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Separating Your Desire For Personal Validation

JW Way Fundamental #9: Leave your ego at the door . At all times, stay focused on serving the needs of our client and our firm, rather than on serving your ego. Remember – it’s about the client and our firm, not you!”

When we urge litigating clients to seriously consider a settlement offer, we usually remind them of one thing: the uncertainty of trial. We can rarely predict with any degree of certainty how a judge will rule. We know what might happen, and we know what should happen, but we can’t guarantee what will happen. And if we aren’t reliable oracles who can predict how any given litigation will turn out, conflating our self-worth with those unpredictable outcomes is a recipe for disaster. But that’s what the ego wants. The ego wants you to perceive every win as a confirmation of your skills. By the same token, each inevitable loss is an invitation to dwell on your inadequacy, or contrive reasons as to why the unfavorable outcome wasn’t your fault. The reminder to leave your ego at the door is a gentle way to redirect how you perceive your role in solving clients’ problems, and how you process results that are not entirely within your control.

In the context of our profession, there are at least three benefits to being aware of how your ego may be influencing your decisions. One pitfall associated with an ego-driven approach is that the determination to prove you are ‘right’ can cause you to disregard important considerations, such as the cost to the client. Second, being preoccupied with proving you are right, or winning, can perpetuate tunnel vision that may prevent you from sufficiently appreciating the weaknesses in your position. The third benefit of considering whether your ego is influencing your decisions is that you may be wrong. As Kathryn Schulz explains in her TED Talk “On Being Wrong,” while discovering that you are wrong may be embarrassing and upsetting, being wrong feels exactly like being right.

Leaving your ego at the door means separating your desire for personal validation from your cases, and doing so without sacrificing your commitment to performing quality work and delivering exceptional customer service. Instead of being motivated by winning or proving you are right, strive to approach your job with the objective of solving the problem within the confines of the client’s goals and financial means.

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