Breaking Free of Fear-Inspired Paralysis: Amy Derby Interview

  • Someday Lesson: Sometimes we stay stuck for a reason because we’re actually getting something out of it. What are you getting out of not moving forward?

I’m not sure how I discovered Amy. I’m just glad I did. She’s always a delight to read and does a great job of bringing the fun in especially when the blogosphere threatens to take itself too seriously (as you can see by her answers to the interview).

Who: Amy Derby of Law Firm Blogger and Write from Home
Amy left the corporate paralegal life in 2004 to pursue the write-from-home blogging-for-lawyers life, which isn’t a whole lot different except that stealing office supplies from your boss when you’re self-employed is way less fun.

What variety of Someday Syndrome affected you the most? In what way?
That’s hard to say. I’m the queen of both procrastination and clutter. I’m one of those people who makes rubber band balls at 3am because a) I might need them someday, and b) making rubber band balls is a lot more fun than doing legal research.  Both, together, kept me stuck.

How did it affect the rest of your life?
I let my fear paralyze me to the point where I didn’t have much of a life. I would sit in my office at midnight knowing there had to be more for me out there, but at the same time I hung onto all those old voices in my head that said this was all I could be. Every time I thought about changing my life I would tell myself, “Maybe someday you’ll do more, but for now this is pretty good. You make a lot of money. You should be happy.”

How would you describe your happiness level at that time?
I wasn’t happy. I thought I was content most of the time, but the truth is I was just keeping myself too busy to feel anything at all.

What changed? Was it gradual or did it come as an epiphany? Perhaps a mix the two?
At the end of 2003 my father died. For the first time in six years, I had to force myself to take time off from work because I couldn’t function. There just weren’t enough rubber bands to make a ball big enough for the one that was unraveling within me. Within a few months, I quit my job and moved across the country in pursuit of something – I didn’t know what, but I knew I had to find it. Life was suddenly too short.

What dream are you in the process of realizing?
I’m growing up, I guess. I’m expanding my business, collaborating on a few pretty big projects, getting rid of things I don’t need. I’m taking risks, fitting my career to me rather than trying to fit myself into a career… if that makes sense. It’s one of those “I’m becoming who I want to be” dreams.

How would you describe your happiness level now?
When I’m not busy being terrified that I’ll wake up and find out this isn’t really my life? I’m pretty happy.

What advice would you give someone in the position you were in before?
That’s a hard one. I believe we can all be in the exact same place yet experience it differently. I suppose I would say don’t let yourself get stuck there, unless that’s really what you want. Some people get something out of being stuck – I was one of them for a long time – but if you’re to the point where being stuck sucks more than the pain of moving forward, then I say go for it.

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20 thoughts on “Breaking Free of Fear-Inspired Paralysis: Amy Derby Interview

  1. Every time I thought about changing my life I would tell myself, “Maybe someday you’ll do more, but for now this is pretty good. You make a lot of money. You should be happy.”

    Not me, but I’ve seen this so many times that it’s something I have to jump up and say, “Yes. That’s so true.”

    So many people are miserable and they don’t do a damned thing. “I should be happy. Look at everything I have. I’ll try harder to be happy and like it.”

    Personally, I say, “I’m not happy!!”

    “Yeah, but you should be. Look at what you have.”

    “So what?! What good is that to me if I’m not happy!”

    Then I ditch everything and go after what I want. Am I happier? I like to think so.

    I’m glad you did that too.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog post..Have You Taken Your Product for a Test Drive?

  2. Alex Fayle says:

    Why people do that is the topic for Wednesday’s Lab-Rat post. It should be an interesting discussion…

  3. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Amy and Alex – Thanks for the great interview. It’s nice to get to know a lot more about Amy. What I really like about her is that she is so funny and friendly and doesn’t take herself too seriously.

    Amy – it was awful that you lost your dad when you were still pretty young. And I guess death does give us wake-up call, no matter how bad it makes us feel.

    It’s really inspiring to listen to someone who really loves doing what they’re doing.

  4. Brett Legree says:


    Are you my brother, seriously? I’m not sure how many people have said to me “you should be happy with what you have” – well, if I had a nickel for every time… you know.

    I mean, I’m happy – yet I can be happier – so why not go for it, when I know it can be better?


    Great interview, and nice pic of Amy!


    Brett Legree´s last blog post..week 1 – report card.

