Goals & Planning

Advice for young lawyers (or really anyone pursuing a distant goal)

I had a chance this weekend to read Neil Gaiman’s commencement address to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  I encourage you to take a moment to read it.  Written for young artists it nonetheless has a universal appeal. Gaiman shines a light on what for many of us can be, at times, a dark and lonely path from the here and now to our distant goals.

Here’s an excerpt from his speech:

“Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes  it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.

Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be … was a mountain.  A distant mountain.  My goal.

 And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.”

Life moves so rapidly, and we face a non-stop barrage of things we can spend our time on.  Gaiman offers a simple way of staying connected to what is meaningful:  Will this move me towards the mountain, or away?  What then is the choice I want to make?

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at allison@shiftworks.ca or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.