Pt. 2 of the lesson: Your best is good enough

When I wrote the post Don’t keep your best for good: a lesson hard learnt, I thought ‘Excellent. Good Job. Done.’ …but that’s the thing about the school of life, there’s always a next lesson.

This is how it went… the legal firm I work for placed me on secondment with a client for 2 days per week. The brief was to work my usual [paralegal] document management magic on their system which hadn’t had the sort of attention it required for some time due to gaps in personnel. A meeting between our firm’s client partner, the clients and I clarified the arrangement… so we thought, but even prior to day one, I’d received a series of puzzling emails about which I was assured all would become clear. It did. It was clear there was a huge difference in the expectations of both sides.

On the first day, I was referred to as “half a lawyer”, and it became apparent rather than the usual process of referring legal work to our lawyers, the clients believed having a one-stop-shop legal person on site was going to be a huge cost benefit, to them. Unfortunately for them, I have no legal qualifications, not even half of a law degree. I cannot execute legal documents, file trademarks, negotiate commercial arrangements, or undertake corporate secretarial duties. Once I gently broke this news to the clients, defended my professional capabilities, reassured them I can build a great data room, and the ‘team’ would cover the rest as usual, they stopped communicating with me altogether.

For six long days, I sat at my desk, diligent in my process but cut adrift in their weirdly silent offices… I did mention above there were gaps in personnel, but there were gaps in personalities also. Finally, it dawned on my firm’s client partner, when the ostrich-like clients displayed disinclination to communicate with him as well, to heed my reports indicating things were awry.

Oh. My. God. Relief. The magic words:

“…have elected to terminate the secondment due to a variance in expectations, and timing… mismatch between expectations regarding the scope of assistance that you would be able to provide…the decision was not based on your personal performance and is not a decision that you should take personally in any way.”

I had one [private] ‘washing basket‘ moment, but I recognised the signs the void was beckoning. I reverted to the lessons I’d learnt, and utilised what I knew worked: the tangibles. I laced those joggers and walked every morning. I greeted the sun. I received pats from neighbourhood cats. I smelled the flowers. I talked it over with colleagues, the team and the G.O. who deserves a Listening Medal. Although I was busy with my usual role & projects, and suffering a literal (as well as figurative) ‘frozen shoulder’ from the Icelandic temperatures in the clients’ offices, which prevented me from spending more time at a keyboard than necessary, daily I looked to WordPress for worldwide wisdom & community, and got it, in spades.

I allowed myself a little stress about the discomfort I was feeling but I set boundaries, and analysed the situation.

  • Not of my making
  • Can’t be fixed by me.
  • Not directed at me personally.
  • Stressing will not help.
  • Need to be patient.

The lesson this time was the intangibles. It gave me the opportunity to ask if I had trust in myself, my professional abilities and experience. Did I believe in me? Did I have the faith and courage to tolerate what was essentially a mistake which would in time resolve itself? Did I have the skills to negotiate my way through this delicate state of affairs?

My comments to two WordPress posts by Julie Hansen Intuitive, sum it up.

Interesting timing of this post, but nothing is an accident is it? I’ve been uncomfortable, and a bit peeved & sooky about a change in an aspect of my work. I’m trying to make the best of it and look at it as a growth opportunity, and here is your post to reinforce the message 🙂

Great post, esp. following on from the last. Since your previous post, I’ve been sitting with certain circumstances no amount of positive thinking, or anything I could do would change but which I couldn’t escape, reassuring myself it’s ok to be unhappy with those circumstances… reaffirming my belief in myself, gently doing what I could to maintain my integrity and illuminate those who had the power over the situation, and I’ve come out the other side, situation resolved and feeling strong for how I coped with it 🙂

I must give credit to my Dad. As a kid I did well academically especially, for the most, not so much sports, and at the times I didn’t do so well at school (or in life), but did my best, it was made clear it was enough.

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” Henry Ford

26 thoughts on “Pt. 2 of the lesson: Your best is good enough

  1. If I do my best and things don’t go as I’d hoped, then I always tell myself those things aren’t meant to be, and better things await.

    I always say everything happens for a reason………
    You greeted the sun, smelt the flowers and met the neighbourhood cats, all, a ‘moment in time’ opportunity that would have been missed if you’d been stuck in an office.

    So I wouldn’t look at that job as a missed opportunity, yes, it was a bit of a knock back, but that only goes to make you a stronger person for the future.


  2. A square peg and a round hole. Both are perfect for what they are, just not right together. How much stress could we save ourselves if we just realized that the “fit” isn’t right?


