“Putting a lot of energy into an activity.”
☝️ That’s the actual meaning of hard work.
And I LOVE it.
According to that definition, I work very hard because I put a fuck ton of energy into what I do.
But y'all tend to be more familiar with a few other definitions of hard work, like… “difficult to bear” and “causing suffering.”
Hard work is NOT the only determinant of success, especially if you’re a woman or a person of color in the United States.
Tune in to this very sweary episode of the FHTH podcast to learn more about my thoughts on the subject.
EPISODE 231 TRANSCRIPTION
Well, welcome everybody. Thanks for the reviews at the podcast. Nobody's written one since I asked, but you've given me some star reviews. So we're up to I think 112 now. I would like to just blast that into the five hundreds. And if you're still up for giving me a review over at Trial Guides, go ahead and do that. I do have another book in me. I'm starting to feel the bug again, so I'm hopefully going to be writing a new book, but I won't do that until we get 500 reviews over there as well. So go and review the book. I know at least 500 of you have read it, at least I'm getting checks that y'all have read it. So anyway, here we are, and we're talking today about how working hard won't get you where you want to go. If there is a holy grail for trial lawyers, hard work is it. Y'all hold this up as the thing that will make you win trial and make you win at life.
I mean, if you ask anybody how they won their last trial, they'll say, "Well, we worked really hard. We out prepared the other side. We outworked the other side." Here's what I want you to understand about this, is that you're told that you can win if you just work hard enough, but you can't. Because the other side is always going to outwork you and outspend you because they can. They will always have more resources and more money. But because you've been told that hard work is what it takes, you are working yourself to death. And you know who that benefits? It benefits the other side. Because when you work yourself to death, you're tired and you're depleted.
And here's the thing, if you take brain science and we talk about the prefrontal cortex around here quite a bit, that's your newest part of your brain, the most rational part of your brain. And the prefrontal cortex only runs well when you are rested and fed and all of the other things. But when you are running yourself ragged, you cannot focus and you start running the other side's case and you're throwing in all of the things just in case. And what ends up happening is, you lose. Now, I'm not saying that we don't need hard work. I'm going to redefine hard work for you in today's podcast, but what I am saying is that hard work isn't what it is all cracked up to be, at least the way y'all are using it. Here's the thing, when you lose, you beat yourself up. And then what's your answer to that? I just need to work harder, which just makes everything worse because you're missing the fucking point.
I mean, let's take a look at having the life you want. Leave winning aside for just a moment. You're also told that having the life you want you can have if you just work hard. And hard work does not give you the life that you want. I mean, outside of the obnoxiousness of this, I mean, all things are not equal. I mean, let's talk about what it's like to be a woman. I mean, grab the popcorn because here we go. Women do one and a half, at least one and a half times the amount of housework that men do, with all things being equal, both of them having full-time jobs. In 2018, there was a global study talking about women in the legal field and if they were reporting being bullied or sexually harassed. One out of two women were bullied at work, one out of three were sexually harassed. And the study said that was woefully underreported. Those two things, being bullied and sexually harassed at work as women lawyers is woefully underreported. So those numbers are probably wrong.
In 2010, I'm reading my notes here. Women first chairing their trials, 8.1%. 8.1% of all trials were first chaired by women. In 2019, nearly 10 years later. Guess what? We'd gone up to a whopping 9.8% of women being first chairs. Of partner positions, 25% of women are partners even though they make up half of all the associates in law firms across the country. Someone just brought to my attention the other day that a very well-known trial consultant in a book of his says that if you are a sexist man, i.e., if you do not view women as your equals, then you should, wait for it, here's the advice, not work with them. Now, I understand where this person was coming from. They were attempting, I guess, to protect women from working with sexist men. But this advice hurts women. I mean, are women just expendable? Is this just throwing the baby out with the sexist water? I mean, why aren't we actually dealing with the actual problem here?
