Chapter 25 - Of Greed, Beemers and the Plight of the Worker
I saw another critique which deserves special attention and its own chapter. The reviewer apparently thought I was teaching callousness and obsession with money. I sure hope not! You are encouraged to put all my advice into a proper context. When I saw the critique, I felt I needed to address this because I can certainly see how people can get the wrong impression. Basically, the gist of the critique was: "There are many struggling people out there. Don't forget where you came from. Are you going to be a better person because you suck every dime out of a struggling person so you can drive a Beemer?"
It is a fair enough critique. It means my message was not clear. Money is not everything. This is precisely the reason for this book's focus on only $100k with plenty of time left to do other things that make you feel fulfilled, whether it be charity, more time with the kids, caring for an elderly parent, a mix of those - whatever.
Believe it or not, as a 1-L student in law, my dream was the Beemer and the high life - complete with leaving hard-working Americans behind and rubbing elbows with the elite. Did I have a dream, or what!) I changed over time and became quite well-adjusted to the comfortable life. The high life takes too much effort to chase what I would refer to as "just more money." For me, there comes a point when stress should not have to be over money. It is like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (for you psychology majors out there).
Rather than be a money-grubbing, callous, greedy lawyer, consider just some of my experience and why I chose the strategy I espouse in this book. Life will throw you expected curves that money cannot fix. They are coming in your future. However, the luxury of having time and not being hard-up for money will help you address some of these curve-balls.
For example, try devoting hours during the day, every day for months, in and out of hospitals and nursing homes, trying to keep your elderly mom alive while she is on life support much of the time, and scared to death during the times when she breathes on her own. Had I not made livable money with minimal hours, my mom would be dead. I have been told on more than one occasion by teams of doctors to pick coffins because they did everything they knew to do and it was out of their power. I stayed in there, read up, talked with these docs and spent hours upon hours in the ICU's and nursing homes every day. I was not busy driving a 3-Series (I did not own) and scamming hot chicks on the beach (I never visited). Mom is doing better and still appreciates being alive. She is lucid and loves nothing more than to talk your ear off.
I attribute her beating the odds to two things: (1) vigilance as regards her medical treatment (which took being virtually ever-present so you can get time to direct the care of doctors and nurses), and (2) my constant presence giving her the spirit and will to live. She is still needed, and her work here is not complete. I am grateful for that because I know that one of these days, it will be over and there will be nothing I can do that will ever turn back the hands of time. Even a sick, old person in her waning days has much to teach a person about his own character and what it means to be a good person.
I am proud to have been fortunate enough to be able to do what I have done. The practice of law would never have taught me this kind of introspection. Had I been debt-ridden and a slave to a job or a document review project, I would have had to do what 85% of America does: institutionalize your parent and hope he or she dies quickly and easily so that you can get past your guilt and get on with your future.
For most people, the "middle class" way is never going to allow you to avoid this harsh reality. Your employer does not give a flip about your mom and whether she dies when it comes to getting in the way of your billing 1,500 - 2,000 hours a year. They will extend condolences for a while, but they are empty condolences, and you will be passed-up due to your "lack of performance." Your employer does not care if your kids feel they are unimportant to you because you are too busy to attend their activities and play active roles in their development. To be blunt, your employer only cares about whether you are worth keeping on the payroll.
If you are solo or have your own shingle and have bills and debts to pay, your $30.00 an hour document review and low-to-no-paying clients are not going to let you have the time to deal as adequately as you would desire when life throws those curve-balls. I respect the plight of people who are stuck in this situation, but that is because they are stuck. If they can find a way out, they should. It is not good for the soul to be stuck like this. I am not sure how some readers might get the impression that helping people is not a main ingredient mentioned in this book. Remember all that talk about being competent and diligent? In many cases, incompetent, sluggish attorneys are not helping their clients like they could. You might look back on the cases I shared and see if I helped people or not.
How about that shingle case? I helped a new couple get their first, little starter home fixed up after it was almost totally ruined by defective shingles. I helped that couple after a previous attorney they consulted turned them down and said they did not have a case. I would say that my efforts were a major "life-saver" for them. They had a mortgage and a ruined home. As a young, hard-working couple, life ahead would have been pretty bleak had I not found a way to do a good job and get them the help they needed. There are many such examples throughout my career. Your career, done right, should also include many similar examples, but you should not equate the ability to help people with finding yourself stuck in the plight of the middle class.
Corporate America loves a good worker-schlep. A worker who will put aside the needs of his family members and even let them die - just so he can get his $30 an hour. A worker who would choose a paycheck over the fact that his or her kids really deserve parents who spend more time in their lives. This is what working for corporate America takes. This is, sadly, the life of the masses, and they have to learn to accept it and cope.
Once accustomed to working for peanuts or having to work 50 hour weeks to make $120,000, you have been trained, to your own misfortune, to take this mindset of the "slavish worker" into your private practice and all through the rest of your life. All I can say is, "I feel the plight of that person."
I wrote this book because I care about people and their struggles. I do not like what the corporatization of this country has done to the American soul. Nobody should ever invite people into misery by enticing them to believe that stories of the worker's plight are "patriotic, heart- warming, demonstrate good character, etc." Corporate America has perverted what it means to have character. Just look at the way people have to neglect freedom and full-bodied lives in allegiance to the almighty dollar. How heart-warming is it to skip the vast majority of your son's or daughter's school plays, sporting events, etc. because "you're a good, patriotic worker who knows what tough times are like?" Somebody has to break the mold of the worker's plight. Start with yourself and pass it on to your kids and to those whom you love and care about.
In short, there is nothing at all wrong with making $100,000+ for two to three hours a day. It is what you give in return that counts. It is what you do with the rest of your time that counts. Life can be a struggle for all kinds of reasons. Money does not have to be one of them.
© 2015, Jeff M