  5. steph says:

    I have a very difficult time settling for anything, and am in constant pursuit of being happier. I think I look too much to external things to make me happy, but I can’t stand it when people point out to me all that I have that should make me happy. Yes, those things, love of family, friends, a home, food, etc. — each one is something to be very grateful for, and I am, very much, and each contributes to my happiness, but I don’t think I’ll ever be generally truly happy until I learn (and this is relevant to Amy’s last post) how to actually decide things rather than simply make choices here and there. I have no idea what I really want, no capacity, it feels, to make up my mind about anything. In essence, even now I have no clue who I really am. For years I’ve been labelling myself and only this year am I really starting to realize how untrue all the labels actually are. I am not who I think I am — at least, anymore.

    steph´s last blog post..Worker Bee

  6. Amy Derby says:

    Thanks for doing this, Alex. It was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to your next lab rat project. 🙂

    James, I grew up in a family that had nothing, and all my childhood I thought once I had it I would be happy. I’ve since learned better. And I’ve since worked with so many unhappy millionaires that I couldn’t NOT learn better. But deep down, there was still that “you have more than most people have/more than you really deserve” kind of guilt thing going on that kept me stuck, from trying to risk it all. The way I was raised, if you ever got ANYTHING good, you were grateful and hung on to it.

    Cath, thanks. My dad wasn’t the best guy. After he died, people actually called me and said “thank god he’s finally dead” (in so many words). But losing any parent is hard, even when it’s a not-so-good one.

    Brett, thanks for reading. Alex is awesome, isn’t he? And James isn’t bad either. 😉 (I’d take him for a brother.)

    Steph, I hate labels. I wonder why it is we’re so quick to do that to ourselves?

    P.S. Alex: Thanks, too, for discovering me. 😉 And for being the only person in blogland who’s ever sent me a postcard. 🙂

    Amy Derby´s last blog post..Happy Birthday to Maximum Customer Experience Blog

  7. Neil says:

    Amy, thanks for sharing your story with us. I’d love to break free and try something new. Unfortunately, with a new born and my wife on mat leave it doesn’t make sense. I’m not willing to take that much of a risk. That’s where the focus on blogging comes in. It allows me to break free and try something new without giving up the day job. Best of luck to you.

  8. Friar says:

    @Alex and Amy

    I’m like Amy…I procrastinate and I have a lot of clutter.

    But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It seems to work for me and I’ve accomplished a lot during my life being this way.

    I think clutter demonstrates creativity. It suggests someone who can’t be bothered with tedious housekeeping and organizing….they have other priorities they prefer to think about.

    And I find a little bit of procrastination actually helps. That bit of pressure towards the end pushes me to work harder.

    Plus sometimes it’s best to put things off for a bit, if you’re not how to start.

    I’d rather take the time to bark up the one right tree, rather than to try to bark up several for no reason.

    Friar´s last blog post..Cleansing Waters

  9. Alex Fayle says:

    Amy is inspiring, isn’t she? And her wit makes everything she writes a delight to read.

    I used to do the I’m-not-happy dash, meaning if I figure out I’m not happy, I don’t try to change the situation, I get away from it altogether. I’ve learned, however, that it’s often much better to stick around and figure out what will make me happy, rather than dashing from one error to another trial.

    I think my comment to Brett above might apply to you. I have a Tiggerish tendency to bounce around “Tiggers like honey.” “Tiggers don’t like honey. Tiggers like nuts.” “Tiggers don’t like nuts. Tiggers like…” Time to stop dashing about and time to start figuring out exactly what does make you happy (and yes, dashing about can happen inside the head – that’s where most of my dashing happens actually).

    You’d be amazed at the number of organizing clients who come from childhoods with very little. After a lifetime of scarcity, it’s easy to fall into the trap of hoarding. Before you went out on your own business-wise, you were hoarding your happiness. You were filling the space where true happiness was with mental clutter using the word “should.” Good for you for getting out of that space and finding what really makes you happy!

    Welcome to the blog! Yes, making a choice to have a family and for the mom to stay at home creates consequences for everyone (especially you) that limits other choices. There is, however, always a way to bring your happiness in line with your current situation. The first thing would be to figure out exactly what you want and how that conflicts/compliments your current lifestyle (ie, what are the priorities in your life?).

    I’m a huge procrastinator. If I find something boring, I don’t do it, unless I can figure out a way to make it serve a goal that I value highly (like a happy relationship means I’m willing to do laundry). As for clutter, if it doesn’t negatively affect your life, then it’s not clutter. It’s just stuff. Once it begins to have a negative impact, then it’s clutter and needs to be dealt with. Until then, feel free to ignore it.

  10. Brett Legree says:


    Oh, I know what you mean. I think I used to do that. Now, when I have lots of ideas for “quick escape”, I write them down for later. My vision of what I must do to get to my happy place, for lack of better words, is very clear to me now. So I can work on that while enjoying what I’m doing right now (mostly).

    Brett Legree´s last blog post..week 1 – report card.

