From Lawyer to Novelist, Astronaut, and Secret Agent

Vol. 28 No. 1

By

David Leffler is a member of the New York City law firm Leffler Marcus & McCaffrey LLC, which represents clients in business matters and litigation. Prior to that he was a solo attorney for more than a dozen years.

 

What about me? How many times does a solo attorney ask that question? Not often enough, in my opinion. So this column will be devoted to how solo attorneys can get some fun out of life in some surprising ways that they may never have ever thought of themselves. Fly me to the moon, anyone?

And you there—yes, I mean you, the one who has already decided not to read the rest of this column because it isn’t about the business of your law practice: Trust me, you’re the one who needs this the most, so stick around and read on.

 

From Lawyer to Secret Agent

Ever fantasize about being a secret agent? Well you can learn the skills of a secret agent at the Stiletto Spy School for women (“Where the routine gets shaken and stirred”) or the MI6 Academy for men (sorry, no tag line for the men). Run by the same company, these one-day courses teach real skills used by secret agents: hand-to-hand combat, extreme stunt driving, knife fighting, precision shooting, samurai sword fighting, and survival skills (fashion weapons out of everyday products—this would give high-strung lawyers something to do at the office other than play with paper clips). They also teach you how to play a good game of poker and pool. The women also get courses with names like “Elegance and Sophistication” and “Seduction and Flirtation.” Not to worry, guys, the men get “Scotch Tasting and Fine Cigars” and “Mastering Martini Mixology.”

The company is based on the East Coast but also offers classes in Las Vegas, Nevada, and can hold corporate event classes anywhere in the country. Alana Winter, the founder and president of the company, states, “People often tell me that they take away a lot more from the course than they thought they would. The concepts taught in the course—observation, analysis, focus, intention, commitment to action, and follow-through—apply to everyday life.”

So how about it, ladies and gents: Are you prepared to enter the world of James Bond and Jason Bourne?

 

Become an Author—In a Month

Every November is National Novel Writing Month, billed as “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” by the website NaNoWriMo. That’s right: From November 1 to November 30 you write an entire novel that’s at least 50,000 words long. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. You get assigned to a group in your area, and there are meetings at local restaurants and bars where you can commiserate with each other. You also get your own page on the site where you can post your progress. There is an online forum as well where you can learn tips and strategies, talk about life during the month, learn about resources to assist you in your crazed adventure, and discuss the genre of your book (everything from chick lit to science fiction).

If you don’t quite get why anyone in their right mind would attempt to write an entire novel in one month, here is some of the rationale from the website that might be of help:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

There have been a number of NaNoWriMo authors who have gone on to have their novels published (after a bit of editing and polishing, of course), including a New York Times number-one best seller (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen). You can see a complete list of the novels published in the FAQ section on their website.

So go start that great novel you have always been dreaming of writing. No more excuses. It’ll be done in a month. That’s less time than it takes to get through discovery in most lawsuits, and you’ll have a lot more to show for it!

 

Lawyers in Outer Space

Want to get away from it all? I mean really away from it all? Well, these days you can do just that.

Space tourism is alive and well, and you can order your ticket online.

At Space Adventures you have a choice of zero-gravity flights, which is not going into outer space but in a plane that dives several times to make you feel weightless; suborbital spaceflight; orbital spaceflight; and a lunar mission. Yes, you read that last one correctly, but keep in mind that you don’t get to land on the moon, only fly to the moon in a Soyuz spaceship, orbit the moon as close as 100 kilometers, and then return to Earth. Still, not too shabby. Of course, they don’t give the price tag on the website, probably because they won’t even know what it will be until someone first signs up.

The price of the orbital spaceflight isn’t listed either, but it lasts 16 days and includes a spacewalk. Heck, if I was in a confined space for 16 days, I’d insist on getting out once in a while. It must be quite a view.

The website does give the cost of the zero-gravity flights—a mere $4,950 per person—and the price of the suborbital spaceflight is listed as “starting at $102,000.” What, does it cost more if you want bathroom facilities? At least this price seems in range for normal human beings—just push your retirement back by five to ten years. You fly into space 62 miles above Earth, experience weightlessness, and have a great view of our planet.

So go for it! And send me a few photographs when you get back.

 

Laugh It Up with Yoga

Don’t have to funds to fly to the moon? Here’s an activity that will get you out of your daily routine at no cost. Called “laughter yoga,” it is a new form of relaxation that consists of . . . laughing. That’s it. Laughter yoga clubs are opening at a furious pace—there are currently more than 5,000 clubs in more than 50 countries. The concept was made popular as an exercise routine by an Indian physician named Madan Kataria. There’s a video on his website that will give you a sample of laughter yoga.

There are many claimed health benefits to laughter, which you can easily find on the web. Some of the positive effects are increased oxygen to the body, increased blood flow, and the release of endorphins. I’ll let you sort it out, but I can personally say that I’ve always felt great after a good laugh.

 

Et Cetera

Still wish you had learned to play the piano? Or the guitar? Or French oboe? Music after 50 is a website that will be encouraging to those who feel they are beyond hope of ever learning their dream musical instrument. In addition to recommendations and encouragement, the website features community boards where music is discussed, advice is given, and new friends are made.

Parkour anyone? Parkour is the discipline of moving from one object to another, usually in an urban area, in a way that makes you look like Batman. Walls are scaled, leaps are made from the rooftop of one building to another, and other remarkable feats that seem to defy gravity are performed. You really have to see it to fully understand what it is, so drop the word “parkour” into the search box on youtube.com and you’ll find some of the most amazing videos showing you how it is done. Safe to say, you won’t be thinking about your clients when you are engaging in this activity.

If you have never heard of the TED conference, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to get over to its website and start sampling some of the conference videos, which are awe inspiring, brilliant, and entertaining. TED began in 1984 with a “Technology, Entertainment, Design” conference, and since then it has come to encompass a host of other “ideas worth spreading.” The ticket price for admission to these remarkable two-day conferences on cutting-edge ideas is $6,000.

But now you can be privy to some of the best of TED via its website. Presentations are limited to 18 minutes; that sort of discipline encourages focus and I believe adds to the experience.

What are the topics covered in TED talks? The range of subjects really is too wide to capture here, but a few examples follow:

  • Unique insights about strokes by Jill Bolte Taylor, a medical doctor who specializes in the study of the brain, from her own experience of having a stroke.
  • Steve Jobs on how to live before you die.
  • Dean Kamen previews the prosthetic arm he’s developing at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Wofford College president Ben Dunlap tells the story of Sandor Teszler, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who taught him about passionate living and lifelong learning.

There are hundreds of these talks that you can view on the TED.com website. Make some time to view these and allow them to educate and inspire you.

 

Which One of These?

Secret agent? Author? Space traveler? Laughter yoga master? Musician? You choose, or create your own idea and choose that. But please, do choose. 

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