So many of the Fairy Tales begin with a damsel in distress, be it Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty, who is beautiful and filled with virtue while residing in less-than-desirable circumstances; she waits patiently for deliverance from God knows where. There is no thought of improving her circumstances on her own. She is not empowered. She is a damsel. She is in distress. And then, remarkably, along comes Prince Charming or a Fairy Godmother to rescue her from her distress so that she may live happily ever-after.
I once was such a soul. When I began my career as a lawyer, I was forever looking for a mentor who would invite me to sit at his knee while he taught me the ropes of being an exceptional lawyer; someone who could see my true promise and potential and who would guide me to the higher ends of our profession. I was proactive. I sought out lawyers and listened intently to their experiences. Many of their experiences inform who I am today. One lawyer in particular, Peter Hinton, had a small practice in Walnut Creek. Personal Injury. High value cases only. Well-respected. To what did he attribute his success?
I called him one day and asked if I might meet with him. He took me out to lunch on multiple occasions. At one of those lunches, I asked him to share with me the secret of his success. Was it hard work? Was it exceptional intelligence? Was it a matter of the will? All those things, he said, are important. But to his mind, his success was based on two principles, one spiritual and the other practical.
As for the spiritual principle, he said that you should treat every person you meet in precisely the same manner that you would want to be treated. When the waitress pours you a cup of coffee, say thank you. When an associate goes the extra mile to garner a good result on a case, give her a bonus. When a young attorney comes to you asking for guidance, take him out to lunch. Just treat everyone the way you would want to be treated. It is a simple yet powerful principle.
As for the practical principle, select your cases with great care. It takes just as much time, effort and money to work-up a lousy case as it does to work-up a great case! Invest your time, talent, and money wisely.
What a great gift! He gave me his time and wisdom. Alas, he did not become my mentor; he said I did not need one. I soon came to realize that my best mentor has always been, and always will be, me. Wisdom is all around me and within me if I am willing to seek it out. We do not need to seek wisdom from a wise man high atop a mountain. We just need to climb the mountain.