The Lawyer’s Compass: How Do We Keep Our Bearings During Stormy Times?

 In The Lawyer's Compass

It all started a week before Thanksgiving of 2015. Jan’s mom, who’d been battling Parkinson’s for over 30 years was hospitalized. She was there for a week. Before being discharged she said to Jan, “You have to let me go.” She made the decision to not use a feeding tube. Jan was by her side everyday — exactly where I planned on being.

The day after Thanksgiving that same year, my mom had a brain hemorrhage and spent the next three weeks in a neurological intensive care unit in a hospital across town. Each day I came to see her she had different neurological problems. One day it was her her memory, speech the next, word retrieval after that, and lastly her personality.  

While both our moms were in the hospital, Jan’s dad had a stroke. We left to see him the day after the memorial service for Jan’s mom. Frank passed February 26, 2016.

To top it off, I had the biggest trial of my life in Federal Court at the end of January 2016.

Any one of those events happening would be enough to rattle our core. But all four at the same time? We were overwhelmed and lost to say the least.

When the sh** hits the fan, life feels like it’s cracking and breaking when it’s really calling your true inner strength. 

To say that life wasn’t blowing soft, warm tradewinds would be an understatement. It swamped our lives. Emotionally, psychologically and physically we were in the twilight zone.

In October of 2015 I’d planned the launch of The Lawyer’s Compass, a writing series focused on exploring how to create greater fulfillment in our work and personal lives. I’d spent time working with my daughter, Caitlyn on a symbol that represented the visual identity for the series: a true self compass. I’d also been writing articles for the series for a few months in preparation for the launch. My goal was to complete the series by the end of 2016, with twice monthly postings.

The storms of life can take us to places we never saw coming and would’ve never planned. By keeping our bearings, and at times re-calibrating, we don’t have to lose our way.

In the first part of December, I continued writing for the series because it’s what I’d planned and because I tend to be fairly disciplined once I start a project. The only problem is the blinders that keep me focused can stop me from seeing clearly what I need to do differently.

I slowly realized that even though I could keep writing, it was taking what little energy I had left away from what was most important: my wife knowing how much I love her — love that’s based not just on words, but actions. So, I went from writing twice a month to every three weeks to once a month.  

I let Jan know that I was going to spend less time working on Tipping the Scales. She told me she was relieved …  

Even though I missed working on the blog series, I was thankful I stopped. I wasn’t as scattered. My attention was clearly focused where it needed to be. My writing and staying in touch with the Tipping the Scales community did not suffer because of the change, but my relationship with my wife would’ve had I made a different choice.  

While the development of The Lawyer’s Compass series is important to me, it came down to a choice between a thing or a person. People always come first.

You can’t sail to two different destinations at the same time. You pick the place that’s most important and set your course.

It’s easy in difficult times to find ourselves lost and thrashing about. We can become rigid and afraid so our thinking narrows and we’re less inclined to make the best decisions. By remembering what’s most important — and following it — we come out the other side of a storm stronger.

What’s the most important part of work for you interpersonally? What are your three most important relationships? In both times of high seas and calm waters, how do you keep your bearings?    

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  • Paul Heatherman

    Great comments, navigating, bailing water, and keeping the passengers calm at the same time!

  • lynn

    You never cease to amaze me xo

  • Samantha

    As always, appreciate and relate to your no holds barred style and willingness to expose your reality. By not hiding the ball, you convey an even more profound message. Thank you, Jim!

    • Jim Dwyer

      Thank you Samantha.

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