James E. Brill 2015-01-26 02:37:22
How revisiting a childhood story can bring about positive results. After 45 years, my wife and I sold our home, and we now have a unit about half the size in a high-rise condominium. Instead of hurriedly sorting, giving away, or throwing out our belongings before moving, I decided it would be easier to pay the movers to pack and haul them to our new home where I would have more time to go through the process. It is amazing what turns up after all those years. My pride and joy is the rediscovery of my childhood storybook, The Little Engine That Could . As I looked at the cover, I could hear the sound of the little engine—“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can”—each phrase a little faster and more powerful than the one before. I think I can! I can! I can! I can pull that train over the mountain! I don’t know about you, but as a child, that story inspired me and I took the lesson to heart. As a lawyer, that belief system has served me well and has helped me pull the train over the mountains that most lawyers face. It gave me courage to practice as a solo, to volunteer to serve the profession, to relocate my office from downtown more than 40 years ago, to write a book on probate, and even to write this article. Even when others believe I am delusional—I think I can! If you really want to challenge me, just say, “You can’t ____________.” Before you know it, I am on a mission to prove you wrong. I think I can! I also was taught that “can’t never could do anything.” Of course, I can’t do everything, but I can do something and anything is better than nothing. I believe it was Earl Nightingale who put it in more “grown-up” terms when he pointed out that whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. That is the magical power of positive thinking. I think I can! A friend of mine is a surgeon who visits his patients before their operations. He goes over the procedure in detail (sometimes even using words they can understand), and he describes not only the benefits of the surgery but also the enhanced quality of life that his patients will soon experience. For most of them, this is uplifting and comforting. Some, however, remain convinced that things will not really get better. Unfortunately, these few sometimes say, “Doc, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I don’t think I’m going to make it.” When my friend hears this, he refuses to operate because he believes the negativity may make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. In his day, John Wooden was the most outstanding basketball coach in the United States. His teams won many championships—so many, in fact, that it is a wonder trophy makers could keep up. There’s a restaurant in Disneyland with a beautifully carved likeness of the coach. It sits upon two piles of books arranged to conjure a pyramid. Each book is named after a characteristic of a winner. Their names include skill, initiative, enthusiasm, and confidence. Well, what mountain are you afraid to cross? Are you simply procrastinating because you fear that you will not accomplish your client’s objectives? Think about John Wooden’s pyramid. You couldn’t have made it this far as a lawyer if you didn’t have the necessary skill. Use your initiative to get started. I think I can. Change your attitude to enthusiasm. I think I can. Your confidence is building. I think I can! Does the mountain symbolize the call you don’t want to make? Is it the letter you don’t want to write? Is it the agreement you want to prepare but can’t seem to start, much less finish? If you’re having doubts regarding your ability to handle the project, your decision to practice by yourself, or even to practice law, take a few minutes to revisit that classic story. Before long, you’ll be saying, I think I can! I can! I can! JAMES E. BRILL is a 1957 University of Texas School of Law graduate and a solo practitioner from Houston whose practice emphasizes probate, estate planning, and real estate. He has been the principal author of every edition of the Texas Probate System and is a recipient of the Presidents’ Award from the State Bar of Texas.
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