  3. Been there. Just be glad it was quick instead of dragging on miserably for extended period and crushing you with the weight of it all.
    Enjoy those walks and cat pets. There is better preparing itself for you.
    There always is for those who do their best.
    Not just cheery cheers. I’ve found that while I’ve been through numerous odd/horrid/great/ not really a fit jobs, each time something appeared and all of those puzzling experiences seemed have given some skill/knowledge/connection required for the newest situation.
    Meanwhile, just look around and enjoy the things you never had time for.
    It will be OK, Give things a chance to sort and group until ready for you.
    Seriously. It will be OK


    1. Thank you so much. I still have my own job which fits just fine – 5 days a week. My firm was just lending me out for 2 days a week… to help out one of our clients. It was a bit stressful at the time but it gave me the opportunity to test myself, and I was so happy with how I handled it. All is well, and [good] busy 🙂


  4. I love the way you looked at the positive side of things. This is a gift! You are so a ‘glass half full’ person and I really admire you for this.

    On a side note – I was contracted to a government department many years ago and one day someone came up out of the blue and fired me. I was devastated and couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong! I went back the next day to get my things and was told it was a ‘mistake’ because they meant to fire the person who was sitting next to me and they got the desk numbers mixed up. I grabbed my things and walked out and never went back (even though my agency told me they wanted me back because I was half way through an important project). I got another job immediately which lead to the position I have now and I wouldn’t give that up for the world! It just goes to show things always happen for a reason 😀


    1. Thank you – what an incredible story. I cannot imagine how you would have felt… I don’t know what life would be like to be as a ‘glass half empty’ person… I still have my own job, I was just ‘on loan’ to the other company to get things in order… but it would take super powers I think to accomplish that!


  5. Whenever someone tells me s/he’s been sacked, I say “first time?” and they usually say “yeah” and then I say, “whew, then you’ve got that out of the way!” Because NO ONE makes it all the way thru life w/o getting fired/made redundant/outsourced or otherwise professionally not reinvited to the party. It’s part of the human experience and it brings it own lessons that come in this particular package. You’ve articulated them so well, EllaDee. Of course, if I say “first time?” and s/he says, “no, this is about the 5th time I’ve been fired,” well, then, that’s different. 🙂


    1. Thank you Liana for the comment… I’ve been over to your blog, and am fascinated… Anyway, your observation about being sacked is very astute. Luckily I wasn’t, and haven’t ever [yet] been sacked. The company I work for just thought they’d lend me to a client for a couple of days a week to perform a particular task but the client misconstrued the nature of the work… misunderstanding is all, but gave me the opportunity to test how strong my self belief is 🙂


      1. YUP…I was just waxing philosophical on the subject…riffing on the theme as inspired by your words. If I were you, I’d categorize this sitch as “sacked” so you can tick that off the list of required human experiences…see if you can get away with it! 🙂


  6. I can’t believe that company really thought that they were going to be lucky enough to get a personal legal slave for a much reduced price. Hopeless! I get the feeling that their ‘gaps in personnel’ were previously filled by others being taken advantage of too!
    Lucky to be out of that one, I think 😀


    1. Thank you- you’ve summed it up perfectly. It was quite surreal. I think it was one of the oddest corporate environments I’ve experienced (there’s a few contenders). At one stage I described their functionality (or lack of) to my team back at the officeI as “like a solar system, everyone on different orbits”…


  7. You were right, I had missed this. But due to erratic WordPress not my summer hours. Always gotta blame someone else right?

    It was a good read. But really what I took out of it was, firm gets a favour from yours with a secondment (so ok they presumably paid your salary), and thought it would save them money by not having to use your firm? Uh?

    Did they not have any concept of learning from you and your experience to improve their own internal systems and take a different look at their working environment? Well and all the rest of the jargon 😀


    1. You got it. They didn’t get the concept of what we were offering at all, they were just focused on papering over gaps and getting ‘value’ legal services… I still find it hard to believe how naive their senior people are. Also, it reminded me of your job interview post where the goal posts changed.


  8. You were absolutely right, honest then honestly preplexed by their lack of sophistication . When i was a dean I would say to a colleague, is this your monkey? meaning do you own this problem. They would think then say no or yes. If it is yes, then you have the power to fix it, if it is no, then you do not have that power, it is not yours, brush that monkey off your shoulders, it is not your problem, get on with the next one! What an absolutely painful few days that must have been.. thank god that this was not your monkey and you could leave after your part w as over! Phew! Imagine working there full time! well done and good post too! c ps don’t you love those washing basket moments..!


    1. Thank you – lack of sophistication is the perfect description, and I’m not overly fond of monkeys so I’d be very reluctant to take ownership of one unless I had to 😉 I knew I was about to have a washing basket moment as I shut the door when I got home, but took solace in the community of washing basket moments 🙂


  9. It’s amazing how bad upper management is at communicating. Then the doers are left in a very uncomfortable position. Not your fault at all. Nor a reflection of your abilities. It does reflect on the client and your bosses. Your bosses failed to properly manage expectations and the clients failed to properly communicate what they expected. And lovely you got caught between them. Luckily you were smart and courageous enough to explain your position and not get bullied into work you were never supposed to do. 🙂 You’re awesome.


    1. Thank you, I felt awesome once I got over the trauma! I think we all did our best. The client partner & I both checked the clients understanding but obviously we missed asking THE right question. Given a learning curve I could have undertaken the work but would still have had to run it by my legally qualified colleagues.


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