I recently was invited to speak to a group of lawyers about staying strong through adversity. My topic was, “How to Overcome Adversity and Loss as a Trial Lawyer.” I have certainly overcome some adversity and struggles in my life. And as a trial lawyer, I have dealt with loss as well. One really difficult thing about trying cases to juries is that, despite how well you do or how hard you work, only the jury gets to decide. And sometimes the jury decides things in a way you don’t expect. I am not good with loss and so giving the talk was good for me. At the end of the talk, I gave five tips for staying strong through adversity and loss. Afterwards, many approached me to thank me for the talk. They said they related. And so, I thought, I would share my tips here. We may not all be trial lawyers but we all deal with disappointment and adversity in our lives. Perhaps one of my tips may speak to you.
Tip #1: Find Love
As I explained this to my lawyer audience, “find someone you love more than law or winning trials.” Whatever you may do for a living, or to define yourself as successful or unsuccessful, I think it’s important to find a human being you love more. It can be your spouse, your child, your parents, your sibling, your significant other, just a friend or whoever else makes your heart swell with love. My kids, for example, don’t care much if I lose a trial. They may tease me about not being the top lawyer in town or the trial lawyer of the year, but they really could care less. They mainly want my time, attention and love. Everything else hardly matters. When I lose a trial or face some adversity, I remember I am a great dad and try even harder to be one. Someone loves you all the time and despite your struggles. Find that someone and lean on that love.
Tip #2: Find God
By this I don’t necessarily mean “organized religion.” Although Christianity works for me. I derive tremendous comfort from prayer and scripture. When I began each day thanking God for all of my blessings, it makes me realize that my “struggles” aren’t so bad after all. And when I feel like life is “unfair” I read bible stories about many who struggled long and hard before finding joy and happiness. The lesson is that everything is on God’s time and according to his Plan.
Many I know rely heavily on a “higher power” for comfort even if they disdain organized religion itself. Whatever your choice or preference may be, my experience has been – and I have seen the same in others – that relying on something “bigger than you” takes a lot of the weight of struggle and loss off of your own shoulders. It’s tough to think it’s just you driving things in this big and sometimes brutal world of ours.
… relying on something “bigger than you” takes a lot of the weight of struggle and loss off of your own shoulders.
Tip #3: Focus on the Big Picture
I am intensely competitive and self-critical. As such I historically tended to “catastrophize” any loss or setback. “Have I lost it?” “Am I a loser?” etc. I also have an ego that is quite proud. And so, when things went well in the past, I might also celebrate “me” too much as well. Over time, however, I have realized that is not a healthy or productive way to look at things. I now realize that even the most successful people falter and struggle from time to time. I have also learned through experience that life is a series of ups and downs. And so, now I focus on the big picture. I try to do the very best I can do, and be the very best I can be. I know over time that will bring me both happiness and success. Setbacks today are just unavoidable bumps on the long road of life.
Tip #4: Don’t Worry About Anyone but You
In the past, and particularly in the wake of loss or disappointment, I would wonder most what others thought. “Do they think I’m a loser?” “Are people talking about me?” I also wondered who others thought was better than me. Who was the latest and greatest hotshot lawyer that was ready to make everyone forget all about me? I have learned over time, however, that worrying about other people is a fool’s game. I will never control other people’s conduct or thoughts about me. As a good friend and many others taught me, I can only control myself. Again, I just focus on doing my very best and being the very best me. One day at a time. With that will come happiness and success.
I will never control other people’s conduct or thoughts…I can only control myself.
Tip #5: Take Care of You
I do lots of yoga. I also really enjoy jiu-jitsu, judo, boxing and fitness in general. When I do those things, I tend to forget all about the worries of the day, or the latest loss or adversity. I feel like my physical health is so important to my mental well-being and ability to deal with challenges and adversity, that I hard calendar workouts into my day. When I am actually in trial, admittedly my fitness suffers a bit. But between trials, I try to make up for it with hard “sprint” training to catch up. Putting yourself first and taking care of you will prepare your body and mind to deal with the struggles of life and adversity in a sometimes disappointing world. And yoga, or a run, or surfing or whatever you love is never something you regret after you do it.
Putting yourself first and taking care of you will prepare your body and mind to deal with the struggles of life and adversity