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Building Resilience | Strategies for Thriving Amidst Change in a Law Firm

May 22, 2024

The legal profession thrives on established routines for billable hours, adherence to legal standards, and client service. However, staying agile is crucial for success. Cultural change in the work environment because of the pandemic. The constant shift in work environments over the past few years has disrupted established routines and introduced new habits, all while technology has played a complex role in shaping how we work and connect with colleagues and clients.  

This webinar explores habits and their potential to hinder progress. It delves into strategies for breaking free from established routines and embracing change as an opportunity.


Brian Karnofsky: My name is Brian Karnofsky. I've been a partner here for over 25 years. I'm involved with the law firm group, I'm one of the co-heads. For over 50 years, our firm has been performing audit and review tax, and consulting services to multi-office as well as boutique law firms. As you know, we have locations all over the country.

We pretty much understand the challenges of being a successful professional service organization, because we're one ourselves. We've been through all the things that you're going through.

We have a dedicated team of specialists that just specializes in handling law firms. We have a large number of firms all over the country, both large and small. We act as advisors, as well as financial technicians working as a team to explore business and tax implications and applying creative intelligence for your financial concern.

We have relationships with banks for financing of the firm or partner's capital all across the country.

Our tax department includes CPAs, tax attorneys, former IRS agents who fully comprehend the intricacies of professional service firms such as multi-state issues, non-resident partner withholding, and international tax concerns. Lately, pass-through entity tax for most law firms is a pretty big issue and you have to have deep expertise in pass-through entity tax on a state level because many firms, based on the new laws, practice in a lot more states than they may be aware of, and we have a group that focuses on that.

We will work hard to ensure to keep our law firm clients abreast of critical developments that occur in the counties that they do business in, or even the countries that they do business in.

Additionally, we have a forensic litigation valuation service group that works with many firms all across the United States helping them support them in their business, and we definitely have some people that testify as well.

At this point, I'd like to introduce Natalie McVeigh, the Managing Partner at our Center for Individual and Organizational Performance. She will be handling the seminar from here. This is a terrific seminar, I've taken it. I hope you enjoy it.


Natalie McVeigh: Brian.

So we're going to be talking about resilience today, and I think about this as your time. We know that law firms have unique challenges like billable hours, sometimes frustrating clients, all kinds of things. The Q&A box is there, it's yours. No one will know you're asking any questions, but that's going to allow us to more customize this workshop. We're going to talk about general stuff, research stuff. I'm a nerd, I'm a neuroscientist. I love it, and I try to make it applicable, but how it's really going to be meaningful for you is if you ask some questions.

So I'm going to start out with what we're doing that doesn't work for us. The main thing, as you guessed it, is our phones, right? They are shortening our attention spans, and in fact, there's some research that says if you look at bad news within the first three minutes of your day, and most news is bad news, it increases your chance of having a bad day by 98%.

And so we sometimes wake up and start the stress cycle. You've all heard about cortisol, right? We don't want cortisol, it's the stuff that makes us gain weight, blah, blah, blah, blah. But you need cortisol. In fact, our body's natural cortisol wakes us up in the morning. It's the thing that gives life, it's just the challenge of having it at other times. So if you think about the most naturally occurring stress hormones occurring in our body the moment we wake up, we really want to spend some time during those hours not adding any additional stress. So how you start the day really does dictate how the rest of your day goes.

If you want to answer in the chat, I'd love it too, but how many hours do you think we have in our lifetime on average? Any guesses? It's noon, and you guys haven't had your coffee yet? All right. Well, it's less than a million hours, it's about 876,000 hours, and of those 876,000 hours, we spend a third of them sleeping. That's my dog sleeping right there. And then we spend a third of our life working, and that's the average person. That's not someone who has a lot of billable hours at a partner level at a law firm. That's just your average Joe working 40 hours a week, there's a third of their life working. And then there's a third of our life for everything else. Think of that as half of our usable time if we're ideally sleeping as much as we should be. Half of your available life is working, and half is everything else. Kids, hobbies, fun.

And so what we're going to want to do is find some strategies in our workplace to continue to create our resilience because if we're looking for it as I'll work hard and I'll just slog through it, and it's going to be painful, and it's going to be awful, but I'll make up for it on the outside, the math, as the kids say, isn't mathing on that. In fact, we've got to make work work for us in a way that we're actually not getting burnout, in a way that we're actually thriving with a high workload, with high demands, with increased situations that could be stressful.

