Tennis great Novak Djokovic drinks warm water. Djokovic has dominated tennis for the last five years and been ranked number one for 188 consecutive weeks. He has won 61 titles, including 11 Grand Slam titles, tied for fourth all time. He is close to winning $100 million in prize money. He is 28 years old. While obviously a gifted athlete, his level of dominance cannot be explained by mere physical ability. While I am more a Federer fan, it is hard not to appreciate Djokovic’s accomplishments.
Which brings me to the warm water. In a game where the smallest of margins decides who wins, Djokovic leaves nothing to chance. He believes warm water aids blood circulation and speeds digestion. His other dietary habits are equally geared to ensuring he plays his best tennis every time he plays. His dedication to maximizing performance gives meaning to a favorite phrase of mine, one my two young boys are tired of hearing: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” This quote is from author Will Durant, giving his interpretation of one of Aristotle’s teachings.
In a culture that at times seems to value celebrity over excellence, form over substance and notoriety over character, role models dedicated to their craft such as Djokovic stand out. The recently retired Peyton Manning fits that bill as well.
The value of finding worthy role models, in my view, is not limited to the young. Young or old, we have much to learn from the hard work and excellence of others. Fortunately, we have many lawyers in our community who have a similar dedication. They are found in law firms large and small and those who practice by themselves. Lawyers who, rather than having spurts of excellence or moments of brilliance, exhibit the rarest of qualities: sustained excellence.
The Bar has a role to play in promoting excellence. Our CLE Committee works hard to put on seminars on interesting and timely topics to those who want to sharpen their skills or expand the scope of their practice. The presenters at those seminars are often those at the top of their game. The Bar’s Linking Lawyers Program is another example of the Bar’s role in fostering excellence. Linking Lawyers is a mentoring initiative of the Bar and was started in 2010 as an endeavor of the Bar’s Professionalism, Lawyer Life and Culture Committee. Linking Lawyers is an avenue for mentors and mentees to network, and to provide and receive guidance on issues of professional conduct.
The MCB Lawyer Referral Service also provides mentors for its panel members who have been practicing for less than two years. The Indigent Representation Committee, which works in conjunction with the Public Defender’s Office to coordinate and maintain the attorney appointment list for criminal indigent defendants in the 26th Judicial District criminal court system, also has a mentoring component. Of course, simply volunteering to serve on a Bar committee or participate in Section activities is another great way to observe excellent lawyers advancing our profession.
I am thankful to be a lawyer in a Bar with so many worthy role models and to have learned to practice law with lawyers committed to excellence. I have had the privilege of being around many excellent lawyers, some I did not know before my service with the Bar, and I am the better for it.