What is the one thing, more than anything else, that holds lawyers back? As you know I practiced law a long time, I worked with many lawyers over those years and I have coached hundreds of lawyers. The one thing that hold lawyers back more than anything else is…FEAR

A lawyer named Tom (not real name) worked for me. I bet you have a lawyer like Tom in your firm. He was a macho litigator, right up until the week of the trial. At that point Tom always decided the case had to be settled. It was a great way to stay undefeated in trial. (Zero wins and zero losses is undefeated, right?).

Lawyers who are afraid of failing rarely succeed. Are you afraid of failing? I think we all are. Failing is painful. Yet, as lawyers we cannot let our fear impact our judgment on what is best for our clients.

Have you ever heard of Dan Jansen? His comeback story is inspiring in many ways. He was clearly the best speed skater and was the favorite to win both the 500 meters and 1000 meters races in the 1988 Olympics. His sister died shortly before the races and he fell in both events.

He was still the best in the world and the favorite again, but failed to win either event in the 1992 Olympics. In the 1994 Olympics he finished 8th in the 500 meters which he again was favored to win. Imagine the pressure he faced in the 1000 meters race. Jansen, who was not even favored to win the race, not only won, but also set the world record.

In his book Stress for Success, sports psychologist James E. Loehr, who worked with Jansen writes:

It is true that the things Dan Jansen had to face were neither right or fair, but he never wilted. Through his long ordeal, he grew stronger and became much more powerful in his ability to believe in himself and to fight in a positive way. That is how he was able to put it all on the line in his very last Olympic moment and emerge victorious. Dan’s road to victory took remarkable courage.

Henry Ford once said: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” If you are a regular reader, you know I had those experiences practicing law. Like Dan Jansen, failure was very painful for me. Yet, now looking back, I know that in my humility, I refocused on clients and my hunger to learn how I could serve them better.

As I have shared with you, unless you are like Tom, at some point you are going to fail. You will question the confidence you once had in yourself. I hope when it happens you will think of Dan Jansen and how he was able to pick himself up and come back to win the gold medal under immense pressure.