Ten months ago, I opened the metaphorical doors of my new law practice. I had spent the previous thirteen months working in the Texas Attorney General’s office in downtown Dallas. Although I loved the work, I was working for an incompetent, lazy, vindictive boss who did everything she could to make herself look better at others’ expense. And I was driving about two and a half hours every day to do it. I was unhappy and tired and everyone around me could tell. After applying for a number of other jobs I knew would not be perfect fits, turning down the offers I got, and a lot of thought and prayer, I decided that the best thing for me to do was to work for myself. I had my family’s support, both financial and moral, I had the will, and so I took the leap.
It’s everyone’s dream, right? To set your own hours, to be your own boss and not have to answer to anyone, to make your own decisions. In the past ten months I have done all of those things. And in a lot of ways it has been a dream. I have loved being able to take time to prioritize the important things like spending time with my wife in the couple of weeks after we found out about the loss of our first pregnancy, or seeing both of our families around Christmas. I have loved working from home on days when someone needed to do housework and Kristina was too tired or busy with her own job. I have loved not having to deal with office politics and frustrating supervisors. I have loved getting to decide for myself how to operate and what is most important in the way that I do business.
But as much as I have loved the freedom that working for myself has given me, it has brought a lot of pressure as well. My wife and I have made choices since we’ve been married that are based on being a two-income family. The house we bought, the car we bought, all of these things are based on having both of our incomes. Take one away, and we will be looking for a different place to live. So when I went out on my own, it was important that I end up making money. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a family that supports me and loaned me the capital I needed to get going and to bridge the gap between my previous salary and the reality of profits in the first year of a law practice. And so, for the first seven months, I worked hard, grew my practice, slowly but steadily, and was able to do so pretty much stress-free, knowing that I had a bit of a safety net each month. I hit my breakeven sooner than I expected, made my first monthly profit sooner than I expected, and was hitting or exceeding my revenue goals every month. Things seemed to be going really well.
Then, in May I realized that I had plateaued a bit in terms of client growth. I was gaining about the same number of new clients each month, bringing in about the same amount of revenue each month, and I knew it was not enough. So I started doing more, trying to reach out to more clients, updating my website, whatever I could do to grow the business and in June, I was still on that plateau. By this point, Kristina was well into the second trimester of her pregnancy with Greyson and I knew that my safety net would soon be gone, right around the time that we added another mouth to feed to our family. Talk about pressure. Suddenly, I was looking for jobs again. Not because I needed freedom, but because I needed to not be anxious. I wanted stability; I wanted predictability. I even considered returning to my old job (my former boss had been fired), the one I had to drive two and a half hours for, the one where my boss was able to completely wear down the entire office because the powers that be would not or could not act.
I had stopped focusing on the freedom and started focusing on anxiety. Every time I would take a day off or work from home to do chores, all I could think about was that if I had time to do those things, I must not have enough clients; I must not be working hard enough. Every business decision I made became wracked with fear and every day I was spending more and more time thinking about whether I would be able to pay myself enough to carry my weight in providing for my family.
So when I was approached by someone I trust and respect about the possibility of me joining a law firm, I was ecstatic. I started talking myself into believing that it was a great fit for me, that it would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about money, and that I would still be happy in the job. And all of that before even learning any of the specifics of the job. I eagerly awaited my first meeting with attorneys at the firm, fully expecting the meeting to be a huge success and to confirm everything I had already convinced myself to believe. As the days turned to weeks though, I had to get back to work. I couldn’t simply stop trying to grow my own practice while waiting on this firm to schedule a meeting. In July, I had the best month, by far, in terms of new clients and revenue. I had increased my caseload to its largest size, and almost doubled my previous record high in revenue. I also finally heard back from the law firm and finally got a meeting scheduled.
Just a few days before that meeting at the end of July, a potential new client came into my office. He had found me online and decided to come meet me to check me out. He wanted to learn more about me before deciding whether or not to trust me as his attorney. So we chatted and I told him some of my story, including how and why I had decided to start my own practice. He was impressed and told me that his goal had always been to have his own business and work for himself by the time he was 30. He didn’t manage to achieve that goal by 30, but he did eventually get there and he has never looked back. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “my advice to you is to stick with it.”
After that meeting, I thought, is God trying to tell me something about this law firm? And then, as we so often do with God, I dismissed it as a coincidence. He was just a well-meaning potential client who didn’t really know enough about my life to give me any solid advice. After all, I needed stability; I needed predictability. That Thursday, I went to meet with the attorneys from the firm and suffice it to say God doesn’t give up if you don’t listen to Him the first time. I came away from that meeting realizing that nothing I had convinced myself to believe was actually true. Sure, the firm offered a tad more stability because it is an established firm, but my pay would still be based on the amount of work I could do and that is really not all that different from what it is now. And I would be giving up so much. The freedom and flexibility that I have now would be gone.
When Greyson arrives in October, I want to be able to be there. To see his firsts and to support Kristina as we figure out this whole parenting thing. I want to be able to work from home when Kristina just needs a break, or to come home early to surprise them with extra time together. I love my job, but I love my family more and I want to be able to prioritize my life that way.
Stability and predictability seem like good things, but God actually calls us to give up predictability. In Matthew 6:33-34 Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” What an incredible encouragement. God is actually telling us not to make predictability our goal, but instead to focus on Him and His plan for our lives. You see, I thought that my choices were predictability or freedom and that getting one meant giving up the other. But my real choice is to either try to figure out my life on my own, or to live in the freedom of following God’s plan for my life, even though I almost never know where that will take me beyond today. And although it is scary, and uncomfortable, and hard, there is so much joy and peace in knowing that God is ordering my steps. That is true freedom and it is wonderful.