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Mental Block I

By Joryn Jenkins

(How Do I Sign That First Collaborative Client?)

We all suffer from mental blocks at one time or another. What is a “mental block,” you ask? I don’t recall even thinking about that catchphrase since explaining it to my daughter to help her deal with the wall she had hit trying to complete a project for girl scouts, years ago.

Until the other day, some twenty years later. I was explaining to someone how I first began presenting in public, and the expensive “mistake” I had made hiring a public speaking coach.

I Had A Mental Block About Presenting In Public

This was long after I argued my first jury trial, 37 years ago. I had never had difficulty presenting to juries; there was never enough time to develop any kind of mental block about it because I got thrown into a jury trial nearly the instant I began work at the State Attorney’s Office. And every day for the next three years.

But I developed this mental block about presenting in public as soon as I realized that Present was one of the Five Fortes of Effective Marketing that I would need in order to perfect a master marketing plan for my collaborative law practice. (The five fortes are Pitch, Publish, Present, Profile, and Partner.) I would have to be comfortable in front of live audiences of 250 or more, as well as on screen for all kinds of video presentations.

And I didn’t believe that I could do that. I had a mental block about presenting. The whole idea terrified me. Jerry Seinfeld joked “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.I certainly thought so!

Buyer’s Remorse

Now don’t get me wrong; I believe in coaching. Coaches are fabulous. I take Pilates twice a week from two different instructors and I’ve worked with the same business consultant for eight years now. In fact, I coach lawyers and other professionals in marketing their own practices. And I also coach would-be authors who have a mental block about writing “an entire book” themselves.

But I just wish I had done some research before I dropped $19,000 on an instructor to “teach” me public speaking. So, what happened? At the end of our first hour of instruction, he asked me for my phone, stuck it in my face, hit “record video,” and told me to tell him why he should get divorced collaboratively. That’s when I discovered that Seinfeld was wrong. In fact, Mark Twain got it right. “There are two types of speakers: those who get nervous and those who are liars.” But nerves are not the same as a phobia. And there are less expensive ways to get over that particular mental block.

Comfort Is Not The Enemy Of Good

So, you have a mental block. How do you sign that first collaborative client? How do you discover that special safe space called your “comfort zone”? That place in which things feel familiar? Where you are at ease and (at least, perceive that you are) in control of your environment, where any anxiety or stress you might experience is at its lowest possible level? In this zone, Wikipedia tells us, a steady level of performance should be possible.

Staying in your comfort zone doesn’t mean becoming stagnant; you can still try new things and evolve. In fact, sometimes your comfort zone can help you negotiate your way through change. Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7 Step Program to Reclaim Spontaneity in Life, argues that “Change is easier when it starts from within your comfort zone because that’s where you feel secure about who you are and what you want to do.”

I’ve written so much about my goal to change the way the world gets divorced. (In fact, I’m so committed to that ideal that it’s become my slogan; I’ve trademarked the expression.) But change is hard. There are wonderful self-help books out there about how to overcome that. (Of these, my favorite, is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, two brothers who are both professors, but who work on opposite sides of the United States.)

So, your mental block. How do you sign that first collaborative divorce? For the answer, see my next blog.

For more on how to market your professional practice, reach out to me at or find me at Your Collaborative Marketing Coach, because your marketing is my marketing!

Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.

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