The Journal

stories from my life

2009 July

Five Step Plan to Your Laid Off Life: Step 2! Check Those Boundaries

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Five-Step Plan to Your Laid Off Life


At some point, you STOP and other people begin.  Knowing what is your business and under your watch is crucial to creating any semblance of a satisfying life and career success.  In fact, if you stayed in your own business close to 100% of the time, it would be jet fuel for your job search, your career and your daily happiness.

Here’s what you gotta do: Keep to your own business and stay out of other people’s. Notice when you start feeling a little yucky, and little “off” and you will find that you’ve entered someone else’s business —  you are managing your sig other’s business by trying to persuade her/him to work overtime or in your mom’s business by feeling frustrated that your mom won’t do this or be that.

There are ONLY three kinds of business: (1) Your business; (2) Other people’s business; and (3) God’s business (you don’t have to be into the word/concept God — you could substitute “reality” or “universe”).

When you begin to feel emotional discomfort or anxiety about anything, ask yourself: Whose business am I in?

HINT: Because the only business that you can change or control is your own, this is where you can do work and make progress. Sticking to your business is jet fuel for your personal life, your happiness and DEFINITELY, DEFINITELY your career.

Enjoy Step 2 — notice for the next few days when you are feeling “off” and then think, whose business am I in?  It will set you right… UNTIL we get to STEP 3 on Monday.



Five-Step Plan for Your Laid-Off Life: STEP 1 – Fear, Be Gone!

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You’ve been laid off.

One of the benefits this bestows is TIME

TIME to transform yourself from miserable to happy, to release your old ideas that are keeping you numb or downtrodden, and to uncover a career or job that (1) is RIGHT for you and (2) viable today.   

Here is the first of a few STEPS to get you there!

 Step 1: DISSOLVE YOUR FEARS.  You ain’t getting nowhere with all that belly-aching. 

I remember the first time as a first year associate that I REALLY felt scared that I was going to mess up the entire deal, or at the least make the firm look idiotic and therefore make a reputation for myself as useless. It was 2 a.m. and I was collecting the signature pages for an M&A signing that the second year associate had sent out the day prior. I had no clue what was being signed, by whom, how many pages to expect or how to check that the pages had been sent to me correctly. 

For the first time in my life, I could actually hear my heart pounding in my ears like I have read about in stories describing moments of ultimate fear. I felt angry that no one had explained this to me or even given me forewarning that I would be tasked with this until a few moments prior. 

Suddenly, a cascading waterfall of new emails bubbled up in my Outlook, all with attachments. I totally froze as the phone started ringing as the senders wanted confirmation that they could go home, the pages they sent in were correct.  It was the first of many times that I felt totally underwater with responsibility without an iota of know-how. 

The senior associate finally jogged up the stairs to my floor to see why I’d gone radio silent. He rolled his eyes with frustration when he say me slack-jawed and stuck in my Aeron chair, and he jumped into action to do the job of going through the pages which took him approximately 3.5 seconds to complete. 

Well, THAT could’ve gone better!!!

Here’s what’s ironic: fear’s physical effects cause the thing you are afraid of! That is, the effects of what I call “dirty” fear or the fears that your MIND tells you are to dull your mind and freeze (as opposed to “clean” fear like when you see a pack of hungry wolves down the orchard path, where the clean fear response of fight-or-flight is oh-so-useful).

I was mortified of failure which caused blood to rush to my legs and away from my brain, but I choose not to flee the building. Next phase was my fight reflex — the anger that I experienced briefly — and, finally, the freeze that paralyzed me from action.  All natural responses, all contributing to my failure and all a result of my useless, mind-generated fear.

Instead, had I not been scared within an inch of my life, it might have occurred to me to call the senior associate and say, “Look buddy, I have never done a signing before and this is my first-in-life M&A deal – I require instructions on what I am doing. You can blow me off because I am a first year and you’re busy, but then I’m going to royally screw up and you’ll never get home tonight and the partner will be PISSED at YOU because he expects me to know nothing and expects you to know everything. Start explaining!” (He was kind of a jerk)

HOW DOES ONE GET UN-SCARED?  I will tell you! 