I mentioned I'm a neuroscientist, but I'm specifically a neurobiologist. So what I want you to know about stress, and this is different than probably what you've learned about stress, is that it actually isn't the stressor, it's our response to stress that creates those reactions like high blood pressure, like a fast heart rate, like large levels of insulin. So in fact, it's not that you have a lot of billable hours required on you, it's what happens to you based on that request. And so really, resilience is in our hands, and that's a double-edged sword, because it's great we have choice and control. It's challenging because it is.

So I think of resilience as if you have a tennis ball, and I know people are playing pickleball these days, but we're going to stick with tennis because everyone knows how to play it, and honestly, it's a real sport. So you've got a tennis ball and it bounces and you throw it at the ground or you throw it at the wall, and it comes back as a tennis ball, that's resilience, right? It's just being exactly who you are.

What I want to talk about today instead is anti-fragility. Anti-fragility actually says you take a tennis ball, you throw it against the wall and it comes back a better ball. Played volleyball in college. So a better ball is volleyball, right? Resilience is just you staying the same, and you staying the same means you're going to have the same challenges, you're going to have the same reactions, you're going to have the same issues that you had yesterday, and what we know from neuroplasticity is actually each day we have the capacity to be more enhanced, more capable, more evolved. And I don't mean that that means you can do more billable hours today than you did yesterday. That might be a requirement, but what that means is you're going to have some better strategies and abilities. So we're actually going to talk about anti-fragility today, and anti-fragility research.

So I mentioned that stress response, it's just a graphic to see it. Our stress response skyrockets and it takes an instant, there's something called neuroception, that the moment I perceive stress is my body's responding that quickly, and it does that because it's trying to protect me. Think about evolution and a saber-tooth tiger. If you don't really believe in evolution, think about the Spanish Inquisition. It's not a particularly safe time to become alive. Because our brains are one of the oldest organs, they're actually not terribly smart. It's helping me breathe right now, right? It's helping me talk. Because I can't talk without my hands, it's helping me talk with my hands. It's doing every voluntary and involuntary function. Because of that, it's taking some shortcuts, and those shortcuts are what allows that automatic response to stress to happen. It could be a raised voice, it can be a request I wasn't anticipating.

In fact, most of the time, it's a request you weren't anticipating. Or tonight, when you wanted to just come home and veg after work, your partner actually says, "Hey, we have dinner plans with our friends," who normally you like, but today, that feels like a stress response. So it's happening without your knowledge. Even if you've worked out, even if you're a smart person, it happens to you instantly, faster than an instant. Actually, 0.07 seconds, which is a much shorter fraction of time than it takes me to say that.

And so that already happened, so you're already having this uptick. You're usually in that state for at least five minutes before the prefrontal cortex of your brain checks in with you to see if you actually are safe, to see if you can pull that response down. Now, that depends on how much you've slept, how much you've ate, how much you've hydrated. If when that checks in, it says, great, we'll pull it down. And the best of us usually can't get that any less than a three and a half minute extreme spike. But for some of us, that stays high and it stays high for at least 26 hours. That's how long cortisol can stay in our system. That's more hours than a day. So if I don't come down from that stress that I put in my body, I'm guaranteeing that that stress will still be here this time tomorrow. So it's not a problem that you have a stress reaction. We do. Again, it's part of surviving. It's what we do with that stress reaction that we're going to talk about today.

Not going to spend a lot of time on this, but the really interesting statistic is 60 to 80% of your doctor's visits, and about 69% of prescription drugs are all directly tied to stress-related illnesses, because of what stress does in the body. I mentioned the heart rate, I mentioned the insulin increase. And all of those things are great in a real stressful situation. I was an EMT, your body doing all of that stuff allows someone to think very quickly, be really nimble. But for most of us who have office jobs, lawyers on the phone, and I'm not saying that you aren't making decisions that are very important with people's assets, with their companies, with the things they prize the most, but you don't need the fight, flight, freeze, appease dissociate response that is usually showing up with stress in our body.

Some quick stress facts. It really doesn't matter if it's a lot or a little. I mentioned that idea of being asked to go out tonight when you weren't anticipating it. On a day where that's not a bad request, you're going to feel fine. The same thing when you're asked to help on a case you weren't anticipating. On a good day, it's probably something you would've done. In fact, if you're a partner at a law firm, it's probably something that actually helped you make your career. But on a day when you're already full, that's going to feel like a challenging request, and that's the interesting to think is how we prepare for stress. Impacts, how frequently stress shows up.

There's some really interesting research that says that stress response isn't just in the moment, but for those of us who are worriers or planners which are type A people, which often show up in law firms and accounting firms too, there's also an anticipatory stress that comes up sometimes. Knowing that I'm going to be in the office today, and knowing that I might have a colleague that asks me questions is already setting up a pre-elongation of that stress response for you. So it really does matter how we think about things before they happen.

