A fishing trip was the spark that helped Amryis’ Nick Khadder see the need for stress relief in 2015
Very early one morning in December several years ago, I was sitting on a tiny boat with a colleague and friend, trolling for rainbow trout. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day. We could see our breath in the cold, misty air as the sunrise cast a golden glow on the lake. We had a couple of bites early on. All was well. But, despite our intentions to avoid the topic, we ended up talking “shop.”
I was saying that I had no idea how I was going to manage the work looming for me in the first part of the upcoming year. It was much more intimidating, both in quantity and difficulty, than any prior work I had faced in my in-house counsel career.
The months following that fishing trip were almost as hard as I expected. However, I overcame the challenges and ultimately thrived at the company. Of course the things I worried about were not what ended up being most difficult. It was the unanticipated problems that were most challenging.
In hindsight (later that year), I realized that nurturing my fears in December—which kept me anxious and wakeful, distracting from my time with family and enjoyment of the holidays (and from my idyllic morning of fishing)—was nothing but a waste of time and energy.
After the fishing trip and during my professional journey in the ensuing year, I did a lot of reading and engaged in many discussions with friends and mentors about dealing with stress in the legal profession. I saw some lawyers with successful careers who seemed to ward off most of the anxiety the profession can generate, so I knew it wasn’t a universal problem. In studying the issue, I came to a better understanding of myself.
With help from others, I realized that there are many things in the world we cannot control; but we can always control how we respond. Once I made a conscious practice of recognizing the futility of anxiety, I began to enjoy my career. Releasing my concern about living up to expectations freed me. I could just… stop worrying so much.
Knowing how transformative this learning was for me in past years, and knowing much others helped me in the process), for 2015, I have resolved to adopt some simple new practices rooted in gratitude.
When I’ve needed help in my professional and personal life, I’ve had the great fortune of receiving that help from mentors and friends, most of whom were very forgiving of my mistakes and weaknesses. I will practice saying thanks to the people who helped me in the past and to those who help me in the future.
Also, I will give back to the institution that launched my legal career. It is amazing to me that I now occupy a position that I couldn’t conceive of holding when I was a hopeful law student trying to get my first real job. I will find ways to provide mentoring to law students and new lawyers. Practitioners who volunteered their time for law students had a hugely positive impact on me. I would like to give back, beyond money, in 2015.
And, I will go fishing with my friend again. This time I will just enjoy the silence and, I hope, catch a few fish.
Nick Khadder is General Counsel at Amyris. He will be featured in a future issue of Forefront magazine.
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