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Oh, I admit I was a little hard on my colleagues, but in my defense, their idea was an old one we tried years ago to no avail.
Still, I guess they felt I was a bit harsh in the process of shooting it down (again), because when I left the room, I overheard one of the younger guys comment, “Well, isn’t he the cranky old bastard!”
Style points aside, how do you determine whether your experience is relevant and your so-called wisdom needed? Maybe you’re just tired of fighting the same old battles. At what point is our resistance more about our own weariness than about the idea actually being a bad one?
One of the compensations for getting old and worn-down is the insight I can offer from the experiences I have had. I think I have learned from my victories as well as my defeats. (I like to believe there have been more of the former than the latter.) And in every single instance I’ve learned something. Sometimes more than others!
It’s a universal experience as the years progress. In witness, Jackson Browne sang, “Doctor, my eyes. Tell me what is wrong./Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?” And Samuel Johnson is supposed to have considered remarriage the “ultimate triumph of hope over experience.”
Have I, too, seen too much to be able to try something new again? Have I experienced so much that I can only see the possibility of failure? Why not take a risk? Why not try something, even if it didn’t work so well last time?
So, how can I be more open to risk again? First, I think I need to be more critical of my own experiences — and look realistically at what I’ve done and what the circumstances and my frame of mind were at the time. I remember not being afraid to fail. Now, I feel more tentative, or less willing to stick my neck out. I can fix that. After all, I’ve been bloodied before and survived. I also work with a great team that will support me — people I can trust to keep me from getting too far astray.
Second, I need to share my “wisdom” in ways that are easier for the youngsters to hear. Pull more, push less. Give others the benefit of the doubt and let them take the leaps they aren’t afraid to try. Then when it works, make sure they get the credit. And if it fails, be willing to step in and share the pain.
Lastly, I shouldn’t allow my years of experience to weigh me down. I’ll try a little attitude adjustment and be more positive. Hey, why not enjoy things rather than carp about them? Nobody likes grumpy old bastards, and I don’t like being one. I’m going to reread “The Power of Positive Thinking.” See the sunshine, not the shade. Even eat more bran, if that’s what it takes.
It’s time, once again, to let hope triumph over experience.
Otto Sorts has been reading law since before Martindale met Hubbell. Of Counsel at a large corporate firm that prefers to remain anonymous, Otto is a respected attorney and champion of the grand tradition of the law. He is, however, suspicious of “new-fangled” management ideas and anyone who calls the profession the legal “industry.” When he gets really cranky about something he blogs here at Attorney at Work.
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