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Unconventional Motivation

How Unexpected Encouragement Helped Me Grow

September 5, 2023

How Unexpected Encouragement Helped Me Grow

We don’t always know our own abilities; sometimes, it takes an outsider to point them out, and National Day of Encouragement on September 12 urges us to harness our power to influence others positively. Like many people, there were several instances early in my career when someone inspired me to believe in myself or do better. Specifically, I remember a couple of moments when people encouraged me in unusual ways — and another time when I got a kick in the pants.

Last month, I shared a story about my early days in law when I lost a hearing and brooded about it around the office. A more senior attorney (only semi-kindly) reminded me that I wasn’t unique — every lawyer has to take hard losses and experience self-doubt. Around that same time, I got a similar message from one of my boss’s friends.

He was also an attorney I’d met at a previous event. One day, I was standing in the back of the courtroom before my turn, feeling extremely nervous. Apparently, worry was written all over my face. As I stood there fretting, he sidled up to me.

“Are you feeling nervous?” he asked. I confirmed, and he responded,

“Well, we’re all just making it up as we go. So, get up there and act like you know what you’re talking about.”

It was frightening and liberating at the same time. On the one hand, you imagine a day when you’ll be a master attorney who knows everything and never makes a mistake. It’s challenging to discover that dream is a false promise. But on the other hand, it’s pretty freeing to realize that everyone is in the same boat.

His strange encouragement helped me realize that being a good attorney isn’t a matter of knowing everything. Instead, the trick is to get comfortable with the fact that you don’t. The law is far too vast for anyone to memorize it all. The real skill is understanding and learning to deal with what you don’t know. After that conversation, I developed the confidence to handle surprising and stressful situations.

Another instance as a “baby lawyer” was more of a rude awakening. I was on a conference call with one of my boss’s long term clients as he worked out the details of a business arrangement. The discussion ended, and the other side dropped off the call. After they disconnected, the client piped up.

“Hey, Nate, are you there?” he asked. When I said I was, he responded, “You didn’t say anything this entire call. Why did I even have you on here?” Then, he angrily hung up the phone.

That didn’t feel good, but he was right. I don’t think the client intended his remarks as encouragement, but it taught me an important lesson all the same. I had viewed my role as preventing problems and hadn’t heard any. But people want their lawyers to advocate for them. Just showing up doesn’t make people feel represented — showing up with confidence and input does. I learned how to make people feel good about the work I was doing for them.

In part, the unique delivery of these messages is why they have stuck with me all these years. But I’m glad they did. Learning to act confident and add value are essential lessons for any attorney, and I’m better because these people spoke up.

West Coast Franchise Law

If you have any questions about franchising, please contact the experienced franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 903-0401 to discuss your situation. Nate Riordan is a 2023 Franchise and Bankruptcy Super Lawyer with over 20 years expertise helping clients achieve their business goals.