Mindfulness 101: Football and Mindfulness for Lawyers

Vol. 7, No. 3

Melanie Bragg has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Houston’s fiercest attorneys in her representation of children, the elderly, and mentally disadvantaged people. Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas. She also writes and produces legal education programs through Legal Insight, Inc. (founded by Bragg in 1993). Her writing credits include Crosstown Park, an Alex Stockton legal thriller, HIPAA for the General Practitioner, chapters in How to Capture and Keep Clients, 2nd Edition; Effortless Marketing: Putting Your Unique Qualities to Work, 2nd Edition; and The Conscious Lawyer: How the Practice of Mindfulness Will Increase Your Bottom Line, as well as the upcoming book, Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul, to be published by the American Bar Association (ABA) Flagship Division. When she is not writing, Melanie devotes her time to her work as Chair-Elect of the Solo, Small Firm & General Practice (GPSolo) Division and to sharing ideas with fellow authors. She is interested in your feedback and ideas about how solos, small firms, military, and government lawyers can lead richer, happier lives and thereby improve the delivery of legal services to the public. Melanie can be reached at melanie@legalinsightinc.com.


Fall is here and football is upon us. Tom Brady’s new book, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, just came out, and I was intrigued by the things he said while promoting it on the interview circuit. I thought back to the Super Bowl game last year. People were streaming out of the stadium, thinking the Patriots lost, and then, in the final moments, what seemed like a miracle happened and they won. It was very exciting—but also inspiring. As I began to hear more about Tom’s age (40) and how he has sustained himself in the NFL without injury, I wanted to learn more.

Tom practices mindfulness to help him with his peak performance. He actually reads The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz once a year! That blew me away. It proves the point I have been making that you don’t need something “wrong” with you to be on a path to become better, to constantly grow and improve yourself. Tom talks about resistance to change in the sports world much the way I talk about resistance to change in the legal world. Any new concepts that don’t follow the norm are naturally looked on with trepidation by some and embraced by others.

 

Are you operating at peak performance daily in your law office? Do you wake up excited each day to tackle the challenges that face you? Are your body and mind primed to achieve your goals, and are you in a place where you can enjoy the fruits of your efforts?

I immediately downloaded the Audible version of Tom’s book and also ordered the big book on Amazon. The print version has great photos illustrating Tom’s exercises and band work and contains the recipes and photos of the great, healthy food he eats. Tom has a theory on peak performance that I find very interesting. And I see a direct correlation with mindfulness and the practice of law.

It is a concept called “pliability.” Tom says,

Pliability is the missing leg of performance training—the most underutilized and least understood. The goal of pliability is to re-educate your brain-body connection, which continually sends messages to your muscles to stay long, soft, and primed, no matter what you’re asking your body to do. One of the critical keys is doing pliability both before and after your workout or physical activity. (Think of pliability as the new “warm-up” and “cool-down.”) Pliability is targeted force muscle work.

Tom tells the reader to “make choices aligned with your goals. . . . Players who get injured often blame the game, when really the player should take responsibility and ask themselves how they play the game.” I thought of burned-out lawyers who blame the practice of law for their troubles—and all the potentially great lawyers we may lose to burnout and disillusionment. I remembered how years ago I “didn’t like clients.” I was always complaining about their deficiencies. It wasn’t until I turned things around and asked myself how I could be better to my clients and how I could communicate with them and treat them differently that I began to get clients that I like, sometimes love. Just that shift of taking responsibility has changed my entire law practice, and I sometimes astound myself with how grateful I am for the amazing clients I now get to represent. I think the only difference in the equation is me and the benefits I have derived from delving deeply into the practice of mindfulness and personal growth.

 

What excuses do you make for how things are in your life? Who and what do you blame? What steps have you taken to remedy things?

Tom talks about the traditional cycle of physical performance for athletes: cardio, strength training, injury, meds, rehab, cardio, strength training, injury, meds, rehab, and so on. It is a viscous cycle that plays out until the athlete cannot play any longer. It is just how the system works. He explains that he was not the best athlete, did not have the best body size or strength, was a sixth-round draft pick when he started, but yet, today he is one of the oldest starting quarterbacks in NFL history. He got where he is by working super hard and training properly so that with the pliability in his muscles, he rarely gets injured.

 

Tom says, “Pliability turns a viscous cycle into a virtuous circle.”

With pliability, your muscles become softer and longer and less susceptible to injury. Tom talks about pre-hab rather than re-hab, doing the preventative work beforehand so that you don’t have the nasty after-effects. And he points out that we should “work on both our strengths as well as our deficiencies. It’s all about balance and peak performance.”

The more of his book I listened to and read, the more excited I became. Not only is it a great resource for physical health, but I immediately began to see the parallel to law practice: pliability is to the peak performance of athletes what mindfulness is to the peak performance of the practice of law.

In fact, listening to the book you can almost track the examples verbatim with legal analogies. We as lawyers do “strength training” (our CLEs), we do our “cardio” (working intensely on a case). We often don’t take care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, and so we “injure” ourselves by not eating right, eating too much, drinking too much, working too many long hours, ignoring other parts of our lives, developing problems in relationships. Our “muscles” (our hearts, our spirits) get injured, and when it gets really bad we find ourselves divorced, in treatment, fired from jobs, all the things that can happen, and then we start over. The experience doesn’t even have to be one of these drastic situations I have pointed out, although I can think of examples of all of them in my many years of practice. In fact, it can be more of a feeling of malaise, of being tired all the time, dreading going to court, dreading going to the office, procrastination, illness, headaches, avoiding phone calls, not being able to stand up to that person who treats you badly, picking a fight with anyone who calls, and so on.

Mindfulness with all its many parts and practices—from meditation, to rituals, to your environments, to practicing presence—will keep that brain muscle of yours pliable and help you adapt and cope with the challenges of a busy life in a new way. I firmly believe it will help you enjoy your days with a new sense of energy and excitement and help you go the long haul in the practice of law. I always say, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

 

How are you incorporating mindfulness into your day? Will you devote 20 minutes a day to reading? Meditating? Exercise? How about an “Hour of Power”—20 minutes of each?

My takeaway to you today is to check out Tom’s book. And when you read it or listen to it, put the concept of mindfulness in where he says “pliability” and think of what we do as lawyers when he refers to athletes. It really makes sense to think about what we do with a whole mind, body, and spirit approach.

 

My goal is for you to be at your peak performance!

Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra are starting a new “21-Day Meditation Experience” on Monday, October 30. It’s a great way to check out meditation, and it’s totally free. Just click here. This session is on “Making Every Moment Matter.” I can’t wait!

Until December . . . namaste. Please let me know if you have any tips, sources, or experiences with mindfulness at melanie@legalinsightinc.com.

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”—Zen proverb

 

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