  11. Karen Putz says:

    I’ve met Amy and I can tell you–she’s full of character and fun to hang with. Since I’m also the Queen of Procrastination who Battles Clutter, I have found that I’m much more happier when I have less stuff around me so I’m getting out of that stuck place and learning to let the stuff go. Does anyone need a “Stack Em” toy that’s sitting in my closet for years because I “know” that I have the missing stack somewhere in the house and might find it someday?

    But as far as money, I wouldn’t mind more money coming in because I have some dreams that unfortunately, require some more money coming in. But first, I gotta get unstuck and figure out how to make more money…

    Karen Putz´s last blog post..John Denver Song Makes Me Think of Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children

  12. Amy Derby says:

    Neil — I feel ya on that one. There are some times when taking big risks just aren’t practical. But I think it’s very cool that you’re doing what you feel like you CAN do + want to do by blogging. I wish you all the success in the world. Truly. And congrats on the new baby. 🙂

    Friar — I’m with you there. I once read an interesting, very in-depth study on creativity and clutter that made me feel a whole lot better about myself. 🙂 As far as procrastination goes, I can relate to that getting more done by waiting till the pressure is on feeling. All too well. 🙂

    Karen — You’re one of the most awesome people I’ve ever met, even outside of blogland. 😉 Don’t even get me started on the things I’ve saved. LOL

    Alex — Hoarding happiness is a good way to put it… And no, I’m not surprised that so many folks go through that. We humans are part conditioning, after all. (Or, so I believe anyhow.) Doesn’t mean we can’t overcome things or change them, but … these things happen. 🙂 Luckily we have guys like you around!

    Amy Derby´s last blog post..Excerpts from dreamland

  13. Crista Renner says:

    Awesome post and great comments! Alex, you have attracted some amazing people to this blog.

  14. […] next thank you at Levite Chronicles   And Alex Fayle at Someday Syndrome interviewed me about Breaking Free of Fear-Inspired Paralysis. Loving the discussion going on over there! (And of course, we all love Alex!! Though I’m […]

  15. Hi Alex and Amy – This is a great interview. I love Amy’s honesty and also when she said, “I’m taking risks, fitting my career to me rather than trying to fit myself into a career”. Too often we do the latter and end up unhappy. Finding something we love and molding our life around it results in a much better outcome.

    Barbara Swafford´s last blog post..Is Blogging The Best Use Of Your Time

  16. […] other day in the comments to my interview with Amy, James from Men with Pens ranted about people who know they aren’t happy but don’t do […]

  17. Kelly says:


    Thanks for having Amy in. I love her perspective on Someday Syndrome.


    What I have always loved about your life arc is that you’ve taken charge. Even “too busy to feel anything” has its place in growing and healing.

    Blaming others is so easy, but you’ve never gone that route, and you are getting where you want to go because of that take-charge attitude. Hooray for fitting your career to you. Rock on.



    Kelly´s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Say NO to Your Yes Men and Save Face Later!

  18. Karen Swim says:

    Amy!!! With each word you write I ♥ you more. I am so glad that you courageously took the steps that you needed to take. It’s funny that so often people attach happiness to titles and “things” and can’t understand why you’d want to give that up. Everyone thought I was looney for leaving my 6 figure job and “prestige” for self-employment. It’s not that I wasn’t happy it was just time for something different. Since when did the size of a stock portfolio equate to happiness? Alex, you truly uncover the depth of the human experience with each interview as you gently guide us all to living and loving every moment. I totally heart you too!

    Karen Swim´s last blog post..What I Learned from the “Why Girl” and How It Can Help your Business

  19. Amy Derby says:

    Barbara — Thanks for reading my interview! I like that part too. 😉

    Kelly — Thanks for the love. YOU rock. 🙂 And yeah… “too busy to feel anything” has played a MAJOR part. 😉

    Karen — Everyone thought I was looney for leaving too. There are still folks I keep in touch with from my old firm who are always like “So when are ya coming back?” I just smile. 🙂

    Amy Derby´s last blog post..Hump Day Reading for the Restless Soul

  20. Alex Fayle says:

    @Karen P
    I so hear you about the money and I’m going to share a dirty little clutter secret with you (shh don’t tell anyone else)… I have a bag of clothes sitting on the balcony waiting for me to donate them (they’ve been there since May!).

    It is an amazing community, isn’t it?

    Honesty is the only place to start from if we’re going to cure Someday Syndrome. We can’t do so if we try to lie to ourselves or to convince ourselves that the situation we don’t like “isn’t that bad.”

    Amy is totally a take charge kind of person (at least that’s the image she’s projecting – I’m sure at times she feels completely out of control, like most of us).

    @Karen S
    Yay for the love in! And everyone (especially your clients, I’m sure) is very glad you took the loony route…

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