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Pals and Gals: The Last Weightloss Class You’ll Ever Need

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The Last Weightloss Class You’ll Ever Need:

  • The Program Stats

WHAT/WHERE: The course will be a dial-in course — what we virtual business folk call a “teleclass” or “telecourse” or “teleseminar”, etc.

The classes will be 60 minutes, you will receive very helpful materials that guide you through exercises and quick email responses from me to your questions or thoughts between classes.

WHEN:  4 consecutive Monday evenings around 7 pm Eastern starting at the end of August/beginning of September.  Most likely, the classes will be recorded in the event you cannot make each one, you may download it and the materials.

WHO:  8 people total who are sick of diets and obsessing over their weight and appearance. Update: Only 2 spots left!

HOW MUCH: The cost is whatever you felt it was worth at the end of the course. 

I love this and you should too because it’s risk free for you. For me, it’s really interesting market research about what’s working for people whose lives I want to help permanently improve. 

If you’re worried about hurt feelings or pressure, stop that right now.  Just see how you feel at the end and go with your gut, there is no wrong answer.  If my best friend says, “I think you owe ME after this dumb crap,” I will go, “Huh, my content could use a tune up – here’s your weight in chocolate.”  Instead if she says, “Take my first born!” I will say “Wait, I’m confused – does that mean you loved it or hated it?”

Just kidding!  But you get my drift – it’s not personal so don’t fret.

  • The Program Goal.  The purpose is to give you tools that you understand that will serve you in life forever.  Many of the tools are food specific but many are simply the best way to frame decisions of any kind. 

If you do the work, you will achieve your perfect weight.

MY TWO CENTS: I have been to hell and back with food issues and body image and goodness knows that I understand that you don’t have to be obese or technically overweight for weight and food to be dominating your daily thoughts — or to be carrying more weight than your body’s meant to.

It has taken really specific work (and nothing to do with diets or discipline) for me to be happy, healthy and living life without self-consciousness about appearance yet at my ideal weight.  Body awareness and conscious eating play a big role, as does understanding that the food or lack of self-discipline are not the causes of your weight and image struggle.

The food and body image philosophy that has lead me to never count a calorie or follow a diet and kept me at my natural weight for years happens to be shared by wildly successful weight loss coaches Brooke Castillo and Susan Hyatt who are also Martha Beck-trained girls like I am. Brooke arrived at the same conclusion that I did around the same time that I did, and Susan learned the tools from Brooke. 

Susan has shared with me a lot of great material that incorporates a super practical program that she and Brooke both have used on clients successfully for years. 

By learning a few tools to tune into your own body awareness and some techniques to increase your understanding of what’s really going on for you (because it’s not about the food, I PROMISE YOU), I’ll give you everything necessary to do the work to reconcile you with your body and loose weight permanently. 

IMPORTANT POINT: This is NOT a gimmick — and I am not going to pretend that it isn’t serious work … because it is. You need to be willing to take a look at what’s going on on the inside for you. This means you have to DO things like think about how you’re feeling, feel it and learn how to work on your thinking that is causing bad feelings.

You can avoid this step, but then you will never, ever loose the weight and keep it off (I am not exaggerating).

AND THERE IT IS!!!  Shoot me an email if you are interested – and if you want a friend to do this with you, have them email me directly ASAP, too – as of this post, there are only 2 spots left.

Life Line #4: 4-Day Win to Get It Done

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Scenario: You know you need to [ask for a raise/start working out again/eat breakfast/drink water/build a broader client base/work on marketing/WHATEVER]. It’s been weeks, months even YEARS and you are still saying you need to do this thing you feel you need to do.  You get started and then the same obstacles stop you in your tracks.

SOLUTION: Make a FOUR-DAY win to get it done!  Dr. Martha Beck conducted a study on people’s habits and how to permanently change them.  As it turns out, the human and animal participants all had a tipping point of 3 to 5 days: When they performed a task or gave up something for 3 to 5 consecutive days, this new action becomes part of the routine and very likely to be continued.

