Friday, December 17, 2010

My Bigest Mistake, and How to Fix It

I thought I would plow through the Simple Dollar's "Out with the Old, in with the New" in order, and #2 is "create a five year sketch."   But it tied in too well with #3 and #4 "figure out your biggest mistake" and "plan how to erase that mistake" to block them out separately.  Because my biggest mistake was giving up my last set of life plans without figuring out where I wanted to go next.

In 2003, I was a shiny new law school graduate, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do: become an associate at a premier law firm in Texas.  That was in the middle of the last recession/depression/economic slowdown, and the market for newly minted lawyers was crap.  Since I couldn't get the associate job right out of law school, I did the next best thing and got a federal clerkship.  I really lucked out and got one in Texas.  It was a two year term, and I figured that would be enough time for the market to pick up and allow me to get the associate job that I wanted.  I wasn't exactly where I wanted to be, but I was on the path.

Clerking was pure misery.  I had waited tables in undergrad, and I thought I hated that.  Clerking was worse.  It was dull, it was monotonous, it required me to keep a set schedule in which I woke up at 7 am every day and  spent eight hours a day catering to the whims of another person.  It was Hell on Earth.  It was pretty much a starting associate position, except the hours were shorter and the pay was worse.  Also, I really liked the judge that I worked for, both as a lawyer and as a human being, and my summer clerkships had already taught me that I could not assume that it would be the same for the partners I might work for.  Life was too short to spend like this, even for the money premier law firm associates made.

So I decided to go to Beijing.  This isn't as weird as it sounds, I had studied Chinese in undergrad and before law school; I wasn't fluent, but I was conversational.  I had always thought I might like to work there.  Unfortunately, Mr. Goat hates China, so he wanted me to be 100% sure that moving to China was what I needed to do before he moved out there with me.  I had a good time, but I decided that it wasn't really for me.  I have a delicate constitution, and I just couldn't hack the pollution; I was sick pretty much continuously.  So in May 2006 I came back to Texas with no real plan for what to do next, and I pretty much did nothing for the next two years.

In March 2008, Mr. Goat got a 100% telecommute job and we moved back to my family's ranch.  I tried ranching full time for a while, and I enjoyed it, but my constitution again got in the way.  In May 2009, I started having some pain in my right hip.  By October 2009, I was pretty much disabled by hip pain and headaches, and it's only been in the last couple of months that I have really started to recover. 

So now we have a full-time manager on the ranch and I am no longer in the work rotation there.  I could work back in, but I am not sure that that is where I would like to be.  I've also got an offer from a friend who works as a broker to mentor me there.  I don't know much about the day to day operations of the job, but she seems to believe that a love for the stock market and complex formulas (which I have) would translate into enjoying what she does.  Also, if I'm going to have children, now is pretty much the time to start.  Or I could give writing for profit a shot, which I have said I was going to do for the last 5 years and have never done (this may be a sign that it ain't gonna happen).

I have a ton of great options to choose from, so what I need to do is decide a direction and start heading toward it.  I just can't seem to make myself decide - some days one thing seems better, some days it's another.  I'm paralyzed by the idea of shutting down so many choices to pursue a path, but what I have now are so many choices that nothing is getting done at all.  I'm beginning to think I should just flip a coin.  But I've decided in the spirit of Out with the Old, in with the New,  that, by the end of January, I'm going to have a five year sketch. 

I'm setting it at the end of January because this is an exercise that will take a lot of thought, time, and prayer for me, and I know that I won't have the mental energy for that for the next two weeks.  But if I don't put a time frame on it, then it's just too easy to push it further and further out on the to do list, and continue to compound the mistake.  Now I have written it out in black and white, with a date, so I have to be accountable to myself for it.

Did anyone else have blocks like mine or problems imagining where they would be in five years?  How did you move past it?


  1. I always thought I knew the general shape of what path I wanted to take but as it turns out, it keeps changing on me.

    It's kind of hard for me to figure out what the next few steps will be, though, from here, so yeah, I'm not sure what my next five year plan is going to be.

  2. I went through a period of not knowing what I want to do when I grew up. I was always itching for a job change and was never really content.

    I'm not sure if I've already said this on your blog, but one of my friends told me that the most talented people often have the hardest time choosing any 1 path. There are many right answers and it's okay trying stuff knowing that you're just learning more about what you "don't" want to do.

    I'm at the point now that it would be pretty hard to return to a 8-5 desk job. I did it last year and I just about went out of my mind. Good Luck. I look forward to learning what your decision will be.