I have coached well over 1000 lawyers. At one extreme I find it difficult to coach lawyers who are so content that they do not want to focus on getting better. At the other extreme, while I love coaching the most motivated lawyers, I also have seen that their intense drive to succeed can also cause burnout.

If you are a regular reader, you know I have been writing a novel for over a year. I have written about my work on it: Women Lawyers: Self Confidence Key to Your Success and Lawyers: Are You Confused About Appropriate Attire?

My protagonist, Gina Caruso has an intense desire to excel and her greatest fear is failing at anything in her career and life. She is “all in” at her law firm, her physical fitness and her relationships.

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In the Snowflake Method, a writer starts with a sentence to describe his novel. Here is mine:

A superstar young lawyer is so driven to excel and be a top Texas lawyer that she risks her career, marriage, and even her life.

While doing research for my book, I not only found the articles linked to in the two blog posts about self confidence and appropriate attire for lawyers, but I also found: Fire Your Inner Task Master. The subheading describes Gina and many other lawyers I have met:

Want to work for someone who pushes you relentlessly, criticizes  your efforts and makes your entire life miserable? Of course not. So why are you doing it to yourself?

That subheading reminded me of a blog Seth Godin recently posted titled: Self Talk.

I found many points in both the blog and the article informative. One from the article really described my career as a lawyer because I always said it to myself.

Sarah is always anxious that if she delivers a merely satisfactory performance, she will be exposed as the fraud she secretly believes she is.

I can relate. I actually described this condition as healthy paranoia during my career. I was insatiable to research and learn as much as I could about construction and trial advocacy because I was afraid I would be exposed as a fraud. I think my fear was healthy, but I can see how it easily could be debilitating.

I urge you to read the article if you are so intensely going for the gold that you are risking your health and happiness in the process.

How can you be successful and avoid this problem? There is no magic pill, but I tell lawyers I coach to start with clarity on what, other than work, is most important in your life. Once you know that, plan and spend more focused time on those priorities.