Thursday, January 15, 2009

Follow Your Dreams Part II

No matter what I say, no matter what I do, and no matter how much I try to ignore it, I can never quite get beyond THIS ONE POST. This thing has taken a life of its own, to a point that I don’t think I really own it any more. Law firm haters have held their own burning parties. Law firm lovers have been as baffled as they have been amused. Education advocates are perpetually shocked and saddened by the desecration of something they see as precious.

As for me, I’m still a bit confused by all the attention. What’s so controversial/rebellious about burning a piece of paper I had forgotten somewhere in my closet all of these years when I can just order another one just like it next week?

In the end, there is something fundamentally wrong with the legal profession in the United States when, after a year of hearing about the ills of collaterized debt obligations and sub-prime mortgages, and the collapse of venerable Wall Street firms, little ol’ Jack’s amateurish, yet well-meaning attempt at simplifying his life further turned out to be the:


On the other hand, if watching a piece of paper go up in flames while listening to some Jane’s Addiction in the background is up your alley, who am I to criticize?

So, by popular demand, I've reposted THE YOUTUBE VERSION OF THE PYRO VIDEO for your own enjoyment/amusement/anger inducement.

[Note that YouTube, in all its legal copyright wisdom, has decided to silence the background song by Jane's Addiction. If you want to view the original video with full music accompaniment, you can always access it via Facebook (via the Voluntary Simplicity Jack account).


Jerry Critter said...

Congratulations, Jack. You are famous, albeit anonymously. This is just another example of symbolism trumping reality. Welcome to the 21th century!

Jerry said...

I was shocked when I read that your diploma burning was the "SECOND MOST IMPORTANT LEGAL STORY OF 2008". I think that is a bit of a misnomer though. I clicked through and it was the second most read story from their news feed. I think that's an important difference.

I still think that it was a huge event for you mentally, and as you say, not such a big thing in the physical sense.

Anonymous said...

interesting. i remember that video.

but i want to hear more about how the steps you have taken to simplify your life are changing you as a person on an everyday level--how is your day-to-day life different now than it was when you first began to get inklings of future possibilities? are you calmer? less hurried? do you worry less? are you learning anything? are you allowing the process to change you? in other words, how are you different now than you were when you started this blog, aside from having less "stuff"?

it seems as if you are saving up for one big "fuck you" moment where you can stick it to the man in a dramatic fashion rather than moving into a truly more simple life. i'm not saying that's how it is, just that that's how it comes across to me from reading your blog.

i mean, i guess if your point is to just have less stuff while sticking it to the establishment at the same time, that's fine, and it's interesting watching that unfold in and of itself. but if your point is to grow and change and become a better person, it's going to take a bit more than getting rid of the townhouse. and you're not showing us much of that...

Jack said...

@Jerry Critter,

Tell me about it!


Good point. But not sure what I should have changed the language to: most 'read'/'commented on'/'accessed' etc...?

@a square peg,

I don't know if I have an easy answer for any of those questions. At least, not right now. I do think I've shared some of that stuff in recent posts (Q4 2008, Yoga Simplicity, etc...). I hope a couple of heavy posts don't overshadow the other insights I am sharing along the way. And if there aren't enough of them, it is probably because I am still going through this process and it will take some time for me to process everything. Maybe it's better for me to focus on the physical aspect of this process before I can let myself express the internal.

Jerry Critter said...

Gee, I don't see that this is about "sticking it to the establishment" at all.

Anonymous said...

sorry if i came across too negatively--i like your blog! far be it from me to criticize--like i have anything figured out! i think the last 2 or 3 posts just struck me in a way that apparently is unfounded...

Carrot said...

You're famous! Is it sort of bittersweet to be famous and anonymous, all at the same time?

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Jack. If it makes you feel free, do it.
I went through a similar period in my life. I think it is important to acknowlege the anger/resentment you feel and release it in a constructive way. And you did just that.
You are paving the way for a new you to come in. How does it feel?
It sure felt good to me. Cathartic, relieving, freeing, passionate, REAL.
Enjoy the ride! -Carina

Anonymous said...

