Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Go ahead, write that letter to the editor!

I am a graduate of Valencia High School, a reasonably ordinary high school in Placentia, California. This is the northern part of Orange County, the more diverse and less affluent section that is never seen on shows like "The O.C." Until recently, we had no famous grads. Now we have one and a half. Michael Chang, the tennis player, attended for a couple of years before getting his G.E.D. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez is also a graduate. And then there's me!

My sister, Jocelyn, who is also a lawyer, graduated from VHS as well. She lives in Henderson, Nevada which is just outside of Las Vegas and, until recently, was America's fastest growing city. Check out her brilliant letter to the editor of her local paper, in response to a vicious editorial against Hillary Clinton.

Not everyone can write an intelligent, punchy letter to the editor. So if there's a topic that you feel passionate about, go for it.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

People and their iss-shoes

Despite my generally loving and accepting nature, there are a couple of ways in which I discipline my coaching clients:

-- I don't let clients use the phrase "don't get me started..." To me this phrase (usually preceded by a dramatic sigh) suggests someone who spends a lot of a lot of time living in and talking about their problems rather than moving out of them. (If I'm speaking with someone in a thinking-about-coaching call and they use that phrase, I gently lead them away from me. Not a scene I want to get into.)

-- I don't let clients talk about their "issues," as in the phrase, "Well, my issue with that is . . ." and "One of my issues is . . ."

Why am I such a hard-ass with this phrase? I think it's because I believe the process of analyzing and listing one's issues encourages a type of preciousness that is not conducive to moving forward in life or to being particularly useful to the world.

Once someone has defined and catalogued their set of issues, said issues seem to become part of their self-concept. They start drawing a sense of personal distinctiveness from their problems, as opposed to their positive qualities. I sometimes call this "The Princess and the Pea Syndrome." You know, you're special because if there is just one pea underneath twenty mattresses you'll wake up black and blue. Since you have royal blood. In other words, the sign of your specialness is that you have unique needs, pains and sensitivities.

This is just not true. Negative stuff does not make you special. Your talents and hopes make you special. Your iss-shoes do not.

Okay, all that notwithstanding, I recently did a fun interview with the American Bar Association e-letter about some common lawyer iss-shoes. Check out the cool graphic, too.

(Speaking of iss-shoes, I have an issue with nonstandard use of grammar. It really bugs me and I don't hesitate to correct people. Today I am violating my own policies -- I am aware that in my preceding paragraphs I used "they" as a singular pronoun rather than he or she. For today only, I'm giving up that battle.)