Stress is good. I don't want people to say that it's not. In fact, stress motivates us. Motivation doesn't just strike out of nowhere. Stress is the thing that gets us there. It actually focuses our energy, right? That increase in letting in the insulin, that increase in the adrenaline, that increase in the heart rate actually allows us to zero in in a way that we wouldn't do otherwise, and it's meant be for short-term success. It's not meant to be every day. And if we perceive that it's within our coping capabilities that stress actually doesn't have any of those long-term negative effects, and it does improve our performance.

This stress, on the other hand, does all the things we hear about stress and why we say stress is bad and cortisol is bad. The interesting thing from the list I first read. And this list you're reading, you're adults, I'm not going to read it to you, is the only difference is how you respond to the stress. That's not actually that you decide like you've probably heard the take a walk or this, that and the other thing. I'm not actually even saying a movement or an action. You could be sitting right now, get the stressful piece.

When I say how you respond to that stress is, do you perceive it's within your coping capabilities? Do you perceive it's for the good of you, that it's a challenge that's being posed to you? And if you can just make that cognitive switch, it's not saying I'm not going to have the reaction, I'm going to have the reaction that, oh, I can't believe someone just asked me to work late tonight when I was excited about not working late tonight. That'll happen, that's the neuroception. It's the time in which your prefrontal cortex is checking in, which is usually three and a half to five minutes later that you can say, huh, if I get this done tonight, I don't have to come in early tomorrow, or the next day I'll get it done.

Or same thing, that challenging client reaches out to you, and they are really stressed out, and they snap at you. Can you say, huh? It's a small project with them. I get that they're really stressed out because this merger, this acquisition, this divorce, insert transaction they're going through is acutely stressful for them. I do this and then I'm done with them. Right? That switch when your brain checks in is the thing that turns the short-term stress into long-term stress, and that's within your capability.

Why do we care about this? This is specifically about happiness and positivity, but this is our preset. 50% of that is genetic. We can't change it. And so 50% of the time, I'm a little bit negative. You can thank Pilar and Jack for that. Those are my parents, they gave me my 50% negative. 10% is that circumstance, right? Grumpy clients, long billable hours, competitive workplace, on the track for partner. None of that, you can change. That's that 10. But 40% of it, you can. And that 40% of our positivity, of our stress, of insert adjective there, shame as well, really has to do with what we're going to do next, and we have to be acutely aware of that.

So that anti-fragility research I shared earlier, you've heard of post-traumatic stress. Post-traumatic stress, believe it or not, is the opposite of anti-fragility, and it's no one's fault, right? You see people who've done amazing things in the world that suffer from post-traumatic stress, but it only happens in one-third of the time that people are challenged or traumatized. In two-thirds of the time, we have post-traumatic growth. So in fact, these challenging situations can make us flourish.

You've probably wondered people at your law firm, I have too, where you see them wake up in the morning, they can run their five miles a day, they can do the long hours, they can also have a wonderful social life after work, and you assume maybe it's that their partner at home is carrying the load of these other things. It is actually probably the way they engage with their challenges. So when I said that 40% that we can change, some of us, two-thirds of us statistically speaking, are more negative than positive. So we've got a little work to do to try to create the right conditions in us to see the bright side.

And so this little set of tips here is one of the ways to do that. You can name the experience as I am feeling, and I am experiencing versus I am, right? The moment you say you're overwhelmed is the moment that your body starts creating a stress response that it's going to need to sustain for a really long time. Even, in fact, I am busy. Most of my clients have outlawed the B word because it does something to your body. Instead, you want to say, I'm feeling really overwhelmed right now. I'm feeling really busy right now. And you might think that's silly, and you might think it's semantics, but our brain only records facts.

Now, you might be saying, how is that possible? Our brain doesn't have a fiction category, so the moment I say I'm overwhelmed, my body kicks in to the fact that I'm overwhelmed. It doesn't really have a folder for hyperbole, for sarcasm, for jokes. And so anything you speak is true, and so you're going to want to try to change how you language things.

It doesn't mean you're not going to think it in your brain, think it all you want, and you might need to take the action to actually speak out something different. My experience right now is flustered and overwhelmed, right? That's happening. But what I'm going to want to do right after is say I'm experiencing overwhelm versus my brain saying I am overwhelmed. I'm tapped out, I can't do anymore.