I'm an avid follower of your blog, as I'm interested in the journey that you believe you need to take.

While I am happy to see that you believe that your life is heading in the direction of your choosing, I can't help but feel saddened by your need to destroy the past to create a new future.

Our pasts are an important part in the person we are today. They are the ingredients that make us who we are. Even the mistakes and the missteps contribute to who you are. I guess I've never been a symblic person, so perhaps it's just an unrelatable event for me. My degrees have never hung on my walls or were fodder for discussion, but serve as accomplishments that I worked for, for reasons that I believed in at that time of my life.

In the end, you are taking proactive steps to make your life into the life you want, and I cannot salute you enough. I know far too many people who are stuck in the status quo but are afraid/unmotivated/etc to get out.

So for the most part, ignore my random meanderings and live the life you want. I guess my point is that I never want to change the past in my life-- despite many "missteps"-- and it just made me feel like you were invalidating an important time in your life. Now that I think about it, I may be reading into this completely in the wrong direction.

Is this turning into a manifesto?

Um, I like your blog :)

Anonymous said...

Didn't you burn it for YOU ? You just wanted to be free of certains feelings you associated with it right? I think everyone is taking the whole thing way to seriously ........

Anonymous said...

just read this and i thought of you...

rachaelgking said...

Own it, baby, OWN IT. I'm proud of you!

Anonymous said...

The hysteria about your act is pretty hysterical. But, on the plus (and somewhat ironic) side, your blog probably picked up a lot of new readers who subscribe to the ABA because of it.

I'm happy to say that's how I found this blog. And I was so blown away by what you did, I wrote about it on one of my blogs:

Jack said...

@Jerry Critter,

I certainly didn't do it for that purpose, but I guess everyone can have their own opinions on that.


There is NO need to apologize. In a weird way, I am counting on people keeping me honest and in line.


Naw. Don't really want the attention to begin with. BTW, the second you sell that first book I/we want to hear about it!

1sttimedad said...

If burning your diploma helps you move forward with your life plan, then do it.

Nobody should have the right to judge you on those actions. If they do, it's just because they're so closed-minded or afraid of 'establishment' that they can't understand why there isn't a shrine built around the piece of paper.

Nicola said...

oh my god, you are famous. this is hysterical! and to think...i have "known" you since the beginning. god, this is better than a soap opera. :)
just teasing you!

Jay Bee said...

Jack -

As a attorney who has never practiced law since graduating and passing the bar, I totally understand. But with a father who still practices and begs me to enter the profession on almost a daily basis, I still hear/read what is going on with the industry.

I am not surprised that these "venerable" law firms and their constituents are imploding. Between the layoffs, the white collar crimes (embezzlement), the criminal acts (stabbings which have been covered up- read last weeks ABA Journal), this is no different from the Wall St. implosion. It's all about greed and power! When people learn to follow their hearts, then maybe we would have a legal system which actually functions the way it was envisioned.

If I sound bitter, I am a bit. I have watched some of my friends become former shadows of themselves in order to become partners in the AMLAW 250. And they are still unfulfilled.

I am also not surprised that you have become one of the most important legal stories last year. I think you (and I) are doing something that many attorneys have always wanted to do - GET OUT - but don't have the cajones to do.

Please don't get me wrong - there are a number of "legally" related industries that I am looking into during my current job search as a marketing and business development professional. But to practice law in the traditional sense - no way, no how!

I think what you did and what you are doing is brilliant. You GO! Follow your heart, not your head

I wish you only the best!


Unknown said...

Nice job Smokey Bear.

At least you didn't send the rest of the forest up in smoke with your responsible diploma burning.

They don't just hand out those diplomas to the average bear....or maybe they do.

Heather's Moving Castle said...

Hi Mr! You know I've loved your blog from the beginning. I love that men and women both are finding ways to simplify life and find joy in less extravagant ways. You set a wonderful example of a human being. Thank you.

As a token of my appreciation and pleasure I get from reading your blog, I am giving you one of 6 tree of happiness awards tonight! If you want to play along you can. The info is on my blog as well as the reason I choose to award you.

