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Knowing and transcending our demons without being consumed by them

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 Live and Let Die – A lesson in never giving up and never giving in.

One of the first things that struck me when I first heard the great trial lawyer and my later teacher Gerry Spence in 1988 and interacted with him several times when he daily was at the one-month 1995 Trial Lawyers College, was how he freely and fully bares his entire self: his soul, goals, dreams, fears, trials, tribulations and successes. It is by being fully in touch with all aspects of ourselves that we can move forward to succeeding for ourselves and others. Otherwise, we remain stuck in the past, with the past consuming our present.

Nevertheless, when I first heard Gerry speak of his fears, for instance fear of failure that led him to do well in law school or the bar exam, I thought I heard dissonance between his extraordinary courtroom and financial success and fame on the one hand, and his admission of his weaknesses and fears on the other.

Gerry had his demons, and may still have some or plenty. His mother committed suicide when he was young. He became an alcoholic. His first marriage, with children, failed. Decades ago, he met his second and current wife Imaging, and together they clicked, and have kept clicking ever since. The power of love is a big focus at the Trial Lawyers College, and of course not only there, and Gerry and Imaging clearly mutually benefit from that power.

If we have weaknesses, they will not simply go away by ignoring them. Certainly, one can at once be optimistic and think and proceed big while also recognizing the need to address weaknesses along the way. Having weaknesses — and all of us have them — does not mean that we should think of gloom and doom, but that instead we should see weaknesses as points to work on and transcend. In working on ourselves, it is important to not get bogged down by those who merely wallow in their demons and misery.

Steve Jobs had his very real weaknesses, and dreamed and proceeded big at the same time. He apparently refused to reconcile with his birth father. He apparently had quite a temper. Perhaps his head looked to some to be in the clouds too much. He relentlessly pursued and succeeded with his dreams.

Everything needs balance. When people visit their demons in order to transcend them, they risk getting consumed by them. We can visit our demons with a good balance of sensitivity and strength so that we not let our strength be sapped in the process.

Recently I for the first time re-watched the mid-1970’s Live and Let Die during a long plane flight, and was blown away by the scene where James Bond is almost certainly going to become a meal of a bunch of hungry alligators, until he realizes that his only chance of escape is to use their backs as stepping stones to reach the shore.

Yes, Live and Let Die is but fiction, but that alligator scene is a reminder for us always to find stepping stones in even the most adverse-seeming situation.

Applying all this to my work, a lot of proverbial feces gets flung in the courthouse. It can be tempting to yell and curse at the feces and its stink, but doing so gets the yeller and his or her client nowhere, and can cause the yeller to look like a fool. The feces are there. My only choices with the feces are to deflect or avoid it, to clip my nostrils shut, to deal with the people and forces that are causing the feces to be projectiles, and to eliminate the proverbial cow or other animal that produced the feces in the first place, but there is no option to drown in the feces.