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Jamie Collins

By: Jamie Collins

I was at Buffalo Wild Wings with my family last Friday night. We ordered an array of hot wings and a few trays of buffalo chips with cheese (to fight over like small school children), and there we sat…starving…and waiting. My husband called my attention to the big screen television directly to my left that was nearest our table. They began to show a “greatest moments” feature on one of the most famous athletes of all time. One who garnered worldwide attention for his incredible athletic abilities, quick reflexes, supernatural, herculean basketball feats, seemingly impossible spins, powerful dunks and superior jumping skills, none other than the infamous — Michael Jordan. 

As I sat there watching them count down, backward from 10 to 1, showing the greatest moments of Michael’s professional basketball career, it dawned on me that one day we, (you and I), will look back at all the days of our long and prosperous paralegal careers, and will hopefully reflect upon some of the same types of moments of greatness, just in a bit different of a venue.  So Michael’s best moments took place on the basketball court and ours will take place in our firms and scattered throughout courtrooms all across America (and beyond for some of you). It’s really not so different, after all.

It occurred to me that perhaps I’ve already lived through a few of my greatest professional moments. I can tell you with absolute certainty that one of my trial experiences will stick with me for the rest of my days.  It was a once in a lifetime moment, the kind you see transpire before you, and watch unfold before your very eyes. The kind where you sit in a room and soak up every sight and sound around you and focus on every word that exits your lead attorney’s mouth, as you revel in the emotional turmoil going on inside of you, accompanied by that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, the giddy nerves in the very core of your being.

You know the one; part emotion, part pride, part grief for a client for whom justice is being upheld, and over abundant pride for being part of something so absolutely spectacular, life-changing, and special. Yes, I’m talking about that kind of moment.  Oh yes – that particular trial experience will most assuredly make my top ten list when I one day sit and ponder the top 10 career highlights of my fantastic and amazing paralegal career. It absolutely will.

This line of thinking brought to mind another story, one that is related through basketball and a former job.  For those of you who have followed The Paralegal Society for some time, you may have heard me tell this story before.  Regardless if you have or have not heard it previously, it’s definitely a story worth sharing.

Years ago, I worked for a very busy attorney (my life sure hasn’t changed much in that regard).  I once heard him tell a story and it’s one that really stuck with me.  While it was about basketball, the content was very relatable to any person, regardless of their background, athletic abilities, social demographic or profession. Its message was so simple, yet profound, that I find myself still reflecting upon it from time to time, to this very day, when it comes to mind.  Last Friday was one of those days.

When my former boss was younger, he was an avid basketball player and the co-captain of his basketball team in high school.  He once attended a basketball camp hosted by none other than the dynamic, animated, and wildly passionate (or perhaps wildly crazy) Bobby Knight.  Now whether you love him or hate him makes no difference.  I think we can all agree upon one thing: the guy is intense. 

So he was at this basketball camp and Bobby entered the gym. It was a simultaneous jolt of exhilaration and terror for each of the young men lined up in the gym on that day, as Bobby made his grand entrance into the gym.  To put it mildly, he had presence and when he entered a room, you couldn’t help but take notice, because even if you didn’t “see” him enter, you were certainly going to hear him enter. This should come as no surprise to anyone who ever watched him coach I.U. basketball. 

He walked into the room toward the line of eager, young boys and pointed at one of the young men.  In true Bobby Knight style, with a red face and elevated voice…okay, he was yelling… and told the guy, “Now you run down to the other side of the gym, touch that line over there and get back here as fast as you possibly can.” So, with that charge issued by Bobby, the boy left his spot, gripped in sheer terror and excitement, sprinted to the line at a brisk pace, touched it, and ran back fairly quickly.

Now, as you can probably imagine, Bobby was not at all appeased. He looked at this young man and in the stern Bobby Knight voice you can imagine, face red, spit flying, and loud yelling voice said “I told you to run down there as fast as you possibly can and I don’t believe that’s what you did — now get down there — and you touch that yellow line — and you get back here to me – AS FAST AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN. NOW RUN!!!” And with that, the boy dashed off, in a full scurry. He ran at top speed, as fast as his tall, lanky basketball playing legs could carry him, touched that yellow line and dashed back to where Bobby was standing. 

Bobby then turned to him and the other boys and said, “Do you see the difference?  Now I told you to run as fast as you possibly could both times. Yet, you ran way faster the second time. Do you know why that is? The first lap you ran in your time…and the second one – you ran in mine. Yet, I asked you to run your fastest both times.” A strong message indeed.

So we, as paralegals, don’t dribble large, round, striped, orange basketballs wearing laced up high top sneakers. We don’t run across a court (okay, well, at least not across a basketball court anyway – more like running across a marble floored “court” wearing black stilettos), but the lesson that we can all learn from Bobby Knight is to be very cognizant when we utter the words “my best.” The words “my best” are very powerful words; be careful what you attach them to. The words “my best” should be reserved for the select few occasions when that’s what you’ve actually done — your absolute best. Not just your best under the circumstances, while feeling under the weather, for the time available to perform a project, the lack of sleep we got last night or taking into account the fact that it’s a task we don’t particularly enjoy. Your best is just that – your absolute best. It has no room for explanations, excuses or qualifiers.  

When we look back at the lifetime footage of our greatest professional moments, I believe it will be in those moments that we will see ourselves at our very best; our true self, our skills, our attitudes, our aptitudes, our potential, our energy level, our efforts, our resilience, our defeat and rise again, our declaration that a moment is ours — and we are seizing it — and nothing — and no one — better stand in our way — because it is ours — and we are taking it. Oh yes. We are. A moment where we will bask in the sights and sounds and get that feeling in the pit of our stomachs, in the core of our beings that reaches deep down into our souls that on that day, we were walking paralegal perfection, and we will revel in it, in those moments, those hours, our greatest moments….and there will be at least ten of them. 

Perhaps one of yours will occur today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. You really have no way of knowing and neither do I, but one thing is for certain…the moments will come. May you seize each and every one of them, today, tomorrow, whenever, and may they forever be categorized in your mental library as one of the greatest professional moments you will ever know.  And on those days, my friends, those most glorious days, you will be running at Bobby’s pace…not your own. 

Please feel free to leave a comment or share a story, TPS readers. We’d love to hear from you!