Loved talking to Bold Journeys about resilience, grit and perseverance, my parents, and all things mediation! Click above to read the full article or read it below:
We were lucky to catch up with Ellice (Lisa) Halpern recently and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Ellice (Lisa), appreciate you sitting with us today to share your wisdom with our readers. So, let’s start with resilience – where do you get your resilience from?
That is a really interesting question and one that I have not been asked about before in an interview. I am fascinated with the topic of resilience and grit. I remember when Sheryl Sandberg gave the commencement speech at Virginia Tech’s graduation in 2017, after her husband Dave Goldberg died suddenly in 2015. Sheryl said in pertinent part, “The most important thing I learned is that we are not born with a certain amount of resilience. It is a muscle and that means we can build it.” Sheryl and psychologist Adam Grant talk about how to build resilience in yourself in their book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. “Hundreds of studies have shown that children and adults recover more quickly when they realize that hardships aren’t entirely their fault, don’t affect every aspect of their lives, and won’t follow them everywhere forever.”
Where do I get my resilience? My mother used to tell me when I would become overwhelmed with school work in high school, college, and law school to take one thing at a time. I am a detail person and a perfectionist, and this wise advice has guided me throughout life. We have a choice to complain and to see the glass as half empty or to reframe our thoughts, find the silver linings, and to see the glass as half full. My parents divorced when I was 12. My mother was a single mom who raised three children on her own, worked full time in a career that she loved, and died of cancer at age 55 eight weeks after diagnosis. She was a very positive and resilient person and led by example. My father had various health issues but did not complain about them; he carried on with a full life of working as an attorney and traveling.
I continue to build resilience day by day and year by year. I am paraphrasing Sheryl and Adam here: We all go through hardship and heartbreak and it is important to surround ourselves with our tribe, to speak about traumatic events, and to build self-confidence and self-compassion. We need to pay attention to our happiness and our joyful moments.
Thanks for sharing that. So, before we get any further into our conversation, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and what you’re working on?
I am a mediator and have owned my business Little Falls Mediation since 2015. My business is based in Arlington, Virginia, and I work remotely when I spend time in California. Our mission is to provide a caring, empathetic environment where clients feel comfortable, safe, and empowered in discussing and resolving conflict. I mainly work with families on marriage, family, divorce and post divorce matters and also help to resolve disputes in community, workplace, and business matters. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the mediator empowers the parties to a dispute to identify the issues, brainstorm solutions, evaluate solutions, and reach joint decisions.
My brand is kindness, rapid response, and competence. My clients come to me when they are undergoing great stress, and I treat them exactly as I would want to be treated.
I started off as a lawyer. I worked in an executive branch agency in Washington, D.C. after law school, then worked in the U.S. Senate for Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska. I then worked as Washington counsel for the American Medical Association. After I had three children, I decided I wanted to take charge of my schedule. I trained to become a mediator in 2010. I started working at Multi-Door Dispute Resolution in D.C. Courts, handling court referred cases in the Small Claims, Family, and Judge in Chambers programs. I taught Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Mediation at the Scalia Law School at George Mason University for many semesters. And I currently guest lecture at American University once each semester as well on ADR.
If you had to pick three qualities that are most important to develop, which three would you say matter most?
Perseverance, grit, and resilience were three qualities that were impactful in my journey. And to be successful in my practice with my clients: kindness, rapid response, competence, and transparency about the mediation process and costs.
My advice: find a mentor and be a mentor. One very important mentor to me was Larry Gaughan, known as the father of mediation in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area. I met him at a conference and learned so much from him about life, grit and resilience, and dispute resolution. We became good friends and colleagues and I miss him every day. Larry died at age 85 in 2019. I receive regular calls from young professionals who are interested in mediation as a career, and I very much enjoy speaking with them and mentoring them.
To close, maybe we can chat about your parents and what they did that was particularly impactful for you?
My parents empowered me to figure things out for myself. They did not hover over me. I paid for college and law school mostly from student loans even though my father was a lawyer and could well afford to pay for my education at Cornell and Georgetown. I paid for my first brand new car with money earned from my first job out of law school. I paid for my contact lenses and my clothes as a teenager. I always had a job. My parents worked hard throughout their lives — my mother as a Development Director up until her death at age 55 and my father as a lawyer and then journalist up until his death at age 88. And they both were extroverts and loved traveling, volunteering in their communities, engaging in what was going on in the world, and celebrating life. I miss them every day.
Photo at AWE (Arlington Women Entrepreneurs conference), Jackie Huber photographer. Headshot, Tim Coburn photographer. GMU photo, shot with my cellphone.
Ellice Halpern, J.D., is a Virginia Supreme Court certified general and family mediator.