Sunday, December 13, 2009

Off the Clock . . . or Clocks

"I must govern the clock, not be governed by it." Golda Meir

This week's post addresses the two major "clocks" in my life. One, of course, is the clock which measures my running. Since late 2007, that timekeeping has existed primarily in the form of a GPS running watch made by Garmin, with my latest model being the Forerunner 405. The other clock is the one which measures my professional output, in the widely-reviled ten-slices-to-a-pie increments known as "billable hours".

My Garmin has been having problems for the past few weeks, since I noticed ever-increasing condensation forming under the glass. It died completely on Sunday, December 6th (coincidentally and fortuitously, the day after my 5K PR race). My other clock has been having "problems" for at least 18 months, and I finally killed it on Monday, December 7th, when I gave two weeks' notice at my current job, so that I make take the big professional plunge and start my own law firm.

Now, to be fair and clear, I have not purged myself of clocks, nor have I decided that time is irrelevant to both running and legal work. But, I did get in a week of watch-free running, and I will now focus on working on a flat-fee basis as much as practicable.

A replacement Garmin arrived on Friday, and on two runs with it, I've found myself checking it only very sporadically to see how far I'd run. I still like poring over the data afterwards, but I don't need the constant real-time feedback like I used to.

In the realm of being someone whose livelihood depends on being paid for turning my knowledge into solutions to some people's most pressing problems (I focus primarily on immigration law), I have only a finite amount of time with which to provide my services (i.e., a limited supply of my "product"). I cannot simply discount the role time plays in my profession.

Yet, this week taught me valuable lessons about running without a watch, as well as about finding a way to focus on a client's needs without giving in to the base urge to squeeze every last drop of time out of a case.


I was grateful that my watch hung on long enough to get me through last Saturday's race. On Sunday, it froze up for good, and I waited for the replacement to come by running familiar routes, running for time and running on the treadmill/indoor track during the coldest and snowiest stretch of the week. Ditching the heart rate monitor strap was also nice. It's one of those things I don't think about when I run, but running without is so much more comfortable. One non-running friend calls it my tiny bra.

Not worrying about a watch allowed me to think, look around and otherwise "just run" in a way in which I normally don't do. I'm hardly a convert, but I already feel less clock-o-centric. Disclaimer: all bets are off when Boston training gets into full swing on January 4, 2010.


Despite some indication to the contrary, I do realize that running is an avocation, and that I need to pay more attention to my actual vocation. I have been lass-than-satisfied at my current job for a while now, and things have come to a head recently. The difficulties come from two related sources: (1) the substantive work is boring, and (2) I don't feel like I'm improving the lot of the world or anyone in it by working primarily on behalf of businesses.

None of this is meant to disparage my current firm, which boasts some talented lawyers who do excellent work. Instead, I could best describe it as my being a "square peg in a round hole". The way I would like to practice (e.g., representing primarily individuals and charging fixed fees) simply does not fit within the framework of a larger law firm.

So, with equal parts excitement and terror, I will be working through December 18th, taking two full weeks off for the first time in over 5 years and am setting up my own immigration and international specialty law firm in Manchester, NH. I expect to be fully operational by Monday, January 11, 2010.

At the same time, I have applied for a legal contract position in State Government which would be fast-paced, exciting, challenging and which would go a long way towards giving me a guaranteed revenue stream during at least the first year of the new gig.

Having spoken to about a dozen or so lawyers and other professionals who've made a similar move, I'm buoyed by the universally positive feedback. After all, I have a specific (hopefully useful) skill set (aka, a "niche"), will run a lean operation and tend to be pretty good with people. I should have enough clients coming with me to "prime the pump" and I expect things to ramp up pretty quickly. This time next year, I expect to be asking myself the common question others shared: "Why did I wait so long to make the move?"

So, while I attend to myriad details and try to keep the demons of doubt at bay, I'll share an observation from Alexis Carrel upon which I recently stumbled: "Life leaps like a geyser for those who drill through the rock of inertia."


Now we arrive at the obligatory moment where I feebly attempt to tie together life and running so as to impart some pithy little lesson upon the poor reader. Well, as cliched as it may sound, running has really given me the fortitude to take this big step, to trust that I am up to the challenges ahead, and to know that each and every obstacle along the way teaches valuable lessons. Our paths then take us squarely into the den of those obstacles again in the future, when we arrive ready to conquer them, or they deviate so that we find a better way to get to our destination.

No more than any other can I escape from the restrictions of time, but I can choose to be less of a slave to the clock which sometimes ticks so loudly that it drowns out the sounds of our lives. I want to hear the literal and figurative sounds and rhythms of my heart more often, so the running watch and the billing timer will need to lay quietly in the background while I do.



Billy said...

WOW. Congrats Ron - that's huge. Often we find ourselves chained down by 'safe' career choices and anchored down living paycheck-to-paycheck w/out taking a step back realizing we all get one shot at this. Better make sure you're getting all that you want out of life.

Awesome. Congrats. Mozel Tov.

Stevi N. Honaker said...

Ron- Awesome out look....If we could all be so insightful, and willing to let go of what has come to comfort us.


Unknown said...

Best of luck, and enjoy that time off!! I only know you through the Internet as a runner, but you've always come across as such a driven, disciplined individual that I'm sure your new venture will be just as successful as your running has been this year.

jaysummer4 said...

Good luck with the new gig.
Your more revealing entries of late have been good reads. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Girl In Motion said...

I'm super duper quadruper excited for you! This is going to be one of those "best things I ever did" experiences. For sure! And I am so with you in the parallels of running and life, it really does teach us so much about ourselves and what we can do in this world. May your 2010 be better than you ever dreamed and that includes running and every facet of your life.