An Oscillating Fan is Better Than a Roller Coaster

An Oscillating Fan is Better Than a Roller Coaster

I am a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer. I sue insurance companies, corporations, individuals, and the government when their reckless, careless, or even intentional, actions harm people. Accusing people of wrongdoing creates tension and discomfort. People (and organizations) don’t like to be held accountable for their conduct and, worse yet, don’t like it when people demand money to compensate for their actions.

My clients pay me not to just handle their case and get them fair compensation for the harms they’ve suffered, they hire me to shoulder their burdens. Another way to look at it is that they subcontract me to do their worrying for them. It is my job not only to prosecute their case and obtain money for them, but also to craft the necessary legal strategies, anticipate problems that may arise, deal with unforeseen issues that develop, and constantly scan the horizon for threats and danger. It is an awesome, and sometimes overwhelming, responsibility.

In addition to that, I am a business owner. I manage and run a law firm. I hire, train, and supervise a staff, I project and manage cash flow, and deal with all of the big and small tasks that are involved in running any business. I’ve got a full plate and it isn’t for the faint of heart.

I often refer to my professional life (which frequently bleeds over into my personal life) as “a roller coaster.” There are incredible highs where I’m on the top of the roller coaster, enjoying a great view and feeling the wind in my hair. Sometimes I find myself on top of the roller coaster after a successful verdict, a favorable court ruling, a significant settlement, when a new client hires me, or when a client gives me a compliment on a job well done. Other times, I find myself stuck at the very bottom of the roller coaster as a result of a disappointing case development, difficult opposing parties, a slowdown in new cases, or a lack of steady cash flow. The goal is always to smooth out the roller coaster in order to avoid the devastating depths of the bottom of the roller coaster. Whereas I revel in the highs, I grit my teeth and clench my fists when I’m at the bottom of the roller coaster. It’s a hard way to live.

Something profound occurred to me today when I was at the gym (I highly recommend physical exercise for sparking creative thinking). I was on the spin bike and my trainer was putting me through my paces on sprints. She was challenging me to ride as hard and as fast as I could for 30 seconds, pedal easier for 30 seconds, and then do it again. As I readied myself for the next sprint, I realized that an oscillating fan was to my left. Although I knew the sprints would be tough, I looked forward to the fan turning my way and giving me a lovely, refreshing breeze that would aid me through the hard work ahead, knowing that it wouldn’t last forever, but that the fan would eventually return to me, as it always does. This realization not only made my sprints manageable, it made me realize that my professional life (and personal life) is like this too.

By thinking about the challenges in life with the metaphor of an oscillating fan by my side, as opposed to a frightening roller coaster to which I am tethered, it makes the challenges of life more bearable. I’m going to focus on that and see if the next low is less harrowing using this metaphor.

By the way, when I got to the locker room after my workout, there was another fan. This one was pointed at the counter where we get ready for work after taking our showers. Instead of oscillating, it was set for a steady (and strong) breeze. It was just too much and I turned down the speed and finally just turned it off because it wasn’t refreshing or helpful. For those like me who are strong adherents to the Protestant Work Ethic (writ large, in my case), the oscillating fan is the perfect metaphor. Although there will be times of ease and breeze, they won’t last forever. Yet, neither will the tough times where the air is thick and life is tougher. The ebb and flow of life is more rewarding and sweeter when there is a mix, as opposed to too much of one or the other. But, it doesn’t have to take the form of a harrowing roller coaster.

Deborah Nelson

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