As I write this from a small café in Kathmandu, preparing to leave for a hike to Everest Base Camp, I can barely hide my smile. While the Nepalese air is a bit polluted from the traffic outside, I still breathe it in with a sense of pride. A few months ago, I decided to take my law firm, Conscious Counsel, online. The impetus for doing this was so that I could continue to grow and build my passion of lawyering for heart-leading businesses, but also live my dream of traveling the world at the same time.
Is there any proposition that seems more paradoxical then ‘lawyer’ and ‘traveller’? In our current paradigm, the answer is no. But, I am working hard to shift stereotypes and redefine roles so that any professional in any position can live their dream life, free of judgment and proud of their contribution to their community. Here is why and how I have made this decision.
’10 Vacation Days’ – How All This Began
Of all my memories from signing my contract to be an Articling Student at Dentons law firm – truly an incredible opportunity – one moment sticks out the strongest. While I should have been relishing in my good fortune to secure such an amazing articling position, my eyes kept coming back to the ‘Vacation’ section of the contract. It clearly stated I would have 10 vacation days for the next year. My heart dropped. I couldn’t believe it. Ten days of freedom over the course of a year? But, I worked so hard to become a lawyer, why should I suffer such restrictions on my freedom? Some may call my reaction ungrateful or entitled, but I want to be a lawyer and live my dream life at the same time - and I am unapologetic for this.
My second law job was at a wonderful boutique law firm, where I still couldn’t grasp the concept that I wasn’t supposed to travel the world and be a lawyer. My boss, who was an excellent mentor, pulled me into his office one day after I’d just returned from a trip to South Africa. “You’ve been to more countries in this past year than anyone I know,” he said. I held my head up high, surprised at these words of praise. “When are you going to focus on your work?” he asked with a tone of genuine concern. I suddenly realized that, as counter intuitive as it may have been to me, travelling the world was not a good thing for lawyers. And, it took me a second to understand that my boss wasn’t giving me a compliment. Clearly, this too wasn’t the right fit.
So, I decided to do things my own way.
Reason #1 – Succeeding Will Prove Anything Is Possible
A lot of people tried to deter me from starting my own law firm. That is when I decided to stop hanging out with anyone who was a fear based thinker and only surrounded myself with supportive people. I took the leap and started the firm. Luckily, it succeeded. The market seemed to respond to having a lawyer who is a real person, can draft documents in normal English, sometimes is barefoot and explains contracts is super basic terms.
Naturally, the next step was to push the boundaries further. So, I took the leap and decided that I would work as a lawyer online (while having an amazing team on the ground) and travel the world for six months. It had always been a dream of mine to get to Everest Base Camp and live in India for 3 months. The time to do it was now.
As I began preparing for the trip, I realized something special. If I can do this, I can do anything. If I can take a business in the legal profession field and build it online while exploring the globe, then I can do anything. And, having the confidence that anything is possible is so incredibly empowering.
Reason # 2 – Others Need To Know This Is Possible
A big part of why I am doing this is to show others it is possible. If I could challenge the stereotypes of a deeply rooted and highly institutionalized profession, then hopefully others can see they can do it, too. If there were moments where I doubted myself or let fear take over, I pushed through by knowing that if I did this, others could see that they can do it for themselves. I’ve explored the notions of ‘permission’ in our society, where people feel like they need permission to do what they really want to do. If I can contribute to that in any way and show people they have permission to live their dream, it would feel amazing.
Reason # 3 - Because I can
There is no time greater than the present. Actually, it is the only thing we can be certain is real. As such, when I looked around and saw that my family and friends were healthy, I knew the time was right to book my trip. Often, we wait for things to be absolutely perfect before doing something that scares us. But, the time will never be perfect for partaking in a challenge which will ultimately lead to serious growth and character development. Ultimately, I knew that I could take this trip and pushed all the excuses to the side. I took this trip because I can. I am doing things my way, because I can. No one stands in the way of me accomplishing what I want to accomplish. Everyone has this similar power.
Reason #4 – It Makes Me Feel Alive
Every night before I go to sleep, I ask myself, ‘If today was your last day, would you be proud of how you spent it?’ There were some years when my answers was consistently ‘No’, but in the past year, the answer has consistently been ‘Yes’. Every day on this trip, the answer has been ‘Yes’.
The key is to find out what matters to you most and what will make you answer each night, while laying in bed, “Yes, I am proud of how I spent this day.” For some it could be making boatloads of money, spending time with their kids or sitting on the floor drinking coffee and reading books. For me, it is going to new places and meeting new people. I don’t judge. All are equally good. I just want everyone to have contentment, success and pride in their lives. Taking my law firm online so that I could travel provided an easy way to feel fulfilled and alive every day, and that is reason enough, in my eyes, to do it.