Several years ago, I presented a program Success: Determining and Achieving Your Purpose, Values and Goals for the ABA YLD fall meeting. 

Before I finished I asked for questions. One lawyer asked:

Cordell, in your experience, what separates the superstar young lawyers from the rest of the pack?

I did not hesitate:

The very best young lawyers I know have a “burning desire” to be the best at something they have chosen, and they work hard achieve it. I call it the “fire in the belly.”

I coached several of those lawyers and I recently helped one connect with a great firm. In each case, the lawyer put more into the coaching program, and his or her other learning, than just about any other lawyer I have ever met. Within minutes of meeting those lawyers for the first time, I knew they had a burning desire to learn and serve her clients.

I receive emails and letters from those lawyers sharing with me their great success-the success I believed they would have right from the beginning.

I learned about burning desire one summer while visiting my grandparents in Chester, Virginia. I didn’t know many teenagers in Chester so I spent more time at my grandparents home than I would have liked. One day I discovered that the sliding doors in their hallway opened to shelves and shelves of historical books.

One of the books I found that summer was “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I included the book in my post: 18 Business and Law Books that Changed My Life.

As a teenager, I had never read a “self-help” book. I doubt I would have read this one if I had anything else I could do. Reading Think and Grow Rich really did change my life, in part, because I learned the concept of having a DEFINITE MAJOR PURPOSE. When I decided to become a lawyer, I asked myself why I wanted to practice law. That was a helpful exercise for me. 

Napoleon Hill was born into poverty in the coal fields of Wise County, Virginia in 1883.  You can learn more about his life by reading: Rich Man, Poor Man. As you will see, Hill accomplished some great things as an attorney and journalist but also had many failures along the way.

His big break came when he interviewed the wealthy steel baron, Andrew Carnegie. As you will see in the article, later Carnegie convinced Hill to write the book:

He issued a challenge to Hill: Commit the next 20 years, without compensation, to documenting and recording such a philosophy of success, and he would introduce him to the wealthiest and most successful men of the time. Hill jumped at the opportunity.

Because the book copyright has expired, there are many places where you can download the book at no charge. Here is one site to download Think and Grow Rich.

I have read the book many times over the last 50 years. I like to read it to re-energize myself. I believe the 13 principles he outlined in the early 1900s still apply today, almost 100 years later.

Consistent with my answer to the young lawyer’s question at the ABA YLD meeting, Hill’s first principle was “Desire.” He believed desire is the starting point of all achievement.

I was inspired by this statement in the chapter:

Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to burn his ships and cut all sources of retreat. Only by so doing can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a BURNING DESIRE TO WIN, essential to success.

As you know, I love working with young, motivated lawyers, I focus on career success through taking control, setting energizing goals and planning. Each young lawyer with whom I work has unique talents, opportunities and challenges. 

I know that if the lawyers I coach set goals that will inspire them and energize them, they will be successful (as they choose to define success). Why? Put simply they will succeed because they have the BURNING DESIRE to achieve their own unique goals.

I think you will find this book extremely valuable just as I did, because it will give you a foundation it the 13 principles that can lead you towards achieving what you desire.

If you have 5 minutes, watch this video to get a preview of what you might learn from the book.

Have I convinced you? What do you have a BURNING DESIRE to achieve and become?

Recently I was asked:

How long did it take before you had any results from your client development efforts?

I responded that it was at least two years and maybe more. I was then asked how I stuck with it when I was seeing no results. I responded that I guessed I wanted to develop my niche practice badly enough that I was willing to be persistent.

What does it mean to be persistent? I always look to words to inspire me. Let me share some with you.

Winston Churchill had a pretty good idea. He said:

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

I have always liked what Calvin Coolidge once said about the importance of persistence:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

If neither Churchill or Coolidge inspire you, perhaps Jimmy V can do it. Watch this short video clip from his ESPY award speech:

http://youtu.be/tIr1VrgZHd0

If you are a regular reader, you know that when I was a teenager I first read Napoleon Hill’s book. “Think and Grow Rich.” The book is really about what it takes to be successful. The title comes from the fact it was published during the depression, so the focus is on making money as a measure of success.

In the book, Napoleon Hill lists symptoms of a lack of persistence. Have you ever experienced any of these?

  1.  Failure to recognize and to clearly define exactly what one wants.
  2. Procrastination, with or without cause. (Usually backed up with a formidable array of alibis and excuses).
  3. Lack of interest in acquiring specialized knowledge.
  4. Indecision, the habit of “passing the buck” on all occasions, instead of facing issues squarely. (Also backed by alibis).
  5. The habit of relying upon alibis instead of creating definite plans for the solution of problems.
  6. Self-satisfaction. There is little remedy for this affliction, and no hope for those who suffer from it.
  7. Indifference, usually reflected in one’s readiness to compromise on all occasions, rather than meet opposition and fight it.
  8. The habit of blaming others for one’s mistakes, and accepting unfavorable circumstances as being unavoidable.
  9. WEAKNESS OF DESIRE, due to neglect in the choice of MOTIVES that impel action.
  10. Willingness, even eagerness, to quit at the first sign of defeat. (Based upon one or more of the 6 basic fears).
  11. Lack of ORGANIZED PLANS, placed in writing where they may be analyzed.
  12. The habit of neglecting to move on ideas, or to grasp opportunity when it presents itself.
  13. WISHING instead of WILLING.
  14. The habit of compromising with POVERTY instead of aiming at riches. General absence of ambition to be, to do, and to own.
  15. Searching for all the short-cuts to riches, trying to GET without GIVING a fair equivalent, usually reflected in the habit of gambling, endeavoring to drive “sharp” bargains.
  16. FEAR OF CRITICISM, failure to create plans and to put them into action, because of what other people will think, do, or say. This enemy belongs at the head of the list, because it generally exists in one’s subconscious mind, where its presence is not recognized.

One final thought before I let you go: Have you read or listened to the book: Unbroken? I have not seen the movie, but I loved the book. If you haven’t, I urge you to read or listen to it.

I cannot picture how I would have ever been resilient enough to endure what Louis Zamperini did. He is an inspiration for us all. He passed away at 97 last year. You can watch this CBS segment to learn more about him: Remembering the “Unbroken” spirit of Louis Zamperini.