Here’s how to make this knowledge work for you:

  1. Pick a goal.  (You say, “I will go to the gym 5 days this week”). Now, cut it in half. (“okay, go 2.5 days?”). Now, cut it in half again. (“Go 1.75 days?”).  Cut it in half again. (“I can’t do that math in my head.”)
    Again and again.  Cut the goal in half  UNTIL it feels really really ridiculously easy to do. When you think of this tiny guy goal, it should feel in your body like, No sweat! Easy-peasy! HINT: Perhaps the NEW gym goal is to walk or drive past the gym 4 days in a row this week (I am not kidding, I know several clients who have started with this).
  2. Pick a delightful reward for each day you complete the goal. The reward could be a bubble bath for 10 minutes, a foot rub by your sig other, a mechanical pencil, 15 minutes of your favorite app – anything that feels like a treat and that you especially like. It needs to be a little decadent feeling. KEY: No matter what, you get this reward if you do your goal each day, and if you don’t complete your goal, you do NOT get it.  How can you ever trust yourself if you don’t follow through in your treats and break all your rules?! Build your own trust.
  3. Pick an even more delightful reward for completing the goal 4 days in a row.  You not only got 4 little goodies, you get a bigger bonus! Maybe it’s $25 dollars to blow on the slots, 2-hour long yoga class, tickets to a concert, a long drive through the country, a blizzard from DQ, a few hours watching NASCAR or a pedicure – high or low, expensive or free, find something that feels indulgent and particularly delicious to you. Again – you only get this if you complete your wee tot of a goal 4 days in a row.

The next goal in the example I provided might be pulling into the parking lot/lobby of the gym for four days, or driving/walking in a circle around it for four days.  Then maybe you drive by/walk in with your gym clothes on, get a smoothie, and leave – for four days.  Eventually, in a matter of days or weeks, you will 4 DAY WIN your way to exercising – and that is more than you can say for the old method of lofty aspirations prohibiting any real action.

Like they say in India:

How do you eat an elephant?

ANSWER: One bite at a time. (Honestly always found this a little gross – though inspiring)

Let me know your questions and comments freely. :)

Open Letter to Lawyers Employed By Firms

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To all lawyers working for a firm:

I understand how lawyers might feel, sitting in their office all day and feeling scared about losing your job through lay off or full firm-meltdown:

  • You are reading “This Week in Layoffs” on Above the Law and the many other legal tabloids posting hourly updates on pay cuts, pushed-back first year start dates, impending possible massive layoffs and even suicides “resulting” from layoffs. 
  • Your co-workers often bring this up over Gchat or your firm’s ichat: “Did you hear that the firm will re-evaluate numbers at mid-year?  That’s when they say the corporate associates will get cut in half.”  “I heard Douglas didn’t leave to raise his children but really it was a performance-based fire.”
  • As you see it, there is a total lack of jobs out there and if you are laid off, you are dead in the water. You will not make rent/house payment, you will be a failure without any options.

It’s amazing you are able to survive the day without Valium (or maybe you’re already crossed that bridge) in this state of total panic. 

In a frenzy of fear with a thick layer of stress on top, I can only continue to imagine the agony of your current state and it’s effects:

Is your hair falling out? are you gaining weight? have you released your confidence in your work product and performance? These are just a few of the inevitable results of maintaining a constant state of stress.  Read about your body’s natural reaction to stress here.

EXCELLENT NEWS: You don’t have to live this way, even (or especially) in light of the circumstances described above.

If the side effects are not enough for you to be motivated to hustle on out of your fear frozen existence, think of the benefits of working your way into a better frame of mind: (1) peace, (2) restful sleep, (3) improved work product, (4) ability to think clearly enough to come up with your ideal plan B.

Here are your 4 steps to freedom!

STEP 1: Stop reading the tabloids and listening to your idiot co-workers.  What the hell do they know, anyway? They are scared, and scared people are SCARY.

Next time, back out of the room slowly if a co-worker is spewing their fears all over your face.  Say, “It sounds like you’re kind of freaked out about losing your job. Let’s talk about something else so I can stop hating being around you.” 

