As I reflect on my career and the position I find myself in today as the first woman to serve on the executive committee of Barrett McNagny LLP and the first female managing partner of the firm, I first and foremost feel an enormous sense of gratitude to my partners for trusting me to serve in this role.
As I further reflect, I ask myself what it is that prepared me for the roles I play as wife, mother, attorney, partner, mentor and manager. Sure, I received a wonderful education, but it is not what I learned in the traditional classroom or the textbooks that taught me the values that have allowed me to achieve my personal and professional goals.
It was the lessons learned on the gymnastics mat, in the pool and on the court that prepared me for each of the trials and tribulations along the way.
I did not understand it back then, but I heard it – the criticisms of my parents for pushing too hard, expecting too much. The questions of why are you doing this, why are you spending so much time and money on travel and fees and why are you giving up your social life for your daughter's athletic endeavors. After all, she isn't going to be an Olympic gymnast or diver, and at 5 feet tall, she sure as heck isn't going to play in the WNBA.
And they were right. Bela Karolyi never invited me to his gym and Pat Summit never offered me a spot to be a Lady Vol, but my parents knew what they were doing. They used the gym, the pool and the hardwood as my classroom – a classroom to prepare me for a life in which I could be self-sufficient, confident and happy.
Let's be clear; there were no participation trophies in the events in which I competed. There were hours of practice, lots of tears and disappointments, there were dances missed and dates not had, there were rips in my hands from the uneven bars, sprained ankles and lots of internal doubts. Am I good enough, am I strong enough, do I have what it takes? There were many losses along the way and lots of second places, but after each one, I, along with the help of my parents and coaches, would re-evaluate my performance and determine why I hadn't met my goals.
Please don't misunderstand. There were lots of highs as well, and I had a ball competing. I met some of the most amazing people through athletics and had incredible coaches. I have a state championship ring, newspaper articles galore to prove to my kids I really was good at something back in the day and friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. But it is the lessons learned through it all for which I will be eternally grateful.
The highs and the lows (especially the lows) taught me how to win, how to compete, how to set goals and how to achieve goals. My experiences in the gym taught me how to work with and lead people, not manage people.
The real successes, the successes which were earned through hard work, dedication and commitment to a goal, not the participation awards, gave me a confidence and independence that no one can take away from me.
Competition gave me grit, toughness and a desire to succeed. A desire to succeed in everything I do – my marriage, my relationships with my incredible children and my legal career.
Do I fall short of success in each of these categories? Absolutely I do, but athletics gave me the framework to evaluate those shortcomings and develop a plan to be better.
So this is why my husband and I will continue to allow our children to pursue their athletic goals, travel the country playing the game they love. We will sit in the front row through it all. This is why we will continue to expect them to compete each time they walk on the floor.
Not because they will play in the NBA, but because the court is their classroom to prepare for a life filled with success, financial security and happiness.
Trisha J. Paul is managing partner at Barrett McNagny.