Being surrounded by great lawyers and people has taught me several lessons that transcend the practice of law into the domain of life philosophy. Watching talented leaders face difficult cases and challenging situations has shown me what true character means and how it is developed. As I reflect upon my observations and experiences thus far, five principles emerge as guiding forces that should direct us when we are tested as lawyers and as people.
- Do not fear adversity. Adversity is the one thing that nobody wants but everyone needs. Stressful cases involving high stakes, difficult personalities or other challenging dynamics actually make us stronger and more resilient as lawyers and as people. With past difficulties endured, we gain perspective on how to deal with and overcome adversity. Those prior challenges give us resolve and unveil an inner strength that we often didn’t realize existed.
- Failure is good for you. We learn more from failure than we do from success. I readily admit to dwelling more on my mistakes than on my achievements. But, in my view, that is how it should be. Failure is a good measurement of your capabilities and expended effort. We need to know where we measure up so that we understand our limitations and how we can improve. If you have not failed, you have not truly tried. We owe it to ourselves (and to all those people who have helped us over the course of our lives) to reach our potential. The only way to find that potential is to fail and spring back along the way.
- Hard work beats talent. Have you ever had an opposing counsel who went to a better school and achieved more academically and professionally than you did? I have. As a younger lawyer, I questioned whether I was in their same league or could match their intellect. Over the years, I realized that hard work completely neutralized any resume-based differences. It’s amazing how powerful of a vehicle hard work truly is. By extension, there is something to be said for grit. Exceptionally difficult issues or tasks are usually not solved in moments of genius. Rather, they need to be painstakingly and deliberately worked through.
- Time brings clarity. Time allows us to better develop and articulate our thoughts. While we live in an age where speed and responsiveness are important, the best lawyers ensure that they devote adequate time to thinking through tough problems and effectively communicating with others. My thought process rarely gets worse with more time and deliberation.
- Challenge yourself. As humans, we like routine. That’s okay, as there is comfort and safety with the familiar. But it’s not okay to allow time to go by without changing up routines and requiring yourself to have new experiences. When we were kids, every experience was new, and we were expected to deal with the intimidations of novelty. Yet, now that we are older and have a greater ability to adapt, we suddenly stick to what and who we know. Affirmatively push out of your comfort zone. Whether through travel, meeting new people, or learning about and trying new things, make sure you consistently challenge your boundaries. Life is not static, so you shouldn’t be either. New experiences bring a different perspective to what you thought you already knew. D