Change the subject, ask them about their kids or the gym or their love life. People LOVE talking about themselves and they will most likely take the bait.  Secret: If you don’t feed their blather about lay offs and push backs and pay cuts, they’ll stop talking about. Remember Shamu and the woman who trained her husband?

If subject change fails with this person, you have my permission to stop hanging out with them. Do what you need to do.  Besides, I know you have other friends with less bad things to say, and this person will get the picture sooner and zip the lip if his or her friends are honest.

As you read this, if you are realizing that YOU are the Chicken Little (“CL”) of the your associate class, running around screaming that the end is near, ask yourself (and be honest):

  • Does it make you feel happy when you talk about doom?
  • Are you blessed with permanent relief from your anxiety when you instill fear in others?
  • When you discuss your the fears of in your mind with people, does it make them feel LESS real?
  • Do you like feeling scared and acting scary?

The correct answer to each of these questions is “NO”.  CL, my friend, keep on reading to find the way out of your personal law firm hell where you have a job and yet live in paranoia that you will not have a job.

STEP 2: Take a good look at your fears and see them for what they are – LIES!  Make a list of the things that you are afraid of and ask, do I know with 100% certainty that this is 100% true no matter what?

EXAMPLE: I am afraid that if I am laid off, everyone will think I am a failure and I will not be able to get another job at a firm. 

First of all, who is “everyone”?  When you catch yourself using any generalized other, such as NO ONE or EVERYONE or EVERYBODY, stop and ask yourself to name six people whom you are referring to when you say “everyone”.  The mind is tricky, and the generalized other is usually just one parent or your neighbor or one particularly nasty partner.

Beat your mind at its own game and come up with 6 people that are supportive and inspire you in a positive way and print their pictures (mine includes Ina Garten and Julia Roberts, FYI) as your new EVERYBODY. This new, supportive collective other might even be glad if you got fired because goondess knows you weren’t wildly passionate about mergers and doc review. At the very least, choose an EVERYBODY that is empathetic and supportive and on your side.

Second of all, can you know 100% for sure that you cannot get another job at a firm? In all of the cities in all of the world, there is NO JOB you can find at a firm and you know that without any possibility of being wrong? Of course you don’t – how could you. Besides, can you say that with 100% certainty it would be 100% bad for you not to go work for another firm?

Of course you cannot know that, your future remains untold.

STEP 3. Come to grips with the fact that you were and always will be self-employed.

Maybe you thought that there was a clear and reliable firm path that you plodded along and if you did this, you would be “safe”.  Maybe you were under the impression that the firm was going to take care of you like a parent and give you allowance indefinitely. 

Whatever your thinking, the truth is that the firm is a business with the goal of making a profit.  When you work for a company with the bottom line in mind, you are what is called a line item and you are only kept in the business if your numbers (hours billed versus salary paid) add to the firm’s bottom line.

This is not evil, this is fact.  They are not looking out for your best interest (that’s your job) and they will fire you at will.  The firm has no emotions towards you, it is neutral and always will be. Don’t love something that cannot love you back.

The firm is not the boss of you even if it hands you a paycheck – YOU are the CEO of YOU, Inc., the Managing Member of YOU, LLC and the Managing Partner of YOU, LP. You are the only one in charge of your career and expecting a firm to run it for you and then feeling upset when it doesn’t will NOT change that fact.

Because you are your own boss, if you see the law firm side of your business as crumbling around the edges, what might you do?

ANSWER: As a savvy businessperson, you don’t wait for the world to end… as your business becomes shakey, you work on changing things up. You work on developing a service or product that seems to be needed by the people you want to serve AND that you would like and enjoy providing.

The changing climate is an opportunity for you to begin altering the nature of YOU, Inc.  Which leads me to Step 4….

STEP 4: Start making your dreams your Plan B. Maybe there is less work to do and hours to bill – now’s your chance to build your Plan B!  Since you have gutted the 4 hours per day reading legal tabloids and gossiping, you now have 4 hours in the office to spend on this task.

