I’m in Florida on vacation at the moment. Warm sun. Not a cloud in the sky. Crystal clear water. So naturally, to start the vacation off on the right foot, I went out and found a local gym to lift weights.

lawyer comfort zoneIt’s always an interesting experience to be in a new gym for the first time. Beyond just learning the layout of the gym, there is usually a sizing up by the regulars – even at a gym that has a fair number of transient gym goers. Who is that guy? What’s he going to do? What’s his workout? Is he a poser or can he really lift? Is he heading to the squat rack or the hip abductor machine? There’s a silent judgment by others in the gym. Many people are often intimidated by it – preferring to avoid gyms altogether.

But you can also choose to channel that intimidation and judgment into intensity. Let it feed you while you lift – push more weight harder and deeper. Thrive on the judgment and let it push you past your comfort zone.

A similar thing occurs in the decision to publicly post your thoughts online – with your real name attached to them. You are essentially offering them up for the judgment of others. But as opposed to being in a gym, eye-to-eye with other people, you are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, connected only by thin strands of fiber optics. Distance, privacy, and anonymity allows people to express their inner most thoughts – unfiltered (see G.I.F.T.). They have the luxury of time and distance and are free from any sort of social norms when sharing their thoughts. No need to have tact or grace when you’re talking to someone via text on a screen – especially when nobody knows who you are.

And that’s the difference in putting your name behind what you write. You have to own it. You are going to get called out on it. People are going to disagree with it, belittle it, mock it. Say it’s foolish or wrong or an outright lie. You are going to be judged by strangers. Again, many people are often intimidated by it – preferring to avoid putting their name on anything altogether. Or if they do put their name on something, it is on insipid fluff like “the 5 best PDF apps” that have no substance and don’t say anything meaningful.

If you are going to speak what you really feel, with your name behind it, you have to be able to handle the criticism that comes with it. 

I was in a hearing this past week on a case. It was the first scheduling conference, in front of a judge I had never met before. Here, again, was a complete stranger, about to judge the words, thoughts, and ideas of everyone in the room. The judgment of strangers in a gym or anonymous commenters online does not even compete. There is no comparison. Because it’s not just your appearance or thoughts being judged – you are responsible for someone else, your client. They have placed their trust in you to protect their interests and rights. You must put everything else in your life aside and provide them the best representation you possibly can, knowing that it is going to be evaluated by a stranger, perhaps twelve.

So next time you think you can’t take the judgment of a stranger in a gym or an online forum, what makes you think you’re gong to be able to take it in a courtroom?


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