You know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of the Billy Graham rule. Do y'all know about the Billy Graham rule? Don't get me started. Okay, too late. The Billy Graham rule is this rule that he apparently had that he avoided being alone in a room with any woman who was not his wife. This was touted in evangelical circles and even vice president, not current, but before Vice President Mike Pence was saying that this is what he also did. And this was kind of viewed by people as so worthy and so amazing, but on its face it's fucking stupid because what it's saying is your marriage vows only mean something if you have a babysitter around, right?
I mean, Monica Hesse at The Washington Post, I love her quote here. She said, "It's rather like a thief sanctimoniously announcing that he brings a parole officer every time he goes to the bank to make sure he doesn't rob it." Good for you, dude, for knowing your own limitations, but it doesn't make you better than the rest of us, who managed to regularly not steal things even when we're completely alone. I mean, this advice, the Billy Graham rule or just don't work with women if you're a sexist asshole, keeps women out of the room, whether that's a boardroom or a courtroom. And my point is, is that no amount of working hard is going to do shit with that. So all things are not equal. People of color, for example, in the legal profession. 2010, we have 11.4% of people in color. In 2020, 14.1%. If you're Black is even worse, 4.8% in 2011. In 2021, 4.7%, it had gone down.
Law firms historically refused to hire women or people of color. Some of my colleagues and clients who are Black have told me that they've been called boy in an actual courtroom. Or if you're a woman, there isn't a woman lawyer alive today that has not been mistaken for the court reporter. Let's keep going, shall I? I'm talking about how hard work is supposed to solve every fucking thing, which it doesn't. Have you taken a look at the CLEs lately that are happening across the country? Take a look at the speaking circuit. Nearly all of the CLEs being provided to the majority of trial lawyers are all white older men. And do not get me wrong, I love white older men. They happen to be my major demographic. They are my clients and I love my clients. But y'all, this is a problem.
So when we're touting that hard work is all it takes to get ahead in life, in your career, or in trial, it's fucking bullshit, for at least half of the United States being women and then add in all the people of color on top of that, it just doesn't fucking work that way. And because you all keep believing that it does, it's not doing you or your sisters or your people of color any favors. So here's how I want to change the conversation. When I looked up the definition, that you knew I would do because that's what I do, of hard work, what I found was, you know how they have the different types of, the different, it could mean this, it could also mean that. The actual first thing that came up for hard work under the definition was putting a lot of energy into an activity, which I loved. The second one was difficult to bear, causing suffering. Guess which one y'all are all about? Yeah, you're all about the suffering Olympics. Who works hardest? Who works the longest? How many days of vacation did you not take this year?
If we are talking about hard work, which I fully believe in, the type of hard work that I believe in is putting a lot of energy into an activity. If that is how we're defining hard work, which is how we should define hard work, which is how the dictionary defines hard work, then that is the kind of hard work I want y'all to get behind. I know that's how I manage my life. I love my job. I do not spend even 30 hours a week on my job. Yes, you heard me right? I love it, but it is not my entire life. It just isn't, especially after cancer. And so when I'm at work, do I put all of my energy and activity into it? Absolutely. And I think that is very important. Not to mention that overworking is excessive. It actually hurts you.
And I go back to marathon training, which I've done in my life. And in marathon training, I was so surprised when I was training for the marathon, they would give you these schedules and you, of course, kept increasing your mileage every week, but you had at least three days off a week, four days running, three days off, or it could have even been reversed. I don't remember now. But the point is, is that you would fucking hurt yourself if you continued to run. More running was not better, and more work is not always better. In fact, it's often worse. I see so many of you putting in so much work because you keep buying into this. I've got to be a hundred percent prepared, not possible.
Or I have to, hard work, that's what's going to make it happen. Is that you start shoving in so much information into your brain that you can't keep it all straight. You're working so many hours that you're not getting the rest, you're not eating. And so you show up to trial and you are not at your best. And somehow you put in all this "hard work" realm, but you're not actually ready to go and do the work of a trial lawyer. It's excessive. Now, you might say, "Well, it may be excessive, but that's what this job takes." No, it doesn't. How do I know? Because people in the H2H world and the H2H Playground and my mastermind clients are refusing to do it. And not only are they surviving, they are thriving. It took them a minute to recognize that what I was saying was true. But once they did, they're having much happier lives and they are still winning at trial or they've started winning a trial.
See, you insist that you need to do it and you insist it's what's going to make you successful. And again, the reason why is because the people who are successful are telling you that's why, it was because they put in so much hard work. I will give them this. It is possible that they actually believe that. I was just working with one of my clients today and we were talking about perfectionism and they said, "Well, perfectionism is what got me where I am today. And so I'm having a really hard time letting go of it." And I said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute." And they just kind of said it like this thing, this fact that was true. And I said, "Wait a minute. What did you just say? Perfectionism is what got you where you are today?" And they said, "Yes." And I said, "That's impossible." You know how I know that's impossible? Because ain't nobody perfect. So just right there, perfectionism didn't get you where you are today because literally no one is perfect. That's not possible. But our saboteurs make us think that it's possible.
I mean, here's the thing about human beings, is that we have a very, very hard time looking at why something worked or didn't work, right? We don't go in with a lot of curiosity to see if what we're doing actually works. It's like that study on athletes, I think it was on tennis players. I've mentioned this before in the podcast, where they have this perfect swing or maybe it's golfers. They have this perfect swing and they went back and they asked them, "Okay, how do you do this?" And then they were like, "Okay, well, I take my arm back this way and then I follow through." And look at me using all the sportsy words.
And what they did was they actually had them do it and they videotaped it and they had them strapped, all these kind of monitors that measured muscle firing and all the things. And what they found was is that these top-rated athletes had no fucking idea why what they did was working. When they tried to communicate it, they didn't really actually even know. It was more of an internal muscle memory situation that their brain couldn't compute in a way that actually made sense. They could do it, but when they explained what they were doing, that wasn't actually what they were doing.
And this is true too in the legal realm. I find oftentimes that jurors will, in our mock juries, when we ask them, what did you think about this? Or what did you think about that? And they'll say things sometimes that are contrary to what I've told the attorneys is true. And they'll be like, "See, Sari. They really don't like this." Or for example, they designed the lines, "I don't like it when you had us raise our hand that many times," or whatever. And oftentimes I'll say, they don't have the language to describe what it is that's making them uncomfortable. So they will grab whatever is most available. This is called cognitive bias. I mean, not what I just described, this hardworking thing. Meaning cognitive bias is where we've decided something is true. And then we go in and we look for evidence to affirm how right we are.
The same thing is true here. We don't go with curiosity and look at what has actually made people successful or what actually makes us successful or gotten us where we need to go. What we do is we've heard something like, "Oh, it's hard work." And then we go and we just look for evidence of that, which you're going to find coming out a very available place because you guys work so hard. So you go, "Aha. See, that must be it. People are saying that's what made them successful. I'm working super hard. I just must not be working hard enough because apparently, that's the formula for success." Y'all need to stop.
Hard work is not what makes you successful. You know what makes you successful? You. You are what makes the difference. Investing in you, taking vacations, working less, all of the things that you're avoiding doing, because wait for it, you're working so damn hard. But those are the actual things that create success. I know this because my one-on-one clients have gone through transformations time and time again where they've worked less, they've done less, they've trusted more, they've gotten their trials down to under 10 sometimes a year. And they're killing it because they decided once and for all that yes, they were going to work hard in that they were going to go all in and put energy into what mattered, not go all in and suffer. So if you want an amazing life, you will go all in on your dreams. You'll go all in with the jury, you'll do the storytelling and all the things. You'll go all in with your relationships, but don't, no matter what you do, work hard in terms of suffering. That is always optional.
All right, tune in next week. I'm going to be talking about the eight steps to an eight-figure verdict. We'll be talking more about some of the things I talked about today. Talk soon.
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