Start by thawing out those passions that you banished to the arctic when you joined the firm and lean into them.   What did you love studying in college – psychology? Political science? Read the most popoular current publications! Do you feel energized doing the pro-bono work for domestic violence or divorces? Join the Bar Associations Committee for this!  Do you love eating out?  Start a food blog!

Get close to your passions to find the opportunities to make your own mark in them.  Now that you have more time, you have someone paying you to explore other avenues for You, Inc. if this firm thing goes bust. 

Tell me this: When Lehman collapsed and half of Bank of America was fired, who felt better – the people that had stressed and feared and waited for the end to come, or the people who had thought through, investigated and developed other career opportunities?

DENOUEMONT: Now that you have removed yourself from the whirlpool of panic, accepted your self-employed status and title of President of your own career, and seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add onto your current law firm revenue stream with another, more fun option, you have created a calmer, higher quality attorney who can produce better work and bring peace to those around you.  Ah, that’s much better. 

Next time you’re tempted to cure boredom by ingesting vile negativity, instead foster that interest and revise that business plan. Isn’t it nice to work for yourself?

Open Letter to Laid Off Lawyers

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To all attorneys who have been laid off in 2008 and 2009:

I understand if you feel lost or embarrassed or afraid if you used to work for a big firm and have recently lost your job.  On the one hand, you may feel like this has happened to so many people, surely there is no stigma?  On the other hand, you may feel panicked about finding another job at another firm at a time when all you hear of are more and more fires and not one hire.  Even the headhunters have stopped calling.

However you’re feeling right now, here’s the good news: No matter how you are feeling at this moment, this is the best thing that has ever happened to you in your professional life.

Based on the general outlook that the changes that are happening right now, as our largest corporate structures are falling apart, are bad changes that should be feared and worried about, my guess is that this may not be how you currently view your situation.

Even if your firm told you that you were getting fired based on your “inadequate performance” and even if you have not been able to find another job, your recent lay off is a reason to celebrate.

Before I tell you exactly what you should do now, here is why you should believe me:

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Life Line #3: Do Anything Differently

Posted by | Immediate Relief, Miscellaneous | One Comment

SCENERIO: You know those situations that you try to avoid (and cannot) where no matter how many times you go through it, the outcome is always the same, and always undesireable?  

Perhaps it’s that you always walk out of that particular team meeting feeling about one inch tall, the pitch to the marketing force always leaves you feeling down on yourself, or anytime you begin contributing to the conversation with a certain someone, the discussion devolves into an argument. You repeatedly experience failure in a situation where you feel STUCK.



“I Hate My Job” is Not a Business Plan

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“I hate my job” will only get you to the point where you know, for sure, that you hate your job. Then what?!

Here are TWO WAYS you can milk “I hate my job” to begin formulate an escape route.

(1) Rather than thinking “I hate my job” and stopping there, get very specific about what it is that you hate about your job.  Take a tip from career expert Marcus Buckingham

When he appeared on Oprah to work with a group of one dozen or so women with career dilemmas, the first task he assigned was for each woman to cart around red note cards and green note cards for one full week

  • Whenever the women performed a task that made them feel DEPLETED, they would write it down on a red card. Example: I hate writing emails that go to the entire company because I have to do it each week. 
  • Whenever the women performed a task that ENERGIZED them, they wrote it down on a green card.  Example: I love team meetings where I am the leader because I keep the team to a schedule, get great feedback and enjoy being in charge.

HELPFUL HINT: “Task” does not mean something that someone does or says to you. Example: I hate when Sarah makes sarcastic comments about married people. What Sarah or anyone else does is not in your control, which means that the fastest way to improve on your current job situation, or identify your vision of your perfect job, is to begin working on yourself and learning your preferences

If you try this out for a week, I promise you will learn loads about yourself and your preferences and the kind of job you would prefer having.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Sometimes people struggle identifying a TASK  the enjoy/dislike versus another person’s BEHAVIOR that they enjoy/dislike – example illuminating this, below – so please do not hesitate to contact me here and let’s work together to discern which tasks you enjoy and when it’s really just the person you are working with if you are finding it difficult to make headway. 


