“Defining moments in our lives are those touch point moments when something inside us shifts and we know that our world is profoundly different than it was before.”
The new book Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul has just been published by the Flagship Division the American Bar Association. The book includes interviews with more than 40 amazing lawyers from all walks of life. Melanie Bragg fashioned this book as a collection of short essays, each with a “LEAD” line in one of four areas–Legacy, Excellence, Authenticity, and Determination.
The audience for her book includes all lawyers as well as their families and friends. In addition, it is a good leadership book for anyone interested in discovering how success is achieved and the long, hard road to get there. According to Melanie, law students and young lawyers will be encouraged by the stories in the book and understand that what they have worked so hard to achieve is well worth it. We all have our moments and down times. That’s what life is all about. Getting to the other side. The book will motivate, inspire, and encourage a variety of professionals.
Melanie started her journey of writing Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul in 2003. She started the book in earnest in 2011 and she finished it within 8 years. We caught up her to share her secrets of success as an author, lawyer, and speaker. Here are her words of wisdom on how to make the most of defining moments:
1. Find Someone Who Inspires You
“I met Jack Canfield, the co-creator of the wildly successful Chicken Soup for the Soul books. In 2003 I went to a best-selling author’s program of his in Santa Barbara. I asked him in front of the class why he did not ever do a Chicken Soup for the Lawyer’s Soul book and in his humorous way he quipped, ‘Wouldn’t that kind of be like that book What Men Know About Women, you open up the page and there is nothing on it?’ Everyone laughed.
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something that showed that lawyers are amazing human beings and that they accomplish so many great things. My experience with lawyers has been wonderful and I was tired of our getting such a bad rap, even if it was in gest. When Jack sold his Chicken Soup business, I knew had to get my book published with the ABA.”
2. Believe in Life’s Clues
“We all have defining moments, but whether or not we do anything with them is another story. Really spending time thinking about what makes you happiest in your life, thinking about your mentors, and giving yourself the space to figure out your defining moments can be transformative. Life leaves clues and our defining moments are clues.
As with everyone, I have many defining moments. The things in my life that have affected me the most are some of the most challenging times in my life. I believe that there is treasure in the hidden places and rather than running from the darkness in our lives, we should investigate, unearth, and encompass all there is to learn from those tough times.
The day I came home from building a snowman with my brothers in Dallas to find that my mother was gone and was not coming back was definitely my biggest defining moment. It completely altered the course of my life and now I know that much of who I am and what I have done in my life stemmed from that experience. My childhood was gone, and innocence was lost for me in third grade.
The good news is that I have mined it and used it for good in the world since then. The very toughest things have shaped me into the woman I am today.”
3. Be Vulnerable
“It was a random process to select the lawyers in Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul. I have been involved in the ABA since I was a young lawyer. My first ABA meeting was in 1986 in Montreal and so many of the lawyers I selected are my old ABA friends from over the years. Others I found either through other networking channels or a recommendation. But the one requirement they all had to meet was to be vulnerable. It wasn’t easy for any of us to be vulnerable.
For this book, I really didn’t have any idea how I was going to do it. I had this big blob of a file in my computer with more than 40 interviews transcribed–about 50 pages for each interview. I had the data, but it needed a cogent formula to communicate the message I wanted to impart. It was a defining moment when my good friend, Ed Robinson, from my National Speakers Association Houston chapter said to me, ‘A book about a bunch of other people is fine and dandy, but you really want a book that you can showcase your own leadership model and to be able to expand it with a workbook and a coaching model.’ That was genius. Sometimes it just takes a good friend to help you see what you have been looking for.
I went straight back to the office and realized that each story had a success principle in it, so I named them “LEAD” lines and created the anacronym L-E-A-D: Legacy, Excellence, Authenticity, and Determination. When I put the list of my interviews by the side, each story gravitated to its rightful place. It was almost as if they flew to their section and when everything was done, the interviews were evenly distributed. It blew me away because it felt like it was supposed to be. There is mystery in the creative process and sometimes we just need to follow our gut and then it turns out to be the right way to do it.”
4. Enjoy the Journey
“Being a writer is a journey. It’s more about the fun you are having in the moment. Sometimes we are so focused on the outcome, we miss so much of the good that is going on in the moment. Mainly what I hope that Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul does for readers is to motivate, inspire, and encourage them to live life to its fullest, to know that we all have trials and tribulations but that each step in our journey is moving us toward really living our best lives.
My own LEAD line is Never, Ever Give Up. I have hung in there so many times when I had just a tiny thread to hold on to and I am so grateful that I did because it has increased my capacity to help others in the world and has given me so much to be grateful for every day.”
5. Follow Your Dreams
“I have many more books in me, and I am ramping up my daily writing to really create the author’s life I have dreamed about since I was a little girl. I am working on the sequel to Crosstown Park, an Alex Stockton legal thriller. It’s now time to ski straight downhill and not worry about falling. Zig-Zagging through life gets you there but what fun is it to not take risks and play full on?”
Thank you Melanie and best wishes for your continued success!
Melanie Bragg is a native Texan, a seasoned attorney, a prolific author, a compelling public speaker, writing coach, mentor, and leader. She is devoted to her craft, writes daily, and finds joy in sharing her experiences with other attorneys, writers, professional groups, youth and anyone else seeking guidance or mentorship. She brings an enthusiastic, motivating and energetic spirit to everything she touches.
Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul by Melanie Bragg is available at:
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