This inaugural blog post has taken me over two years to complete. It’s been started, stopped, scrapped, started again, re-written, stopped… you get the picture. Writing is something which I used to love, then I started my business and the thought that my words were going to be read by others, meant, in my mind, that they had to be amazing and could be nothing short of perfect and so I procrastinated and went into a state of writing-paralysis. There’s nothing more ‘perfect’ than a clean sheet of paper or a clear screen, right?
Being in business for two years has taught me a lot, about myself, about others and about life. Most importantly I’ve learned that if you wait for something to be perfect before putting it out into the world, you’ll never put it out there. Arguably what’s more important than perfection is being yourself, being authentic and speaking your truth. You can never please everyone, and if you try, you will reach no-one.
When I was a little, I wanted to be a hairdresser, have my own salon and have long flowing red hair just like the ‘Little Mermaid’. I couldn’t think of anything more exciting than running my own little shop and solving people’s ‘hair-catastrophes’.
Fast forward a few years (or a few more than a few) and I’m a lawyer, running my own practice (with a head of far from ‘Disney Princess’ worthy hair). It might seem that my current work life resembles nothing of ‘Little Aly’s’ hair salon dreams, but when we dive deeper into the basics of what ‘Little Aly’ actually wanted… be in the business of helping people… that’s exactly what I’m doing… just sans the scissors, hairspray and amazing red hair.
In the early part of my career I did the ‘big law’ thing, tried inhouse, worked at a suburban firm and even worked for a not-for profit. But the long hours, constant billing pressures, competitive environment and the lack of control I felt had over my life led to burn out.
Health, wellness and my relationships are important to me. I am passionate about environmental and social issues. I love to work collaboratively and as part of team. I crave the outdoors, the sunshine and being in nature. Working in the traditional firm environment, in the concrete jungle, in an office with little natural light for hours and hours and feeling like I was in constant competition with my colleagues left no time and space for the most important parts of my personality. I felt like I was wearing a mask which was slowly suffocating me.
After spending time in South America in my late twenties, I woke up to myself. Seeing how differently the people, especially in the rural areas lived – in very basic housing, with little in the way of personal possessions or financial wealth – yet were so happy, generous and connected to their communities, changed something in me.
Now, while I didn’t sell all my possessions and move to a commune when I returned to Australia, I did reassess many aspects of my life and spent time really considering what I personally needed to be happy.
It took several more years and a few job moves, but in late 2017 I went into business for myself and launched my own practice. This was one of the most terrifying and confronting things I had ever done and all of my personal fears and insecurities came bubbling to the surface. When you go into business for yourself there is nowhere to hide. Everything stops with you. You either look your fears in the face and stand firm, or you unsuccessfully try and avoid them.
I’m 2 years in now, and it’s been a big few years of growth and learning, on many different levels. Importantly, the flexibility of having my own business has allowed me to practice law in a way which is authentic to me. I’m not bound by billable targets so I can spend time building relationships, creating a tribe and exploring different ways of working. I have been fortunate enough to meet many other likeminded business owners, many of whom have become my friends, who challenge me to think creatively and bring my best self to my work every day. At this stage, I have made a conscious decision to run a lean practice so I can offer pro-bono and discounted services to charities, start-ups and people in need. I’m not limited by office hours so can offer clients a flexible service while still prioritising self-care when needed which has made me a more efficient and effective advocate.
For the first time in many years, perhaps for the first time in my career, I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing, and I’m working in a manner which is congruent to my values and enriching for my personality and while I haven’t quite got to the point of wanting to die my hair bright red yet, I am able to be myself.
Do you have a story of how you left a job, situation or relationship where you felt stuck in a quest for something greater? If so, we’d love to hear about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.