We might finally have some important pieces to the puzzle of why so many of our best and brightest are flocking to law schools, why associates derailed from the partner track implode, and why plain-vanilla partners feel less than equity partners. It's that according to the American brand of capitalism, professional life is binary: Success or failure. There is no white space between.
In her book "The Queer Art of Failure," Humanities professor at the University of Southern California Judith Halberstam introduces that reality. Her discussion then proceeds to gay culture but her point sticks, just like hot oatmeal on a frigid day.
Halberstam offers as possible that we can make a life for ourselves and even put together some kind of professional satisfaction as failures. An example she provides is from the film "Little Miss Sunshine." The characters are a bunch of screw-ups but they manage to create their own freakish kind of optimism. That's exactly at the core of so many of Charles Dickens' weird characters.
A lawyer who says he's no longer a lawyer is living in his own white space. After losing two jobs practicing law, a marriage, and his mind, he is beyond success and failure. His focus is leveraging his talents, no matter how little or how much money and status those bring in. In May of 2011 I embraced my inner loser and my communications boutique has been blossoming.
Question: Does chasing success mandate failure?