October 01, 2019 The BLT (Balanced Life Theory)

A Season of Change

Cedric Ashley
How can one fill a predecessor's shoes?

How can one fill a predecessor's shoes?

The season of fall is upon us. Autumn is associated with change and new beginnings. A new school year, the fall harvest, and the dynamic color change in foliage all demarcate a period of transition. GPSolo magazine is also in a period of transition. You are reading the first issue of GPSolo as an electronic-only distributed magazine. That’s right. Starting with this edition, a printed copy will no longer be mailed to you. As with all transitions, this will take some getting used to. Although you should not go through the five stages of grief and loss, you will undoubtedly experience some angst. Some of you early tech adopters (or Millennials) might joyfully exclaim, “What took you so long?!” Some of you late tech adopters (or Boomers) might have taken a few days or weeks before you even opened and explored this edition. All the while, you might be muttering that you don’t like this, this is inconvenient, or you might even be pulling out your rotary desk phone to place a long-distance call to area code 312. Some of you middle tech adopters (and Gen Xers) might find yourself where you always are—in between. We are squeezed between generations and are the generation that started our lives in a paper-and-pen world and are now adapting to a digital world. We have books on our tablets and books on our shelves.

Regardless of category, you cannot defy the laws of gravity or the power of tech. I am not serving as an apologist or persuader, but reality suggests digital just makes a lot of sense. I haven’t purchased a print New York Times newspaper in many years. But recently I purchased a digital subscription—and I love it. Although GPSolo is not the forerunner in the transition to digital, there are a lot of good reasons for it. Through this transition we are becoming better ecological stewards—no paper, no ink, and no transportation methods (planes, trucks, vans, local postal vehicles) that emit gases that further enlarge our collective carbon footprint. For those who still desire that tangible feel of paper, you have the option of printing all or select pages of the downloadable PDF version of the digital magazine to read fireside at your leisure. GPSolo magazine is now also available to read as a downloadable EPUB file designed especially for smartphones, as well as the online version available on the ABA website and via the e-newsletter sent directly to your e-mail in-box. All the various digital formats can be accessed at ambar.org/gpsolomag. Personally, I look forward to seeing how this digital magazine serves as just the beginning platform to digitally communicate with our audience.

The next change you should notice is the authorship of this column. Transition has also come at the editorial helm of GPSolo magazine. Jeffrey Allen is now the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, and I have been appointed to the role of Editor-in-Chief.

Jeff: On behalf of the entire Editorial Board, I thank you for your time as Editor-in-Chief. You are a tremendous leader, coach, and mentor to so many. I look forward to continuing to serve with you in our new roles.

The best way to serve after someone like Jeff is by not trying to fill their shoes. If I try, I will fail. They are not my shoes; they are his shoes worn to the contours of his feet that support the totality of who he is. I have to wear my own shoes, shoes that are form fitted for me. However, my feet will continue along the path that Jeff has laid. It’s a path to ensure GPSolo continues to be an award-winning, quality publication that provides timely and relevant content. Quite honestly, neither Jeff nor I are the MVPs of the team. There are more than two dozen volunteers and several professional staff members who contribute to making GPSolo the success that it is. Please join me in thanking this wonderful team!

As I take the helm as Editor-in-Chief, I will also take on the role of authoring the editor’s column. But fret not—Jeff will continue to author his Road Warrior column. Going forward, I intend to focus my column on issues of lawyer well-being, life balance, and meaningfulness. The title of the column is The BLT (Balanced Life Theory). Yes of course BLT is a play on the more common bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. And because I am now talking food, my bistro twist on the BLT would be thick beef bacon, romaine lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes, and herbed mayo on a Portuguese roll. What does this description of my signature BLT have to do with this column? Maybe you thought about your own twist on a BLT, or about your favorite breakfast diner, or maybe about a cooking class that you want to take. In any case, it should have taken you on a journey to the other, non-law domains of life.

The BLT (Balanced Life Theory) will endeavor to speak to your whole life. It suggests that law, the legal profession, and your legal career is but one of many domains of your life. It unequivocally rejects the term “work-life balance.” You embrace that term at your own peril. Maybe I’m a literalist, but that term positions work in competition with life itself. We know if work is a subset of life, then the subset can never equal or exceed the larger set. I also reject the term because it suggests that work is in equipoise with all other aspects of our lives. This is simply not the case. Maybe the workplace use of this term is a clumsy effort to address balancing the “work vs. non-work” components of our lives. That’s understandable, but it still does not grasp the overall issue. Work does not exist in isolation. Whether an employer likes it or not, employees bring their whole selves to work. Whatever is going on in their lives does not cease to be an issue when they break the threshold of the work space.

I am a proponent, evangelist, and promoter of the term “life balance.” Life encompasses varying domains that require different levels of attention at different stages and points of our lives. Family, work, leisure, intrapersonal, social, civic/charitable, physical health, spiritual, romance/intimacy, and interpersonal are just some of the domains of life that will requiring adjusting at different times in our lives. Assuming we view life as a representative eight-slice pie, a married attorney with children may need to give greater attention to work when trying to meet a midday filing deadline (using seven of the eight slices). The remaining slice may have to be reserved to prepare for the board meeting occurring after work. In this scenario, the attorney is tapped out. But thankfully, the kids are in school and the spouse is at work. However, later that day when everyone is home for dinner, the “family domain” may consume all eight slices—with no desired bandwidth for anything else. Later that evening when the kids are in bed, the pie may be divided between work, intrapersonal (me time), and leisure. As the night comes to a close, the spouses may turn off the cell phones, put away the laptops and tablets, and allot all slices to romance/intimacy/interpersonal.

This is what life balance is about. Stop worrying about equal—it doesn’t exist. Focus on being equitable, allotting the slices as needed. Our life domains will require varying levels of attention at differing times. This will require choice and intentionality. You will need to make decisions—sometimes tough ones—about how to allocate the pie. There may be times when work takes all eight slices for days on end. Keep those days in mind when you have an opportunity to fully immerse yourself in those other domains such as family and leisure. In upcoming columns, I hope to provide guidance, insight, and inspiration to help you find that balance and lead a joyous and meaningful life that we are all entitled to live.

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Cedric Ashley, Esq., is a sole practitioner (Ashley Law Firm) in Princeton, New Jersey, concentrating in business, employment, and criminal litigation. Cedric is the Editor-in-Chief of GPSolo magazine and an elected member of the ABA GPSolo Division’s General Council for the 2017–2021 term. In the New Jersey State Bar Association Cedric has served as Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee and the Law Office Management Committee.