The Anchor

October 25, 2023

I had the same conversation three times last week. Three separate occasions with three different people, all about thirty, all disillusioned with their work, already burned out, looking for a way out. One wide-eyed young woman looked at me like I was an alien form asking \”How did you stay in your career for thirty years? I can’t even imagine another year in mine.\” Here’s what I said.

There is no rule that says you must stay put, that all work is meant to be forever. My adventure was typical for that time, for people my age. Things have changed, employees seem much less committed to their employers. And that’s complicated. Is that good or bad? That’s a subject for another blog. For now, if you must stay, or if you’re open to the idea that you should stay, here’s a point that might make your experience worthwhile and maybe a little less challenging.

My thirty year legal career was extremely challenging. But it was also meaningful. As an attorney with the Los Angeles Public Defender’s office, I hated mondays. Yes, we all do, but let me expound. I’d finish a week-long trial on Friday. Before that, the prep work was months long, some high level homicide cases may take a year of investigation, research, motions, subpoenaing witnesses, and then the trial itself, which commands 24 hour attention. Very few endeavors are as stressful. As a consequence, only 1% of attorneys actually try cases to a jury. And every Monday after closing the trial case, there was always another waiting on my desk. It was no different in my judicial capacity. Settle one case, ten more

added the next day. People often gasp when I tell them that I regularly had 60 cases in one day-another subject for another blog.

How did I survive and even thrive in such an environment? By finding meaning. Or to put it another way, finding an anchor. That may not be easy for you to develop, especially if you’re in the doldrums or feel squeezed in by unscrupulous profiteers. It wasn’t easy for me. I had to dig deep. But I eventually found anchors in profound writings. When the stress monster pulled my scruff I clung to the anchor. You must find your anchor. As a Public Defender I found Proverbs 17:15, \”Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent-the Lord detests them both.\” In my judicial capacity I found Micah 6:8, \”Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.\” I even contemplated tattooing these ideas to my body. Maybe someday. Although my anchors are quite different these days. So find your anchors. Look anywhere, everywhere. It might be something your grandmother said to you as a child, or a picture that has particular meaning to you. It doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone else. It is simply that thing that reminds you of the \”greater thing.\” And we need not get too philosophical about this. Many days I just thought of my children, my wife, those that depended on me. I had to pull through, tough it out because they depended on me.

I know what you’re thinking. \”This is not enough, it’s way more complicated.\” Yes and yes. I have much more to say about this and will visit the subject again because it’s important to those I love, primarily my adult children. Still, you must begin to build a response to the problem. Complaining is getting the problem on the radar. Now, it’s time to develop some strategies and make work work. You can do it.