Date: March 31, 2022
- What do you want people to know about you? Describe yourself in 6 words.
David Ross- I’d say, teacher, mediator. If I want to be grandiose and a little inaccurate, I’d say peacemaker. And I’d add the word humorous because I try to bring humor, as I say, in a very serious way to everything I do, teaching, mediating, and socializing my relationships. It’s really an important piece of who I am as a person. I’d like to think it’s a skill, certainly a trait. And that’s what I would say.
Tell us your name, your business name or industry, location and description. Why are you in this field? How did you get here?
David Ross-There were three events that happened. And they were in a relatively compressed time period. And they ended up becoming interconnected and actually forcing me to use the workforce to make a choice. So I went to college. Like so many graduates other than pre med students. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I decided I take the LSAT, which I bombed the first time and had to make a choice whether to take it again. Thank God I did. Thank God the numbers went up enough that I could get into, good enough school I felt comfortable going to so I went to NYU Law School, which I love. And my first job was at a big white shoe corporate law firm here in New York City. I was in the litigation department. Because I always imagined being in front of a jury and trying to be persuasive and connecting with people and telling a story, which is something I like to do. And it didn’t take long for me to realize that while I really respected my colleagues and partners, associates, administrative staff and everyone I love the place in the culture which was very professional, very hard driving, almost perfectionist, perfectionist, and love that aspect to the work at graph. But it was something that was missing. There was something where I felt as though this is not even close to exactly right. For me, and I was young, early 20s. from college to law school. So the three events are as follows in somewhat crowded I think in chronological order. The first was, I was in a partner’s office. Our sellers were nervous but on my best behavior in any event. It was in late October and this particular partner who will remain unnamed, told me he had a great idea. He wanted to deliver a huge document request and demand on a particular corporation that we were in litigation with on Halloween. And he was literally howling with laughter and I like people that were funny. I like things that are funny. I find humor in almost everything. And I was not laughing because I thought it was weird. I really couldn’t believe this grown man was laughing at this idea. Almost in a diabolical way. So that was sort of the warning bell not more than a couple of weeks later, I was working late as associates often do. And a partner came down to check on what I was doing and sort of checked out and asked when the memo was going to be coming to him. And he noticed that I had a poster of Gandhi in the back of my office and I really admired his work and passive resistance doesn’t really encapsulate the cravat style or mantra for litigations, probably the opposite of that, whatever that is. And he looked at the poster and he said squinting and it seems like it was yesterday. Of course it was more than 25 years ago. He said is that Gandhi back there? I turned around and he said yeah, he just gave a certain look that made it seem clear that he was in disbelief and I would have a poster of Gandhi in my litigation office and for that, and I thought, okay, I love Gandhi. He doesn’t, maybe no one else here does. By the way, my favorite quote from Gandhi is not to be the change that you want to see in the world. It is to live as if you were to die tomorrow, which is a little more of it. But if you can actually think about that once in a while, I find it quite helpful. The third event was a personal one. My parents survived a commercial plane crash in 1992. And I was at that time, I ended up becoming very involved in their recovery process. They both survived the crash. But I went into therapy to try to understand the feelings I was having and deal with the emotionality of what happened. My therapist told me that when you have an event like this, it can rearrange your priorities.
- What was your single biggest challenge in running your business or working in your industry throughout the pandemic?
David Ross-I’d like to share three challenges. The first is no human contact other than my family in our home but no longer contact with clients and with students. The second was a real fear of the technology that was required to run mediation sessions through Zoom. I addressed that fear head on after being paralyzed for a couple weeks. And I decided, you know, what, what is the most I can ask of myself, maybe how about, I get so good at Zoom, that I actually can train others on how to use it. So I set that very high bar again after being paralyzed. I mean, I just was sitting and so I began to learn about it and with no nervous moments, I ended up giving training programs, to defense lawyers to law firms and clients. And that felt really good to conquer that fear to address that. Fear and conquer. The third one, maybe less predictable. And that is, I realized that I could not be in control. I hate the term control freak. I was going to use it. The control freak that I am, and that I had to relax a little bit realize there’s so many things I cannot control and get comfortable with that and really change the entire sort of the emotional and psychological stance that I taught when it came to conducting mediations and to training on Zoom at Columbia. Those are my three.
- Like the Elton John song, you are still standing. Where does your resilience come from and how do you tap into it?
David Ross- I’m not sure exactly where to start, but I think I’ll start by quoting the Beatles. And I’ll get the lyrics wrong here a little bit. So I apologize in advance but getting by with little help from my friends and family. So there’s two pieces to that. One is non blood relatives. So I connected with two friends that I’m close to and I’ve known literally for 45 years who I knew in middle school and we started having regular zoom calls and just that the longevity of that relationship, us knowing each other so well. That gave me some real comfort and some peace of mind that became a real part of my week, you know, once or twice a week would have that call. With respect to my family, I think with my children, one in particular I won’t name because they’re also great and this one had to be greater with respect to the pandemic. He or she claimed , I have sons and daughters that did a lot of reading and was very focused on the science. I was very hyper aware of not getting caught up in the pandemonium and the hyperactivity of fantasizing and ruminating about what could happen and what how bad it could be. It was just very fact based. And when he or she did that, I was thinking, that’s the right way that this is real, and then they started meditating which I also started doing. So something practical and meditating and bringing some perspective and peace, as well wholeness, because you can get riled up and then focusing on the science and reading articles and records that were truly fact based. That helped me as well because I modeled after my child. That’s great for me not only knowing the self care aspect of meditating right, because I consider it to be a workout for your brain. So when we exercise our bodies and you know, just, you know, walking or playing a sport or going to the gym, I also like hearing about, you know, focusing on something that will keep you grounded, right and so for you and this particular child who will go unnamed, to kind of focusing on the science among other things.
- Any mistake you made that you want to prevent others from making?
David Ross- I’m going to say that being able to give up and being able to relax and not really fear making a mistake or knowing exactly what’s going to happen next, whether it’s in a classroom or it’s in a mediation has been something that I think is going to stay with me. I don’t wanna suggest I was ever overly rigid. When I taught her when I needed it. I never really was, but I was hyper organized, hyper prepared, hyper engaged and hyper focused on making sure nothing went wrong, anticipating what clients and lawyers might say and being ready to respond to two points that they were going to make a shift. When you give up that control, that need for controlling our integrity and fear. You become my definition of presence. And when you’re more present, you become a better listener. You become more open to creative ideas, or at least ideas that you hadn’t anticipated yourself. You make the people in the room, I think feel more valued and perhaps even outside of awareness, more present as well. And I find that approach now to teaching and to mediate it to be yielding enormous dividends. Not just for myself, it’s not about being with my clients, for my students, or sort of my educational clients, and it frees you up. It frees you up, it makes you relaxed, and it makes you think differently. It allows you to make connections often for me, it’s with humor, or it’s just from different pieces of my life that people in mediation don’t anticipate or expect me to share. And that humanizes it also normalizes and cannot think otherwise.