Every time I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, it has hurt. But I have not once regretted it.
In 2012 I had to cover a hearing for my supervisor. The hearing was supposed to be simple and straightforward. It was not supposed to take long. However, everything turned out how I least expected.
The hearing that was supposed to last five minutes lasted five hours as I waited for other attorneys to take their turns with their clients before the Judge. I came back a second and then a third time; I went back and forth with the Judge on the record; and I interacted with my client. I was not prepared for that marathon day in Court when what I had been expecting was a five-minute hearing. At the end of the day, I just wanted to hide: despite my all-afternoon efforts, we would have to appeal.
I felt like I had let my client and myself down.
After several months, I took a step back and reflected. I learned practical things, such as (1) always to take my Statute with me to Court, and (2) to be prepared for a hearing to last all day.
But I also learned a deeper lesson to apply to life in general both in my professional and personal lives. I learned that undesirable situations might just bring a person to the edge of discomfort only to come out on the other side with a fresh perspective, a new relationship, or some other productive and creative energy or opportunity.
That day I embarrassed myself in front of my colleagues, the Judge, and my client. But after further examining the experience, I realize that I also made a valuable friendship with another attorney who went through the same experience by my side. And out of that friendship, I have been able to commiserate, receive advice, and even give advice. In summary, I learned that even the ugliest situations can still produce hope; you just have to look – and practice looking – for it.
When we reflect, we learn. And when we fall, we do not have to stay defeated. We can stand back up, and we can learn from the negative. Coming to a positive conclusion after enduring hard circumstances is not comfortable. In fact, it can be a bit reckless; but it is unexpectedly worthwhile.
My overarching advice for young lawyers is to search for that unexpected gift – a lesson, relationship, or new skill – in difficult circumstances. Searching deep and wide for the good within the bad is definitely a practice that I have had to acquire intentionally. But those trying situations have allowed me to practice seeking the underlying positive message despite facing adversity.