One of Megan’s favorite hobbies (and dare I say…talents) is long-distance obstacle course races. Recently, Megan spoke during Continuing Education of the Bar for the State Bar of California. She shared several important lessons learned from her obstacle course races and how they can be applied to the practice of law. This post is a summary of Megan’s key points.
You Don’t Have to Know How to Do Everything to Succeed
Megan said she had no idea what she was really getting herself into when she signed up for her first obstacle course. When she arrived to the race, Megan was greeted by a four foot wall that she had to climb over just to get to the starting area. Megan cleared the wall and eventually finished the race.
Perfectionism holds most lawyers back. It’s understandable since, by and large, members of the profession are risk averse. If there’s an idea within you that brings a sense of energy and makes you excited, you don’t need all of the answers to do it. It’s important that you have something that makes you want to do more than just show up. You need to do something that gives you energy and drive.
You Know More Than You Think You Know
During the obstacle course races, there’s an alternative for people who cannot complete an obstacle. They can move to the side and complete 30 burpees. They can also choose to rely on the help of others on the course to learn how to overcome the obstacle in front of them. People can also rely on their innate knowledge to figure out what to do.
The same is true for the practice of law. Lawyers easily get stuck when it comes to finding an alternative to solve a problem. You have knowledge you don’t consciously recognize. There are alternatives if you aren’t sure that the solution you have in mind will work. Your path isn’t the only way. Look at the end point and find another path.
Failure Happens to Everyone
Megan mentioned that at many of the obstacle races she competes in, there are video cameras. The cameras are in place to record the professionals (and yes, there are professional obstacle course participants). The officials want to make sure that the pros follow the rules if they don’t complete the obstacle. That’s right – no one is immune to burpees (or failure). Yet, the cameras aren’t concerned with whether the other participants do all of their burpees.
Failure happens. Both professionals and participants must deal with the aftermath. The average participant must rely on their integrity. As a lawyer, you know when you fail even if no one else sees it. Don’t cut corners. Your integrity matters at all times.
We don’t always expect failure, either. Failure isn’t always the result of purposefully doing something you shouldn’t do (or doing it in a way that doesn’t follow the rules). However, it’s important that you know the rules and do things the right way.
Don’t Overthink Opportunities
It’s easy for both racers and lawyers to overthink opportunities that are presented to them. Sometimes, those opportunities come when you least expect it. You may not feel prepared, but remember that it is an opportunity. Consider your ultimate goal and how the opportunity plays into that.
You Don’t Have to Face Obstacles Alone
At a recent obstacle race, Megan and her race partner faced a wall that had to be climbed so that they could continue the course. Another woman was also at the wall. The woman said, “Well, I’ll move to the side and do my burpees.” Megan and her partner told her that she didn’t have to do that. They’d show her how to clear the wall. The wall was eight feet high. First, the woman said no because she could just do the burpees. Megan told the woman she didn’t have to do that – the wall was easy to climb with a partner. They took the time to show her how it could be done and offered to help her over the wall. Again, she said no. This time, it was because she was afraid she would hurt Megan or her race partner. To climb over this wall, they had to first stand on their partner’s knees and then stand on top of their shoulders to pull themselves to the top of the wall. Eventually, the woman climbed to the top of the wall with them. Megan said the look on her face was the best part of the race.
In the practice of law, you must also accept that you don’t have to (nor should you) face every obstacle alone. You must get used to being uncomfortable and asking for help. You’ll go a lot further in your practice when you’re willing to get help. The stress of not knowing what to do and not asking for help can and does lead to burnout, depression, and substance abuse.
Give Help When Asked
Just like in the race where Megan and her race partner helped a total stranger over the wall and it turned into the most memorable part of the race, your most rewarding experiences as a lawyer will come from giving help to your colleagues. There’s absolutely no reason to not be kind. Mentor when asked. Give an encouraging word. There are opportunities everywhere for you to give an encouraging word.
Embrace the Power of Focus
It’s overwhelming to face an obstacle on the race course when you’re absolutely physically and mentally exhausted. Do you listen to what’s going on around you? What do you do in the moment?
Those are valid questions for lawyers who are intimidated by anything (and everything) happening in their practice. The answer is that you turn off the chatter and you focus on what you need to do. You eliminate the distractions. The progress you make will help relieve stress.
Your Age Isn’t What’s Stopping You
Age isn’t the problem. Your age doesn’t stop you from learning something new. Do not use age as an excuse. Megan once met a woman in her 60s during an obstacle course race. The woman was hoping to qualify for a championship race in Iceland. Age is never the problem.
The only way you’ll get to the finish line of a race or meet your goal is if you keep moving.
Things won’t always go the way that you planned. Resilience is a key skill in the practice of law and in life.
Find Your Tribe
This doesn’t mean that you solely mingle with other lawyers. It means that you find people who think enough like you to be an asset and differently enough to help you grow.