The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, "Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, "Hey, don't worry; don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride." And we … kill those people.
- Bill Hicks
One day during my first semester a couple of friends and I ended up in the law library after a lunch that consisted of several pitchers of Newcastle Brown Ale. We had another hour to kill before class so we sat in the library and watched stand-up comedy clips on our respective laptops. Seeing as how we aren’t unconditional assholes, we were polite enough to wear headphones. That soon ceased to matter however as one particular clip had me laughing like a stoned hyena.
I noticed a girl sitting two rows ahead shooting at us an occasional dirty look. I tried to keep it down. I passed the clip to my friends and they began to watch it with the same reaction I had—uncontrollable laughter. The girl got up and my first thought was, “shit, now I have to listen to her bitch us out.” But the talking to never happened. She got up, packed her stuff and left. Pretty soon I noticed everyone else who had given us dirty looks for interrupting their studying just get up and quietly leave. No one told us to shut up, no one complained to the administration. Every law student in the place merely tucked their tails and left without a single word.
Isn’t law school teaching us the ways of an adversarial system? What happened to all the sharks I kept hearing about?
The people who left without saying a word weren’t sharks. They were tools. A tool is something to be used. Useful for sure, but a tool can’t decide for itself what its use is. It has to wait for someone to come along and show it how it is expected to function. A tool’s life has no meaning in and of itself. Its meaning is solely derived by the person using it. At some level the tool knows that it is only being used so it tries to convince itself that its existence means something more by investing in whatever it is being used for.
I have only come across a handful of people in my life who understand that all of this is a game—law school, crony capitalism, keeping up with the Joneses down the street, office politics, the ever elusive American Dream; all games. Unless you’re independently wealthy enough not to care, or if you become a strange old hermit living beyond the Dune Sea, you have to play the game. And that’s fine. The problem is when people invest too much in the game because they think it matters; more times than not because they have nothing else going for them in their lives.
The people who left didn’t leave simply because we were interrupting their studying. They left because we were exposing the game to them. Here we were, three guys in the law library, drunk in the middle of the day watching Jimmy Carr on YouTube instead of fiercely highlighting our torts books like the good, responsible law students we were expected to be. We were having fun, and that is simply unacceptable to certain people because it goes against the perceived seriousness of our chosen profession. The same people who come to class every day in a freshly ironed shirt and tie are the same people who will burn out once they start working at a real law firm because they take themselves and their profession too seriously.
I met with my future Corporations professor recently to discuss deal law and to talk about what I should expect once I enter the field. He didn’t give me a lecture about the importance of the job or opine about the noble duty of the deal lawyer. He didn’t tell me stories about the pressures of feeling the weight of a thousand employees’ jobs hanging in the balance if a particular deal didn’t get done in time. He told me that a deal lawyer’s only real job is to settle conflicts between rich bastards so they can become richer—and that he loved every minute of that job.
Once you acknowledge that all of this is a game, not only are you ridding yourself of unnecessary stress, but you may even find yourself having fun playing it.