Mental Health and Work/Life Balance

Going Over to The Light Side of the Force

Since I retired, I have entertained myself by writing about the legal profession, mentoring a few lawyers, and teaching some classes about business law. None of these are particularly remunerative activities.

Now and then someone suggests to me that I should write a novel, or at least compile my articles into a book. And sell it. And try to make some real money. My standard answer is that it sounds like work, and that I have no interest in working.

It is not that earning a few dollars would not come in useful. I long ago learned from my mother that ‘rich or poor, it is good to have money.’ And I am not rich. But nor am I poor. I think that I can get by without working, and I have every intention of finding out if I am right.

I should provide a bit of context here. I spent forty years chasing the billable hour. I gained thirty pounds doing lunch three times a week to bring in clients. I lobbied the compensation committee to allocate me more than the next guy. I judged my success by how high on the compensation ladder I could climb. I was no better and no worse than any other law firm partner. So my new aversion to work might seem strange to some.

My wife says that I developed something akin to post-traumatic stress syndrome practicing law, and I have now gone over to the Light Side of the Force. She speculates that my rambling on about work/life balance, physical and mental health, empathy in the workplace, the so-called ‘soft skills,’ and all of the other nonsense that I had little time for when I was practicing law is proof that my mind no longer works the way that it once did. She actually likes my new persona.

But my wife’s theory does not stop there. She thinks that I have developed an aversion to making money. Sure, she says, it is okay if I charge a few dollars to give a course or to mentor a young lawyer, provided that it does not add up to too much. But she believes that I am terrified that if I were to earn any real money, I would be dragged back into my former life, like the bad guys were dragged into hell by the devil’s minions in the movie Ghost.

She may be on to something here. As a lawyer I bought into the lifestyle of putting work first and health and family second. Not consciously of course. What idiot would do that? No, the Dark Side of the Force just sort of creeps into your life and darkens your heart until you think that it is normal. I did not work evenings and weekends because I wanted to earn a tonne of money. I did it because there were clients who were depending on me and I had to make them happy. There was liability to avoid, and Associates to be trained and mentored. There was a firm that was not going to build itself.

Had you asked me back in the day, I would have said that I was not motivated by the money. On the other hand, having worked that hard I certainly expected to receive my fair share of the rewards. That is how the Dark Side of the Force draws you in.

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