Category Archives: Musing

Not the CEO

I thought I was done geeking out about the Strength Finders test. But I’m not. 

I learned something new about myself today!

The Strength Finders test measures strengths based on 34 different attributes. So much I knew. (As previously blogged, my top five are Strategic, Communication, Positivity, Learner, and Input.) However, what I didn’t know was that Clifton Strengths classifies those 34 attributes into 4 different types: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking

The sheet I received describes the types like this: People with dominant Executing themes know how to make things happen. People with dominant Influencing themes know how to take charge, speak up, and make sure that the team is heard. People with dominant Relationship Building themes have the ability to build stronger relationships that can hold a team together and make the team greater than the sum of its parts. People with dominant Strategic Thinking themes help teams consider what could be. They absorb and analyze information that can inform better decisions. 

Guess what I learned? I do not have a single strength in Executing. Not this time I took the test. Not the last time. I guess not ever! 

Slightly less shocking given my recent discoveries, my dominant strength comes from Strategic Thinking. I absorb facts and find problems. I look for solutions. I’m happiest and most effective when doing this. I do not know about Amy 2017, but that sure describes Amy 2018. 

And I think I am okay with that. 

Strategic Thinking doesn’t sound like me. It sounds like someone who likes math, or plays chess, or runs the War Department. But I guess it also sounds like someone who loves writing research papers and playing Sudoku and growing community field offices. So that’s me. 

My results illustrate two other things about me that I did not previously realize: 

1. Leadership Style.

When I think of leaders, I think of the executive type. Those people know how to get things done. They have descriptors like Achiever, Arranger, Discipline, and Responsibility. I want those strengths and to be the sort of person who leads others with a single-focused drive. But that isn’t me.

Just because I am not an executive leader doesn’t mean I am not a leader, though. My leadership skills reflect big-picture problem solving. I plot. I plan. Sometimes I even follow through on those plans. I am less the executive CEO type…and more the in house legal consultant. (Hey, that’s convenient!) 

2. I might not be as entrepreneurial as I thought. 

I love entrepreneurs. I want to be one. But when I started thinking about my strengths, the lack of executing stands out pretty strongly. It also explains some of my previous difficulties running a field office. Just because I can see a problem does not mean I am good at fixing it. I need to work with others who can. 

No one functions entirely solo, but turns out I really can’t. I would never accomplish anything and I would unhappy if I tried. It isn’t the way I am wired. Far from depressing me, I find the realization somewhat freeing. I do not need to build, or accomplish, anything on my own. I am most effective when working with others.

I suppose that is probably true for everyone, but I still find it gratifying. I do not need to partner with an Executing type because I am weaker or underdeveloped in that area, but because I am better and more fulfilled doing something else. Heck, that’s the beauty of the free market. I do not know why it surprises me so much to find that in my everyday life!

On a more personal level, my discovery looks like this: Maybe I do not actually want to start my own law firm like I thought. Maybe that was the expectation I placed on myself because I am not a natural, executing leader but I still want the independence that comes with authority. So I told myself I needed to start a law firm to gain that independence. You know what that tells me, though? Independence is the value I crave, not authority. 

Where does that leave me? Somewhere between a need for others and a desire for independence. I do not know what that looks like yet, but I do know that when I find that sweet spot, I will be set

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Shifting Strengths

Law school does things to you; it changes the way you think and the way you interact with people. You start viewing language differently. You exist in a pressure cooker all semester and when finally released from it…the world seems different. I have struggled to explain the difference to people. I feel…firmer. Or grounded. More analytical. Possibly more capable, or at least developed. 

Yesterday I took the Clifton Strength Finders test and I might have more words now. 

The strengths test measures your inherent “talents.” It isn’t supposed to change much, at least not once you hit adulthood. Yet over the past year, my strengths shifted dramatically

I took the test the first time almost exactly a year ago. At the time, I was leaving my adult job to move to the mountains of Idaho to work as a camp counselor and hopefully attend law school in the fall. Uncertainty was my watch word. It shows in my strengths:

Adaptability
Activator
Positivity
Intellection
Includer

Roughly translated, that tells you I am a flexible, happy, smart, inclusive person. Which I like to think is true. 

I took the test again yesterday. This time my top five strengths were: 

Strategic
Communication
Positivity
Learner
Input

First off, I don’t think anyone has ever called me strategic before, much less ranked that my top strength. 

Second, while input sounds cool, it really just means I collect things like words, books, and ideas. 

Third, initially, these results really shocked me. They seemed so…different. But then I started reading about them. And, y’all, these are me. Future oriented, chatty, enthusiastic, thirsty for new ideas and intent on remembering them. Throughout, the test emphasizes my love of books and reading.

I really do love books. (Though the test also says I think speed reading is a waste of time because I want to ponder each new idea, which isn’t true by a long shot. But I do process things fast.) 

These results are not as far off from last year as I initially thought. Adaptability and Strategic strengths share a common theme of flexibility – just with the Strategic strength I have learned to pick an option and follow through on it. With Activator I got people excited about projects, now I use Communication to carry through on the whole project, not just the beginning. 

My main purpose in sharing all this stems from a broader theme I’ve learned over this past year. Going into law school, I felt a bit like a fraud. Detail-oriented people are supposed to go to law school. Not big-picture, idea people like me. You go to law school to put things in boxes, not to turn the box upside down and beat on it like a drum. 

Or so I thought. Over the last year, I have learned my talents aren’t that uncommon for the law, and are in fact quite valuable. Where I am weak, I have learned to adapt. And where I am strong, like in communication, I flourish. 

