“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”
…Jim Collins Good to Great
The night before I started law school, I wrote a blog entry about how excited I was to begin the next phase of my life. Specifically, I wrote, “as I consider what to wear tomorrow for my first day and wonder how I will fit in with a cohort of students who are half my age, I just know it will all be amazing. I will not take a single moment of the next three years for granted and feel that my experiences up to this point will make me appreciate this journey in a way that I wouldn’t have at 23.”
Here I sit, 27 days away from graduating law school, the evening before my final week of classes ever, reflecting on those words and how true they turned out to be.
I haven’t had time to blog much since starting law school but the posts that I have written, generated some fun dialogue about changing direction in life, both personally and professionally. People do it all the time, but my story was a bit different and hit a nerve with some people because I made a big change from a career that brought me happiness and success. My story wasn’t one people were comfortable with. People want to hear that you are miserable and unsatisfied when making an epic decision like starting law school at 44. But I wasn’t. I didn’t completely change paths either. This was merely the direction my own path led me down and when I finally allowed myself to think about my best life, a great life, I stopped letting my insecurities about not being good enough or smart enough for the legal profession get in the way and I just went for it. And I still say that while I would have been much better at law school 20 years ago, I will be a much better lawyer because of my 20 years in education. I wouldn’t change any of my professional experiences because they have each shaped me in some way and I am grateful for all of it. Many of my classmates say that law school changed them. For me, I feel like law school brought me back to myself, my best self. I feel more like “me” now than I ever have.
What a remarkable three years it has been. I was worried about fitting in and ended up in a cohort of smart, enthusiastic, motivated, funny and generous people. Age doesn’t matter in law school (at least that is what I tell myself) and an unexpected benefit of this endeavor is that I have made lifelong friendships with people of all ages and this unique experience has bonded us for life. I will have the privilege of singing the National Anthem at my graduation and in some ways, it will be my way of saying thank you to this special group of people who have given so much to me over the past three years.
There is so much to celebrate and still so much work to do. One week after graduation we begin a two-month preparation for the bar exam and then we will go our separate ways. Like many of my classmates, I am fortunate to start a job that I already love. It is an emotional time for all of us and I am blessed that so many of my family and friends will be there celebrating with me during graduation weekend. At the same time, I am very sad that my mom isn’t here to see it all. She has been gone a long time and has missed many of my major life events, but for some reason, her absence now feels more profound than it ever has. Perhaps because getting through law school at this stage of my life, with the responsibilities that I have, is the accomplishment that I am most proud of. I know that in this world, there are more substantial and significant achievements than graduating from law school, but for me in my life, I have never worked harder and felt more fulfilled and gratified. This somehow magnifies the loss.
I was unable to sleep last night and ended up re-reading parts of my favorite leadership book, Good to Great by Jim Collins. This book has been my own personal bible, I return to it often and glean different meanings from it depending on where I am in my life. I ran across the page with my favorite quote “good is the enemy of great,” and it resonated with me now because I struggle to articulate concisely when asked why I have made the professional choices that I have. This quote truly sums it up. It would have been easy and safe to stay where I was, but I just knew there was more out there for me that would maximize my potential in a bigger way. To go from good to great, I had to be willing to start all over again. And I did. I went from being the boss, to being the student and the intern. I look forward now to finally being a lawyer. Someday, a great lawyer.
I am so happy that this blog has motivated and agitated people and fostered conversation about personal and professional growth and development. I believe it is never too late to have a great life, and I hope that you find the courage to start again should you want to, regardless of your circumstances.
For me, the rest of my life begins in 27 days and I can’t wait!