Throughout my childhood, I have loved figure skating with a passion and vigor that rivals no other. Although I no longer compete, I enjoyed watching the United States Figure Skating Championship this past weekend because it demonstrated the hard work necessary to succeed. As a result, I now reflect on the valuable skills figure skating has taught me in relation to law school. Bear with me in my attempt to relate something I love with something I have a growing appreciation of. Here are just a few of the lessons I learned from this weekend:
- Nerves and self-doubt can derail a great performance. Figure skaters train for years and on a daily basis for just minutes on the ice. Unfortunately, even the best training is futile when a skater encounters nerves that prevent them from performing to their best ability. I liken this to the hours of studying necessary to succeed on a three hour law school exam. If one succumbs to self-doubt on test day, then those hours of studying will not be reflected on the exam. It is necessary to believe in your abilities.
- Skating routines, like law school exams and grades, are open to interpretation. Without a doubt, after every close competition, there is a debate about which skater should have won. Skaters, like law students, cannot focus on the final score as the scoring criteria is highly subjective. Writing an exam or brief, like performing a free skate, is an art that requires including all the necessary material while artfully creating a fluid presentation. Sometimes the judges won’t understand your vision and will not judge you fairly but that does not mean that you are not proficient in your craft. One score or grade does not dictate your ability. Besides, while only one person can win that night, there are still endorsements, accolades, and fans at stake for everyone else.
- Fear is a great motivator. Moments before the ladies’ champion took the ice, she told her coach that she was terrified. After composing herself, minutes later, she skated the best performance she ever had. Law school has taught me there are times where it is necessary to channel my nervous energy and fears into something spectacular by letting the chips fall where they may. Let fear motivate you, not consume you.
- Be Realistic. Before a competition starts, skaters know if they have a possibility of being in the top ten based off the content of their program and their ability to perform it. As a result, it is common for skaters to say their goal is to skate clean or increase their placements. This type of reality check is useful in law school. Set goals that allow you to progress and really appreciate the growth you have made. I have found that this reality checking has helped keep my goals and expectations in perspective, which has allowed me to enjoy my time at school.
- Mute the commentators. In figure skating, great performances are often ruined by the incessant chatter of the television commentators that comment on every single maneuver. I usually try to appreciate the performances without their chatter to truly enjoy the performance. In law school, I have found it necessary to mute the outside noise that makes me question whether the work I am doing is up to par. In figure skating and law school, it is best to ignore the critics and commentators when trying to work.
- Everyone has a story. One of my favorite components of every skating telecast takes place off ice. The producers usually tell the story of the competitors, which includes tales of their backgrounds, information about their families, and adversities they faced. These background stories are what captures an audience and supporters. It is the same in law school. All students come here with a story about what made them want them to attend law school. These stories matter and help paint a picture of someone outside of the classroom. That is where my interest lies. I enjoy learning about the background of my peers because it paints a unique tapestry of individuals from differing backgrounds reaching for the same goal. Let your past and background guide you.
I challenge you all to think of law school in a different light. I can attest that different perspectives help the process.