Each year when I sit down to write this column for the last issue of
the year, I go back and read past columns. Writing all these resolutions
(and keeping copies) is a double-edged sword. I get the opportunity to see
where I succeeded and where I fell short. Like many people, I usually
focus on where I fell short instead of where I succeeded.
Resolutions have a yin and yang aspect to them. According to Webster’s New
Millennium™ Dictionary of English, in Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are
the two cosmic forces of creative energy – yin being feminine/negative and
yang being masculine/positive – from which everything originates and
depends on the interaction of the opposite and complementary principles.
Although we all want to replace bad habits with good habits in our
yearning to be “better,” this constant self-improvement can be exhausting
and sometimes just downright depressing. I am afraid I am going to have to
live to be 200 before I get it right. Sometimes I just want to shout “This
is the best I can do!”, but then I see people who struggle to overcome
real problems, and I snap out of it and keep striving.
Before deciding what resolutions we need to make for 2005, whether
personal or professional, we must decide what we are doing right or what
we like about ourselves. This is important because more can be
accomplished if we start from something positive as opposed to something
negative. It also helps us to be realistic about we can or even should
consider changing or improving. Let’s face it – there are some aspects of
what we do or how we act that are not worth taking the time to change.
For example, it is absolutely a waste of time for me to keep trying to
have a completely clear desk. I am spending time and energy that is better
spent on some other habit that can be modified. I am not a bad person
because I have a messy desk or house. I am just messy, nothing else.
Instead of trying to keep it perfectly clear, I have decided to file
papers more quickly and handle them less frequently. I have created many
more files for the papers and projects. It has been fairly successful, and
I have reduced a lot of the clutter on my desk. This leaves me time to
concentrate on really important tasks that can help members.
Okay, now that you have all decided what is worth keeping (some of these
lists will be larger and smaller than others), let’s see what we can work
on this year so that next December we will be even better than we are now.
This year we are going to focus on the positive and what we can all do to
make the world in which each of us lives a little better. As solo and
small firm practitioners, we have a greater ability to make very positive
influences on peoples’ lives. We have more control over our own destiny,
and so we have a greater responsibility to do more for others. No whining.
No negativity. No complaining. We will derive inspiration from a poem by
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Doing more good for people does not need to take a lot of extra time, but
it does take some extra effort.
Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from
- James Barrie
I have developed the habit of being extremely pleasant to absolute
strangers. I compliment people on the street or in elevators on their
clothing. Most people are quite surprised, but they always say “thank you”
and smile in return. The next time you are waiting in line or in an
elevator, give someone a compliment. They will feel good, and you cannot
help but feel good yourself.
If you think about what you ought to do for other people, your character
will take care of itself.
- Woodrow Wilson
Most of us lead fairly easy and affluent lives. Most of us have more than
we will ever need or use. This year, resolve to buy less and consume less
and to put what little you have saved toward a favorite group or charity.
It is also important to teach our children to do the same. If we buy one
less latte every day for the next year, that extra $500 - $1,000 can make
a huge difference to a small charity.
I know that many of you already make generous contributions to charities
of all types, you and are to be commended. However, this one small effort
will show how it easy it is to do even more.
Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.
- Chinese Saying
Even though CLE is not mandatory in Maryland, it does not mean that you
should pass it up. Spend the time and money to attend some CLE beyond your
Learn something new, whether it is something about a new practice area or
a new technology. If you are not as comfortable with technology as you
should be, take a class and improve your skills. This will keep your mind
active and alive.
We make a living by what we make. We make a life by what we give.
- Winston Churchill
I know that time is very scarce, especially for solo and small firm
practitioners. We have so much on our plate. I still believe that we all
need to find a little extra time to volunteer, especially for
organizations that help those in need, or children or the elderly.
When I visit my mother, who has been in a nursing home for the past three
years, I always walk up and down the hall saying hello and complimenting
the other residents. It makes a very difficult time much easier because it
still amazes me how much joy you can bring to people just by telling them
how nice they look or by holding their hand.
Teach your children to volunteer. Let’s create a generation of
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a prosperous and generous
2005. I look forward to seeing you all at Solo Day 2005 at the Annual
Meeting in June.
And remember the words of William James: “The greatest use of life is to
spend it for something that will outlast it.”