What does it take to succeed?

I have spent my life trying to understand why some people succeed and others don’t. You likely know lawyers who are incredibly smart, deal well with people and still do not live up to their potential. Why? And, why do lawyers who are not as smart exceed their potential?

Some time ago, I posted Are You “All In?”   What does it mean to be “all in?” How can you be “all in” the second half of 2014.?

Today, I want to give a little more detail on where to start to be “all in” and share with you my very favorite example of a person who approaches life with an “all in” attitude.

My friends, including the many lawyers who have worked for me and the lawyers I have coached, know how much I admire Nancy.

Sure, I admire her because she is my wife.  But, more objectively I admire her because she has that one ingredient every successful person must have-the burning desire to achieve something definite. And, she goes after it with focus and tenacity that I have never seen in another person.

I love her determination. For me, Nancy is a living example that the starting point to be “all in” is that burning desire and clarity of what success means.

As a young child, Nancy had a burning desire to be the first person in her family to graduate from college. We married when Nancy was 20 and had completed one full year of college.

She worked while I was in law school and went to school part-time. After I went into the Air Force, she went to school at University of California at Riverside and ultimately graduated from Wright State University in Ohio. It was really hard and challenging, but she got her degree because of her burning desire.

She wanted to go to medical school, but in those days too few women were given the opportunity. So, she became a medical technologist.

When she was pregnant, she suffered from toxemia and was on her back for several months before our daughter was born several weeks prematurely. After that she decided to get back in shape she wanted to run in a Virginia half marathon and bicycle 50 or more miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

After suffering an injury playing tennis against a college male tennis player, she took up golf. She worked at it harder than anyone I know, spending hours chipping, pitching and putting. I remember when her handicap was 28 (higher than mine), then it was 14 (lower than mine by several strokes). Then it was 7. Finally she got her handicap down to as low as 2. She has competed twice in the USGA Women’s Senior Amateur Championship, playing against women who had played golf their entire life. Once again, she overcame challenges because of her burning desire.

Nancy has never read anything by Napoleon Hill, but as you will see he could have been writing about her. His books focused on success and achievement and he based his thoughts on studying what successful people shared in common.

Hill’s first principle was “Desire.” He believed it is the starting point of all achievement. He ended the chapter on desire by noting that his message was going out during the most devastating depression in American history. To those who were wounded by the depression he stated:

To all these I wish to convey the thought that all achievement, no matter what may be its nature, or its purpose, must begin with an intense, BURNING DESIRE for something definite.

Through some strange and powerful principle of ‘mental chemistry’ which has never been divulged, nature wraps up in the impulse of STRONG DESIRE ‘that something’ which recognizes no such word as impossible, and accepts no such reality as failure.

Each of you reading my blog is unique, gifted and very special, and each of you have virtually unlimited potential to achieve your own unique personal and professional goals. You can be successful (as you choose to define success) if you have the BURNING DESIRE to achieve your own unique goals.

So: What do you have a BURNING DESIRE to achieve? If you have a burning desire to achieve a goal, you won’t say “Yes … But.” Instead you will frequently say: “Sure! How?” to make it happen. Nancy has done it her entire life. You can also.