New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Discipline is hard. People yield to temptations. Resolving in abstractions—get fit, watch less TV, be a better person, etc.—is a terrible idea.
Changing specific habits, by contrast, can work. (Interestingly, evidence of habit or routine practice is usually admissible in courts to prove that a person has acted in conformity therewith.1 This is not true of character evidence and traits.2 There’s always a sense in which habit is more concrete than character.)
But even that is tricky. Most of us are aware of our shortcomings and flaws before we decide to change them. Where did they come from? Why did they persist for so long?
This is why I make plans instead of resolutions. My flaws are probably with me for good. I’m too argumentative. I’m horrible at staying in touch with old friends. There are plenty more. For the most part, though, I already behave like I want to. Being fit is important to me, so I’m fit. Eating clean is important to me, so I do. Work-family harmony is important to me, so I try to attain it. But I haven’t yet achieved much of what I want to achieve… not even close.
Whether one should publicly share his plans is an open question. Patri suggests this can be counterproductive. Others agree. Then again, Wiseman found that public accountability helps, which is the standard intuition. We’ll call it a wash. Since my bias is to share, here are some of my plans for 2013:
- Keep working on my startup and do what I can to make it a great business.
- Take a certain side project of mine from concept to fruition. Details forthcoming. But it will basically consume all free time until sometime in Q2.
- Follow Balaji’s CS184: Startup Engineering MOOC and learn some of these engineering skills. (Judicata is sponsoring a prize for best law app.)
- Run a sub 5-minute mile. (I’d guess that I’m around 5:30 right now.)
- Do a sub 4-minute Fran. (My PR is 4:30. Here is what Fran looks like in 2:29).
I hope everybody reading has a great year. Go and do awesome things!
I am grateful for what I am & have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite — only a sense of existence….O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.
-Henry David Thoreau, letter to Harrison Gray Blake, 1856.
Also worth a glance: the WSJ’s annual chronicle of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton.
Back in January, I declined my offer to work at a prominent law firm that pays first-year associates $160,000 per year. Instead, I decided to co-found a legal technology company called Amicus Labs.
There are 3 primary reasons why choosing a startup over law firm was the right choice (and, frankly, a pretty easy choice) for me:
- Practicing law is safe and probably fairly lucrative. But my team and I expect our venture to prove even more lucrative.
- I can more efficiently and enjoyably spend my time outside of BigLaw.
- Someday I will be old. I want to look back and know that I did really big things.
In this post I will briefly expand a bit on each of these points. If nothing else, hopefully this will be of interest to law students or prospective law students who are interested in entrepreneurship.
1. Expected Futures versus Chosen Futures
A. BigLaw and Predictable Riches
Students at elite law schools tend to be very risk averse. After graduation, almost everybody follows the BigLaw path—i.e., they go work for large law firms that pay really well. As Nassim Taleb would say, this path is expectation rich. The expected variance is pretty low. If all goes perfectly, you will become a partner at a prestigious firm and make one or two million dollars per year. Maybe a select few will even become Senators or judges.
The problem with BigLaw associates counting on such a rosy future is that it probably won’t happen. Not everyone can make partner. Attrition is fierce. People often find it draining, and escape as soon as their law school debt is paid off. Those who do want to stay around for the big money are often forced out regardless. But, financially at least, the worst outcome is still pretty good. Maybe you don’t make partner anywhere and maybe your work sucks. But you’ll be well trained, and as a Yale/Harvard/Stanford-educated lawyer, you’ll have an easy enough time making a good living.
B. Non BigLaw Lawyering – Higher Highs, Lower Lows
The range of possible outcomes is a bit higher for the minority of students that goes into public interest lawyering. In economic terms, the worst outcome (forever making $40,000 while trying to “fight the good fight” while trying to stay on top any of various loan forgiveness programs) can be pretty brutal. Then again, top law students who choose low-paid PI work rarely do so out of necessity. Maybe once we factor in the nonmonetary motivations that are clearly at play, the opportunity cost isn’t as high as it first appears.