And then rest. I cannot talk about rest enough. And I know I work at an accounting firm, we have a billable hour as well, and we just went through busy season. Some of the people on the firm are not out of it. I personally actually spent from literally five in the morning to 11 last night at a client site. I do mediation conflict kind of work, and that happens to me, and you can't stop that. You can't challenge that.

But what you can do is take manageable rests. Every 20 minutes, you should be looking for 20 seconds away from your screen. Just literally look above it, look to the side of it. It allows your eyes to strain less. And in fact, a lot of fatigue that we feel is our eye strain, and our brain sending the signal to our body that we need to close our eyes, but we're not tired. That's why sometimes you leave work, and if you do work out after work, or you do spend time with friends, you can't actually do that. So first, deal with your eye strain. I actually have 20/20 vision. I had LASIK, I have some really good blue light glasses as well as a filter on my computer. I'm on this computer more than I would like to be, but you can manage that. So there's the micro rest that should happen every 20 minutes.

You should also be trying to get up from your desk at least once a day. It might not be lunch, but it should be something else where you just get your body moving, because in fact, your body moving changes your physiological state. You can do some quick stretches. You could even just do it to make sure that you're walking to the farthest restroom in the office or in your house away from yourself just to get your body doing something differently, changing its physiology to have the stress response.

Ideally, sleeping every night. It might not be eight hours. Imagine if I got home last night at 11 and I did and I have normal working hours, I didn't get eight hours. I actually wear a ring. I know exactly how many hours of sleep I got, five hours and 22 minutes, which is not enough, but it is the sleep that I could get. Now, statistically speaking, there's only 3% of the population that can get five hours or less of sleep each night and function better than having had two beers, but with none of the fun, you were legally impaired most of the time getting less than five hours of sleep. So try to get more. How much more? I can't tell you, but more.

And then, you're going to want to get a little, and that's a micro macro and then you're going to get meso rest. And meso rest is a three-day weekend. Most of us are having Memorial Day holiday next weekend. I always get that confused. I think I said it right. Memorial Day holiday next weekend, right? That's hopefully three, four days off. It doesn't mean you can't still check in. I just mentioned I'm a mediator. I'm an executive coach. I will probably get clients bothering me during that time, but I can decide that I'm privileged that they would reach out to me when they should be spending time with their families as well, and I want to figure out how I can support them, or I can respond to that as, gosh, why don't these people leave me alone?

One of those will be a slight inconvenience when I spend the half an hour on the phone with the client and I go back to my fun, that first way of responding to it of that I'm privileged. The second way of responding to it is in fact probably the next day, two or three days are going to be more frustrated, overwhelmed, and I've literally lost the whole weekend to what could have been a twenty-minute intervention.

And that's part of the world that you might be in. You may be in a world that has long billable hours. Wouldn't it be nice to change that world? But we can't. And so what happens to you, fighting against that, is actually double the stress than actually dealing with the impact.

This last part is sense of coherence. Do we understand why it's happening to us? Can we manage that, and then can we make it meaningful? There's one thing, one thing only in all the burnout research that we've ever seen that is the difference between having burnout and not having burnout. It isn't long hours. It is not stressful job. It isn't even a toxic boss, work culture. It is that you think of this work as a calling and a career versus just a job to get paid.

So what's the thing that you're telling yourself? What's the service that you're doing that makes it worth it for you instead of it's just a job? The more we say that to ourselves, and I think that was kind of the way that people used to talk about it, say it's just a job. It's just a short period of your life before you retire. Grin and bear it. Remember, we talked about this? It's half of our waking hours for the foreseeable future. Yeah, some of us retire early, some of us don't though, right? And this idea that we'll find joy outside of work at some future date or time isn't going to work. And then find your own interpretation of how this can be effective for you.

Here are some extra steps. Totems might be helpful. Some people wear bracelets that remind them of X, Y and Z, right? This one is a greenstone from New Zealand where I spend a lot of time there for work, and it's supposed to help me with integrity. I have to give people hard truths a lot of times, and so I wear that. Some people have small milagros in their pockets. Create rituals. I have a very specific morning ritual. I drink matcha every morning, and I have a little matcha bowl and I have a matcha whisk, and I have very high quality matcha powder, and it doesn't matter where I am in the world and I do travel a lot for my clients, I have a travel set of that, and that's the ritual that I have every morning. That's what I do in my first two and a half minutes of the morning instead of checking my phone.

Because the moment you don't have a ritual is the moment we start doing things to self-soothe. But again, we've talked about our brains aren't very smart. The stuff that we do to self-soothe is usually the opposite of what we should do. It's getting on our phone, it's gossiping with our friend. Pick one task that's easy or that matters most to you to get accomplished at the beginning of the day. That's how motivation starts. If it's easy, do it. If it matters the most to you do it, but you want to make sure it gets accomplished, and that's going to set you up for success for the rest of the day, because motivation doesn't strike out of lightning. It strikes past good behavior starting at the beginning.

