From the Bench: Another letter to myself: Circuit Judge John Guy

Consider not where you are now but where you’re going.

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  • | 12:50 a.m. December 7, 2023
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Judge John Guy
Judge John Guy
  • The Bar Bulletin
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Dear John,

In my earlier letters, I suggested how you might approach everyday experiences differently. In this letter, I want you to think more about the big picture. I want you to consider not where you are now but where you’re going.

You know how recently you’ve been thinking, “If only it weren’t for this or for that, I’d be better off.” And, “If only I had been given that opportunity, then…”

John, you’ve got to stop laying the responsibility for your circumstances at someone else’s feet. It’s not anyone else who is at the wheel of your life. Your biggest obstacle is you.

Think about the areas in your life that you’re not where you want to be. Why is that? Who can change that? Who can make you start or cause you to quit?

If you want to be a better lawyer, study the craft. Read about it. Watch other attorneys. Practice it.

If you want to be more connected, get involved. Take action. Seek opportunities.

Listen to me: You can either let life happen to you, or you can happen to life. I’m recommending the latter.

Just as you can steer your life, you also need to get out of your own way. Stop doing the things that are holding you back. Take a minute to process that. I dare you to make a list of all the things you should stop doing. That’ll kill a Friday night.

John, if something really matters to you, you’ll do it. Or you’ll stop doing it.

Remember our discussion about your priorities? You can’t control everything. But think of all the things you can do to impact your life. And that, as they now say, is on you. Today and evermore.

Just as important as how you spend your time is who you spend it with. Surround yourself with positive people.

Surround yourself with people who see the rainbow in the thunderstorm. Happy people. Uplifting people. Selfless people.

Anyone can find fault. The openings for disparaging jokes and pessimism are everywhere.

I recall attending a colleague’s retirement ceremony. The event was wonderful. An amazing tribute for an amazing person.

Soon afterward I called someone who was also there. The first thing from the other end of the line was complaint. The program was too long. The material was off topic. Other people should have spoken. I ended that call as quickly as I could.

Let me digress and talk about crying. John, it’s OK to cry. Seriously. I know you’d rather sit for a root canal than shed a tear but hear me out. Releasing what hurts is better than storing it on a shelf. That kind of pain ages like milk.

So, yeah, sometimes crying is good. Recently, I caught the last part of “Encanto,” our daughter’s favorite animated movie.

By the end I was reaching for the Kleenex. And I didn’t even know what the movie was about. Don’t worry, I won’t be sharing that with anyone.

Also, know that unexpected tears are telling. The next time you suddenly feel your eyelids filling, think about why. Understanding yesterday can soothe tomorrow. Trust me on that one, too.

Regarding your career as an attorney, as trite as it sounds, find something you’d do for free. If you’re not sure, ask yourself this question: Are you doing your job because you love it? Or are you doing your job because doing it makes you loved by someone else? That can be a difficult question, but you will find the answer inside yourself. Find what you love to do.

Time to go, John. Headed back to the hearing room to do what we love.

P.S. In a perfect world, there would be no mirrors. We would see ourselves only in the expressions of the people we encounter.

Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge John Guy was appointed to the bench in 2015 after 22 years in the State Attorney’s Office.



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