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Kelly A. Karstaedt
Jax Daily Record Monday, Aug. 29, 201612:00 PM EST

Bar Bulletin: Winners never quit. Wait ... what?

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by: Kelly A. Karstaedt

I have spent my entire life being told how different I am.

I think differently, I act differently. I just do not fit in.

Trust me, I have the nicknames to prove it.

But for some reason, I thought in my career that would be — wait for it — different.

Boy, was I wrong.

Like the majority of new lawyers, I took a job in litigation. Shortly thereafter, I realized I was not happy, although it was more environmental than professional unhappiness.

So I took another job in litigation, but again I wasn’t happy.

And this time, I was working at an amazing firm, a place I still consider to be one of the best firms in the city.

So what was wrong with me?

I didn’t fit in and could not figure out why. Everyone else I knew was succeeding at their jobs, winning the big cases and rising through the ranks.

I, on the other hand, was sinking and drowning in my work and there was no good reason why.

It took five years as a litigator to realize it was not for me.

Call it an epiphany, an awakening, or maybe it was just plain failure.

Whatever it was, it made me quit my job. No forewarning, no discussion before and after … I just put in my notice and that was that.

I had given traditional law practice a good turn and was ready to move on.

Now comes the part I was not expecting.

I knew when I quit that my life would change. I thought I would feel free, content in knowing I was able to run my own life, or at least walk my dog myself.

You guessed it: wrong again.

For a person who repeatedly tells her husband she is always right, I got a lot wrong during that time.

A few weeks after I quit, the regrets started.

What have I done? I quit my job — am I insane? I have ruined any chance at a future in law.

I will never be able to support myself. I wasted three years in law school. I am the dumbest human alive!

Those thoughts continued for longer than I would like to admit, but months would not be an overstatement.

Eventually the negative thoughts subsided and I got to where I am now.

And no, it’s not a perfect place. It’s messy and hard, there are good days and bad days and sometimes it is downright terrifying to be me.

But that’s just the point, I get to be me.

I finally have the chance to be who I really am instead of who I’m supposed to be to fit the mold.

Let’s face it, I’ve never fit the mold, so that was a lost cause from the beginning.

Being a lawyer comes with a lot of pressure. Pressure to fit in, to be the best, to make a lot of money and basically have people worship you for your success rate.

Hey, I am the last person to judge and there is nothing wrong with that lifestyle. It’s just not for me.

Winning and being the best never mattered to me. Solving problems and helping others find success and happiness –– now that’s my game.

Have I found my perfect job? Well, I don’t know yet.

I left my last firm three years ago thinking I would never practice law again.

Now I am a partner in my own firm with my husband handling transactional business law matters.

I am also the executive director of The Jacksonville Justice Association, a job I was not sure I should take but now enjoy more than I can express in this article.

A little law, a little management and a whole lot of time to keep exploring new opportunities.

So here’s the moral of this story: Quit!

OK, I don’t necessarily mean do what I did. I mean quit trying to fit the mold, quit doing what everyone else is doing and quit thinking there is something wrong with you if you are not fitting in.

You have options. If what you’re doing isn’t working, if you aren’t happy, then stop.

It likely won’t be easy and you will definitely feel regrets, but eventually everything falls into place. Just give it a chance.

Trust me.

We are constantly told quitting is failing and winners never quit. Blah blah blah.

Maybe that is true in some cases, maybe even in mine.

If failure means being true to yourself and finding peace in what you are doing, then I’m a failure. A really big failure.

And you know what? I hope I keep on failing for the rest of my life.

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