My son thought I was crazy and in hindsight, maybe he was right.
My then 18-year old son, Tim, and I were casually walking along Main Street in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, when Tim pointed out the gorgeous office building of Greeneville’s most prominent architectural firm. Tim mentioned words to the effect of, “It would be incredible to work there someday” and I responded, “Let’s go in and say ‘Hi’”.
Tim stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me with sheer terror. Tim responded, “Dad, you can’t be serious. We can’t just walk in there.” I walked toward the front entrance and Tim sheepishly followed. When we walked through the front door, we were greeted by a smiling and friendly receptionist who offered to introduce us to the managing partner of the firm, “Rip”.
Rip showed us around the office and introduced us to almost all of the employees and then took us upstairs where he spent one hour chatting with us in a private conference room overlooking the interior of the office. Tim and I could not have met a friendlier or more accommodating person. As we left that day, Rip provided his cell # and offered to stay in touch.
I did not waste that opportunity. Later that week, I called Rip and we did more than stay in touch, we became good friends. Rip hosted our family on football weekends, treated us to meals in Greenville and Clemson and most importantly, has been a wonderful mentor and a trusted advisor for Tim during his college years at Clemson University. I treasure our friendship with Rip.
Was the encounter with Rip simply a chance encounter or pure luck? Some would say so, but I don’t think so. That meeting with Rip was meant to be. In my view, God wanted Tim to have a mentor and a trusted advisor and Rip Parks was the perfect person. And I could not be more grateful.
Of course, it would have been easy for Tim and I to just keep walking away from the front entrance of the prominent architectural firm. But walking through that front door led to an encounter, and ultimately a friendship, with one of the best men I’ve ever known. And just think, what is the worst that could have happened? Perhaps the receptionist would have told Tim and I to leave. We would have lost nothing.
Sometimes taking a chance is not risking anything. Instead, it’s not taking the chance that is the real loss.
How Dreams Come True
The news was not unexpected.
Sitting in the office of the Assistant Dean of the Law School during an interview for admission to law school, I was told that my admission was a near impossibility. The Assistant Dean was breaking the bad news with kindness. I was told that my application was strong, but the law school had 3,600 applicants for only 160 openings in the class. I could read between the lines—my application was not going to be accepted.
I expressed gratitude for our interview and then I shared my story. From as early as I could remember, I only had one dream. Even as a child and young adult, I prayed for the chance to attend the only college I ever wanted to attend. I told the Assistant Dean that my dream had come true, and no one was going to take that away from me. The Assistant Dean listened to my story in silence and after some thought, responded, “I had no idea you felt this way about our Lady’s University.”
The Assistant Dean made a small compromise. The Assistant Dean explained that occasionally, due to financial difficulties or family emergencies, some students do not return to school and if that happened, he would give their spot to me. That was more than I could ask. But the first day of school was only 7 weeks away, and I knew the odds were slim.
Three days before school was scheduled to begin, I took a flight to my dream school. If a spot opened for me, I wanted to be at the law school and ready to take it.
2 days before classes were to begin, I went to the Assistant Dean’s office, dressed in a suit and a tie, at 8 a.m. I sat in the lobby of the Assistant Dean’s office for 3 ½ hours waiting to meet with the Assistant Dean and late in the morning, a receptionist told me that the Assistant Dean did not have time to meet with me. I was not completely surprised, as I did not have an appointment, so I left and told the receptionist that I would return the next morning.
1 day before classes were scheduled to begin, I returned to the Assistant Dean’s office at the law school. Again, I dressed to impress in a suit and tie and sat in the lobby of the Assistant Dean’s office from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Later that morning, the receptionist told me that the Assistant Dean did not have time to meet with me. Frustrated that the Assistant Dean would not meet with me, I realized my admission to my dream law school was not going to happen. But again, I told the receptionist that I would return the next morning.
The next day was the first day of classes and the law school was humming with the activity of students scurrying from class to class in the hallway. For the third consecutive day, I arrived at the Assistant Dean’s office at 8 a.m. and waited in his lobby until the late morning.
After waiting for 3 ½ hours, I accepted the reality that admission to my dream law school was not going to happen and pondered the thought of leaving. At that moment, I made a decision: I wasn’t going anywhere until I had a meeting with the Assistant Dean. The Assistant Dean would have to give the bad news to me face-to-face and I wasn’t going anywhere until that happened.
At 10:35 a.m., the receptionist walked over to me and told me that the Assistant Dean would meet with me. Downtrodden and discouraged, I was ready for the bad news. I walked into the office of the Assistant Dean, shook his hand and sat down. The Assistant Dean then told me something that I will never forget, “All of the students returned to school. We do not have an opening for you…but I’m going to open a spot for you anyway.”
The Assistant Dean handed me an envelope that contained an acceptance letter to my dream school, and told me to walk across the hallway as my first class was about to begin. Stunned by what had just transpired, I left the Assistant Dean’s office and walked into the classroom across from his office for my first class. That’s how my first day began.
It would have been easy for me to give up, go home and accept my second choice for a law school. But that would have meant giving up on my dream.
Dreams can come true. But you can’t give up your dreams, even when the odds seem impossible. Fight for your dreams, never quit and with some luck, your craziest, most impossible, dreams might come true.
This is how dreams come true.
The Power of Taking a Chance
My first mastermind meeting was about to begin…and I was scared to death.
19 lawyers—many of them with highly successful practices from coast to coast-- had come to Chicago for my first mastermind. All of the lawyers were complete strangers to me and I had never hosted a mastermind. Truth be told, I didn’t really know what I was doing. If I did a poor job, I knew this would be my last mastermind. My anxiety-ridden mind was racing with thoughts of what could go wrong.
As the mastermind meeting was about to begin at 8 a.m., I was getting ready to give the kickoff presentation when an attorney walked over to me, put his hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Relax, I’ve got your back.” That was how our first mastermind began.
Turns out everything went fine. The lawyers shared ideas for building a law practice, collaborated and some enduring friendships were created along the way.
You’re Not Alone
It’s great knowing that you’re not alone. Others have the same struggles that you have and it’s empowering to know that you’ve got an elite group of friends willing to help you. You can leverage their success and cut the learning curve in half. In my view, taking advantage of the wisdom and knowledge of higher achieving members of our profession is the key to success.
Along the way, I’ve made some mistakes and we’ve refined our processes for running the mastermind. Our “tribe” members keep coming forward with ideas for improving our mastermind and with each new mastermind, we get a little better. The friendships grow stronger with each mastermind, and the collaboration and sharing has given younger lawyers a roadmap to success that they never would have known existed. In hindsight, it is amazing to see how far some of our tribe have gone in a relatively short time.
And I know, without question, creating the mastermind has been the best thing I’ve done in my career. This never would have happened if I had not taken a chance.
Oh, and by the way, the lawyer who took a moment to calm my nerves at the first mastermind in Chicago became my friend, Bill “The Law Man” Umansky, Esq. from Orlando, Florida. I didn’t know it then, but I would later discover that the Law Man is one of the most sincere and genuine persons I’ve ever known.
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