eyes open

eyes open
"know thyself" is the cure, the answer, the process, the goal, the result


Clean Livin': A Post-Modern Justification for the Simple Life

Let's face it, your practice, my practice, everyone's practices, are going global. Twenty years ago, when the practice of law first began to grow out of the "single-time-zone" mentality, we could incorporate the additional burdens on our time by simply sleeping a little less here and there and then making it up as possible.

As practices now routinely cross the four most popular US timezones daily and more often than not include regular forays across the dreaded international-date-line, we simply cannot as a profession continue to burn the candle in the middle as well as at both ends.

In short, I think we need to revisit the old adage: "early to bed, early to rise." I will waste no ink reiterating the nauseatingly repeated negative consequences of a 24/7 lifestyle. Suffice it to say that we cannot function well long-term on four hours of sleep, and that on an irregular basis. To those partners who routinely have no internal body-clock left to speak of, I can only say: you are a walking timebomb. Please, please give up the "machismo" of pretending this is not costing you your health (eventually) and, more importantly for your clients and your partners, your judgment.

I'm sure I don't need to also prove that lack of regular sleep will do a number on your synapses. Do I really need to dig up hyper-links to prove that one? Let's face it, there is enough work for all of us to fill 48 hours a day, every day, for the rest of our lives. And, no, you are NOT allowed to try to do that.

We were mammals long before we were homo "sapiens, sapiens." Let's start acting like the latter (the sapiens part!) and get back to a more sane approach to living. Figure out a time of day that is most productive for you and decide to make that your "day". Figure out what time of day is "down" for you, and call it "night." Then, stick to it. Yes. You really, really, really will get more done. And, let's face it, delegation of work, and intelligent delegation, is the secret to true leadership success.

My new mantra: "healthy, wealthy and wise."

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Churchill's Black Dog--Harry Potter's "Grimm"--Male Depression and Legal Practice

Churchill called it his "black dog". Harry Potter has his allegorical "Grimm". Whatever you call it, a vast number of men suffer from intense unhappiness, despair, self-loathing and hopelessness. Nor does this spectre seem to fall into any one demographic category. Men who are otherwise extremely successful, fulfilled and functional are just as likely to suffer as those whose life circumstances might provide all the necessary explanation for the condition blithely called "depression." Some distinguish between mere "black feelings" and a "clinical" depression characterized by a lack of feeling. Regardless, a very great percentage of us suffer from such thoughts and feelings. Especially lawyers.

Phenomenon without a Cause?

I have no idea what the cause of depression is. Some blame an overactive "Area 25" of the brain. Others point to synaptic breakdown; still others blame serotonin levels. More commonly, men are blamed for their depression, calling it a character flaw or even laziness.

I do know there is much ink spilt on the topic, but little in the way of social understanding of the phenomenon. Any way you slice it, I am sure that there are multiple responses to depression. Many men, as stated, lead productive and fulfilled lives in spite of and in concert with their "black feelings" their "black dog", their "ghostly specter."

Work: The Pyrrhic Victory?

Some I have spoken with tell me that the one cure for them is work, productive and satisfying work. I can believe this, and my own layman's perspective is that male depression is probably characterized most by, or generated most frequently by, a perceived lack of control over their work circumstances--work still being the primary way in which men self-identify.

For myself, I have no idea whether my periodic bouts of unexplained lack of interest in work, feelings of helplessness in the face of failure, and even sometimes of success, are true "depression" or not. Surely all or nearly all of our great bards, our great novelists and great poets describe at one time or another a state that has no other universal description other than depression. Perhaps human beings are not set up for eternal happiness. One wonders also why it is that so many high-functioning, highly educated and high earning-capacity men seem to suffer from the condition at least as often, and perhaps more often, than others. It is a mystery.

Duty Calls

I can tell you, however, that as attorneys, we owe it to ourselves, our firms and our profession (if duty to self and family is not motivating enough) to ensure that we are not allowing our professional judgment to be swayed, or our responsibilities neglected, due to our interior emotional or physiological states.

One must start somewhere to answer the question. I provide a link to the Mayo Clinic's male depression site as a beginning.

Badge of Honor

Either way, if I can add anything to the dialogue about male depression, I can tell you that there is no need to feel ashamed about the condition. Churchill's dogged determination, his prolific written output, his political savvy and his longevity should be beacons to men of all ilks. Depression is something that we can live with, shine with, succeed with. But, like Churchill, we may not be able to survive without naming it.

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