You are loved! Congrats!

Heather :)

Anonymous said...

Jack, The attention is great. This country is hungry for stories like yours.

Jack said...


Thanks! If there was any catharsis, it was fairly mild. But I have to admit that I had a smile on my face when I used that lighter. :)


Thanks for the kudos!

"I guess my point is that I never want to change the past in my life-- despite many "missteps"-- and it just made me feel like you were invalidating an important time in your life."

I'm not sure I see it as turning my back on the past. Maybe I'm just saying goodbye, which is a little different. It acknowledges the past while focuses on moving forward.


Yeah, something like that. I definitely agree that people are too serious about this.

Jack said...


Very interesting. I think I need to read more about it...that's part of the process going forward.




Thanks for the support. Yeah, got a ton of readers off the ABA stuff. Thanks for reading.

Jack said...


Excellent perspective. There are very few things a person should revere. Sometimes putting things on a pedestal is an impediment to simplicity.


Tell me about it! :)

@Jay Bee

"I have watched some of my friends become former shadows of themselves in order to become partners in the AMLAW 250. And they are still unfulfilled."

How true. Believe me. Many of my friends are now so involved in the law firm lifestyle that I just don't see them being happy anytime soon. What is even more sad to me is that if they actually do leave their law firms (by choice or because of this horrible economy) they will probably have a very difficult transition.

Jack said...


This is probably the only criticism that I actually agree with. Does the fact that I had a water bottle with me make any difference? :)


Thanks Heather. Will check it out.


Are you kidding? Your story is actually probably more inspirational.

Michelle said...

Good for you, burn the damn thing. We've connected on FB and I followed the link to your blog. I'm enjoying it.

Cody B. said...

Just wanted to pop in and say that I have been following this blog for a few months now, and I cant believe we are so alike in our views on just about everything.

You are the coolest motherfucker ever.

Anonymous said...

'second most' legal story? whew, that's big. That had to be a lot of pressure. I had seen a couple things on the internet but didn't think it was making that much waves, thought it would blow over.

And in the previous post.. things with 'mom'. Well, I understand a lot now. I'm so sorry. It is good that you are standing up, it has to be done.

best wishes..going to try to catch up with you now..lots more to read.

Unknown said...

The fact that I could only focus on the potential for a forest fire while watching the video should speak volumes to the importance of the actual act to me. No big deal. Whatever. You did it and it was symbolic to you because it obviously marked a change in your personal outlook. However, to me it was just a burning piece of paper in the woods.

And come on now...water bottle? Not much help, but you would have been well hydrated while running for your life!

Anonymous said...

First of all, I love the blog cuz I been there. Second, read Zorba the Greek (you will relate to the protagonist, a thirty something guy like you looking for something. It will change your life and give you guidance). As for me, I retired from law at 50 and left the U.S. to follow my dreams. I picked up from where I left off 25 years before (during those 25 years, I went to law school, got married, bought a house, raised 3 great kids, worked my butt off, and saved enuf money to live on forever and to buy a house in one of the foreign countries I love). Now I live there and do fun stuff all day.
Jack, sorry to say, but you did things backwards. First, before you go to law school, you are supposed to travel, live in Europe, have adventure. Then you go to law school, work hard, make lots of money, and retire early enuf to have more adventures. But it's not too late for you- go to Europe to live for a while, you absolutely have to leave the U.S. to get your head straight and to gain a new perspective. Find a job teaching English to adults somewhere in Europe, rent a cheap apartment, meet lots of people, go out with young foreign women, become someone else. Then sometime later, if you ever want to be a lawyer again (which you might), you will be ready for it.

Jack said...


Thanks Michelle. Hope you come back often.


Thanks! Always nice to hear good things.


Thanks for the comment. Nothing wrong with verbalizing how one is feeling. I think you can understand that.

Jack said...


We are on the same page (no pun intended!) particularly on the water bottle issue. 


I will check out the book. Kudos to you for doing what I will now be embarking on. And don’t think I am not well aware of the chronology issue. I just can’t think about the sequence. I am where I am and that’s that. Let’s see where I end up. Thanks for the comment.