My wife recently sent me a video clip of author J.K. Rowling talking about the benefits of failure. Her marriage had failed, she was jobless and a single parent. Rowling said, “I was the biggest failure I knew.” But once she stripped away the nonessentials in her life and stopped pretending about who she was, she found the determination she needed. She was set free to do the one thing in her life she knew she was meant to do. Her greatest fear had been realized, yet she was still alive. By reaching rock bottom, she found the foundation upon which she rebuilt her life. Rowling said that failure is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something “unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not live at all, in which case you fail by default.” Rowling concluded by sharing the traits she learned about herself. She had a strong will, discipline and many faithful friends. And she was secure in her ability to survive.
Rowling’s words reminded me of one of my favorite quotes: “Success is found on the far side of failure.” Is that not what Rowling was trying to tell us? She found success after hitting rock bottom, learning some things about herself along the way. It was that strong will and determination that propelled her successful career. When have you failed as a lawyer and found success on the far side? I still vividly remember my first few jury trials as a young lawyer. One of our partners was always present to bail me out if needed, and more importantly, to assess my performance once the verdict was rendered. Whenever I am in court, whether arguing a motion or trying a case, I try to debrief afterward. What went well? What could I have done better? If the case is resolved short of trial, which is most often the case, did I move the case along appropriately? Did I get a good result for the client? If you are a young lawyer, insist that a more experienced lawyer go with you to your first hearing, your first deposition. Look for opportunities for other lawyers to help you learn from your mistakes. Don’t hide from them; dissect them openly. Take advantage of the feedback; learn from your failures.