Because getting old just wasn’t enough of a challenge…

Accepting the fact that at a certain time in your life it becomes clear that the world’s focus is not on your generation, but the generations behind you, itself gives you pause. The older generation before you, has likely passed on, leaving the “senior” in you to fend for itself in a world that does not consider the challenges you face among the most pressing. Those challenges include downsizing, retiring, working, losing a partner, to name a few. Then along comes a pandemic in the form of the COVID-corona-Whuhan-China-callitwhatyouwish virus. For some, that Southern winter refuge you fled to, to shield you from northern winters, is the source of an unfathomable chasm that with quarantines and travel suspension, prevents you from visits with family and children–something you took quite for granted when you moved South.

What are some challenges and choices facing the 60+ generation? For starters, downsizing–managing a large home, possibly the “family home,” which was not too difficult with one or two full time jobs, and a houseful of children, but sitting in that same house now, possibly alone, with the ever-growing tax bill funding children you don’t have in schools they don’t attend, or plowing of streets you don’t use in winter, is one. Just as you decide that downsizing might be the way to go–you realize that grandchildren are on the horizon –ok, something you were able to project and think about–but what you didn’t think about was that a pandemic might mean creating pods and bubbles where you, your children and their children might need to quarantine under one roof, if you are to have any semblance of intimate contact with them. Downsizing, now doesn’t seem like such a good idea. But, if not now, when or ever? Then there’s the furniture, which you’ve kept in the family for years, but in which your children now have no interest. The British maxim–“we don’t buy furniture, we inherit it” decidedly doesn’t work in America. Finally, with or without a houseful of family, travel and gatherings for many seniors is currently considered ill advised…which begs the question: Is retiring from the job that gives you the only regular human contact you have, albeit on zoom and teams, a good idea? Now? Soon? Or ever?

What is clear, from a very unscientific polling is that there just isn’t enough “out there” to lend support, advice, counsel for the over-60 crowd to simplify, clarify or weigh the available choices or the pros and cons of the options we face. Unlike the choices we may have made in our younger years, these choices need to stick–and stick well. There is neither energy, time nor inclination for do-overs. As unpleasant as the concept seems, and as verboten as it is to talk of it, time isn’t on our side. The overriding hope needs to be that, whatever the choice, it won’t be one we regret–no do-overs on the eighteenth tee.

These are only a few of the emotional/intellectual quagmires many seniors find themselves considering these days–downsize, move, retire? How about you? And, wouldn’t it be nice, if someone, just someone or maybe a pair of people, say a pair that dabbled in law and real estate for forty plus years, devoted themselves to creating a platform that managed to support all of us as we try to maneuver this maze we call life-over-sixty in 2020? Stay tuned.

How to Teach Strategic Thinking

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Recently in a conversation with a faculty at a reputable law school, I was asked what I saw as the biggest shortcoming in recently graduated young lawyers. I shot the answer out lickety split–no question about it–they completely lacked the ability to think strategically. The question that followed was–well, one naturally to be expected: Would you be willing to conduct a lecture as part of a post graduate offering, on how young lawyers can learn to think strategically?  Again, my answer was far too quick. Flooded with the a rush of self congratulation over the invitation, the answer oozed out of me as smoothly as a salted  caramel from chocolate on a hot day…” I’d love to.”

Thirty days into the process of designing the itinerary for the self-discovery journey to strategic thinking, apropos of the subject, I find myself murmuring: What was I thinking? Was I thinking at all? One thing for certain there was nothing measured or tempered about my enthusiasm to take on the challenge. Dare I say–nothing strategic about that decision.   So on this glorious weekend summer’s day  in a small Connecticut village that New Yorkers kill themselves to get to negotiating I-95 every Friday night, I sit. At my computer. An intentionally made-to-look-retro fan keeps me cooled while its rattle drowns out  bird tweets and competes with gentle breezes. “Help Me Rhonda” fittingly plays in the background.

In the last thirty days, I have spent most of my discretionary time reading everything in sight and googling every conceivable variation of the phrase “how to teach strategic thinking”…to adults, to millennials, nay even children. After querying  colleagues and daughter MBA candidate came the flood of recommendations… Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” and Covey’s classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” A trip to the book store lured me with no fewer than ten different volumes of HBR (Harvard Business Review) compilations–promoted as “must reads.”  I got the one on “managing people” possibly influenced by  the tag line “If you read nothing else on managing people, read these definitive articles.”  Sold.

So, in these intervening weeks since the caramel oozed out of my chocolate,  my world has become an exploration of mastering outside the box inventiveness, analyzing human effectiveness and managing intuitions and interventions.

For those of you who are regular followers, this is the part of my blog where I pull something out of the hat of my past and draw an connection that most assuredly seems to have little to do with the blog topic. My personal paraprosdokian literary widget.
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Not too long ago  on my way home from work, I passed Tate Modern and read a poster about an exhibit of Matisse’s cutouts. It was there, on the south bank looking up at the billboard promoting the exhibition, where I  learned, for the first time, that my favorite Matisse art piece was actually a collage fashioned from cut out pieces of paper. How did I not know that in the 40 years since my first encounter and subsequent love affair with the piece? Now come to find out, he didn’t paint or even draw my favorite blue nude–he pasted it.    I believed I knew a Matisse  painting when I saw one.  Turns out, I didn’t. As for pornography and knowing it when I see it–I’m going to have to reconsider that as well.  Which brings us to strategic thinking…right now I can’t quite pin down for you what it is or how you can acquire a knack for it, but I can tell you this: if you work with me, trip up and make that strategic fail and I can be all over you like a wet t-shirt.

 

 

 

 

One Day I had an idea…

How many times have you said to yourself, I wish I had thought of that, or even worse, you did think of i14317367_10154423018650406_541273375062655995_nt, but someone else made it happen?

Given the abundance of naysayers, critics, skeptics and knowitalls that abound in our world today, it’s no wonder that people find themselves filled with regret that they hadn’t launched that start up in the garage, or taken that chance and put all their resources into a basket they were told couldn’t hold a feather.

Take heart, it takes energy and drive beyond anything normal, bordering on the obsessive and compulsive, to push past the many authorities who are sure that you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t have the credentials and what it takes to make it succeed. It takes an unfathomable amount of that je ne sais quoi, to push through the “who does she think she is?” and “how can he possibly think he has what it takes to do that?”

In those early days when the idea was a glint in my eye,  the naysayers were abundant. Uninvited, they crashed my party–coming out of the woodwork everywhere: “A country lawyer creating an international entity…impossible!”  “A woman heading into war zones…ridiculous!” And, the worst of all, ” Creating an organization that depends on the generosity of lawyers…will never succeed.” Nay, in “Et tu, Brute” fashion, even my own family was not bashful expressing their extraordinary skepticism.

To be honest, the job didn’t seem as daunting in the prospect as it became  in the actuality. Many I’m sure share the experience of passion and clarity of vision trumping (pun intended)  perceived obstacles and challenges.  But, like the tortoise who plugged along through the race, every day before me soon enough morphed into a day viewed through the rear view mirror. And, naturally enough, with each stride I moved closer to converting the vision into a reality. Which brings us to today.

I once had an idea. It was that lawyers young and old would travel to regions of the world where the practice and implementation of laws was challenging for any of a variety of reasons. And–  lawyers from around the world with the time, energy, resources and inclination to give back, if given the opportunity, would.

It is said revenge is sweet. The same is often also said about success. I’m pleased to report that both adages are true. For those who provided the rock upon which I chiseled what has become “my story”– thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I leave you with this:

 In this life, your narrative is just that, yours. Now go. Write it.