And then one of the things I hear about a lot of law firms, I hear it also in our accounting firm. I hear it with my executive clients that I coach every day is part of the biggest stress that exists is being caught out being wrong. In fact, there's some research that says public speaking, which I'm doing now, or being wrong in front of people, which I might be doing now, let's say one of these things I cited is wrong and you Google it later. Those two things are rated the highest fears in life, IE, the highest stressors. In fact, they're second. The one that comes underneath both of those, depending on which study you're looking at, is death. Imagine I would rather die than be wrong in public, have my colleagues see that I'm wrong.

So what I'm telling you to do is the opposite of that. I'm telling you to fail at some things, but decide what those things are. I hope my marketing team got all the spelling errors out of this, but that's what I fail at. I fail at checking, doing really thorough checks. Part of it's because I'm dyslexic, part of it's because I don't have time. So you're going to want to plan the things that you fail at. Same thing most law firms have a specialization, accounting firms do too, which my lovely colleague Brian talked about how he's the leader of our legal specialization. So maybe you plan some failure in the thing that you're not expert at. There's certain things I don't do with my clients. A lot of people will jokingly say, "Oh, you're the psychologist." I'm actually not a psychology. I'm not good at psychology. I know all the neuroscience research, but if you tell me about some psychological research, that's not my thing. I also don't have a problem saying that I don't know things.

And so you're going to really want to be careful about your own personal self-talk as well. I'm not going to read this slide, but it's important to know that we spend up to 14 hours a day in self-talk, and it's not always positive. And so sometimes we are our own stress response throughout these things.

And how you plan is going to be really important. Many of us make annual plans, quarterly plans, monthly plans, but part of why that doesn't work neurologically, and part of why we miss deadlines is that that's too long of a date for our brain to comprehend. [inaudible 00:29:26]. Next week, I'm not doing, I'm not saying you shouldn't schedule things, you should. You should be a little bit looking, but the way that we're actually keeping ourselves in the present, keeping us in these beta brain waves instead of these theta brain waves, which take up more space and more time, it's kind of like having too many things stored on your computer, is to get bite sized chunks that are only a week.

Because what happens in the week is there's only really a one middle day, and that's Wednesday. And so we can keep ourselves much more motivated, much more engaged. We also then have much more success in bite sized chunks. Even if it's a year project, because there are year projects, or three month case that you're working on, or a contract, the parts that you can chunk out into a week at a time that allow you to say, oh, I accomplished that, because success builds on more success.

The most important thing is to anticipate challenges. If you can anticipate a challenge that's going to get in the way for me to get this accomplished, the more effective I'm going to be able to get it done. And so if I know that I have a busy end of week this week, or let's call it next week, because there's a holiday next week that I actually need to get everything done by noon on Friday to enjoy my holiday weekend, and I know that a lot of clients are going to probably call me on Thursday, which they absolutely will, that's what happens to me. I don't know how your work happens, that if I'm going to try to get everything manageably done, what I should do is try to get as much done Monday through Wednesday so I have some flexibility, some slop time on Thursday for when my clients reach out so that I can still get everything done by Friday.

And this isn't just about scheduling, right? There might be a different way that you plan for the areas that are going to get in the way, but when you plan for the areas that get in the way, you're more likely to be successful for it.

So same thing, I work with a lot of executives who they're doing a merger, they're doing an acquisition. I plan for their busy time, because I've been through this with them. They don't maybe know what that's going to look like. So even if they say, yeah, I'll keep the regular coaching schedule, I'll call you once a week, I will also block some time knowing close to that inflection point when they're probably going to call, anticipate that, I will share that with my spouse and my family and say, "It's quite possible I'm going to get a call from so-and-so in the evenings because they're really going through a tough time," and so that you're not having to recalendar, reschedule with other clients and you're also not having to have resistance at home with how that's not working out. And all of these things should happen in small bites, right? We want to understand that this is not permanent. This is usually a small temporary fix, and if we can keep it in weekly bites, that's much easier to do.

The other thing is to engage with your emotions. If we were in person, I'd have you raise your hand and say, how many of you think you're logical? I've done this before with a bunch of attorneys in person, and I can tell you, everyone's hand goes up. We love to think that we're logical, we're rational. I know, I took law classes, I understand formal logic and hypothetical syllogism, so I get it, but the research on this is really clear. We're very emotional beings. In fact, in January, in the neuroscience world, we used to think there were two kind of synapses in our brain. One was considered either chemical or hormonal and one was considered electrical. Well, guess what? That electrical synapse has a hormonal or chemical trail attached to it, which means literally there are no just pure natural impulses. And what that means to you specifically is that your emotions are data.

