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Winning through owning the outcome

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One weekend day I went for a long distance run, intending on taking a beautiful nearby trail into a much longer trail. I was pumped, I warmed up, I started running, and then I twisted my ankle in a small ditch in the dirt after a mile. I chose to return home and put my ankle on ice rather than risking exacerbating the injury, which went away quickly as a result of resting my ankle.

One night after dark, I decided to take a bike ride through Rock Creek Park from point A to point B around ten miles away. In the process, while riding down the sidewalk, my front tire hit a big hole in the ground. My bike went upside down and I landed on my feet. The experience was at once exhilarating, and a reminder of the obvious risks of riding a bike at night. I continued to my destination riding on air.

We own the outcomes in our lives. This is no Norman Vincent Peale-ish superficial platitude. Had I always followed the concept of owning the outcomes in my life, I would have had more successes early on with less unnecessary effort.

Owning the outcomes in our lives does not mean that we should take blame or feel guilt for someone mugging us on the street or violating us in some other way. It does mean, though, that even when a person is considering me as a mugging target or about to try to start mugging me — whether literally or figuratively — I still have my own level of control over the situation, for instance sensing the danger and getting away from it, coming across to the potential mugger as too risky or otherwise unappealing a target, figuring out how to neutralize or deflate the danger, and conducting myself during the very act of being mugged, if it comes to that.

There is no out there for the mind. There is no physical escape from our challenges, because wherever you go, there you are, and there you are again. Sooner or later, one realizes that a big ingredient of winning is working on ourselves. I cannot control the weather, but can put a roof over my head and keep healthy to increase my immunities against frigid winter days and the flu abounding around me. I cannot force all judges and prosecutors to have hearts and to follow their oaths, but I can give input to the necessary authorities about whom to select and replace as judges and prosecutors, and can work on myself to transcend — rather than get stuck — when judges and prosecutors act petty, and I can identify ways to even bring undesirable judges and prosecutors to make decisions benefiting my clients. I cannot avoid my own mortality, but can make my life much more meaningful and powerful by savoring each moment rather than fearing the moment of my last breath. And fearlessness of death and injury makes one more powerful.

Lawyers and non-lawyers can romanticize the life of a criminal defense lawyer or any other trial lawyer all they want. However, being a great trial lawyer is not about romance. It is about finding and applying the paths to winning, constantly readjusting the path and work to winning as developments occur, and staying on the path of victory. It is about being ready for the unexpected, good or bad; being ready for the ugly and potentially suffocating; and being ready to fight to win for the client, and not for the sake of popularity, media coverage, nor getting more clients by touting the victory notches on one’s gun handle.

When one decides to win by owning the outcome — whether the outcome looks favorable or unfavorable — one no longer asks “why me?” as if the fighter is a victim of circumstances, but instead doggedly works for a solution. The fighter then feels empowered, not at the mercy of circumstance, but as a maker of circumstance.

All trial lawyers and other fighters have their mornings when they do not feel great physically, days when they feel down about their personal relationships or finances, and times when they dwell on past foibles that affected their reputations and sense of ability to lead their lives right. We will not feel any better physically by getting stuck on our aches and pains. Our personal relationships and finances are not going to improve by going into emotional tailspins. Our past mistakes have happened and we can only move forward; consider hugely successful late trial lawyer Joe Jamail who flunked his law school civil negligence class and just squeezed by to pass the bar exam.

What separates me from the person who runs faster than I, and persuades the judge that I did not persuade today? All being humans, we all can reach huge success. We increase our potential success not only with the essentials of working smart and hard, but also by allowing for failures along the way, learning from and transcending those failures, and clearing out our psychological gunk not only to unstick ourselves and to transcend obstacles, but also to remove ourselves from making other people barriers to our own success.

Once we own the outcome, we no longer look outside ourselves to blame others or situations for impediments to our success, but instead work more on ourselves and look more closely on how we can develop and perform better so that the obstacles of others and of situations become merely part of the game towards winning and reaching the exhilaration of the win.