I am waiting for one last grade, but in all but one class so far this semester I’ve gotten an A or A-. You might find that par for course knowing me, but in law school that is hard. But I am learning and I am loving what I learn. It is a bit of a relief to realize that I am not a fraud and 6-year-old me wasn’t crazy when she announced she wanted to be a lawyer.

Moreover, I am good at this. Just saying that makes me feel a little bit crazy, but also happy. I see God’s hand at work around me and I cannot wait to see what comes next.


Three Years

Three years ago today, I graduated from Bryan College with my bachelor’s degree. I then chose to take a gap year (er, two) before attending law school. In an alternative universe, I would have gone straight to law school. Instead of ending of my 1L year, this week would culminate in my graduation from legal education. That was the plan. 

I am so glad it did not happen that way. 

It strikes me as funny when I talk about the past two years. I murmur offhandedly, “Oh, I worked for a few years before coming to law school.” As if two of the most formative years of my life were just NBD…no big deal. 

I suppose in the big picture they might prove just that: a mere blip in time between college and my “real” career as a lawyer. 

But even if that is the case, I wouldn’t trade those years with AFP for anything. My work there developed so much of who I am and how I see myself. I can’t imagine who I would be if I went straight from my undergraduate to the pressure cooker that is law school. That vision holds no appeal for me.

From an academic standpoint, straight-from-undergraduate-me might have embraced law school better. Independence would mean little to her, so a life of student loans and borrowed rides to church would feel natural. I would still be a perfectionist with an angsty desire to go go go so I imagine I would have joined just as many clubs (if not more) and still jumped into an internship as soon as possible. From a practical standpoint, I doubt my legal career so far would look very different. 

Yet that isn’t quite true. I landed both my legal internships to date because of my connection with AFP. I’ve prioritized certain activities and de-emphasized others because I know the sort of people I want to be around. I’ve approached projects and people and ideas with the confidence of someone who has achieved something difficult, and failed multiple times while doing it. 

I am so much more me because I waited two years. Also, I owe a heck of a lot less loans because I paid off those undergraduate ones. 

It gives me hope for the next three years. I never saw myself here three years ago, and yet here I am. Who knows what will come next? The only thing I know for certain is that  whatever it is, I’ve been equipped and mentored and well prepared for it. And if I fail? I’ve got an amazing community that will cheer me on anyway.

(Plus, I can always peace back to the mountains of Idaho and live the rest of my life in chacos, right?) 


What do I eat?

“What do you eat?” asks my roommate, peering at the food on my shelf: tofu, shredded cheese, and half-quart of milk. 

“I eat…what’s in my cupboard!” I suggest. We open my cupboard. “Rice! Except…I’m out of rice. Oatmeal. Kiwis. Almonds. And I think I have a pizza in the fridge.” 

“You should go grocery shopping,” she recommends. I think about my bank account and shake my head. 

“It’s enough!” Because somehow, it is usually enough. 

Supper rolls around. I stare at my cupboards, trying to figure out if I had a plan for dinner. Maybe I do need to go grocery shopping. 

Then my other roommate comes home. “Amy! Do you want mussels?” she asks. “I’m heating some up. And we can have rice, peas, yogurt, rolls…” 

There you have it, folks. I haven’t starved this semester because my roommate feeds me. Yet another reason to be grateful for the girls who share this tiny living space with me!


A Controversial Poem

One of the poems contained in Enough Rope is titled “Résumé” and it is a lot more controversial than I would have guessed. I first read this poem in 2014 and it struck me as something…horrifying but powerful. Here it goes:

“Résumé”

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

To give context, Parker was often depressed and attempted suicide. Her poetry is full of angst, cynicism, and a longing for death. I feel like a poem like this reflects her worldview. There is no hope; this is life. Besides, isn’t there theory that one of the stages of tragedy is humor? In her mocking way, she’s wrestling with the tragedy of her own life. This isn’t designed to be serious, yet it is serious. That is why I find it haunting. 

However, one reviewer on Goodreads calls it, “callous and nursery-rhymish, and too shallow for the profound subject.” He goes on to call its conclusion, “a shopping list of smug quips.”

I’ve been chewing over his words but I find I can’t agree. It is powerful and depressing precisely because it is so trite. It is the title that takes this silly list and makes it powerful. It is “Résumé” because she knows these things only too well. 

What are your thoughts? Is this poem insensitive or powerful?  Haunting or humorless? 


Baby Pyromaniacs

I love Christmas Eve services, especially when everyone hold lit candles and sings. There is something peaceful and sweet about watching the single light become a whole room full of glowing faces. 

However, nothing turns me into a wreck faster than watching parents give their 2-year-old a candle. Why?! In what universe is that a good idea? They aren’t feeling anything special and you are ruining the moment for everyone within view…we are all terrified the child is going to set their chair on fire!


Being an Alumni

There is something strange and luxurious about returning to campus as an alumni. Being a senior was great, top dog and all. However, being a graduate means you are out of the rat race altogether and able to stroll around with a decided air of superiority. Veni, vidi, vici. You are  the conqueror and it is hard to avoid the feeling of ownership that comes with admiring your former domain. While all the current students run around with their head down because it is hell week and they have 3 essays, 4 finals, and an end of the year protect due, you can sit, admire, and in general luxuriate in a sense of irresponsibility. 

Maybe that is only for the first visit back. I don’t know; this was my first visit since I graduated a year and a half ago. I really did enjoy myself, though. The campus has been improved and the library is even more open and comfortable. It was great to see professors and staff members. When you graduate from a school as tiny as mine, returning makes you feel a bit like a celebrity. On the other hand, it also makes you feel somewhat forgettable when people give you blank faced smiles or walk right past you. 

Doesn’t matter, it is good to be an alumni.