Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Re: Becoming happy: A 2nd Chance at Lawve.
To My Dearest Legally Curious (Dear L.C.),
This has been the most challenging letter for me to write and will be longer than future letters.
I am naturally good at speaking on other people's behalf and advocating for them. Still, I'm not sure which pocket that talent suddenly hides in when it comes to myself.
I'm Bahar Ansari. I'm a female Iranian immigrant startup & immigration attorney... I know. Like being blonde wasn't tough enough in the legal industry.
I'm also a founder, a teacher, a creator, a dreamer, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a woman, and a rebel.
Hearing these two concepts: love and laws, in the same sentence, may sound a bit foreign. It's been a long time since Romeo and Juliette.
However, they are closer than you think.
The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental right guaranteed in the constitution and defined in the Declaration of Independence to freely pursue joy and live life in a way that makes you happy. As long as you don't do anything illegal or violate the rights of others. This means to be happy, you must know laws. Everything you love in life is governed by rules: your relationship with your body, with your significant other through marriage, guardianship when raising children, driving with traffic laws, going to a store through contracts, and, of course, business rules for all our professional relationships.
The U.S. is one of the very few countries with any mention of happiness in its supreme laws. Yet, according to surveys, only 14% of Americans are happy. Why is that? Do the rules make it impossible for 86% of America to be happy? Maybe. We have to take a good look at the systematic barriers.
So Why does happiness even matter?
On average, happy people are more successful than unhappy people at both work and love. They get better performance reviews, have more prestigious jobs, and earn higher salaries. They are more likely to get married, and once married, they are more satisfied with their marriages.
Happy people also tend to be healthier and live longer.
It has also been found that positive emotions broaden our thinking in ways that make us more flexible, see the big picture, and be more creative. Accumulated and compounded over time, transforming us for the better by building the resources—strength, wisdom, friendship, and resilience—we need to truly thrive. Positive emotions are also the most critical ingredient in determining a person's resilience in hard times. Positive emotions help both our bodies and our minds cope with stress, challenge, and negative feelings. And these are just a few personal benefits. Happiness affects the economy significantly, as well.
Economists carried out many experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder. Through experiments, they found "happiness" made people around 12% more productive. A recent Gallup survey found that only 13% of employees are engaged at work, meaning the vast majority of working adults don't enjoy their work. By one recent measure, this costs U.S. companies roughly $450–$550 billion annually.
Looked at another way, though, low worker engagement is an opportunity for companies to boost their productivity by investing in employees' welfare and workplace happiness.
Is happiness created?
Happiness is a state of being that is co-created with the environment. To go where we have never been, we need to harness the inherent creativity of our workforce. That means more creativity at work. It will actually be good for America to have more happy employees.
The only absolute law in the universe is love, the law of creativity. The rest are 2nd laws. What transcends both is Lawve; it's creativity.
Developing your natural creative skills, the other half of your brain through habitual creative exercises is a practice you should adopt. And to do that, learning laws is a practice you should continue.
My Lawve story evolves with 4 career re-designs, and the most important thing I have learned so far is that the 3rd time was not the charm.
But that's not where the story starts. The story begins with a little girl born in Iran and a big dream.
I'm just kidding. I'm not going to start all the way there, but here is the gist:
I was born in Iran in 1986 during the Iran-Iraq war. Let me go back a little further. My parents met getting their MBAs in Oklahoma in the 70s. They had returned to Iran, and well, the revolution happened, so they had to stay. They had always planned to return to the U.S., especially having two daughters in post-revolution Iran during an 8-year war. We moved in 2000. I was 15.
I finished high school, went to college, went on to law school, and became a lawyer after for a post-doc. When I started my career, I never imagined it would be what it has become today. In the last 3 years, I founded two I.T. startups, traveled around the world, speaking at conferences, worked with some of the most prominent lawyers, judges, and executives in the world. I was also selected as the top 6 women in law who are changing the law as we know it, won a few awards, and ended-up in Forbes.
It wasn't an easy road. The legal industry is still a white-male-dominant industry. Even Facebook's Zuckerberg got called out by Congress for this lack of diversity. According to 2019 statistics, of the 1.3 Million lawyers in the U.S., 64% are men, and 85% are white. Women make up less than 16% of all law firm partners, and a fraction of them a minority. I am one of these women.
