Thought For The Day

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.


Thought For The Day | Comment

Be Thankful That You Are a Woman in America

I always seem to be pointing out things about law practice that need to be fixed.   I warn you of the pitfalls of practice and try to protect you from the big, bad stuff that can happen if you are not wary and diligent and cognizant of your responsibility to plan and to make good and rational choices to protect your careers.  That is what mentors do, and I plead guilty to all of it.  However, I also know that it is appropriate and necessary to help you craft  the best careers possible in the law.

As we get closer to Thanksgiving—-which it TODAY!— I realize that some of the advising and land mine identification overlooks the fact that we, as women in America, are very lucky.  We enjoy greater opportunities than women in most other parts of the world, and we need to be thankful for that.

For instance, I am thankful that I am allowed to drive a car— no matter how badly I drive it!  I am thankful that I do not have to cover my face in public.  I am thankful that I do not have to worry about being sexually assaulted for the simple reason that I am a woman and perceived to have little value, and I am thankful that I am able to access the highest levels of education available on the face of the earth.  And, I am thankful for so many other things.

It is easy to get caught up in minutia and to treat every small thing as a big problem.  We need to keep it all in focus.  We need to understand that we have the ability to solve both big and small problems because of the privileges that we enjoy in this wonderful country.

I have lived abroad.  I know the difference.  Although I lived in a developed country, the difference between that experience and living in America was stark.  There simply is no place like home, and we should never lose sight of it.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day, and after you have expressed your thanks for your families and your friends and the delicious food on your table, give thanks that you are a woman in America.  It does not get any better than that for any of us.  We are women who can reach for the stars, touch them, claim them and bring them down to earth.  The fact that it may be harder for us than for some others does not diminish the value of having the opportunity.  Just being able to say “I can do that” is a privilege that many women around the world do not have.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Thought For The Day

At the food market yesterday (three days before Thanksgiving), where there was not a parking spot to be found and it was like bumper carts in the food aisles, a small boy was heard to say to his mother, “Mommy, I need a drink.  I really, really need a drink!”

Yeh, no kidding—-we all needed a drink!

Thought For The Day | Comment

Beware of Pretzel Logic

I love the columns that Gene Weingarten writes for the Washington Post Sunday Magazine, the one that all of the DC political junkies like me pour over on Sunday mornings.  Between “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” on TV and the Washington Post Magazine section, Sunday mornings is when I get my political fix for the entire week.  My family has known for years that my Sunday morning ritual is sacred to me and that they only can talk to me—-or to each other while in the same room with me— during  commercial breaks

Gene Weingarten’s writing always gets my attention.  He writes about mundane but interesting and amusing things in his column called “Below the Beltway.”  It does not get much more mundane than that in Washington, DC.  Most of all, he makes me laugh, and I love to laugh.

His column last Sunday made me laugh especially hard.  He was exploring what he calls “pretzel logic.”  Pretzel logic, as it turns out, is logic that is so contorted as to be unrecognizable to the rational mind.  Here a sampling:

An influential Saudi Arabian cleric explains that the reason women are not permitted to drive in his country is that they might damage their ovaries if they were to become involved in an automobile accident, thereby affecting the health of the future generation.

Logical?  Yes, of course……..

As Gene Weingarten points out, pretzel logic could be used to explain a lot of other things:

  •     Like the fact that American women still only earn 80% of what men earn—-according to pretzel logic, that is not bad because it makes the women angry and they channel their anger and aggression into more competitive behavior that will advantage corporate advancement;
  •     Like the fact that some people are too poor for health insurance—according to pretzel logic, that is not bad because it gives them stronger incentive to take better care of themselves, as in eating healthier foods and avoiding fast food alternatives;
  •     Like the fact that, in some jurisdictions in our country, gay people are not allowed to marry each other—according to pretzel logic, that is not bad because it protects their extraordinary creative and passionate contributions to society from the “passion-deadening yoke of matrimony”; and
  •     Like the fact that 1% of Americans own 40 % of the wealth in this country—according to pretzel logic, that is not bad because the other 99% do not know how to handle wealth and would squander it away.

You need to understand pretzel logic because it most likely will be used against most of you at one time or another.  As women, we are particularly vulnerable to pretzel logic.  Pretzel logic can be used to convince you that you lack dedication to your profession because you cannot be expected to handle the responsibilities of both profession and family.  Pretzel logic also can be used to explain that you were not invited to the sports event with the firm’s biggest client because you would not have enjoyed it, and pretzel logic can also be used to convince you that women are natural party planners and that you, therefore, are the logical choice for chairing the Christmas party committee.

There are no facts behind pretzel logic, but it sounds really good to the people who are trying to avoid facing serious issues and doing something about them.

