Rob Segall of Ardsley reveals his edgy sense of humor in his first book, “I’d Rather Kill Myself Than Be a Lawyer: How Anyone Can Find Happiness.” The title, however, is no joke.
In the book, which will be released through Amazon on Oct. 21, Segall shares his 25-year evolution from a suicidal attorney to an energetic father of three who loves life no matter what.
“Nothing I say or that I’ve written is original, but it’s original in the way I’ve written it,” the 54-year-old said.
Segall, a 20-year village resident, is managing director at Lenox Advisors, a financial services company. He also serves as president of the Ardsley Panthers Booster Club and sings with Bad Art, “the best band nobody knows,” performing at fundraisers in the Rivertowns.
In his 20s, Segall suffered from anxiety, depression, and stress. He felt no affinity for the profession to which his parents steered him and his two older brothers (only one still practices law). He wanted to be a singer. Segall described his daily grind as “feeling like you’re carrying a bag of cement on your back every day.” In 1995, he swallowed 30 pills at work, landing him in the NYU Hospital psychiatric ward.
Rather than dwell on that incident in the book, Segall describes how he worked on his “faulty internal wiring” and found happiness. That transformation was tough. He admits to being “angry, loud, and super insulting… although in all fairness, often funny.”
For eight years he wrote the book with the help of an editorial assistant, drawing upon journals, extensive reading, and sessions with therapists and coaches.
“I wanted to take all the lessons I learned and make it into a book,” he elaborated. “Writing the book was therapy; it made me look at myself, made me understand a lot of things about me that I liked and didn’t like.”
He didn’t like the fact that “I have a big mouth… I was getting big laughs, but at the same time, people would be going, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe you said that.’ That was the guy I was for a long time, but I didn’t want to be that guy.”
One concept Segall discusses is that people are separate from their thoughts, and from others’ thought patterns, and how not understanding that can cause people to hurt themselves. Though Segall isn’t a Buddhist, a Zen principle also struck a chord with him: detachment. He recognized that being attached to an outcome was a cause of stress.
“When we become attached to an outcome that we can’t control, that’s a surefire way to become unhappy, to run into problems,” he stated. “If it’s something you can’t control, and it doesn’t go the way you want, and you’ve attached your happiness to that thing, you’ve completely ceded your happiness to that thing.”
For him, contentment exists regardless of whether something goes his way. “I can get bummed out, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy; it just means I had this roadblock.”
Stress is still a bugaboo, which Segall counters with meditation, breathing, affirmations, walking, and brewing coffee for his family. His strategy is not a universal prescription; he encourages others to create their own.
Segall suggests adopting a different perspective as the best way to power through a stressful day. “I see too many people in my town, and too many people you read about, that die young,” he noted. “A friend of mine once said that tomorrow is not promised. I am constantly reminding myself, when I’m feeling this way, tomorrow is not guaranteed.”
Segall pointed out that mental conditions such as depression still carry a stigma. “If you have cancer, or you break a limb, you get sympathy. But with psychological issues, you get, ‘Smile, what have you got to be depressed about?’” Referring to his suicide attempt, he said, “Nobody knew, including me, how bad it was, because you can’t see a psychological issue.”
On Facebook, Segall posts a reason he’s thankful every day. When he revealed the content of his book, he received messages not just from friends and followers, but from strangers sharing stories of how they or their loved ones were battling depression, and thanking him for talking openly about the subject.
From the outside, according to Segall, it may look as if he’s always led a charmed life, with a loving family, including his wife of 29 years, a successful career, a comfortable lifestyle, and fun leisure activities, but it was important to him to share his struggle, in the hope of inspiring others facing the same issues.
“I know there’s a lot of unhappy lawyers out there,” he quipped. In a more serious vein, he added, “There’s a lot of unhappy people, and I thought the book would be really helpful.”
Segall is still a work in progress. “I work really hard all the time to improve myself,” he affirmed. “I’m certainly not everybody’s cup of tea, that’s for damned sure. I just want to be the best human being I can be. I just want to be peaceful and joyful and nice.”
“I’d Rather Kill Myself Than Be a Lawyer: How Anyone Can Find Happiness,” is available in paperback and for Kindle. For further information, visit www.robsegall.com/thebook.