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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

August 10, 2017
Question

What To Do When Life Is Not Fair.

answer
Julie Q. Brush

You know you’re better. You’re more experienced, more competent, more qualified, a better communicator. You work harder, have more achievements, people like you and you’re damn good at your job. Yet some how, some way…you’ve been denied. Denied the job you competed for, denied the promotion, denied the raise, denied the awesome project…denied the new client. The facts speak for themselves, but the results fall contrary to what is right in any logical world.

We’ve all been there.

And the feelings that arise are those not only reserved for youngins. It is in these moments that we find ourselves thinking or whispering privately to ourselves: “This is unfair”. When I’ve encountered such a moment, I have remembered the old line my mother used to tell me:

Life Is Not Fair.

“Yep. Uh huh, I got it. Heard it a million times. In one ear…” I’ve thought to myself. But during a long walk on the beach recently, I really thought about that notion. It’s true: Life is not fair. And the more I thought about it, the more I wondered – Is there anything we can actually do about that? Is this truism used as a cliché to pacify and accept our various plights or to motivate some kind of action? I concluded that ultimately…the choice is ours.

So for those of you who choose action, how can you set the stage for more fairness in your world? Below are some suggestions based on what has worked for me.

Control what you can and let the rest go.

I say this to nearly everyone I counsel: there are things you can control in career and life; and things you can’t. With the things you can control, you must do so as “perfectly” as you can. With the things you cannot control – leave them in the rearview mirror and let them go. If you want to maximize the possibility that your excellence will be justly rewarded, focus on what you can control to make that happen. Here is how to do it…….

Be Fearless.

We all have fears. It’s an emotion one cannot eradicate, but we must train ourselves to charge through situations where fear can create a negative result. Are you afraid to ask for a raise? Afraid to raise your hand to own that coveted project? Afraid to toot your own horn? Afraid to provide a counteroffer? Afraid to stand up for what is wrong? Whatever the scenario, develop the courage through preparation and practice to do that which propels your career and your confidence forward.

Be Your Own Advocate.

Nobody is going to care about You as much as you. So depending on someone else to advocate for you is not your best bet. It isn’t always easy – as professionals often fear the perceived repercussions. But you must stick to your guns and always advocate for yourself. People who do are able to hold others more accountable for merit-based decisions.

Advocate for Others.

When others have earned advocacy and you are in a position to give it, give it. Not just because it’s part of building good relationships (and karma), but because it’s the right thing to do. That doesn’t mean you have to come in blazing hot with effusiveness, but supporting recognition/accomplishments/rewards earned is the first step to rewarding merit and creating fairness in the professional world.

Support a Cause.

Perhaps you believe there is wider spread injustice in the profession that is compromising your career development. If that’s the case, get involved on a broader level to effect change. Join organizations or start your own, write your congressperson, start a petition, protest, speak out on social media. A single voice can matter if it’s loud enough.

Be great at your job.

There is no better way to achieve professional success than being great at your job. So focus on doing the best you can for your colleagues and clients. Produce high quality work, be responsive, be reliable, work with a sense of urgency; and go the extra mile. Always. In a world where there is much you cannot control, this is one area where you have complete control. So spend a lot of time and energy being great at what you do and how you do it. Being known for being top-notch in your profession will reverberate across the professional landscape and minimize situations that could prove unfair to you in the future.

Keep learning new skills.

With a world that is changing at warp speed, you need to keep up. So keep your finger on the pulse of developing issues in the profession and how you can broaden your substantive skill set. By continuing to learn and evolving as a professional, you’ll be current at any point in time and gain a competitive advantage in most everything you compete for whether now or tomorrow.

Build Meaningful Relationships.

Have you ever heard the phrase “It’s who you know”? Of course you have. And “who you know” is an important part of being a successful professional. So strive to continuously build meaningful relationships with people in and out of your circles. Those who know how awesome you are will support you in your professional endeavors and will come through in crunch time.

Be of Service To Others.

Contrary to popular behavior, life isn’t all about ME. By doing for others, you not only derive fulfillment, you build goodwill currency that will come back around when you need it. And it isn’t that hard: an introduction, assistance with a project, providing a recommendation, reviewing a resume. None of these things take much time or effort. So by being selfless you create an environment where others will raise their hands to prop you up.

Take Inventory.

If you’ve experienced a specific result or decision that you feel was unjust or just flat out wrong, reflect on why and how the result turned out the way it did. Perhaps someone had better relationships than you, perhaps they had more powerful advocates, perhaps you were unprepared or your delivery was off. Perhaps they were a better advocate for their excellence. Perhaps you compromised a relationship that came back to bite you. Whatever it is, take inventory and use that information to improve professionally so that next time you’ll be the victor.

Look Forward.

When things don’t go your way, take inventory and then look forward. Don’t dwell on the past, be bitter or become a victim. Remember, you can’t control everything. If you can learn something valuable from your situation and improve what you can, you will greatly increase your chances that next time, things will tip your way.

Not everything in life is going to go our way. And we will undoubtedly encounter professional situations where we feel a result is outrageously wrong. But what we can do is place ourselves in a position to minimize those situations and create new ones where the next time we can prevail based on virtue and merit. It’s true that life can be unfair. But it can also reinforce that hard work, perseverance and excellence can…and will continue to be rewarded if we all strive for it to be so.

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Comments

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Inspirational, thank you. Reminds me of this anonymous quote that hangs in my house: Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think, say or do. It is more important than appearance, gift, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you... you are in charge of your attitude.

Daniel Carr, Refinery Counsel, ExxonMobil

Excellent advice, Julie. Years ago, a wise elder shared some advice to me for dealing with situations where "bells don't ring and birds don't sing." He said, "Come what may, and love it." We can't control much of what happens to us, but we can control our attitude and response to those events.

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