By Jeremy M. Evans
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and when you discover the reason why.”
If you do not ask why, we may never learn and grow. It is from mistakes, asking questions, and listening that we grow. I often wake up and hope I get opportunities to learn, grow, and be humbled more frankly. When we are humbled we are better prepared and equipped to learn.
It sounds funny, especially in and among a profession that often works towards perfection. Still, I impress upon each of you that, as legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
Similarly, excellence should be the north star on our life’s compass for the California Lawyers Association, the legal profession, and our communities.
When we make decisions, particularly regarding where we spend our time and how we set our calendar, it often comes down to values, purpose, and ideals. In my own life, I think about the Golden Rule. This is the foundation on which I stand when making decisions. It is my faith and my drive.
Service requires thinking of others before yourself.
Again, this is a practice of striving toward excellence. Perfection is the goal; excellence is the landing spot. The Biblical principle of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is relatively simple. Do not say or do things to others that you would avoid having to happen to you. It is a great strategy to apply with your clients, family, friends, and colleagues and how you serve others in organizations.
When serving in leadership, the vision is often top of the forest level, but the action is on the ground—helping to guide your members, constituents, and colleagues with an example. Leading by example is the best and most straightforward way to lead.
In the business world, the question is often asked, “What’s your why?” I can answer that question through a recent exchange with a member.
The member asked me, “Jeremy, is there anyone that you do not like?” On the outside, while serving as President of an organization, you often need to be positive. Still, some of that is unnatural in the race for perfection that hopefully lands in excellence. After all, someone cannot love and like everyone, right?
My response to the member was, “My mother taught me to ‘Lead by example.’ My grandmother taught me, ‘If you cannot say anything nice, do not say anything at all.’
When I think of people, I try to find the best things about them and focus on that.” The member responded, “I could use more of that.” The point of “liking everyone” is not ignorance or lack of discernment; it comes down to loving people for who they are and what they bring to the table versus a judgment point of view. Focusing on the good in someone forces us to make the first move to change (e.g., humility) and extend an olive branch or walk away in kindness. Perfection is unlikely and not the point, if not better stated, impossible. Still, excellence is an excellent principal, especially in leadership, where one comes across many ideas, personalities, and interests.
Excellence is an approach. Excellence is the end goal. Excellence is the strategy.
As the leader of the California Lawyers Association, a voice in the legal profession, and in my community, my ‘why’ is simple, it is you. I serve because I want to leave the profession, my community, and the world in a better place for you. Altruistic, maybe. I find that it is easier to obtain the goal of better when we focus on the simple to complete the daring by practicing excellence in everything. Focusing on the individual in conversation, but organization and community in application. After all, decisions are the effectual part of leadership.
In a recent conversation with another California Lawyers Association leader, I commented, “Becoming President and leading an organization is humbling. Once elected, you fully grasp the impact you can have on individual attorneys, the profession, and the community.”
Excellent leadership begins with the understanding that it is an honor and privilege to serve. Accepting this begins, first and foremost, with humility. My why is knowing you entrusted me to serve, appointed at this particular time to do good and well as a hopeful, trustworthy, and honest servant.
Knowing the goal only makes me want to serve you and to serve you more excellently by knowing and understanding the trust placed in me to serve. It helps to see all the great work you are doing.
I hope you find or continue to know, understand, and practice your why, and I will do the same.
Jeremy M. Evans
President, California Lawyers Association
Want to read past messages from President Evans? Read more, below!