Why I Do What I Do: Susan Cartier Liebel on Motivation and Joy

MotivationWhen I started The Girl’s Guide to Law School, one of the first people to take me under her wing was Susan Cartier Liebel, founder of Solo Practice University. Honestly, I was pretty shocked. I had nothing really to offer (other than my undying gratitude), but Susan clearly wasn’t helping me because she wanted a later favor. She was just doing it because that’s what she does. It’s who she is.

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome her to tell you — in her own words — what motivates her, so you can uncover your own foundational motivation, too. Here’s Susan…

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. ~ Anne Ritchie

When I was asked to pick a quote to be placed under my photo in our high school yearbook I couldn’t decide between Anne Ritchie’s quote above or, “When Duty whispers low, Thou must, The youth replies, I can!” It is a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Voluntaries. I eventually selected Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote. While I didn’t interpret it the way the author intended, it became my mantra at that time in my life. If I made up my mind to do something, whether my duty or any task, I could and would do it. That hasn’t changed to this day.

What is Motivation?

What I faced throughout my earlier years, however, was figuring out my motivation in life.

Motivation is what sustains us beyond obligation and duty.

It is what brings us joy and allows us to move forward with greater purpose and commitment, allows us to recognize additional opportunities and grab onto them, pivot when necessary, jump out of those pits of despair we can fall into all too easily. We all are capable of working our job, putting in the time, doing it well, but is it our raison d’être?

Understanding My Own Motivation

It was only this past January that I finally had complete clarity on my motivation in life even though I had already been making choices throughout my life based upon this very same motivation. Don’t get me wrong. I do what I do in all areas of my life for the same reasons as anyone else. They are methodically listed in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory he put forth in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” But it’s the top of the pyramid, self-actualization, which is elusive, the trickiest to define and usually comes later in life when all other basic needs are met. You can’t jump from the bottom of the pyramid to the top without satisfying all these needs first. Not possible.

So, what was my epiphany? One of my New Year’s resolutions was to do one thing a week for myself unrelated to my business, my family, my life. It was time just for me. It was time to get reacquainted with Susan Cartier Liebel. The third week in January I saw a “Meetup” sponsored by “StartupGrind” which is powered by Google Entrepreneurs. It featured Kyle Jensen, Director of Entrepreneurial Programs and Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Yale. (Yes, this started out somewhat related to business but it still was personal time!) I initially wanted to talk to people outside of the legal profession to get some ideas about how to continue to grow Solo Practice University and I wanted to be comfortable sharing about the growing pains, which are all perfectly normal in a business, but to do so without judgment.

What happened instead was I walked into a buzzing hive of incredible energy and creative brain power that electrified the air. Here was a group of approximately thirty people who were on fire! They weren’t looking to work for anyone else. They wanted to build businesses from nothing and take the world by storm. But more importantly, they didn’t want to be “given fish,” they wanted to learn how to catch fish. And when they had gotten catching fish down to a science, they then wanted to teach others how to do the same.

I was so energized. I understood how they felt and was able to relate to the speaker because there were many similarities on our roads traveled. He didn’t lecture as if he was teaching an accredited course. He talked candidly about his journey. It was inspiring and intimate and relatable. I started to talk to some others in the audience and I found myself sharing ideas, ways they could enhance their products, market their services, and then it happened. I realized I had immediately gone into mentor-mode. I talked to one married couple who had made it through the first audition round of Shark Tank with their startup idea. Then another gentleman whose idea was still just “an idea” and he wasn’t sure how to proceed. Then I got into conversation with a young lady with a brilliant idea she has already started to execute and which is a definite winner. She’s fumbling in business areas where I am strong. Before I knew it I was inviting her to my home to mentor.

This was the epiphany. This is who I am.

This is my motivation in life. I teach those who want to learn how to fish…how to fish (just ask my son, my friends, my entire circle!). I don’t consort with “victims,” those who don’t want to make an effort, those who expect others to do for them, those who bemoan their fates while sitting firmly on both of their hands. I teach self-starters how to put their pole in the water, how to use the right bait on the hook, and how to provide food on their table.

How I’ve Lived My Motivation

As it hit me like a brick up side the head, I started to look back on my life and saw countless examples of this truth in action. Every opportunity I have eagerly jumped at in every stage of my life has had this recurring theme, most recently my four-year tenure at Law Without Walls. But over and over, again, long before I became a lawyer, long before I became an entrepreneur, this behavior was evident. I’m sure at one point I was mentoring my dolls, my pets, and even those who were supposed to mentor me! This is what gives me joy. This is what motivates me through the ups and downs of life. There is duty. There is obligation. And then there is heartfelt and joyful motivation.

It was when my obligation and duty to provide met and fell in love with my motivation to mentor, that Solo Practice University was conceived.

Solo Practice University is my greatest joy because here is where lawyers who are motivated to learn to how to fish…learn how to fish. I remain joyful every morning I go to work.

Whatever your obligations and duties are in your life, find your true motivation. Once you do, I promise you it will all fall into place. Everything you have ever done in your life will now make sense in hindsight as it will have brought you to where you want to be and it will sustain you moving forward.

— – —

Thanks, Susan!

More about Susan:
Susan Cartier Liebel is the founder of Solo Practice University. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter at @SoloPracticeU. Say Hello!

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  1. […] When I started The Girl’s Guide to Law School, one of the first people to take me under her wing was Susan Cartier Liebel, founder of Solo Practice University. Honestly, I was pretty shocked. I had nothing really to offer (other than my undying gratitude), but Susan clearly wasn’t helping me because she wanted a { Continue Reading } […]

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