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What’s YOUR Personal Best?

How do you know if someone has run a marathon?

Don’t worry – they’ll tell you!

(Or so the joke goes)

And the reason for that is that the marathon is HARD. Training is hard. You give up weeks of your life to run, cross-train, stretch, foam roll, obsess about the weather, your nutrition, your water intake, your rest and sleep habits, whether that twinge in your leg is serious or in your head. Your friends and family wonder if they’ll ever see you again or if you’re now in a permanent relationship with your sneakers and carbs (the answer is yes, you are). You talk about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and think about what that finish line will look like and feel like. And then, it’s here. Race Day.

Have you trained enough? Stretched enough? Meditated enough? Are you wearing the right kit? Will the weather be perfect? Too hot? Too humid? Did you remember all your nutrition? Hydration? What’s your plan? Will the plan matter? Do your friends and family still love you enough to cheer you on or are they just secretly hoping this is your last marathon? Did you put body glide on EVERYTHING?

And WHAT does this have to do with lawyers?

For the last two years, I’ve been training with Coach Kelly Roberts of the Badass Lady Gang, and one of the key messages we focused on last year (and continue to focus on) is the idea of “personal best effort.” It took me a long time to realize that this didn’t mean excelling past your last workout or run each time you went out – it meant showing up as the person I am today, recognizing where I am, and giving my personal best effort TODAY.

That effort will look different for everyone and it will look different for ME each day. And it applies on and off the pavement too. So what does personal best effort in the legal industry mean?

  • Creating a business development plan that speaks to your strengths and interests and continuing to revisit and refine that plan throughout the year.
  • Knowing which clients that you love and enjoy working with and reaching out to them more frequently, both to check-in and to see how you may be able to cultivate more work with them.
  • Understanding when you’re feeling burned out and taking a step back and even a mental health day or two.
  • Figuring out your own work style to set yourself up for success – do you need to review your week ahead before you leave on Friday so that you’re prepped before you head out for the weekend? Do you check in on Sunday night to get a jump on things? Or does it help to come in early Monday and get a quiet hour or two before the phone starts ringing?
  • Knowing when to turn your camera off on Zoom because you’ve had enough – and not feeling guilty about it. Same with just saying “no” to another meeting, or moving your schedule around because you need a break. It’s okay to be honest about what REALLY needs to get done this week and what you can push off for a few more days.
  • Reaching out to younger lawyers in the office to bring them in on deals you’re working on or compliment their work. Finding ways to mentor those within your firm.

This is just a selection of what personal best effort may be for you – but it’s up to you to define it.

When I raced Berlin just over a week ago, it was really hot and humid. The hottest Berlin marathon on record. Things fell apart in the second half of the race, so I decided to focus on finding the fun and really enjoying the fact that I got to be here, in this beautiful city, surrounded by people who were cheering us on. After such a long time locked down in a pandemic, weren’t we so lucky to have this?

And it reminded me of a time I was at a conference in Greece with my lawyers and the weather had forced us into a fairly nondescript conference room for our welcome dinner. One of my clients was behind me in line for the buffet and he nudged me and said “Aren’t we lucky? Isn’t this wonderful?”

Life is full of suffering and the world at the moment is a challenging place. And as someone who suffers from depression, I can tell you that I know it’s not as easy as saying that you can just change your mindset. But when we do go into our days with this attitude of “aren’t we lucky, isn’t this wonderful?” despite everything that’s going on, and look for the fun at mile 20 when every step is painful, we may just be surprised by our own personal best efforts.