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“I Know What YOU Should Do” January 25, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Humor, Mindfulness, People.

When I stopped practicing law, I needed to figure out what to do next.

I read books on possible careers, and explored my own interests, skills, and abilities.

Even though I was not looking for advice from others, that did not stop the advice from pouring in.

Whenever you are at a cross-roads in your life, and let that fact slip, people who know and love you, and people you have just met, will smack their foreheads and say, “I know what you should do!”

In reality, they know what they would do if they were in your shoes ~ but they are not in your shoes.

Fred-'n-BarneyI went bowling with a friend who introduced me to someone she had known for years.  This friend of a friend, who had just met me, asked what I did for a living.

When I said that I had just resigned from a law firm, she told me, without  first asking me any questions, that I should be a private investigator.

She was not a psychic, or a guidance counselor, and she had known me all of five minutes.  Nonetheless, she was willing to substitute her judgment for mine.

Why not?  What did SHE have to lose?

I knew that I would hate being a private investigator, lying in ditches to snap pictures for attorneys who would never be happy with the angle of the shot.

I knew that I would hate having to testify in court that someone was lying about their abilities in order to bilk an insurance company.

And, of course, I had no desire to work around attorneys on a regular basis.

One of the reasons that I left the practice of law was to distance myself from the profession because I had seen, first hand, the moral qualities in lawyers that keep lawyer jokes in circulation. 

When I tried to explain why being a P.I. would not be a good fit for me, she argued with me ~ insisting that being a private eye would be perfect.

She felt confident, after knowing me a full five minutes, that she was in a better position to assess what would make me happy than I was ~ even though I had been walking around in my shoes for an entire lifetime.

I realized the idea of being a Private Eye appealed to her, and shared that information with her.

Another woman, who met me at a party, asked me what I did for a living.  I explained that I had just stopped practicing law and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next.

“What type of law?”

“Medical malpractice litigation.”

On hearing those three words, she smacked her forehead and said, without preamble,”I know what you should do!  Go into hospital administration.”

I explained that I didn’t enjoying being in hospitals, even occasionally.  She  swatted my concerns away, and assured me that I would learn to ignore the medicinal smells in time.

Her advice had nothing to do with who I was at that moment.  Instead, it stemmed from who she was and what SHE wanted out of life.

Some people questioned the correctness of my decision to stop practicing law.  Of course, these people had never been lawyers and had no real understanding of the profession.

The lawyers I knew just wished they could trade places with me.  

A typical conversation with the naysayers followed along these lines:

“Why do you want to stop practicing law?  You’re so good at it.”

“I’m not happy.”

“But don’t you earn a lot of money?”

“Yes, but I”m not happy.”

“Well, you went to law school for three years.  You have an investment in your career.  You can’t just walk away from it.”

“Sure I can.  I’ve practiced for thirteen years.  I’ve already received a good return on that investment.”

“But don’t you earn a lot of money?”

“Yes, but I’m not happy.”

As indicated, these conversations centered around the money that I could make as an attorney . . . if I continued to sacrifice my happiness.

Money should be factored into the career choice equation, especially if you’re just starting out and need the basics ~ food, clothing, and shelter.  But once you reach a basic level of subsistence, it doesn’t make sense to trade your limited time on this planet for money that you don’t really need to survive, unless doing so adds to your net happiness.

Earning enough to save for a “rainy day” is a wonderful idea, in concept, but what if that day never arrives?

What if you sacrifice your happiness today, for a tomorrow that never appears?

Eventually, I learned to ignore the well-meaning, but misguided advice that virtual strangers offered on my next best choice of career.

I stopped defending my position to them.  I just smiled and thanked them for their advice, and said that I would give it due consideration.

Feel free to do the same.

If you need career counseling, hire someone who will take the time to evaluate YOUR unique skills, talents, and abilities and walk you through options in likely fields of interest, without just blurting out what they would do if they were wearing your shoes.

Hey, hey, you, you, get out of my shoes! 

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  Whose Shoes Are They Anyway? * Other People See Your Problems More Clearly Than You Do (Raptitude)


1. Debra - January 25, 2011

Happiness is Happiness.
Money is money.

Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes.

good post.

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

True wealth lies not in having more but in wanting less.

Thanks, Debra.

Inna Popova - April 19, 2016

I so agree with you. I am a CPA. I did not work as many years in the field as you did, but I had enough to get disgusted with the CPA firms environment. I trained myself to want less and became very frugal. Now I can live on less, work less, take fewer clients and spend my time hiking, gardening and doing things that make me happy. Also I want totally walk away from taxes but cannot afford at the moment. Some day I will. I love herbal medicine, I know a lot. I might start selling herbs online. Or start a blog. I have a lot of ideas. I have an entrepreneurial mind set and I love being free. I am so glad I found your blog. What you are saying resonates with me.

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Good luck as you transition from where you are to where you want to be!

2. Richard W Scott - January 25, 2011

I think I caught a hint of my response in your piece, Nancy.

First, let me say that yes, some people would respond for precisely the reasons you cited. They see an opportunity for someone else to do something they’ve always dreamed of doing. Television has made the idea of private investigation–for example–appear sexy, attractive, despite it being more like you described.

But I think there is another thing going on… with at least some of the people who stepped up with their ideas. They wanted to contribute to you.

I can remember being in conversations with people, seeing something useful, and just champing at the bit for an opportunity to contribute the idea.

The sad thing about it is that often the contribution, as well-meant as it was, was misunderstood and dismissed rather than being acknowledged.

