How I’m Determining What Really Matters (to Me) …
On the eve of my 46th year, I’m once again asking the question “who am I, why am I here and what’s mine to do?”
I had the opportunity this past week to sit down with one of my original coaches/mentors, B (he prefers to remain anonymous), and my new (as of one year ago) COO/business partner, Andrew.
This was a timely meeting because B was my coach in the 2009/2010 timeframe when I began the first, big dark night of my soul period of my life.
Now exactly ten years later, I’m deep in the process of fully mining all of the learnings from that period of time.
And just to add a little flavor of woo, the meeting happened on 11/11.
The meeting began with me asking B to share with me and Andrew what he saw as the biggest vision for me that he could imagine.
What B replied with is a game changer for me in my way of thinking, and maybe it will shift something for you as well.
You see, I’ve put quite a lot of my energy over the years in building a business that serves lawyers, with a new law business model that I created when I was in private practice myself.
At the same time, I’ve always known that I was building that business in service to something else, something bigger.
Over the years, my energy and attention has been split between focusing on the lawyers and their needs, and this much bigger thing.
But even the much bigger thing didn’t have a clear and narrow focus. It meandered quite a bit, mostly following a path dictated by the lessons my life seemed to require.
For example, when I was a young mom, I discovered that the estate planning we had been taught to create for families with young children was flawed, and would leave holes in the plans lawyers created for the families they served.
As a result of that discovery, I followed that rabbit hole down a path of creating an entirely new way of serving families with minor children with estate planning, created the Kids Protection Plan® to fill the holes in the planning, and wrote the best-selling book on legal planning for families, Wear Clean Underwear, and went on to become a family, financial and legal expert on television.
I focused on that for a while, beginning to train lawyers on the process I had created, until I began to see that it wasn’t just planning for families with young children that was flawed, it was all the estate planning work lawyers were doing.
The way lawyers were taught to serve families was outdated, focused on forms and documents that were likely to fail, leaving the family in conflict (or even court) at the worst moment possible, instead of supporting families to come together and create more harmony and generational wealth.
I saw it in my own family repeatedly — unnecessary court and conflict after my father-in-law died, even though he had spent $3000 on an estate plan, working with a lawyer. And, I’ve never again spoken to my aunt and two of my cousins after my grandmother died, due to the way my grandmother’s home was handled as she became incapacitated and then died.
So much strife and heartache in families when things are not well-handled.
So I built my business serving lawyers with the hopes of fixing this, and giving them the tools and training they would need to serve families the right way.
I achieved “success” with it, using all the standard metrics of success, the million dollar business, the best-selling book, the many appearances on television.
But something was wrong. Even though I had achieved all of what society and culture said would bring me fulfillment, I was desperately unhappy, lonely, and confused about what I was doing and why.
I had lost my way, and began to wonder if everything I was doing was just so I could earn money and so the lawyers could earn more money, which was simply not enough to keep me motivated.
With that question in my mind, I began to make choices that would lead to me walking away from everything I had built.
I could not live a life that was driven by money. But, at the same time, I had no other real compass for my decision-making.
The only way (it seemed) for me to break free of the perpetual question I carried in my heart and soul about what I was doing and why was to confront my greatest fears and let myself fail, become nobody, run out of money, move to a farm, stop paying my bills, and even file bankruptcy, which was (at the time) the ultimate act of humiliation I could imagine.
This was back in 2011/2012 and as it was happening, on a logical level, I had no idea why I was making the choices I was. My mind was in full revolt, but my heart was slowly softening and opening. It was super scary, but as a result of the process I discovered who I was if the pursuit of money wasn’t the proxy for my true north.
Through the process of recovering from the bankruptcy, I discovered a few things:
- I am meant to serve lawyers, and my work with lawyers is important and meaningful, beyond just my ability to help them make more money. What I teach lawyers is in service to helping them reclaim their rightful role as counselors, not just creators of forms and documents.
- I don’t have to stop earning money in order for money to not rule me, instead I need to continuously come into right relationship with money. To do that, I need to get really clear about what I actually need to have the life I want, and see clearly when my choices are coming from scarcity and fear, and when they are based in actual reality. Short story here: I discovered I had a disease I call Money Dysmorphia and committed to healing it in myself.
- I needed to grow up around the way I looked at legal, insurance, financial and tax (LIFT) matters, stop seeing them as boring, bothersome, tedious things that got in the way of my dreams, and start seeing them as the conduit for grounding my high-flying visions into reality. And I had to look at where my unwillingness to focus on LIFT matters was pointing to a deep shadow insecurity that came from not knowing what I didn’t know, as well as a lack of belief in myself and my work.
- My kids’ dad, my ex-husband, the man I demonized and blamed for so many things, really loved me and would show up for me in my greatest time of need. I just needed to actually allow myself to need him for that to happen.
- I had a seriously fucked up, negative mindset, and while I could see it, I was not quite sure how to fix it, but fixing my mindset would need to become a major focus of my life, if I hoped to ever be actually fulfilled.
All of that to say, I had a lot of shifts that I would need to make, both internally and externally, to be able to get to a place in my life where I could consciously and intentionally make the kind of impact I really wanted to make in the world.
It’s taken the full ten years for me to be ready, and now on the eve of my 46th year, I finally feel as if I’ve worked out the demons, learned the lessons and I’m ready to step into my next phase of true service.
But, what is this service? And how do I organize my thoughts and actions around it in a way that actually moves the needle forward, with the support I really need?
So, I met with Andrew and B yesterday in service to answering that question.
As we all sat together around the big dining room table at my partner’s house, I asked B to share the biggest vision he has for me with me and Andrew.
You see, over all these years, B has always seen my greatness, even when I didn’t. And, I had a feeling that he would help Andrew and I to see a bigger vision together than we had previously been holding. I was not disappointed by B’s response.
B helped us to see that the metric we’ve been tracking — # of lawyers served with the New Law Business Model trainings — isn’t the right metric to support me to step into the biggest vision possible for my life.
What I could do was to shift from a lawyer-centric metric to an end user metric.
Yes, New Law Business Model serves lawyers. And, so New Law Business Model’s metric of # of lawyers served is the right one for New Law Business Model. But, New Law Business Model isn’t me, it’s one aspect of my work, it’s my business. It’s not who I am.
The bigger question to ask myself is what is my metric of success?
As I considered this question, at first I landed on number of families and business owners who do not get stuck in the conflict-based legal system, thereby passing on harm and trauma through the family and business systems, even more than we already do.
If I can reduce the amount of unhealthy conflict in the world for families and small business owners, I will feel as if I’ve done the work I came here to do.
And, yep, that would be a great metric to track, but it didn’t quite get at it for me. There’s something else, something that would impact that metric, but is more meta and would impact even more.
I think it has to do with the decisions we make that lead to conflict, and why we make those decisions. If I can impact that, that’s where I want to focus my resources.
So, as I go into my 46th year, this is where I am focusing my time, energy, attention and money (TEAM) resources. And I hope reading about my process to getting clarity is helpful for your clarity process too. ❤