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Grit – the Key to Success

Today marks the day where my first President’s Message hits the pages of the OCBA Briefs and by the time this has been published, I will have been sworn in as the OCBA President by Judge Munyon at our Installation Luncheon. I am truly honored to serve in this role and look forward my year as President, but if I am being completely honest, I do not look forward to writing these messages. Why is it that we are required to write these messages?  Does anyone actually read them?  These are all questions I have asked as well as the presidents before me. Is it really “tradition” or is it some sort of hazing process like joining a sorority or fraternity in college?  In any event, somewhat begrudgingly, I am doing it and I will do my best to make the messages entertaining, even if there’s only a handful of people that read them. 

One of the biggest challenges with writing these messages is coming up with a topic. Lucky for me, while my husband and I were on a date night, we happened to run into Past Presidents Tony Sos and LaShawnda Jackson, who had some great advice for me. This was right after I had been sworn in as President-Elect and I was eager to learn how to make my year a successful one. Their first piece of advice was to write my President’s Messages ahead of time. While I can’t say I have succeeded in that so far, we also discussed potential topics for the messages while brainstorming, which proved to be helpful. I mentioned the fact that I love to read, and Tony said “Great!  Write about all the books you read and share that knowledge with our members”. My preference has always been to read non-fiction and typically something that would help me be a better attorney, leader, wife, or mother. Some of my favorites are Grit, The Five Love Languages, Love and Respect, Birth Order, Mindset, Outliers, David and Goliath, Never Split the Difference, and Worth doing Wrong. I have taken little nuggets of knowledge and advice from each of these books and tried to apply them in my life at my work, at home, with my children, and with my friends. Through these messages, I intend on sharing some of these nuggets with all of you.

Because I love to read, a few years ago, I decided to start a book club in my neighborhood with some of my friends on the street and I was pushed, I mean persuaded, into reading fiction. My reasoning for not reading fiction at the time was, what was the point?  I have very little free time in my day and when I do have time, I want to use it to learn and grow, which is why I chose non-fiction books. Through book club, I learned that maybe it isn’t a horrible idea to just let go for an hour and get wrapped up in a story that will make you cry uncontrollably or laugh hysterically. And more importantly, down time is vital when you work in such a stressful profession. While most of my messages will likely focus on non-fiction, I may sprinkle in a few anecdotes from Where the Crawdads Sing or other fiction books as well. 

The first book I want to tell you all about is Grit by Angela Duckworth. This is by far, one of my favorite books. In this book, Angela Duckworth studies successful leaders, business owners, and professional athletes from all across the country and learns through her hundreds of interviews that talent and intelligence matter less to success than grit, which she defines as a combination of perseverance and passion. I can relate to the book and have a funny story about the word passion. I have been with the same law firm since I graduated from law school. I started here as a law clerk, then an associate, partner, and eventually managing partner. During my interview, I answered a question from Robert Wolter about why I want to practice intellectual property law and much to his surprise, I said that “I was passionate about intellectual property law”. Apparently, there are not a lot of 24-year-olds passionate about trademarks and copyrights. This has been a running joke at my firm if anyone uses the word passion or passionate, but in all honestly, I was and I still am passionate about intellectual property law and my profession. I know it may sound silly to some, but I love what I do, and I think that passion is what helps me persevere even when it is tough juggling the practice of law, being a mother of three, a wife, a Bar Leader, a friend, and a Board Member at the WPRC. 

Now, back to the book, one thing Duckworth explains is that gritty people are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods of time despite failure and adversity. Essentially, people who work hard and put in the effort were much more successful than those who may have been smarter or appeared to be more talented at first. This applies to CEOs of companies, top lawyers across the country, and professional NBA, NFL, and NBA players. Michael Jordan didn’t make his varsity basketball team in 10th grade. He didn’t make the team!  Did that stop him?  Absolutely not. He worked harder and longer than anyone else and ended up being the G.O.A.T. in the NBA. In fact, not making the team is what motivated him. In an interview with Newsweek he stated, “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it. That usually got me going again.”

That is grit. Now, the question is, “how gritty are you and how do we instill this in our children?”  How about in our associates or colleagues at work? Duckworth states that if you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals. Then ask yourself if your approach to parenting encourages your child to emulate you. If the answer to the first question is “a great deal,” and your answer to the second is “very likely,” you’re already parenting for grit. Duckworth also recommends finding something for your children outside of class and then signing them up and requiring that they stick with at least one activity for more than a year. This sounds like one of the mantras in our household which is “Davises Don’t Quit.”  Kids who spend more than a year in extracurriculars are significantly more likely to graduate from college and, as young adults, to volunteer in their communities. So, get your kids involved in sports, band, chess club, or debate and get your associates involved in the OCBA. We could always use some gritty committee members, committee chairs, and board members! 

One of my favorite quotes in the book is “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare”. Where are you on this continuum and how do you get to where you want to be?  If you are intrigued and want to learn more, I highly recommend this book and hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you for allowing me to be your President this year and please feel free to reach out to me if you need anything. 

Amber Davis, Esq., is a managing partner at Wolter Van Dyke Davis, PLLC focusing primarily on trademark law and IP litigation. She has been an OCBA member since 2007.

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