Everything You Need to Know

Jim is an earnest client in his mid-30’s.  He wants to be a leader in business.  He is serious, sets goals and doggedly pursues them.  He is a concrete thinker.

In a recent coaching session, I engage Jim in a conversation about values and vision.  He fidgets and appears impatient as he struggles to explain himself.  Abruptly, he points to his Smartwatch and says:

Everything I need to know is on my Smartwatch.  And if I don’t find it on my Smartwatch, I’ll find it on an app.”

As he says so, Jim appears confident; satisfied that he has been able to so succinctly explain himself.  We share a laugh and the conversation continues.  It is only later that I wonder if he actually believes what he said about his Smartwatch.

Do you believe that everything you need to know you can find on a Smartwatch, or an app?  If you were interviewing someone for a position in your office, and the candidate so relied on a Smartwatch, what would be your assessment of the candidate?

I am very grateful that Jim spoke so directly about his reliance on his Smartwatch.  His comment provoked me.  Since then, I have been in many conversations with friends and colleagues, questioning the truth of what Jim so clearly stated.

There is no question that the Smartwatch is a portal to the world.  In a moment, you can learn the weather forecast, the phase of the moon, read the headlines, and identify resources on topics of interest to you.  You can also chronicle your daily activities, including your heart rate and the number of steps taken each day.  All this “hard” data is helpful as you navigate the world.

Recognizing that the Smartwatch is a powerful resource, the question remains whether everything you need to know is found there.  I think not, especially for those who seek to lead.

Learning about the World

The Smartwatch provides data on the world around you.  Sometimes the questions we ask are simple; for example, the weather forecast.  The Smartwatch is quick to answer such a question.

Sometimes, the questions we ask are complex.  We might, for example, inquire about marketing legal services, client retention, law firm mergers.  As you know, the Smartwatch cannot answer such inquiries.  It can only identify resources on the subject at hand.  On any given topic, the commentators often have different points of view.  Their opinions reflect their varied life experiences, their training in different disciplines, and their different belief systems.  In the midst of differing opinions, the Smartwatch provides little or no guidance.  It’s up to you to decide the course to follow.  Your ability to do so requires reflection and an appreciation of how life has shaped you into the person you are today.

Understanding Yourself

The Smartwatch can provide some useful data about you, for example, your heart rate and the number of steps you’ve taken.  The sum of this data is incomplete, of course, because you are a complex and nuanced organism.  For example, you may feel queasy, anxious or somehow out of sorts, despite whatever data is reported by the Smartwatch.

Only you can fully sense how you are doing, what you are feeling and what emotions you are experiencing.  As you come to know yourself better, you are better able to manage yourself and to communicate more effectively with others. For example, if you arrive at a meeting upset, anxious and distracted, you are less able to hear what is being said and to participate effectively, especially if it is a contentious meeting.  The situation is even more challenging if you seek to lead the meeting and persuade others to support you and your point of view.

As lawyers, many of us have been trained out of our bodies.  We champion logic and argument.  We pretty much ignore the body and everything below the shoulders.  We pay little attention to emotions.

Sometimes, we lawyers pay little attention to the people we are with and we make little effort to connect with them.  Even in appellate arguments, we sometimes see this, as lawyers stand before the court and studiously read their well-crafted arguments while ignoring the judges before them.

Helping people to identify their emotions and to connect with people is often the work I do with clients.  At first, many clients don’t know what they are feeling.  They can only describe themselves as feeling “good”.  When asked to say more, they simply say, they feel “very good”.

In time, clients learn to identify their emotions and actually feel their emotions and how they experience them, for example, in shoulders that are sore, stomachs that ache, breathing that is shallow and restricted.

This cultivation of awareness is practical and benefits clients.  They come to manage their moods constructively and are less often hijacked by emotion.  Clients become more able to achieve what they seek.  Less often do they merely spin their wheels.

From where I stand, a Smartwatch is a valuable resource for information about the world.  Yet, it’s no substitute for better understanding ourselves, connecting with others and developing mastery in our lives.  As we learn to access emotion, sustain our energy and tap the wisdom of the body, we become better able to thrive, not merely to survive.  Learning to thrive requires more than the data a Smartwatch can provide.