Now, I'm not telling you to cry at work. I'm not telling you to yell at work, and you probably have and know people who do, but I am telling you to use the words of your feelings with yourself if not with someone else. And these are the seven that most neuroscientists agree on. And when you can talk about your emotions, you can move them to somewhere else. So if I'm feeling anxiety, if I've accurately decided that I'm feeling anxiety, I'm not going to get to calm. It's not possible, and that's what we tend to do. We try to go from anxiety to calm, but I can go to its emotional cousin. I can go from anxiety to excitement. I could be anxious about this presentation, or I can get excited about doing this presentation, and sharing this information with you, but I'm not going to get calm.

If I'm feeling fear about this report that I've turned in for the first time, or meeting with this client that I've heard that is really terrible, again, I'm not going to get calm, impossible, but I could get into the idea of a thrill, or in awe, really being surprised by something that happens, but not in a negative way.

Same thing with sadness. I'm not going to get happy if I'm feeling disappointed that someone asked me to cover for them again, but I can get to acceptance or appreciation. Same thing, boredom. I'm not going to get to excitement from boredom, not possible, but that one, I could actually get to calm for.

And so knowing your emotions allows you to do this transfer of emotional cousins. Instead of trying to fight your emotion, you can actually ride that wave and go a different direction. It also allows you in this section to do something different, and that thing that you can do differently is describe that emotion more creatively. And the more creatively you can describe that emotion to yourself, I tend to say things like I feel discombobulated or befuddled, and I try not to say it to people because you're going to make fun of me for using these bizarre languages, but when I use that bizarre language, and I describe to myself how I'm feeling, my body is instead of a stress response about that feeling, it's something novel and new. If I say something like I'm feeling, well, even frazzled, it's kind of a silly word, but if I say overwhelm, my body knows what the overwhelm response is.

And so you want to allow yourself to be the dog wagging the tail and not the other way around. You don't want your biology leading you around, and your brain trying to rationalize it. I snapped at you because you were Doing X, Y & Z.

I'm not going to read all of this, but you're going to want to eat and drink probably more than you think. Believe it or not, and this is really germane to legal professionals, the highest rate of guilty sentences and the harshest sentences attached for a judge only trial is right before lunch. Because the judge is hungry, and he or she believes that the grumbling in their tummy is that that person is actually a bad person. And so eat and drink, use that specific emotional language I just talked about, and move your body, which we talked about earlier, or move your location, change the office, work from somewhere, not a coffee shop. That's going to be super distracting.

And then check in with yourself. If you sit down, and I know it sounds silly, but if you actually just say, I'm not feeling right, what do I think is going on? It's going to allow your body to engage that prefrontal cortex and decide if we need to stay in this stress response, in this high level of stress response, or come down from that. That you can change these things means you get to design this, but not just yourself, but for everyone else, and I don't want you to overhaul it, right? Like I said, I'm a little negative. I mentioned that we can thank Pilar and Jack, those are my parents, for that. But if I know that I'm more negative, I'm not going to try to be Pollyanna. I'm not going to not see the risks, and I know that's a double negative, but it is what it is.

Instead, what I'm going to do is find out a way to see that as a challenge to see the way to check in on all those holes. So you're going to want to tweak. Too often when we talk about these strategies, we're pretending to be someone we're not. So if you're a type A person, which you probably are, you may not be a meditator, I'm not going to ask you to meditate. You may, however, be able to do some really challenging yoga. You may be able to run with music. There's certain music that we've done research on that's music as meditation. Usually, it's what you listen to when you are a young person because it has the most positive emotions associated with that. So you can kind of neurohack your body, and I think that's the hardest part about when you decide to do some strategies for resilience or behavioral change, or weight loss, insert anything else, is we don't make full cell changes overnight. It just doesn't stick and it fights who we are.

So what you're looking for is just one small tweak. So same thing, if any one of these strategies sounded like not you, the question is, how can it get close to something that does work for you? And try to be the contagion, anxiety is the most contagious emotion. In fact, they've done research that in rooms when one person is anxious even if you don't know that they're anxious, within three and a half minutes, the entire room will become anxious. Even if you're not close, even if you're not making direct eye contact.

