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Of circles and spectrums and balance

By ED POLL, Special to Lawyers Weekly

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In describing the human condition, some have used the concept of a “circle of life.”

The general idea is hardly an uplifting one. It holds that we enter the world as helpless infants, dependent upon others, pass through a cycle of decades where we first are nurtured by those around us and grow by taking from them, then pass on our own nurturing and growth momentum to others.

At last, we end life as elderly persons who have the same dependency on the kindness of family and friends and strangers with which we began.

To me, evidence refuting this circular idea of life is everywhere.

When you enter the world, you have a certain DNA pattern that will enable you to grow, learn, develop and contribute to others.

You progress through life contributing mightily to others in a variety of ways. The greatest contributors continue to do so until they die.

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who contributed to and shaped lives for virtually a century, is a case in point. His teams had a degree of excellence that is mind-boggling today.

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable,” Wooden once said in explaining such performance. No circle of dependence here.

I doubt that Coach Wooden considered his profession to be a “job” against which he had to balance some other part of his life. Yet today many lawyers talk about assessing “work/life balance.”

This is a long-term assessment that every lawyer must make. In the short term there is really no such day-to-day phenomenon as balance – at any given moment the lawyer is doing just one thing, either working or engaging in personal pursuits.

The broader perspective is how much cumulative time you devote to each, and what you value more. All successful people tend to work long hours and are focused and passionate about what they do.

I share this thought during a month that my wife and I have set aside for a journey/vacation of three weeks or more, as we travel through Central and Northern California on to Northern Oregon and then south along the Pacific Coast in our Airstream trailer.

To repeat, over time life has balance. But, at any one time, there is a focus on that which you’re doing, not a balance.

My father worked long hours; we used to say 24/7/365. He said his work was his hobby since he didn’t play golf or other sports.

But, his approach emanated from scarcity – the Great Depression and his being an immigrant, needing to become successful.

As I grew up, I vowed to enjoy each day. Consequently, though I honor my father’s work ethic, I also ride my bike, write or do other things for myself each day.

As I said, any given day may be “out of balance,” but the goal is to have the balance you value in the time frame you select.

For a few weeks I intend to test whether I can address my own “balance” by focusing on relaxing, “smelling the roses,” and appreciating the beauty of our surroundings as my wife, our Boxer, Bandit, and I journey in our Airstream trailer.

I suspect that the result will add a new color to the spectrum through which I approach life and work.


Coach’s Corner

Poll is the principal

of LawBiz Management, a national law firm practice-management consultancy based in Venice, Calif. For more information, visit

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