Becoming Significant

becoming significant

“He who has a why can endure any how.” — Frederick Nietzsche

I promised Attorney at Law Magazine I would write a column each issue about medical malpractice. I am generally a woman who keeps her word. I had it all prepared. It was an article about the lack of nutrition education in medical schools. It went something like this:


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Most medical schools provide one hour of lecture on nutrition to medical students. Contrast this with the fact that half of Americans are obese. Compare that with the soaring numbers of diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and cancer. I explained that our food system is making us sick. I carried on about how food manufacturers and food industries, such as sugar and corn profit from selling us lies. I explained how the pharmaceutical companies profit from the food industry keeping us sick. In fact, the article I wrote was entitled “We’re screwed.” But, in the end, I concluded this was all just a little too depressing for the New Year.

So, I decided to step out on a limb and talk about something that isn’t strictly medical malpractice. It’s the time of year when we start counting up our rewards for our hard work and setting goals for the next year. Most of us are goal-oriented folks who want to do better financially year over year and we want to see the financial reward for the back breaking, emotionally exhausting, stressful work we do. For some, it might just be about surviving another year in this profession.

I hope you all prospered personally, professionally and financially in 2019. I would like to challenge you all to choose “Significance” as your 2020 goal. Let me explain.


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The Three Types of Lives

People lead three types of lives: Survival, Success or Significance.

Survival may mean that you have a job and you are able to pay your bills. If you are lucky enough to be surviving, you can do more. You can be successful. There are all kinds of resources available to help you be successful. You just have to roll up your sleeves and get to work. You have to want it and be willing to work your tail off for it. If you have attained success, you likely are seeing the financial rewards and are also likely getting accolades for your work. Congratulations.

Now, I challenge you to evolve to the next phase, which is significance. This means you have the capacity to do something meaningful for society, empower others, teach others, and advocate for change.

Becoming Significant

As one writer put it – “Success is sending your kids to private school. Significance is educating others.”


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Now, this is not an original thought. I am not sure where I stumbled across this idea, but it really became a game changer for me.

This works for me in tandem with another simple concept, which is “finding your why.” This is about getting a deeper perspective on what you have to offer the world. It is about what you can do with your legal expertise and experience to contribute to the world. Now, stay with me here. I know this may sound a little “hippy dippy.” It doesn’t mean you have to become the next Mother Theresa or Ghandi. It means figuring out something bigger than you. Your “why” is what fuels your passion, what is the fire in your belly?

If your why is earning a zillion dollars, you won’t be able to sustain the energy and devotion it requires. That’s a recipe for burnout. Instead, just a little mind re-set may help you make the shift.

Here are four questions to ask yourself:

  1. What makes me come alive?
  2. What are my innate strengths?
  3. Where do I add the greatest value?
  4. How will I measure my life?

Let’s remember that we all had the wherewithal to get through law school and survive what this profession deals us. Let us also be grateful we are handsomely rewarded for our education, experience and chosen profession. But, let us mostly remember this is a helping profession.

I challenge you to “noodle” on this and set your 2020 goals to include becoming significant. You don’t have to invent the next technological advance or medical cure. All you have to do is find your “why.” I promise, it will make you happier in your law practice. And, I would love to hear from any of you who take up the challenge. I would welcome hearing your “why.” By sharing with one another, we’ll lift one another up. Let’s face it, the profession we love can also be a little brutal at times, but we are all blessed with the opportunity to become significant.

E-mail me your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. Here’s to crushing it in 2020! Kay Van Wey 

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