I first began my career as a litigation attorney. I quickly realized that the law's traditional practice was not for me. In 2016, I co-founded a disruptive technology company specializing in automation tools for lawyers. In 2018 I launched my real passion 2nd.law, a virtual law firm specializing in creative law.
It has definitely been a crazy, fun, fast, and wild ride.
With all of this traditional "success," I found myself drifting further away from my passion into the busyness of running a company. Then the pandemic happened, and I decided to take some time off. It felt like I had just stepped out of a washing machine. This is the first summer I remember taking time off as an adult. It was a tough time. I had stress-withdrawals like an addict—this against a backdrop of a growing pandemic and a breakup.
It was such a surreal feeling to have time to be, feel, think, learn, discover, and be inspired. Time to concentrate without the rush of life. Time to contemplate a different direction for my future. To fall in-lawve with my career all-over again.
3 years ago, I had set out to build the impossible. My mission was to close the access to justice gap through technology. When I started my last startup, I told myself that I would change my grandchildren's world for the better with what I'm building. The generation of digital nomads. That it will be in their era where they will see the results of my dreams; an accessible justice system. And here we are, 3 years later, watching courts and lawyers all over the world go online expedited by a pandemic. It's a brand new world. A world that did not exist when I pursued my first dream. Justice meant something different now.
In my time off, I connected more deeply with my family and friends. I had tough conversations with the people in my community about the world we are living in. It was inspiring to see everyone's perspectives, their values, their personal wants, and dreams. I remembered small memories and images from my childhood that I hadn't thought about in years. I questioned everything. I rediscovered myself, my passions, my values, and my people. I discovered my roots.
People have different definitions of success. I defined my success two years ago:" to have a chance to have my passion be impactful on a system that has shaped human behavior for centuries." In this, I was successful! And I get to observe these changes in my lifetime. I feel pride and joy in my creation and contribution.
When I looked at things in that context and looked at my life, I had a new dream: to share my passion for empowering more dreamers to create. To live life in the present, in joy. To contribute to my community of creators. This time, I am designing my career around my happiness, creating, and sharing happiness. To work with dreamers who understand the true power co-creation.
My personal journey has revealed a simple pattern that inspired the creation of everything I am doing. This is a method I have used through all my big decisions in life. A technique I have used in problem-solving and solution design for my clients. The essence of how I see the world. A method I call #Lawve.
What's #lawve got to do with it?
I have come to understand that there are only two reasons why we do things in our journey to happiness.
Love. Because we want to.
This is the pursuit of our own self-fulfillment. All traditional, familial, cultural, gender, and societal conditioning, rules, and customs fall into this category based on the assumption that following these "rules" is purely your choice. If you can choose to do it, you can just as easily decide not to do it. Either way, there are consequences.
Laws. The 2nd are laws. Because we have to. All-natural and man-made laws.
But we all know stories of love that have defied laws to create extraordinarily. Life is simple, but not that simple. Things don't always fit into that perfect box of love or laws.
(if you learn anything from me: learn this- everything in life is negotiable. In Farsi, we even have a word for it. It's called "choo-neh." Say that to any Farsi speaking person and begin negotiations. You can learn to become a great negotiator. Start by taking negotiation strategies from your toddler at bedtime: the thirsty & starving philosopher.)
They say your gift in life is what you were asked to stop doing as a child. I was a fashion-loving negotiator. That explains why I became a creative lawyer. But I understood my natural gravitation towards laws much later in life while soul-searching during a pandemic.
When I remembered my childhood in Iran, I remembered having many questions: why did I have to cover my hair outside at 9 years old? Why were our schools separate for boys and girls? My parents answered my questions with great detail. She explained the structure of the government and the laws I needed to be aware of. For example, wearing makeup was illegal. Try explaining that to a mini fashionista. It was no joke. I watched both my mom and my teenage sister bailed out of prison in Iran by my father because they were arrested for having makeup on. Laws there are so inter-twined in your daily life as a citizen.
I guess it's just in my core to care about laws and structures built by those laws. My mom was a political science major and an aspiring advocate: my dad, an entrepreneur, and a trained accountant. My mom has always been super political. In fact, she hosts a progressive political commentary with a hint of comedy every afternoon live from her living room. She often gets into heated debates with her co-host, my dad.
Rules make life simple for me. You know what is required to do, and you understand what the consequences are of your failure to follow those rules. You also understand that rules are changeable. That makes for a very informed decision. You know where the lines are, and if you chose to color outside the lines, well, you know the risks involved in that choice.
