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By: Eric Bleuel 

You may remember today’s Guest Contributor, Eric Bleuel, as the official Runner Up in our last writing contest! Today’s post made its way to me via a surprise delivery into that ridiculously crowded, barely-room-for-one-more-message filled in-box. Upon seeing what I perceived to likely be a work of brilliance, I popped it open, started reading, and proved my intuition right! I tell Eric he should write more often (here or elsewhere). Read today’s post to find out why! You’re in for one heck of a post.

Every so often, I meet someone who inspires me to make a positive change in my life. I had one such meeting on February 13, 2013. I took the afternoon off of work to go surfing at my favorite spot. It was a real nice day; sunny, no wind and the waves were good.

I was changing in the parking lot when I noticed this guy running at a pretty fast pace up a steep incline with a surfboard under his arm. My first thought was…who charges that fast, up a hill, in the parking lot? My brain quickly answered back – Either someone who really wants to get back out in the water (the waves weren’t THAT good) or maybe someone who has the inner INTENSITY of a professional surfer. My mind quickly decided on the latter scenario. Then I noticed the bald head, broad shoulders and super-tan skin. Could it be?  I thought…“THE GREAT ONE?

Now I know that 99% of my audience is probably not the least bit interested in professional surfers. I mean what does surfing have to do with paralegals? At first glance, nothing. In fact, they are polar opposites. But I’m going to ask you hang on for a bit because this article isn’t just about me being a celebrity stalker. It’s about the intensity it takes to be great at what you do in life.

Back to the story…when I approached Kelly, yes, I was nervous. I felt like a teenage girl about to approach Justin Bieber. But I had approached other famous people before and I knew I had to accomplish two things. #1-  I had to take a picture with him and #2 –  I had to ask him “the questions” that I’ve have always wanted to ask. If you scroll down to the bottom, you will see I accomplished #1 thanks to my iphone. #2, however, went down a little more surprising and awkward than I would have liked.

Now in the surf world, Kelly is much more than just an icon. He is without a doubt the greatest surfer of all time. He holds 11 world titles. He’s surfed waves larger than my house. And he surfs with a style and intensity that no one else has been able to duplicate. But regardless of any of that, he’s always been my personal hero and this was my opportunity to speak with him one-on-one.

After I introduced myself, and he realized I wasn’t the stalker that I appeared to be, I asked my first question: “What’s your secret for holding your breath so long underwater?” His answer, to say the least, caught me off-guard.  It wasn’t his answer per se, but the way he answered. I thought he would say something like, “Oh well…it’s training and I do this and I do that.” But he looked at me like I accused him of committing a crime.  He said, “I can’t hold my breath very long!  I can only hold it for about 3 minutes. Shoot, I know a guy who can hold it for over 8 minutes!”

I was a little startled because I didn’t expect that kind of response. I awkwardly admitted to him that I have a problem holding my breath underwater, and can only hold it for about 30 seconds before I start to panic. Then he really let me have it. In an almost angry tone he said, “THAT’S AWFUL! Even, my girlfriend can hold it for a minute and a half!” Here I was trying to find out his secret and “The Great One” was ripping me on my ability to hold my breath (or lack thereof). He didn’t even know me!

After a while the conversation mellowed out and we talked about other things, like traveling, and Twitter, and the photos he’s posted on Instagram. He asked me about my family and we talked about life for a little bit.

After about 10 minutes, I knew my time was getting short, so I gave him a testimonial about how much surfing has meant to me, how it’s kept me on the straight path in life and how it’s my only escape from the “real world.” I told him how much I enjoy watching him surf and how much of an inspiration he has been to me (something I’m sure he’s heard a million times before).

Okay, Eric, get to the point. Well, the point is…meeting Kelly was INTENSE. Kelly himself is INTENSE. He is INTENSE when he surfs and he’s INTENSE when he talks to kooks like me. Having this kind of intensity inside of us is something we should all strive for. There is no time for us to be lazy or mediocre or to have thoughts that we just aren’t good enough.

Kelly has spent his whole life doing something. He didn’t get to where he is by partying or sleeping in or going home early. He has a passion for what he does; he wants to get better; and he wants to be the best. You can see it in his eyes and you can hear it in his voice. Holding his breath for 3 minutes isn’t enough for him. 11 world titles isn’t enough for him. He doesn’t take days off and he always keeps his FOCUS on what he wants to do.

Being a paralegal is the opposite of being a surfer. You don’t get tan sitting at your desk, you don’t get to travel (unless you consider a filing at the courthouse traveling) and you don’t get to ride anything other than your chair – if you are lucky to have wheels on the bottom – and one of those plastic things on your floor. Your environment stays the same. You look at a static computer screen…all…day…long.

But deep inside you want to get better. You want to be the best. Don’t you? Isn’t that why you are reading this article? To find some precious secret that will give you the edge to be a better paralegal than Mr. or Mrs. Doe down the hall? Well you can’t be the best unless you have the INTENSITY in your life to make it so. It’s the intensity that is found deep within you to be better, to be the best – that will give you the results you need.

I’ll probably never see Kelly again (in person that is.) But our brief meeting is stuck forever in my mind. Anytime I’m at my desk and I feel myself starting to get complacent with where I’m at, I think about Kelly’s intensity and the way it brought him to the top.  I’ll never win a surfing world title or surf waves bigger than my house, but I can make a difference at the place where I work. I can choose to take on a challenging project. I can choose to work a little harder. And I can choose to make choices that will make me the best I can be. I can use the intensity that I have inside of me to accomplish things that will make me a better paralegal.

I follow Kelly on Twitter, so I always know what he’s up to.  He posts photos of the awesome places he goes to and occasionally he makes a political comment to show that he’s more than just a guy who rides waves.

True to form, Kelly started his 2013 campaign with a win down under (Australia) at the young age of 41.  And at the time of this article he just won another event in Fiji in waves that I can only dream of riding. He’s outperforming other surfers on the tour that weren’t even born when he started his professional career.

As paralegals, we shouldn’t slow down either.  In fact we should be picking up speed. Find and keep that intensity going, because ultimately it will lead you to greatness.  I encourage every one of you to find the ”Kelly Slater” inside of yourself and become your own champion in whatever you choose to do.

(Me and my new BFF!)

How cool is today’s post? What impresses me most isn’t the fact that Eric thinks it’s amazingly cool when he has an opportunity to encounter a famous person whom he admires; it’s the fact he tries to ask articulate, thought-provoking, soul searching type of questions to capture the inner essence of that individual, and what he could learn from him.

Wishing you INTENSITY as you finish out the work week, paralegals; like the dedicated, half-sane, weekend loving individuals you are! We’ll see you on Monday. Until then, harness the intensity, and be a champion!