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Managing Moral Outrage and Encouraging Creative Destruction

In December of 2018, author Charles Duhigg wrote a tremendous article for The Atlantic magazine entitled, " The Real Roots of American Rage: The untold story of how anger became the dominant emotion in our politics and personal lives-- and what we can do about it".

Duhigg forms his conclusion by quoting Martin Luther King who argued, "The supreme task is to organize and unite people, so that their anger becomes a transforming force".  Hard to quarrel with that wisdom but, in the spirit of a good argument, I'd add an important caveat: We need to understand anger, or outrage, before trying to use them, and meditation is the tool we can employ, to do that.

I'm all for organizing and uniting people, but before we unleash the powerful emotions of anger and outrage, we need to understand them. The law of unintended consequences is a problem that someone who shall remain unnamed has been wrestling with for a good long while (assuming the consequences are, in fact, unintended--something that has been the subject of a good deal of debate).

But back to the questions at hand: Can emotion be channeled to promote or create a particular effect? Should  emotion be manipulated to organize and unite people? And if so, to what end ? An answer came to me as I listened to an interview with the two authors of a new book entitled, Capitalism In America: A History, by Alan Greenspan (the Alan Greenspan) and Adrian Wooldridge. In particular, I was struck by a term that I had heard before, but never connected with: Creative destruction.

In the context of the interview with Messrs. Greenspan and Wooldridge the idea behind, "creative destruction" is that the American economy has thrived in the past by moving beyond existing ideas, and embracing new ideas. Which got me thinking: It's time for the legal profession --to which change comes at a glacial pace-- to reinvent itself.Can that reinvention involve mindfulness and meditation? And if so, how might that happen?

Well, as to the first of those two questions, the answer is, most definitely, "yes". Mindfulness and meditation are both important pieces of the well-being (or wellness) pie, and--notwithstanding the arguments made by "outcome-based" folks who assert that positive outcomes that accrue to clients by virtue of a lawyer's efforts, are the only thing that matter-- I believe strongly that the health and welfare of lawyers is of tantamount importance. Both physically and mentally/emotionally.

As to the second question of how the legal profession might reinvent itself through mindfulness and meditation, I suggest a relatively simple internal fix: Establish a program embraced from the top down, and supported by policies that will both educate and encourage lawyers to bolster their personal health through a better understanding of mindfulness, and the discipline of meditation.

Managing moral outrage and encouraging creative destruction might both seem foreign to the notion of instituting a mindfulness and meditation program in your firm or institution, but untangling long-term goals from short-term motivation for change is something that a well-directed management team can address with relative ease.

Our profession's current moral outrage is the dearth of concern about lawyer well-being, and the consequences of ignoring it. The creative destruction that our leaders can encourage to address that concern is the implementation of mindfulness and meditation programs that address the mind portion of the mind/body dichotomy in a manner that will serve the profession, and advance the interests of those we are engaged to serve.

Moral outrage and creative destruction are both strong terms, but they demand attention, and serve to make the point: We need to take better care of ourselves so we can provide better service to others we are engaged to represent!


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