In honor of on-campus interviewing everywhere… an excerpt of The Promotion (on sale now at Amazon.com):
When Big Law Meets Big Trouble…
“Humor, depression, and hope all together in one short book… The Promotion was my first book by Jacke Wilson, and now I am wondering if I have been sleeping under a rock not to have noticed this amazing author…” – My Author Within
You need to understand this first: I have a weakness for people with passion.
And they had it, these candidates! They had passion! A love for life, for their careers, for themselves. Some wanted to join our firm. Wanted? They longed for it. They ached. They burned. Even those who secretly hated us thought they could change us, once they added themselves to our mix. That’s what passionate people do. They believe in the impossible!
Was this exhausting? Was I so jaded that I couldn’t bear to see the throngs of innocents at our door? Innocents? It was innocence itself knocking, and who could ever tire of that? They rejuvenated me. I could not wait to welcome them to our firm. The new, the proud, the eager, the full of passion!
I knew very well that passion has the power to overwhelm. You have to meet passion with high energy, or the impassioned will leave you behind. Transcend you. Cast you aside.
You don’t want to be transcended! You don’t want to be cast aside!
How well I knew this, exactly at that moment! My marriage had just ended because of passion.
That sounds like lust, an affair, another woman, another man. But that was never the problem.
No, the problem was blackjack. A passion for it.
When I first met my wife she was on her way to Las Vegas, lit up with excitement. Eager to clean them out. She said this with certainty as we waited in line to check our bags.
“You’re a card counter?” I cried.
“No,” she said, her eyes bright and a little wild. “I’ve developed a betting scheme.”
A betting scheme! A formula for doubling after wins and cutting back after losses, maximizing the winnings during hot streaks and minimizing the damage of cold ones. It sounded highly plausible. I abandoned my plans and joined her in Vegas.
It didn’t even matter whether it worked or not. Princess or pauper, high roller or washout—the point was that she cared enough to want something and want it badly. I was excited about being near her. We were each, in different ways, slaves to her passion. Devoted to her betting scheme.
Betting scheme. A few years later, after we’d been married and she’d lost everything we had, I looked up the phrase on the Internet. Blackjack betting schemes. And I found an article that said that yes, blackjack offered some of the best odds in Vegas. Unlike most other games, in blackjack you can reduce the house advantage almost to zero, and through strategic playing and following certain algorithms you can—even without counting cards—often leave the table a winner. It offered your best chance to beat the house.
And then, the sentence that made my blood run cold:
However, the worst thing you can do is to believe you have developed a betting scheme.
I learned that my wife had not been the first to fall for the streaks idea. Streaks did not exist in nature. You couldn’t count on runs of ups and downs. You had to bet each hand as if it were the only one you were going to bet that day, make your decisions on sound mathematical principles, win or lose the hand, and start the next one with the same clinical detachment.
I showed her the article. But did that stop her? No! Of course not! In fact the opposite occurred. She took it as a good sign: all her losses—the years and years of losses—had “pre-confirmed” her new theory.
“There are no streaks,” she said in a mystified voice.
“It’s okay, honey.”
But she was already getting her things ready. There was a casino in West Virginia she could get to in an hour and six minutes. “No streaks!” she called over her shoulder. “My scheme still works—I just have to do the opposite of what I was doing before!”
Passion, my friends!
Had I overcome my own weakness for passion in others I might have stopped her. But I didn’t, and when she came home broke—actually broker than broke, as she left in our car and returned by bus—she announced that she was leaving me. She denied it had anything to do with gambling, but I knew better. I knew the role that passion had played. I had doubted hers for a moment, and she could not bear to be near me after that had occurred. At the beginning I had chosen her for her passion. In the end she chose her passion over me.
As I was absorbing the blow of this loss, or maybe because I was still suffering from it, a strange thing happened at work.
I had just drafted a memo for a client. In the cover email, I reminded the client of what she had requested and briefly summarized the key issues. Then I wrote that there were three other things worth noting, followed by a bulleted list.
Something about the email seemed funny. I spent a few moments looking at it, trying to puzzle it out, until it hit me. I had not written that there were three other things worth noting. I had written that there were three other things worth nothing.
I shook my head, chuckling at how close I had come to sending an email to a client with such an embarrassing typo. What a fantastic mistake! I prepared to tell the story:
There were four words in a row with a th in them, and I guess I was on a roll. So instead of pointing out to the client that there were “three other things worth noting,” I said there were “three other things worth nothing…”
I could hardly wait to get home to share this with my wife…except of course she was gone and my house would be empty. But I couldn’t keep this to myself! A colleague, maybe? But when? How? I never socialized with anyone at work. When would I get the chance to tell the story? At the next litigation lunch, scheduled for—I checked the calendar—two weeks from Wednesday?
I looked at the sentence again. Worth nothing? Ha—what if that were true?
But I was being paid to write these things. So it was demonstrably untrue.
I closed the blinds behind me as if I were undertaking some kind of illicit project and forced myself to consider the bullet points, one by one.
The first point was this:
This is a draft and may change as circumstances warrant.
A hedging strategy. An absence of commitment. A loophole. What was that worth to the client? It was probably worth nothing! The attachment itself said DRAFT on every page.
Surely the second point would be better:
I would be happy to make changes based on your feedback.
I swallowed hard. This, too, said nothing of consequence. This was being sent to the client! She was paying for this; if she didn’t like it, she would request changes and I would make them. That’s how this worked. And whether I was happy to make the changes was entirely irrelevant. Even if I wasn’t happy—let’s say being asked to make changes made me very angry—it would not change the underlying dynamic.
I was feeling uneasy. My entire career was based on emails like this one. It was all I did.
With mounting anxiety I reviewed the third item:
I’ll be out of pocket for a few hours but will be back online tonight.
This was the worst of all! This one was unquestionably worth nothing! The memo was not due any time soon. My short-term whereabouts simply did not matter. I was demonstrating some kind of commitment to responsiveness—which, again, did not matter. She could expect it, or not, and I would deliver it, or not. My statement was not worth noting. It was in fact worth nothing.
As I sat there stunned—at that very moment—our office manager appeared in the door to offer me the promotion.
* * *
Enjoyed this excerpt? Wondering what happens when the narrator becomes his firm’s Director of Recruiting and Attorney Development? Check out The Promotion (on sale now at Amazon.com in paperback and e-book versions) and find out! Onward and upward, people!