Play the long game

Play the long game

January 21, 2021

People like to say the life-changing moment is the one like what Amanda Gorman experienced yesterday. Up on stage, with the eyes of a nation on her. She stepped up to the mic. Prepared. Ready. And she delivered.

There is no doubt that her life changed yesterday. It’s absolutely wild how much her life changed.

But she didn’t magically appear up on that stage. To get to this monumental life-changing event, she had to create many life-changing events. Years of study, practice, and overcoming obstacles. 

Then she delivered 6 minutes of perfection. 

Before I move on, I can’t miss this opportunity. 6 minutes of speaking changed her life.

What an incredible example of the power of great public speaking.

Amanda Gorman with "The Hill We Climb"

It’s so easy to give up. To get frustrated when results seem to come in slowly or not at all. Every person wants the fast result, the immediate payoff. Instant gratification is more in demand now than ever.

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This is what bombards people these days. As the barrage of artillery shells in World World I, it’s inescapable.

Except if you’re a creator it makes you second guess. Am I doing it wrong? Do they have it figured out? 

Maybe I should pivot and sell a growth guide too?

Doubts creep in. Frustration takes hold. Soon it becomes difficult to stay focused on why you started in the first place.

Play the long game.

Life doesn’t happen all at once until it happens all at once. 

The life-changing moments can creep up on us.

Photo by Arindam Saha on Unsplash

There was a trial I had when I was early in my career. I was frustrated because some of my friends at this point of their career were pulling in some serious salaries doing work that honestly, was not hard to do. They were buying new cars, purchasing homes, and living their best life.

I was still working for the government. I was still making a fraction of what they were and yet I had a huge responsibility in my role as a prosecutor. I think too many prosecutors fail to realize how much responsibility the job carries. They stop seeing defendants, witnesses, and victims as people and start seeing them as stats.

Again, I worked with many incredible attorneys in the District Attorney’s Office. Many of them should have been making tens of millions for the level of work they performed. The elite of the elite when it came to trial lawyers but they felt a sense of duty to the job.

It reminds me of a scene from the West Wing when Ainsley Hayes is talking to the White House Counsel talking about how he took the job out of a sense of duty. Then they go into a long discussion throughout the episode about H.M.S. Pinafore.

Many of the best and brightest work in the government out of a sense of duty. 

Ainsley Hayes in The West Wing

But back to my point that even with this huge responsibility, the pay is very low. So I felt the frustration building. Just because I felt frustration didn’t mean I could let it affect my performance. 

So in this trial, I ended up selecting a partner at a civil law firm to be on my jury. I had this weird thing where I loved putting attorneys on my juries even though it goes against conventional wisdom. I figured if I did my job the way I expected to, they would vote my way. And make sure they held me to the highest standard as they should.

The trial ended and the verdict went my way. As we were leaving the court, the partner at the law firm stopped me and asked if we could talk.

“That was a hell of a job interview. You want to come work for me?”

I told him to let me think about it and I would get back to him.

It would have tripled my pay overnight. 

I said thanks, but no thanks.

Because as I sat there that night thinking about the offer, I realized that my long term vision was to become the best trial lawyer. If I left at that moment I wouldn’t achieve that vision. 

I knew the opportunities that being a great trial lawyer would provide to me as long as I was patient. 

I had to play the long game.

I continued working as a trial lawyer for another 3 years after that encounter. It wasn’t the only job offer I got. I kept turning them down. 

Until I hit 100 jury trials. Until I had managed a child abuse caseload for a year. Until I had tried and won murders and child abuse cases. Until I had built a reputation in the Dallas legal community of a great trial lawyer but one that is fair. One that does the right thing. 

And trust me, I had many difficult discussions with bosses over the years so I could do the right thing. I’m thankful that the reputation I built gave me the ability to convince my bosses that they could trust me.

I always felt that responsibility. I always felt that duty. But I also knew I had a long term vision. 

The ironic thing is that the very thing I wanted to be great at, trial law, is also the thing that trained me most to think about the long game.

So when I left, I knew it was time.

It’s what led to my job in private practice and defending wrongly accused civilians. Saving their lives by preventing them from the stain of a false child abuse conviction or prison time on a murder that was self-defense. I was able to honor that sense of duty, responsibility, and doing the right thing. 

It’s what led to my own law firm. It’s what led to working on civil rights cases that break my heart to this day. I’ve seen the worst in people far too many times. I wouldn’t work with these people if I had given up on my vision. They wouldn’t have trusted me without this background and reputation. I get to help them get a sense of justice for horrific acts perpetrated against them.

And ultimately it led me to Performative Speaking and now On Deck. A vision comes to life after 10 years of preparation.

All because I said no to a job opportunity.

Sometimes we don’t even realize the life-changing moments when we make them.

Now I just need my 6-minute speech in front of the world.

It’s only a matter of time.

Have any thoughts or just want to talk?

I'm the Founder of Performative Speaking. In December, On Deck acquired my startup and I now serve as the Program Director for On Deck Performative Speaking.

Applications for the cohort open 1/26. Reach out to me if you're interested in joining.

Follow me on Twitter @robbiecrab

Cover Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

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Performative Speaking uses storytelling ideas that incorporate other forms of art, culture, media, and pop culture to create the mood, feeling, or vibe in the audience to convince them of a position.

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