The following posting is made with permission from the State Bar of Wisconsin who originally printed it as an article with the same name included in Fresh Perspectives, State Bar of Wisconsin, April 2015, Vol. No. 18, Issue No. 2:
A couple of weeks ago I bought a new minivan and the week before that I bought a Stormy Kromer. If you don’t know what that is, think Elmer Fudd’s hat. Old man transformation complete!
Perception is a powerful thing. Lawyers have to be sensitive to how they are viewed because trust is so important. However, don’t confuse that with having to appear larger than life or being something you are not. The van is actually leased, but I plan to exercise the option to purchase it at the end of the lease. It is also a necessity for my expanding family. We have two kids, and my wife has never been accused of being a light packer – think snake nut can and you’ll have an idea what it was like to pack our old vehicles. The hat is more about my receding hairline, bald spot, and cold temperatures, than anything else. I wouldn’t have worn that hat or drove a minivan ten years ago, when I graduated from law school. But today, they suit me.
In November 2012, my alma mater, Northern Michigan University, invited me to attend a speed-networking event so current students could learn how to network. It was called, “Don’t End Up In Your Parents Basement.” At the time, I actually lived in my mother’s basement – though that is not why I was invited. The event’s title, while cute, can be taken the wrong way. Struggle is okay.
Earlier that year, my wife and I moved from Green Bay to Marquette. We both left good jobs and took significant pay cuts. My wife actually went without a job for a number of months because she did not look for a job until after our move. We left for my job. I needed a new job because my boss, the sole owner of the firm, was terminally ill. I was willingly to take a pay cut because, as I remember telling a co-worker, the money I was making “was not real.” What I meant by that was that my prior boss was paying me an above market rate, which I did not think I could get another employer in Green Bay to match given where I was in my career.
We lived in my mother’s basement because we had a house to sell in Green Bay and the housing market had collapsed. Our house was on the market for around 16 months, it priced over twenty thousand dollars below purchase price, and we never received a single offer.
Today, we are landlords with respect to our Green Bay house, and we purchased a home in Marquette. I made shareholder at my firm in 2014 and, hopefully, my income will continue to meet or exceed the level I had previously reached in Green Bay. I’m a shareholder so my income is not guaranteed. Last year went well, but it’s only March and I look at numbers and think, “how are things going to work this year?” That’s the life of a small business owner! But by all accounts, things are looking up.
If my wife and I had focused on perception – if we were too proud to struggle – we may not have made the move. Maybe I would have found a job in Green Bay where I did not have to take a pay-cut and where I could have become a shareholder in the same amount of time. But I doubt it. I think I made the right choice and that is what’s important. Whether you are facing struggles today that could be avoided in the hopes of getting ahead or you are struggling just to get by, when you overcome obstacles you’ll be proud of your struggle. I am. Keep fighting. Things will get better.
That’s My Argument.
© April 2015 Brandon J. Evans