When you understand the two principles of life, love & laws, the absolute & the fluid, you know that there is a balance, a rhythm, a bridge for that polarity to be. That bridge is creativity.
We, humans, have a deep capacity to feel love. We are meant to be happy creatures. Why else would we have the capability to feel happiness and re-create that happiness repeatedly if we weren't meant to create joy?
The old paradigm is gone. The days of "having to do" anything is over. Unless it is required by law, if you are doing something, it's because of love or created #lawve. And that's the most beautiful thing in life: the freedom to chose—the freedom to develop lawve. When you shift into balance, into Lawve, you can live from your heart in all areas of your life, and that's the right path to happiness.
Crazy is believing in something, an idea that only you see and no one else. Something that's never been done before. Insanity is believing it to be possible in this reality. Creativity is building it AND making other people see what you saw in the first place.
Yes, there is some complexity in life, but the complexity is not an impossibility. It's something a beginner creator can solve because a creator sees the world in problem & solution pairs. A creator understands the web of life as a symphony conversing with them rather than a force trying to stop or discourage their deepest passions and desires. Creators are confident in the value they bring in themselves and their creations.
A problem, therefore, is not a stressor. It's an opportunity to design a solution best fit for specific needs, wants, and dreams. The deep spark drives a creator to go the extra mile to reach for greatness even when it's not expected of them, and good is good enough. To think differently. Cheers to those dreamers who wake up at 5 am and hustle. But also to the ones who stay up all night to create. The ones who listen to themselves when they need rest. And to the ones who just keep at it. Only passion, desire, only love can do that.
You don't have to love everything you do. That's impossible. What you should do is to do everything for love, and from love. To do that, you need to know some laws in both natural and social laws.
Just like the grandparents' advice, "balance is key." If you learn one thing from me is to remember that everything in life is negotiable. That's why lawyers exist. That's why innovation exists. Innovation always comes from breaking the standard rules and norms. It also sometimes comes from cutting corners, from lack of attention to detail (which is highly against social norms). So that one can see the big picture to solve a bigger problem that will render your first problem moot.
That's why developing your natural creative skills, the other half of your brain through habitual creative exercises is a practice you should adopt. And to do that, learning laws is a practice you should continue. Just ask, "why." Start there.
The human essence & the only absolute and universal law is love.
The only other constant about us is changing. We continuously discover, innovate, evolve, and grow, and we do that creatively. We didn't come with instruction manuals. That's why the only absolute law in the universe is love. That innate sense we did arrive with to sniff out what's in our best interest, what makes us happy. And we created 2nd laws democratically to solidify what we believe collectively to be in the best part of our society based on what we know scientifically.
But we don't always know best. Scientific theories happen to be 50% inaccurate. And our thoughts, beliefs, and values are continually changing, sometimes accelerated by events like a pandemic. Then modern tools come out, and we correct our mistakes. We solve problems like convictions overturned based on new DNA evidence. The scientific proof was made possible by creators who believed it was possible. Change is ignited by dreamers who took to the streets to protest and cause corrections in the system—people working together to pursue happiness.
Its dreamers and creators prove over and over that even the most ordinary of us is capable of defying the odds at becoming happy humans.
Life, this precious life was merely a possibility. That possibility has brought humanity here. People do a lot more for smaller chances or possibilities. There are billions spent on space exploration for the mere possibility of finding life somewhere else. That's great. I support dreaming big. But what about the life we have here now? Your life? Or my life?
Our days are full of possibilities within our choices, and each option twists the plot in unpredictable directions. It's more exciting to head for the unknown than the two roads you have seen the end of.
How do you #lawve?
It sounds like this cool word I just created but is it actually helpful? Of course, yes.
Approach creation with this simple 4 step process:
1. Define your Happiness. Dream-keep an open mind. Let your imagination go wild. Answer your what and why.
2. Design your Happiness—design-Be flexible. Define your how, how much, and when. To do this, you need to know laws.
3. Share your Happiness. Inspire- be a rebel- inspire the creation. Find your tribe. Find your co-creators. Believe it or not, these are also mostly laws to protect you from harm and others from damage through liability rules and contracts.
4. Create your Happiness. Create- be patient- birth the solution. To create anything, you need to know the laws, social laws, scientific laws, unspoken laws, and personal boundaries and laws.