  • I liked redecorating the bathroom because I enjoy putting together some colors and creating a fresh, organized space.
  • I liked cleaning out the fridge because I like the ease of knowing all is fresh and ready to eat and easy to see quickly when I open the door.
  • I liked going to Pilates class this week because I see myself getting more fit and I feel so centered during and upon leaving.


  • I hated enduring an open-ended meeting with the suppliers because I don’t know how to schedule the rest of my day when there is no set end time.
  • I loathed having a very strict deadline for three creative projects because I do better creative work with enough notice to make sure I can have a large chunk of time all at once to get into the project.
  • I hated it when it was my turn to do the grocery shopping because I find grocery shopping to take up more time than it’s worth.

WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED: You like order and having a schedule.  You enjoy Pilates, and perhaps other centering forms of exercise like Yoga or martial arts, and because it centers you, you should definitely build it into your schedule, daily if possible.   You should barter going to the grocery store with your partner for organizing and cleaning out the home so that the groceries are bought but you don’t have to do it. Part of your schedule should permit open, unscheduled time for when you need to be creative.  You could perhaps build scheduling and organizing as part of your job duties and find ways to minimize activities for which it is difficult to quantify duration.

VOILA!!!! You have begun to build up the infrastructure of your ideal life and job qualifications.

(2) Write down your top 5 favorite interests and be very specific.  If one of your interests is “Movies” then name the category or specific movie that you especially love.  If one is “Fitness” then name your favorite form of fitness, such as group classes, training alone for triathalons, walking with one buddy, or lifting weights with your trainer. 

Now, go do these favorite things as much as possible.   

Notice what my advice did NOT say: I definitely did not say, if you like movies, go be a movie critic!!! Nope, that is not how these things go down.  Just because you have an interest, that does not mean you should jump into the most obvious (to you) job you know of position that permits that enjoying that interest. There are many reasons for this which I am not going to get into right now but I will say that the most overlooked factor when identifying your ideal job is  factoring in the lifestyle that you want to lead and whether the job you are interested in permits this

HINT: The secret is that doing what you love may not be the job that you will love, but it will lead you to a job that you will love.

While “I hate my job” is not a business plan, it’s a start.

Rather than wasting one more minute despairing about hating your job, let’s get started mining the vital information from this situation and work together to build the last framework you’ll ever need to find the right position for you, now and forever.

Life Line #2: Eek Out Some Gratitude

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SCENERIO: You don’t love where you live, you don’t like your social life all that much, and you hate your job.  You think through each of the areas of your life that need improvement and then repeat the process of thinking through it all again. 

SOLUTION: Find something — ANYTHING — for which you are truly grateful. 

I know this is really hard. Sometimes I want to count my misfortunes and it feels kind of good to be miserable.  The downside of giving into poor me mentality is that it will do nothing to get you anything you actually want. In fact, feeling sorry for your situation, no matter how crappy your situation is, will keep you in that awful or working for that awful boss.

Instead of feeling badly for yourself for being out of work or in a job you dislike, find things in your life that you feel genuine gratitude for.  Trust me, there is something that you are thankful for. 

Do this exercise and REPEAT until you have 20 things you are thankful for… here is a list to get you started:

  • having two functioning legs that can take you where you want to go
  • your education
  • the opportunities you have as a result of your education that you could not without it
  • your healthy lungs
  • your friends
  • your pets
  • a back without pain
  • the joy you get when eating chocolate
  • the smell of grass
  • a back with pain that is in the process of healing
  • sunlight
  • the four seasons
  • beautifully patterned fabric
  • talented chefs
  • talented musicians
  • the history of your ancestors
  • mechanical pencils
  • going to the movie theater
  • blogs
  • anyone who encourages you to find true self and be that person always

You get the drift.  Now, get to it — just do this once to see if it works for you, witholding judgment until you finish. You know if it is working if you are feeling lighter and better.

The more you eek out a little gratitude in your daily life, the more you will find wonderful opportunities and good fortune in your path.  Who wouldn’t want those things???

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