I find myself engaged in, what one writer has astutely called, a miserable job. I work as an attorney, which is a very specialized line of work these days, like medicine. My specialty is Insurance Defense, otherwise known as personal injury defense work. New York requires vehicle owners to purchase auto insurance in case their vehicle hurts someone, or someone’s property. If an insured does actually hurt someone and that someone sues the insured, the insurance company assigns an attorney, like me, to defend the lawsuit.
My job is miserable because insurance is a lot about actuarial science, underwriting, and dollars and cents and not a lot about people; neither employees, claimants, nor insureds. It’s miserable because the effort I expend to do my job (1-2 years litigating each case) far, far exceeds the value of the outcomes achieved by me doing my job (saving the billion dollar insurance company a few bucks here and there). But the real trouble with this job, the most miserable factor for me, is that it all but strangles my soul to death.
It’s like in the movie Jerry Maguire. Jerry was a successful sports agent who became downright disheartened by the state of the industry–the athletes’ moral turpitude and avarice, and his role in championing them. Jerry’s soul was troubled to the point that he was compelled to draft and distribute a manifesto decrying the situation in the industry. His manifesto circulation resulted in him being forced out of his cushy (unsavory) job and into a work life that aligned more closely with his personal level of integrity.
In real life, look at Oprah’s story. At the beginning of her career she was reassigned from her job as a hard news reporter into the human interest news category. Oprah realized afterwards that the involuntary reassignment was a tremendous relief. Why? Because hard news was hard on her soul. A good day in broadcast news involved calamity, chaos, and destruction both around the community and around the globe. Humanity’s loss was the reporter’s gain. Her reassignment meant a transfer from the dispiriting to the uplifting.
Humanity’s loss is, likewise, my bread and butter. Opposing those who are injured and pained is how I earn a living (never mind that, by and large, these plaintiffs lie about and exaggerate claims of injury). Championing the negligent (who, by and large, lie and exaggerate to convince those interested that they are not responsible for causing said plaintiffs their injuries) is my expertise. As I listen daily to liberal embellishments (including those of fellow attorneys), as I file motions and serve demands to gain leverage to settle cases for less money than that demanded, as I rush early from home, fight the rush hour commute, and arrive at the courthouse only to spend hours sitting and reading while awaiting the transaction of routine court business, I am mindful of how little it all matters, and how small this practice makes me feel. I am mindful that once I dreamed of impacting the world. I am mindful that that dream is alive still, gasping for breath most of the time, but still alive.
Thus begins my Tuesday considerations of Mastering (or at least Managing) the Miserable Job/Career.