The air was sticky and warm. It always was in Memphis until the first winter front came through. 

Just a few months before, I had graduated from law school and taken a job in a small firm in my hometown just west of the Mississippi River.

But instead of carrying my briefcase into federal court, I found myself walking through the parking lot of Walmart with the most senior lawyer in the firm. 

Within Arkansas legal circles, he was famous. He had a brilliant mind with a vast memory and lightning recall. Global corporations would meet him at the airport with a limousine and pay him 900 dollars an hour for his time. 

But here I was stepping out of his beat-up Honda Accord helping him buy dog food because his back wasn’t healthy enough to lift the heavy bag.

As we strolled up to the door, I asked him why he didn’t buy a new car.  “When people pull in the office, I want them to know they are paying for my mind, not my vehicle,” he said with an accent not dissimilar from Foghorn Leghorn.  

I thought that was an easy thing to say for a guy with 30 years of stellar legal experience under his belt.  I had yet to stand before a jury or file my first complaint. So I spoke up a second time.  “What would you recommend to somebody like me who isn’t there yet? How do I get somebody to pay me as much as they pay you?”

Despite my immature and tactless question, he gave me a gracious and wise answer: “Son, you take care of the law, and the law will take care of you.”

I immediately understood what he was saying.

I should care less about outward appearances of position and stature. 

Instead, I should be diligent. Hone my craft. Seek excellence. Always be learning. 

Seek results and education rather than prestige and image.  And the position will follow.

The old southern trial layer knew the upside down business idea: Getting wisdom is a better strategy for success than seeking a prominent position. 

The wisest king stated the same thing thousands of years ago. “A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.”  (Proverbs 17:2)  

The servant in that verse ended up in a place of success through finding and acting in wisdom.  He did not seek the position or the inheritance. Instead he acted with excellence and integrity and the position followed.

Some leaders tend to seek the outward appearance of notoriety and influence.  As a result, they trade discipline and wisdom for shortcuts to status and wealth. 

There is a better way.

Seek wisdom. Success will follow.
 
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