Lessons Learned From Little Ones

lessons learned from little onesWe discover valuable lessons throughout life, including lessons learned from the little ones crawling (or trying to crawl) at our feet.

We watch our infants crawl around on the floor as they seek the next object to examine with close inspection. Their off-balance coordination grasps at toys before stuffing whatever it may be into their mouths with reckless abandonment. Their existence is so dependent, so simple.

Often to learn about a complex problem, whether it is a conceptual task or a tangible object, you may start by breaking it down into the simplest parts that make up the whole. As adults, our knowledge and experience gives us great understanding to examine a difficult problem for solving. We turn to our mentors for guidance, letting their experiences educate us in turn. Yet, such positive attributes also may cloud our judgment or distract us from the best conclusions.

Babies, on the other hand, do not have this problem. They lack almost all the knowledge and experience that we carry with us at all times. Sure, they have instincts, but they are the ultimate blank slates, tabula rasa to steal a concept from Aristotle and John Locke.

And this is where you can learn something!

Simple is good.

It is easy to let the piles of toys build. Of all the complicated, battery-operated, expensive toys my twin baby girls have confronted, a simple rubber ring seems to be one of their favorites. Modern toy technology has nothing on the classic and simple objects: a toy ring, a stuffed animal, or even the plain box they came in.

More is not always better. In fact, more may only be more distracting, more confusing. In your legal practice, you have an obligation to be a thorough advocate for your client, especially when the issues are complex in their subject matter and scale. Yet this is where your skills as an advocate need to apply to formulating that complex case into a simple concept for the trier of fact to first comprehend and, hopefully, embrace.

Instead of flooding the judge or jury with a litany of complex facts and arguments (read: that intricate toy with all the bells and whistles), this is your time as a skilled advocate to translate the complicated topic into the simple rubber ring for them to grasp and chew on, without fear or confusion.

Determination… with evaluation.

Watching babies learn to crawl can be adorable. Then, the more you watch, the more you start to realize and respect the complicated aspects behind learning this new skill. Babies’ persistence and determination to learn is extraordinary. Then again, they have the luxury to focus all their attention and energy on that single task, without distraction. Well, maybe except for that pile of toys or the family pet which do interfere.

Watching my twin girls learn to crawl reminded me of how determination is best served with evaluation. They would roll around while trying to push up on their hands and knees to move forward toward the toy on the floor in front of them.

Splat! Their face would plant into the carpet. Bam! They would roll over into their bouncy chair. And then repeat, without fear. Without hesitation. Just doing it.

The more I watched the more it occurred to me that their lack of fear was not only of the trial and error of crawling, rather a lack of fear of failure, too. They are open-minded to working on this task, accepting what does not work successfully, and trying a new method. Determined to succeed while evaluating what is working and not working, all while assimilating all this information into coordination and muscle memory to reach a goal – crawl over to grab that toy!

Likewise, you can aspire to set such goals and follow the path with determination. If that path seems to be putting you off from your goal, evaluate the errors and embrace the willingness to change paths. Those with a mentor alongside them will find an enriched evaluation to their process, so long as the relationship is founded on trust, to embrace solutions over fears of failure. Mentoring pairs should be comfortable in their relationship to have open discussions without judgment.

Ask for help.

Successful individuals are said to be good at properly assigning tasks while balancing their own job responsibilities. They have grown to recognize that moment when their responsibilities have become too great and it is time to seek assistance. However, when you let that moment pass without reaching out to others, you can struggle and waste time and resources. You have not failed in your determination, but in your evaluation of when help was needed.

Babies have no pride. Babies don’t fear asking others for help. They do not pause when that moment comes when assistance is needed. Instead, they act immediately, often with grunts or a cry as they reach out for that toy beyond their grasp. They are communicating, “Help me!”

Take these lessons learned from babies: Be direct in asking for help while putting your pride aside. Letting your need for assistance lapse only furthers the demands on you, the loss of efficient time on a task, and develops bad habits taking away from the determination you have worked to build.

There are never too many questions to ask your mentor. Help often comes indirectly from the lessons and experiences imparted to you in mentoring. Question their successes AND their failures. What do they wish they could have done differently? Where did they see themselves at your age or position? What kept them up at night? Just keep asking.

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Mark C. Palmer

Mark C. Palmer

As Professionalism Counsel, Mark leads professionalism programming through the statewide mentoring program, collaborating with stakeholders from Galena to Cairo. Mark also supports the development and delivery of educational programming to lawyers and in law schools. When not in the office, you will likely find Mark and his wife busy raising their twin daughters, enjoying his passion of traveling and eating around the world, and training for his next half marathon.
Mark C. Palmer

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