible- marked as “Do Not Open” and putting in a closet in hopes of forgetting about it.  I call that living in the danger zone.

The sad truth is, no matter how many rationalizations I created or how tightly I sealed the box, the truth wanted to get out. After enough time it found ways to get my attention. Anxiety, unhappiness and disengagement became companions. I did my best to not see or hear it. But like the effects of rust on the most powerful of ships, denial does not make it go away.

Living From Your Head

What’s the difference between living from your head and living from your core? First of all, living from your core takes courage. You do things because you need to, regardless of payment, outcome or what others might think. You have to do them.

Living from your head assures you a good and safe life – nothing wrong with that. But don’t deceive yourself, it will not lead to your greatest potential.

Your Law Office

In all of life’s important relationships, especially to the law office, where so much of our time and energy goes, we run the greatest risk of operating like a mercenary. We make decisions based  on efficiency, profit margin, productivity and what a law office “should be”. While those are all important factors, they fall far short of the ultimate potential that rests within every practice of law.

Like all good things, with habitude it becomes second nature. Core decisions and understandings come from your epicenter. Operating from this place is how to avoid waking up years later to find yourself living part of your life as a mercenary.

Your Life

At the end of the day, month, year or life – honoring who you truly are is the best life. Are there ways that you’ve made mercenary decisions in your office? Imagine how it would feel running your office, and your life, from what resonates deep inside of you?  Let me know in the comments below.

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  • Jeena
    Reply

    Beautifully written, Jim. I think this is difficult for many attorneys who are supposed to take our client’s position no matter how counter it is against our own moral/ethical code. Which is perhaps why so many attorneys disengage from their “core.”

  • Jim Dwyer
    Jim Dwyer
    Reply

    Thank you Jeena. You are so right. It’s a strange job that requires one to advocate for a position that they may not agree with. There are few professions I can think of, other than lawyers, who are in this position. Not to mention the influence of the cultural mythology of what an attorney is to be- which often involves the use of hammers.

  • Samantha
    Reply

    Thank you for this piece, Jim. It resonated with me more than you know. Less than two years after venturing down the big firm path, I recognized the detrimental effects of the extreme internal conflict between my job and my core beliefs, morals and passion. Further, as a single mother, flexibility was imperative to having time with and being there for my daughter. Despite the inherent risks of failure and the likelihood that I would struggle financially, I opened my own practice against the advice of loved ones. It was grueling and frightening at times but I refused to give up and after three years, I finally reached a point where my earnings matched the salary I left behind. In celebrating five years last month, I reflected upon my career and was overwhelmed with gratitude for and pride in the continued successes I’ve seen in my practice and, more importantly, my amazing daughter. Admittedly, I struggle to find a balance between working incessantly and taking care of myself however I am more confident in my choice than ever. In the pursuit of happiness, I recognized that a salary earned in misery is worthless to me therefore I’ll never regret choosing autonomy with unlimited potential and the peace of mind that comes with believing in what I do. I sincerely appreciate the affirmation this brought today.

    • Jim Dwyer
      Jim Dwyer
      Reply

      It never ceases to amazing how easy it is to wrap our identity around a job. The fear of risk and failure can be so profound that it stops of from doing what is in our ultimate best interest as human beings. Our family and friends, who all mean well, want the best for us- which often translates into the safest, which seldom leads to our best life. I remember like it was this morning when I took that first step. I was terrified and full of so much doubt.

      Congratulations on five years and the building a life for you and your daughter that is made of your hands, heart and courage. “Salary earned in misery is worthless to me….”, that is powerful. Your words mean the world to me. Thank you so much.

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