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A Secret to Success from a Supreme Court Justice

July '14

Sandra Day O’Conner has something to teach us about navigating life transitions successfully. When she graduated from Stanford Law School in 1952, she applied to firms that advertised, “We hire Stanford grads.” Every time she called one, she heard the disheartening words, “We don’t hire women.” Since she knew an appellate judge with a woman on staff, she went to see him. While he validated her capabilities, he had no funds at present to hire anyone.

Not one to let obstacles stop her, Justice O’Conner replied she would work for free. Quickly preempting further obstacles, she noted there was no office, and since she saw there was extra chair in the Secretary’s office, opted to work there if the Secretary agreed. And that’s how she landed her first job.

When Sandra Day O’Conner graduated from law school in the middle of the last century, there was no well-paved road for women who wanted to pursue the law. She traveled an uncharted route. Whenever obstacles arose, she met them and kept going.

The midlife transition is a similar journey where there is no clear path in front of you. It’s much easier to move forward on any journey when you can follow a well-traveled highway.  Justice O’Conner didn’t have one, but she did display a quality you can adopt. She was persistent, even tenacious. Sure obstacles arose – serious ones, but she continued to put one foot in front of the other and you can too.

For example, perhaps you’re toying with a different career, but don’t want to jump into a new line of work right away. Why not investigate this possibility by reading more about this new field, or setting up interviews with folks in the field, whom you or your friends might know? You can take these steps even when you’re uncertain about where you’re headed.

And if you want greater clarity about who you are now and what you want, you will find it in my midlife Journaling eCourse, “Reinvent Your Life – Write Now”. Since this eCourse is discounted 20% for the month of July, you still have a day to take advantage of this offer here.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about a step you took, or plan to take, in order to keep moving forward. Please share your experience or any questions. I really appreciate and respond to every one!

Happy summer to you,

P.S. I didn’t fact-check this story about Sandra Day O’Conner to see if it is true, but it feels accurate for time of the 50’s. And ability to keep going is a great quality for navigating the midlife transition successfully.




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