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Life Lessons Learned Along the Way: “Winning”!


We continue our series of personal, impactful stories that have shaped how we practice law.

By Julie Chenot Mayer

The time has come. It is now my turn to write the “Life Lessons Learned Along the Way” segment. Although I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the segments that my co-workers have written, I have struggled to come up with a topic of my own. Many of the “lessons” I have learned along the way (eg. be better prepared, work hard, etc.) have already been written about. I thought about writing about the lessons I’ve learned raising six girls, and trust me, there are a lot but that didn’t seem very compelling – everyone who has raised children has probably learned the same lessons. What I kept coming back to is my competitive nature. Although not a very redeeming quality in many situations, it is a quality that has served me well in my profession.

I am extremely competitive at everything I do. Sports, board games, you name it, I want to win. This personality trait first reared its ugly head when I was in grade school. My best friend, Gloria, would often come over after school to play board games. I remember like it was yesterday when I sent Gloria home because she had the nerve to beat me at a game of Masterpiece. Winning has always brought me great pleasure. I still remember winning my 3rd grade spelling bee and the prize I received: a large size Peanuts poster.

My desire to win did not subside as the years progressed. When my husband Steve and I first started dating we tried playing tennis together. My husband had worked as a tennis pro and played college tennis. My tennis prowess was limited to taking a few tennis clinics over the years. Nonetheless, I actually thought I should be able to beat him and was mad when I didn’t. Needless to say, we don’t play tennis together anymore.

My desire to win continues to this day. I still hate to lose – even if it means losing to my own children (poor things!). My competitive nature has become a bit of a joke in my husband’s family. My brother-in-law Tim hosts a game party every summer with a group of around 50 friends and family. The event is very well-organized and rather intense. There are six games going on at any given time – three men’s games and three ladies’ games. Both the winner of the men’s game and the ladies’ game go home with a two-foot engraved trophy commemorating the big win. For years I participated in this event only to watch other players leave with the coveted trophy. The winners from prior years would discuss where they had chosen to display last year’s trophy. A few people had actually banished their trophy to their basement! As close as I had come to winning, I never did. It drove me crazy and everyone knew it. My family actually considered buying me a trophy for Christmas in an attempt to fulfill my desire to win but they knew that wouldn’t suffice.

Finally, at Tim’s 60th birthday party, a bowling party of all things, I won the trophy that I had been pining after for almost 20 years. The trophy stands 2 feet tall in my office engraved “Big Timmy’s 60th High Roller Ladies 2012.” I love that trophy. That trophy serves as a daily reminder to me that it takes hard work to succeed. While the reality of the practice of law necessitates that I sometimes temper my nature in order to achieve a desired and practical result, this trait of mine gives me my edge and helps me serve my clients well.