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By: Jamie Collins

I’ve found that some of the best advice I’ve ever received is often found in a meaningful line of text or by way of an unexpected introduction to a simple concept that I come across, here or there, perhaps via a blog or article, and it sticks with me. It’s those seemingly small, but inspirational thoughts that I can immediately draw upon and begin to implement in my life.  

Today, I’m here to let you in on a little secret, TPS paralegals. It’s about the one thing you need to possess for just 20 seconds in order to succeed in the paralegal world, and for that matter, the “regular” world too. You Interested? Fantastic! Sip that cup of Joe or that ice cold Diet Coke, and delve right in, my friends. Your 20 second success plan awaits…

Guy Beating Clock

Several months ago, my family and I decided to catch a movie. Admittedly, it can be a bit of a challenge to find a good, family friendly movie that captivates the attention of both, my adorable six year old son, Gavin, and his super cool parents. On this particular occasion, we set our sights on Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, as we ventured out to the local movie theatre to watch “We Bought a Zoo.” I know, I know, it sounds a bit corny, right? Fortunately, it actually turned out to be a pretty good movie for all involved…even the super cool parents.

Matt Damon’s character in the movie taught his children a profound lesson about stepping outside of their comfort zone.  He stated that he had lived his life adhering to a mantra: to step up and embrace pivotal moments when life-changing opportunities presented themselves, by mustering “twenty seconds of insane courage.” The more I considered this piece of advice, the more I came to the realization that it’s absolutely true.

As I sit here typing this post, I can think of many times when I’ve had to harness about 20 seconds of insane courage to get me from one moment into the next, whether it was to propel myself into the next phase, a more challenging project, out of a bad situation and into a better one, into the courtroom to assist with my first jury trial in a state of utter cluelessness or up in the front of a classroom (with my knees knocking) to give a speech.  Yep, 20 seconds of insane courage is about all it takes to charge through the gate of self-doubt and personal worry and into something great. 20 seconds.

Yet, this movie is not what inspired me to write this post. One day last week, I picked Gavin up early from school to take him for academic testing. You see, Gavin is currently in kindergarten at a private school, and we find ourselves struggling over our school options for next year. We’re currently zoned into a school district we do not care for, and will not send him to. The words “less than desirable” readily come to mind. As fate (or misfortune) would have it, we live one street over from a preferred school district. So, with that being said, I was driving Mister G to undergo academic testing at the “preferred” school district, in an attempt to gain him admission, pursuant to a new school “choice” plan we have in Indiana. Thankfully, the boy is smart. After all, he does have super cool parents.

Anyway, on the way to the test, Gavin asked a very important question. He turned to me, and in the most sincere and innocent voice, said, “Mommy, I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m ready to go take the test and I want to, but I feel a little worried. I don’t know why.” My mommy rally speech went a little something like this: “That’s completely normal, buddy. Mommy is scared to do things all the time and I feel just like that, but I do them anyway. Like when mommy spoke at that school recently, I was nervous, but I didn’t let it stop me. I did it anyway, and the more you do stuff like that, even when you feel nervous, the easier it is to do more things like that. Then you get really good at it.”

It was in that moment that I realized 6-year-olds and grown-ups have a lot in common. It was also in that moment when I realized that it’s my job to help him harness his 20 seconds of courage, when needed, and to teach him “how” to do that as quickly as possible. It’s my job, and you can bet your paralegal behinds, I’m going to fully embrace it. And you know what — I’m not going to just assist Gavin with mustering his 20 seconds of insane courage. I’m going to start seizing my own 20 seconds every chance I get.

People sometimes get hung up on what it takes to succeed (often in this field) and how hard it can be, and what a long road it is, and on all the things standing in their way, but seriously, who in the world doesn’t possess the innate capability to harness just 20 second of inner power to move from here to there, now to then, from a moment into success? Not this girl. I’ve got 20 seconds all-day-long…and then some.

When I think about it, I realize that there have been many, many moments that I’ve summoned 20 seconds of insane courage to carry me from a starting moment through confident completion, from a challenge into success, and from the person I was 20 seconds ago, to the person I am standing in this very moment.

The next time you find yourself about to step out of your comfort zone and into the gauntlet, remember, it’s…just…20…seconds. Perhaps the reason only 20 seconds is required is because once you start, you have no choice, but to take a paralegal swan dive, because you’re going to do it…or die trying. After all, you are a paralegal. That’s how we roll. It’s simply how we’re wired. You’re either all in or walking away before the gun goes off. There is no try. We do or we do not. Period. As Napoleon Bonaparte so succinctly stated, “If you start to take Vienna – take Vienna.” And if you’re a paralegal…take it by storm.

It’s just a matter of standing up, moving to the front of the room, opening your mouth, and starting to speak or agreeing to take on a new endeavor, harnessing your inner nerves, silencing your doubts, and diving off that comfortable paralegal plateau, and into the discomfort zone, because that is where glory awaits, my friends.  It’s just outside your comfort zone. It’s just beyond this moment’s grasp.

So, the next time you find yourself gripped in fear, palms sweaty, mouth dry, knees knocking, with your heart palpitating right out of your chest, before you do “it,” whatever “it” may be, just remember, it’s…only…20…seconds…between this moment — right here and now — and greatness.

Matt Damon and Gavin taught me that.