That's true of positive emotions as well. My excitement can be contagious. Some of you after this have found me really annoying, and can't wait to get off, but some of you after this might feel a little bit lighter, because I'm coming in with a certain amount of energy. And so when you are the contagion for that excitement, for that energy, you are going to get more of it back, and ask people to join you.

The other thing you can do if you're really negative person, I call this at least it up. You can highlight at least this didn't happen, right? So I am working some extra hours today. I did take a case from one of my colleagues. At least, it's not the biggest case. It's going to be 10 hours. At least, not 20. When you do those things, it's not just semantics. It really is helping your brain sort out that threat response. That's the challenge. Our brain doesn't know the difference between first world problems and full scale got to save myself now, and that's what really is the challenging part of doing this.

The other thing you're going to want to do, you're going to get these slides, so I'm skipping some of them, and if you have a direct question, please do ask it. If there's an actual challenging situation with a client, I know some of you see clients at the most problematic times of their life, if you're doing mergers and acquisitions, it's very stressful both on the buying and selling side. Like I said, I've coached my clients through this. I don't do the legal part of it. Same thing with divorces. I have some clients where I've seen some of the best people be the worst versions of themselves as we engage with this.

And so [inaudible 00:41:30] is also their ick is put on you regularly. And so there's some strategies to deal with that, and this is one of them where you want to try to make it situational and specific. You don't want to talk about all your clients being challenging. You want to talk about the one client who really is the challenge. You want it to be temporary. This will be just them working on it and you want it to be specific. It doesn't mean you have to excuse them from that behavior. It just means that it's helpful for your brain to process that.

And then each time you engage with that client, you're not going in with that anticipatory challenge. You're actually setting it up to be finite for you and for that client, which allows that to be a little easier for you to anticipate. This is just a reference slide for a way to hack your brain when you're actually talking to yourself and it will feel stilted and it will feel silly, and you will notice after doing it long enough, and long enough is longer than you think. It's 99 days to 18 months to really make neuroplastic change. But you will notice that these words will come out of your mouth and not feel forced in the future if you keep doing it, if you keep picking these word choices.

So this section is if you see this stop, because if you see this, you're really in the thick of those stress responses. You're really in the thick of having some challenges with anti-fragility, having some genuine challenges that can be problematic. So these are signs of emotional depletion. If you've ever seen this, and I'm sure some of you have, some of you are right in it right now.

When I do this workshop in person, when I ask people to raise their hand to pick one, everyone's got their hand raised and you at least get two or three people saying I'm in that. That's what being a busy working professional in the post-COVID world is like, right? We're actually more busy than we've ever been.

I think some people at first during CIVUD felt like they had a break, but now we can work from home, and happens to me too, we can schedule back-to-back. We're not commuting to clients anymore and vice versa. And so you'll get a full 8, 10, 12, 15 hour day back-to-back with meetings where you're barely eating, you're barely drinking, barely having time to take a bio break. We are, in fact, busier and more productive than we've ever been.So if this list is you, then the question is how do we move it forward?

One of the things we're doing that are already sabotaging ourselves is multitasking. It is completely proven that we can't do it. Not only can we not multitask, but even having our phone in front of us is taking at least 10 IQ points away from us because we're focusing on what's going on with our phone. So blocking your calendar is really important. If you can only do small spats of time, and if I'm writing, I need a couple hours, but I do get bored with work, so I sometimes do fifteen-minute increments, and I know with law firms you bill in fifteen-minute increments, but it is really important to do that, to shut your email off. If you have Teams or Jabber, sign out of that. It takes usually about two and a half minutes to genuinely focus on what I want to do for the first time.

So if I decide to write up this workshop, it's going to take me two and a half minutes to set up and get really focused. But if I'm interrupted by myself, by technology, by you, it doesn't take two and a half minutes to get back. It takes 27 minutes to get back to that focus once it's been interrupted for that first time. So it's very important for you to try to control your environment when and how you can.

Now, I'm not saying don't respond to your boss or your colleagues if there is urgency, but if you know that you can sign out of those mechanisms, do that. It's not at all a suggestion. It's not at all that I work better this way. It just is truth that you're losing time every time you have to reset this up.

The other thing is that we're sometimes doing that gets in the way of this is we're using short-term coping mechanisms for long-term stressors. I just mentioned why everyone's so much more busy than they have been before. So we are what would be called in a long-term stress. Same thing if you're in a busy season or a really tough area, these short-term coping mechanisms, they're not your friends anymore. They're not the thing that you're going to want to do. In fact, you're going to want to work on this long-term coping mechanisms.

