Some Days, We Pay It Forward

Sitting in the room, surrounded by the brightest women from the biggest law firms and some of the most accomplished and acclaimed General Counsel, I’m struck by the energy, the power and the wisdom.  It’s palpable.

Ms. JD’s LaddHer Up retreat brings together women law firm associates in their first six years of practice – a critical time in one’s legal career – and women General Counsel who have taken a wide range of paths to get to where they are today. And, unlike so many events where you only see the polish of these people at the top of their game, this forum is all about getting real. Showing all the parts. Normalizing and contextualizing the hard things in addition to the triumphs. All in service of paving the path for the future women leaders of our profession.

As I’m overcome with the possibility, I’m also struck by a sense of something bittersweet.  Maybe grief?  And the questions of what could have been different if I’d had access to this kind of space, inspiration and community when I was that bright woman coming up in my years at the firm.  That sometimes-niggling question of what things would look like if I could rewind.

If I could do it all over again, I don’t think I’d change a thing because it would mean there was a chance things wouldn’t have unfolded as they did.  And my life and career are beyond my wildest imagination.  I love them.  But, it’s also true there were a lot of lessons learned the hard way.  Sometimes more than once (or twice…thrice…). 

I love the idea of a shortcut.

Yes, there will always be bumps and bruises.  That’s how we learn and grow.  But, together, sharing our experiences, like ancient wisdom passed down around a fire through generations, I believe we can accelerate the learning and bolster the muscle memory.  Perhaps you don’t fully hear or internalize it.  But, maybe having that seed planted can make the feedback loop tighter.  The instant reaction to the hand on the hot stove versus the proverbial frog in the boiling water.

So, I focus on paying it forward.  I’ve spent (and continue to spend) a lot of time learning how to live.  How can I be a coach and a guide?  Is there a light I can gently shine to help someone see their unique path sooner or more clearly?  Can I be vulnerable and share my missteps and imperfection so others can see it’s okay to be human?  That a bright future is possible even, and perhaps especially, when you are yourself?  Ask the important questions – like are you living it the way you want to live it?  And, if not, what are you waiting for?

The magical thing is, whenever I lean into that, I find I get even more than I give.  I’m here to fill cups and it’s mine that runneth over.  My heart bursts with the possibility I see around me.  It makes me more excited about what I’m doing and what’s ahead.  Because I see before me one really important part of why I do what I do in the first place.  The future.  Helping others find their bravery and the other tools they need for their Some Day.  So, they can live their biggest dreams and be the leaders our world so desperately needs.  And, helping others find their bravery helps me find mine.

There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, where I longed to share my writing and to speak.  I felt like I was living into clues, signs and insights that I needed to capture for the benefit of not only my future self but anyone else navigating a similar journey.  There was also a sense of yearning to make a living amends to my younger self.  It was this feeling that if I had only known…  It felt so essential.  So urgent.  So clear.

And, yet, so scary. 

I’ve had so many Some Days.  That longing for something more that you can’t quite fully see yet from where you’re metaphorically standing.  And, I’m learning how to be brave and go to them.  Live into them so they can actualize and show themselves more fully.  

When I decided last December to come to this event and to speak and coach, my life looked very different than it does today. Among other things, I knew then that I wanted to be the person who comfortably speaks at an event like this (and pushes past my fear of doing so), and by the time I arrived here, I was.

My lesson?  Do and, in doing, become.  (And, in sharing, pay it forward…)

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