Ah, well. ))

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

Good comment, Rik. It depends on the contribution, I suppose.

If I overhear someone talking about going to an Indian restaurant, and I know of a good one, then I’m going to be inclined to share that information.

If I hear someone say that they are going to start a blog, I may chomp at the bit to share a bit of what I’ve learned on SLTW.

But if I’ve just met someone, I wouldn’t presume to give them career advice. And, if I did, and they explained why my idea wouldn’t work for them . . . I wouldn’t argue with them about it. I would assume that they knew better than me what careers might work.

The three examples above were people who did NOT know me. They were in no position to tell me what my next, best choice of career should be. And they didn’t offer their opinion in an “Have you ever considered . . . ” type of approach.

Instead, they tried to shove their life preferences down my throat. I chose not to “swallow them.” I feel no remorse. 😉

In time, I stopped defending my position to them. I just smiled and thanked them for their advice, and said that I would give it due consideration ~ even if that meant rejecting.

3. Cindy - January 25, 2011

So the friend-of-a-friend never became a friend? You never went bowling with her again? *slaps forehead*

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

You are correct!

I saw her once or twice after that at communal gatherings . . . she began to “focus” on improving her photography skills so that she could become a Private Investigator. 😉

4. Carol Ann Hoel - January 25, 2011

I can understand a lawyer rethinking his/her decision to practice law. I admire you for possessing the fortitude to do something about it rather than merely fretting your life away remaining in a situation that grieved your spirit. Blessings to you, Nancy…

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

A survey done a few years back by the ABA (American Bar Association) revealed that 70% (or some equally high percentage) of lawyers would quit practicing law “if they had the financial means to do so.”

Not having kids to put through college made my decision relatively easy.

At one point, I realized that I could either be the best attorney I could be, or the best ME I could be ~ they seemed to be mutually exclusive objectives. 😉

5. souldipper - January 25, 2011

You cleverly just planted an ear worm, Nancy! You cleverly altered an oldie: “Hey, hey, you, you get out of my life”

*Heading for the IPod deck to rearrange the grooves in my brain!*

souldipper - January 25, 2011

Oops – overused the word “clever”. But then again, probably not in your case. 😉

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

Aww . . . that’s sweet.

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

I’ve been hearing the Stones all day . . . “Hey, Hey, you, you, get off of my cloud.” 🙂

6. kateshrewsday - January 25, 2011

Brilliant post, Nancy, and I admire your courage and integrity. And most of all, your ability to make the right choices…

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

Thanks, Kate.

Ego prefers known to unknown . . . it keeps many of us in overworn “ruts.”

When we really listen to our Spirit, we get unstuck. Ships are safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.

7. suzicate - January 25, 2011

excellent post! Money does not buy happiness. It amazes me how freely we as humans give unwarranted advice and swear by it even though we don’t take the time to know the person we’re dishing it to. Funny, how my career had fluttered around through the years. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive husband who has afforded me to make those changes and stay home at times. I’m glad you got away from a job that made you miserable and have found happiness.

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

Thanks, Suzi. My husband has been my biggest supporter and best friend. It’s makes all the difference.

Of course, he benefits more than anyone else when I’m in a happy frame of mind. 😀

8. Ollin - January 25, 2011

Nice! What a courageous move you made Nancy. I’m happy for you and admire you. Not many people would have the guts to do what you did.

No wonder I like you–you got integrity! I value that a lot more over other things.

nrhatch - January 25, 2011

Thanks, Ollin. Like you, I value integrity and honesty more than many/most other qualities.

To be nobody but yourself ~ in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else ~ means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~ e.e.cummings

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Here’s to happiness, harmony, and integrity!

Inna Popova - April 19, 2016

You nailed it again. That is why I am divorced now. I did not file, but I am so happy it was done for me. Being myself is what making me feel so free.

9. 4minutewriter - January 26, 2011

It can be hard to truly listen to others without inserting ourselves into their words. That’s one of many reasons I like talking to people who are very different from me. I can learn a new way of looking at things without superimposing my point of view because I’m too absorbed in theirs.

nrhatch - January 26, 2011

Good point, Zoe.

Our active listening skills have diminished over time because we are bombarded with so much information on a daily basis and MUCH of what’s being discussed around the water cooler would be better left unsaid. Some people talk just to hear themselves talk, not because they have anything of import to say.

Parallel advice from Fitzgerald:
“Don’t write because you want to say something, write because you have something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

10. Rejecting Proffered Advice | Spirit Lights The Way - August 12, 2013

[…] posts:  “I Know What You Should Do!” * How Do You Know? (Awakening to Your Story) * The Matrix of Choice (Think Simple Now) * Whose […]

11. runawaywidow - February 26, 2017

I like your blog. My husband was a lawyer for 17 years. He never missed a day and rarely took vacations. He was not happy but kept working anyway. He was just beginning to think about taking an early retirement. He died unexpectedly and never got to do that. I hope you feel you made the right decision. Being happy with your life is more important than making money.

nrhatch - February 26, 2017

Sorry that your husband didn’t get a chance to enjoy early retirement with you . . . especially since you’re taking fabulous trips and going on exciting vacations.

Enjoyed seeing your post on Siesta Key beach ~ just 45 minutes away from us. And I loved the Minion!

runawaywidow - February 26, 2017

Thanks. Yes I know he would have loved to travel too. Lucky you living near Siesta Key!

nrhatch - February 27, 2017

We love it here! For us, it’s the best place to be . . . especially in the winter.

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