And the easiest one to do is ask for support. The impulse you would have is to not ask for help, but the research shows two things. One, I love to be the hero, and you do too. And so when you ask someone who's higher above than you or a peer, they're going to, one, be flattered. Two, they're going to be really excited by giving you that help. That doesn't mean don't do your work, but that does mean if you want to ask someone instead of finding the answer yourself, that might be useful. Now, if they've told you two or three times, that's a different story.

But the third thing is they're now more invested in your career because they've helped you. We do this thing called congruence that I like to be pretty consistent. So once I've already helped you, I am dying for you to succeed. So asking for support sometimes saves time, but more than that, it increases your relationship with that person, and it increases your ability likely to go up in the organization. So that's one of the other things to really remember is we do counterintuitive things sometimes for our own success.

The other thing is to stop doing what's not working for you. I don't know what that is at your workplace. I know for me what that as a coach, as a mediator, there are certain things that I can't do [inaudible 00:48:12] really damaging. And so if you think that you're not doing enough at work or at home, you're going to have to commit to both, right? I mentioned the phone research on how it lowers your IQ by 10% if you can see it. There's some other really interesting phone research that says we're not very detail-oriented when we work on our phone, we tend to make more mistakes. We tend to be more susceptible to scams and phishing and everything else, and misreading and misresponding.

The last pictus of that research, which kind of addresses the working on your phone thing, we're not the most effective working on our phone. But the other interesting piece of that research is that when you're working on your phone at home, you're bad at work, plus your family interprets it as being bad at home.

And so there might be some choices that you make, and this is one that I make is I actually just put longer hours in at the office to try to get my unadulterated time at home, and really keep those separate instead of trying to get home earlier, to have half home time and half work time where no one's happy.

You're going to want to stop binging whatever you're binging. And usually that means TikTok, TV shows, movies. That actually is really depleting. For almost everyone, it's a sign that you're overworked and overwhelmed and what it's doing instead of allowing your brain to rest is really amping it up. And so I'm not saying never watch TV and shows, but books are better. Also, music is better. Those are the things that you can do. White noise is great because it allows your brain to still hear some stimulus, but settle it because we're trying to continue to ride that epinephrine high, which is one of those things from stress. There's literally something called the stress addiction, and it's because that feels good. I don't know if I mentioned, but I was an EMT for a long time, that's how I paid for grad school, and when I'd go on a call, it felt like intoxicating. I could save a life. I could pick up a car, never actually picked up a car, but you feel like that.

And so sometimes in high-stress jobs, which law firms can be, we get a little stress-addicted, and so as we're trying to come down, we're actually increasing that stress at home.

So no binging, no doom-scrolling. I'm sure all of you have seen it. Even doom-scrolling doesn't mean just negative stuff, but I can't tell you how many of my clients report that they've looked up and five hours went by. Not five hours, just kidding. 15 to 50 minutes usually, just lost like that. And if we go back to the beginning, that we have less than a million hours of life, a third of them we spend sleeping, and you're all probably better at math than me, is we're then talking about 660... Well, it's 800 hours to start, so we're talking about like 200,000 hours, which is not a lot, to do anything that's not our work if we're lucky, then we don't want to really spend it on things that aren't fruitful.

Nothing crappy in the first two hours of your day.

Also, not other people's stuff. We tend to have a hard time delegating in the workplace and realizing what's ours and what's others, especially when it's faster for me to do it. I'm just more expert. I'm going to take this away from you. In the long run, that doesn't help you, and I think you know that. So I would just say trying to make sure, with good feedback, don't just tell your lower level associates, "Figure it out," but ask them really good questions.

This is where AI can be helpful. What I've worked with a lot of my clients and younger professionals is helping them find the questions to ask AI to find them the answers, because they might not even know the question to ask, and we can use AI in a good way. I have a whole big rant we're not going to do because we're almost out of time about how AI can be problematic, because people are using it for shortcuts, but there are ways that it can be used as useful where it's saving your time and their time, where they're finding the right research, the right things to get them closer to the answer. And what you get to do is just siphon it down for them instead of working harder.

And then here's some other technological hacks that can really help you lower your stress response. The one in the corner near the mindfulness apps is one called the Apollo Neuro. I do not work for this company, but what we are finding is that it actually wears, it kind of looks like you're on parole, so you might not want to wear it too visibly, but if you put it over an artery, it stimulates your heart rate variability by bringing it down pretty automatically. That's what I said, type A people don't tend to do as well with meditation. They don't tend to do as well with calming down because that energy is excitement that's fueling them. And so what this can do with pretty low resistance is pull some of that down pretty quickly for you.

Any questions? If not, we're going to begin closing down the webinar.

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