So, beware of pretzel logic—-and remember that pretzels are not all thin and straight.  Some pretzels are all turny and twisty and loopy and do not seem to have a beginning or an end.  It is the same with pretzel logic.  It is your job to put an end to it!

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Thought For The Day

Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.

Albert Einstein

Thought For The Day | Comment

Where Were You……….?

Today, November 22, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  For me and for so many others of my generation, it seems like just yesterday when we learned of the president’s death.  Those memories are so strongly etched in our minds that we do not hesitate for even a moment when asked, “Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?”  We know.

I was in my advance algebra class in high school, and, for me, it was like the end of a promise —-at least for those moments and days following the realization that Camelot was over.  I had been in the presence of  President Kennedy just a year earlier when then Senator Kennedy spoke at my high school in rural Wisconsin during the campaign leading up to the highly contentious Wisconsin primary.  Jack Kennedy had come to town with his beautiful and sophisticated wife to convince voters that he was the right man to become the next President of the United States.  For those of us who experienced his charisma and magnetism, we could not imagine anything else.  We held our breaths when Jackie entered the assembly hall and walked the length of the hall in total silence before being introduced by a proud husband, and we hung on every word from a young and vital Senator, who spoke of hopes and dreams that resonated for all of us.

The Kennedy years brought promise to America.  We were positive about the future, and we began to believe that anything was possible.  We put a man on the moon, we sent Americans all over the world to help the less fortunate as Peace Corps volunteers, and we began to make progress on civil rights here at home.  We started to believe that we could be anything we wanted to be and that we were not constrained by past notions and beliefs.

I suppose that was the time when I started to believe that I could be a lawyer just like my dad and that the possibility was not reserved for my brother alone.  The Women’s Liberation Movement followed and continued the promise.  Women like me went on to become doctors and lawyers and businesswomen, and we opened up even greater opportunities for the generation of women that followed.  We lived out the dreams that had begun when a young would-be president challenged us to be all that we could be.

The lesson for today is not where I was 50 years ago.  The lesson is to be everything you can be and strive to inspire others to do the same.  Embrace every moment, make it count, and give back to your country.  That is what the Kennedy Years mean to me.



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Thought For The Day

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.

William Faulkner

Thought For The Day | Comment

An Ugly Double Standard Strikes Again

Recently, I was told by a friend that her financial adviser had cancelled an important meeting because he was having work done at his house.  At first, I could not see why that was a problem because, as you know, I am an advocate of work-life balance.  After all, we all have personal issues pop up now and then that interfere with our professional lives and vice versa.  It is challenging.

But, the more I thought about it the more I understood why my friend found this annoying.  She was looking at it as a woman professional and knew that such an explanation of need to be on the home front during working hours would never fly as easily for her.  She would get lots of critical looks and probably some critical remarks if she did the same thing.  When a woman opts for a domestic task over a professional task, the assumption far too often is that she is not a dedicated professional and does not take her job seriously enough.

The same issue is presented when a man leaves the office at 4 PM on a weekday to go to his child’s soccer game or when a man comes in late in the morning because he was at his child’s parent-teacher conference.  People in the office, mostly women, remark positively about what a dedicated Dad he is.  No one talks about his lack of dedication to his profession or his less than serious approach to his job.  But, try that as a woman, and you will be treated like you should be sending the nanny to the soccer game and to the parent-teacher conference as well.

This is the nature of things still, sad to say.  It is a difficult reality but one that we have to learn to deal with until the day when women run the profession and do not make such harsh judgments.  At least we hope they won’t.  If they remember that women helping women is the way we all succeed, it will not be a problem.  If they indulge in jealousy and competitive behavior, we will not make much progress.  Let’s hope for the former.

Until then, here are a few pointers on how to avoid the issue altogether:

  • Less information is more.  Do not share too much information.  If you have to leave the office or be away from the office for personal reasons, keep it to yourself.  Just say that you will be in later in the day or that your will see everyone tomorrow morning.  Then go to your kid’s soccer game or go get your nails done.  It is no one else’s business; and
  • Make sure that you do your job well and that there is no reason to be critical of your work product.

Some women will not agree with this.  They will say that women have every right to tell all—just like the men— and not be criticized for it.  They will consider it unfair that women are not treated the same way as men under similar circumstances, and they will want to make an issue of it.  And, I can see that position, too. There is a lot of room for resentment in these situations.  Double standards are like that.

However, I am a pragmatist, and I see no reason to tilt at windmills.  Let’s conserve our energy for the really big fights.  It doesn’t take much energy to just keep your mouth shut.

Less is more.

Career Counselors, Law Students, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment