The Dangers of Yes

Finding the right work/life balance is difficult.  For the third year in a row, September kicked off soccer season in my house.  In the fall, I am affectionately known as “Coach Daddy” in my house.  This year, I assumed the role of head coach for a 2nd grade team and a Pre-K team.  My coaching strategy is consistency.  I deliver the same message to each practice and every game: “Kick the ball that way” while pointing to what I believe is the correct goal.  I don’t know what constitutes offsides.  I don’t know soccer positions except for goalie.  (As an aside, this knowledge is useless because we don’t use a goalie in my kids’ league.  I’m told that’s what they do in European youth soccer.)  I played soccer exactly one season growing up and my only memories from that season are, in no particular order (1) a bee sting to the neck hurts, (2) a well-placed soccer ball to the face will break your glasses, and (3) we won the last place trophy award.  I have no idea what I am doing.  And that is reflected by the score that we aren’t supposed to keep, but always do.  My kids’ soccer abilities already exceed my soccer knowledge base.  And at some point, I won’t be asked to coach anymore.  But, until then, I will continue to tell them “Yes.”

Every time we say “yes” to something, we say “no” to something else.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day.  When I committed to coach two youth soccer teams, I said no to Thursday night football.  I said no to scheduling hearings or conference calls that would prevent me from getting to the soccer field Thursday night by 5:15 p.m.  Although probably unique to me, it also means that if I have a Thursday or Friday deadline, I can’t wait until Thursday night to start working on it.  I said no to some procrastination.

As lawyers, we are often viewed as leaders in our community.  We are asked to attend luncheons, join service organizations, serve on boards of non-profit organizations, network with other professionals, attend happy hours, give free legal advice to distant relatives, etc.  The list goes on and on and on.  All may be worthwhile endeavors.  Before you say yes, consider what you will have to say no to.  Family, church, work, exercise, community, hobbies.  There are countless articles about achieving a work/life balance and about the benefits of exercise for a busy professional.  It is important that you find the right balance.  If you start saying “yes” to too many things, you may be forced to say “no” to something that you are passionate about.  You may have to give up an annual trip hiking in the Colorado mountains.  You may find yourself missing a birthday party.  You may miss out on story time with your kids because your meeting runs late every week.  You may find yourself saying no to another opportunity that presents itself down the road because you simply don’t have the time.  Before you say yes, make an honest assessment of whether you have the time to fulfill the obligation and, if you say yes, whether you will have to say no to something else that you truly care about.  If either of those questions cause you concern, a polite “I can’t commit at this time” may be the best answer.

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