When I was younger, I attended a very demanding private high school. I also took the hardest classes I could get into. Most of my former classmates are quite successful today, leading in the professions of law, medicine, and other pursuits. I remember when I was in high school working very consistently almost every school night until 12:30 or 1:00 a.m. (at least) on homework. I also remember being just about an above average student and getting tons of criticism from my teachers—my writing was good but could be better; I needed to be more punctual about arriving for practice; when I did math problems, I needed to spell out the proofs of each problem much more carefully; I needed to do this; I did that poorly; I should spend more time reviewing the punctuation before turning in my Spanish homework.
In retrospect, I know that all of these criticisms I received were about things that were true. At the time, I think what I did is something we all do. Instead of making sure I was accountable for every error, I found fault with the teachers and coaches who criticized me, even looking for reasons to find fault with them personally. I even criticized my school and teachers to other students and tried to get them to realize that my teachers' and coaches' criticisms of me were totally unjustified. When we do not like what we hear, we often attack the messenger, don't we? This is perfectly normal.
When I went to college, I was still somewhat angry with my high school but took everything in stride. I did not change anything I was doing in terms of studying and continued working hard in all my classes. A mere three years after graduating from high school, I remember being informed by my college (a top-ten college) that I had been nominated by the school for a Rhodes Scholarship because my grades were so good. I remember being very surprised when the school told me they had only nominated four or five students for this award—I still thought of myself as an average student. College had been much easier for me than high school.
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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
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