Overcoming the Trough of Sorrow

Trough of sorrow

Overcoming the Trough of Sorrow

Before I dive in, I should note that this post was written as LexBlog hits its fifteenth birthday. It’s been my pleasure to work in the Seattle offices at LexBlog for over 6 years. So much of that pleasure stems from truly enjoying the people that work here and overcoming the challenges we face on a regular basis. Here’s to another fifteen for a great company of great people.

There’s a line in Fight Club that I love that comes to mind when thinking about my favorite memories at LexBlog:

You met me at a very strange time in my life.

In many ways, I met LexBlog at a very strange time in its life. In many other ways, we met each other at the perfect moment.

Long before moving to Seattle, LexBlog was a fascinating part of my day-to-day. Alongside Colin O’Keefe, I had a view of the entire network of LexBlog publishers through LexMonitor and then LXBN; our two initial attempts at a network site that showcased the work of all legal publishers online. My view of the company was shaped by the authors that used its software, not by the people that worked there or the challenges they faced.

When I moved to Seattle and joined the Account Management team that changed entirely. During my first two full-time years at the company, it became readily apparent that the technical infrastructure needed to change to continue our goals to change digital publishing for the legal industry. Fortunately, we worked with a group of people that were willing to make that a reality.  What I didn’t realize at the time were all the ups and downs that would accompany that decision.

Starting in 2015, we embarked on a project to change the way we delivered our platform. Instead of a one-sized fits all approach based around unique themes and plugins, we established three tiers, each of which represented different site configurations and service levels and in doing so, created a technical stack that our team could manage. In the summer of 2015 we dove in, beginning with our core theme code-named Apple Fritter (our CTO Joshua Lynch has an odd fascination with donuts; what can you do).

Apple Fritter would become the foundation on which we delivered much of our initial product offering. This offering has since grown to include a bevy of plugins and options that extend far beyond “just” a theme, but at that time, a theme was work enough to manage. That summer, without a doubt, represents the most fun I’ve had at LexBlog.

I should add a caveat here that my definition of fun may be different than other people. We were charging into the unknown all while moving around people, processes, and technology. I spent more than one evening at my desk at some ungodly time of night struggling to figure out ticket comments or stretching my understanding of how to manage new parts of our software. We had moved from the initial heady rush you get from new ideas and opportunities firmly into the “trough of sorrow.” This period of time is when you realize that it’s not all fun and games – the market, technology, and your own systems are fighting you as you try to introduce a new product; a new way of looking at things.

We didn’t overcome the trough of sorrow in a single day. It was an uphill battle that in many ways continues today. The dynamic nature of the internet means that the ground beneath your feet is constantly shifting and you either fall or find a way to stay standing. The first moment when I felt like we were on an upward trajectory, however, was on a late night bus ride home just before going on vacation in November of 2015. That night, Colin (yes, the same Colin) texted me to let me know that we had our first buyer of our new product offering. It was the first person willing to take a chance on LexBlog’s new way of doing business. While this may not have seemed like a radical idea to this client, to us it represented the first brick in a new foundation.

Now, over three years later, that foundation has grown to include more than I thought possible. So much has changed that the company is barely recognizable on some levels, yet on others it hasn’t changed at all. I still see many of the same customer names that I saw as an editorial assistant working remotely in Montana, and it’s hard for me to express the right amount of gratitude to those firms for staying with us as we plotted a new path. I still see many of the same names in our internal tickets as well, although many new faces are here at LexBlog helping us move the ball forward. The chief challenge of the company is still the same: To bring the dream of publishing online to lawyers around the world.

Overcoming the trough of sorrow is not an easy task and success is never guaranteed even when you climb out. However, if you can maintain focus and get lucky, I think you’ll find those moments represent the best times of your career; they certainly represent the best of mine.