Hope, Faith, and Belief: Elements to Success

By James M. Durant III

We are in the middle of an incredible economic crisis in the United States as we rally around our new president, Barack Obama. We have endured past crises—the Depression, world wars, fuel shortages, energy deficits—and survived. And we succeeded in overcoming these crises through hope, faith, and belief.

We want the best for ourselves and our families and friends. We often talk about the future and what our children will encounter. We hope for a bright future. Winston Churchill once said, “What life is worth living if you cannot improve upon it for others to follow?” But, what does it mean? Do we embrace hope to improve our future? I think the answer is a resounding yes. Without hope, our future is fraught with gaping holes building monuments to nothingness. The hope each of us has is a factor of our surroundings. I hope I make a difference in the coming 2009-2010 Bar Year as I assume the Chair of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.

In law school, my mentor and law professor, Goler Teal Butcher, told me to “be a change agent in society—don’t just be a lawyer, be a social engineer.” She gave me a vector to excel as a change agent. I am still on that journey, and the ride has been absolutely phenomenal.

Hope is just the beginning of the building of a successful career. The second rung is faith. An Air Force chaplain explained to me the concept of faith. He said, “Jim, faith is like flicking a light switch and knowing that the light will turn on.”

I believe faith is a natural follow-on to hope. Your faith in what you believe encourages your success. Even if you fail, other opportunities and chances for success present themselves. I once thought I was destined to fly the Air Force’s C-141 Starlifter, a huge multi-engine jet. A medical disqualification prevented me from realizing that dream at the time. However, I realized it wasn’t the specific job I needed to fulfill my destiny of being a part of something greater. In my case, that was as an officer in the United States Air Force. My dream of being an Air Force jet pilot led me to law school and now the office of Chair of our Division. I never stopped having faith in myself and in my ability to succeed. For many of our members, the same story holds true.

Belief is the last element of success. I am convinced that belief is a direct product of hope and faith. Do you believe in yourself? Are you ready to take on the tasks, jobs, positions, and responsibilities to realize your dreams? Do others believe in you? Sometimes, it’s the belief of others in our abilities that helps the most. We are interconnected as humans on this planet, and everything we do impacts others. It is incredible how this comes together like the pieces of a puzzle. As lawyers, we can become intimately involved in our clients’ lives. Our clients rely on us to help them with the difficulties they encounter in their lives. They believe and hope that we can make things better for them. One of the greatest feelings for a lawyer is being able to resolve a problem and see the look of relief on the client’s face.

But you do not need a fancy title or degree to make a difference in someone’s life. Of all the titles I possess, the greatest is “Dad.” My wife, Karen, and I have two boys, James and Jonathon. It is there that I am making the greatest difference. Many of us are parents, and it is our greatest challenge. We give an enormous amount of energy, sacrifice, and effort to ensure that our children are equipped for their future. I don’t expect anything more of my children than that they will be ready to move when opportunity knocks. Working with them before dinner with their school lessons and reading with them before bed, I know that I am doing my best to ensure that they have the tools to achieve success in their lives. I am not clairvoyant, but I know that if they are not ready to take advantage of opportunities, I have not done my job as a parent.

I believe that hope, faith, and belief are the elements of success for you as well. I am a lawyer and I arrived at this juncture in my life by focusing on these elements. These building blocks are indispensable to self-actualization and professional success. I intend to incorporate hope, faith, and belief as the Chair of our Division. I don’t know what lies ahead for the Division, but I intend to do what I can to lead the Division through this difficult time for our members. I ask that you join me in this task and envision a powerful and successful future by taking advantage of personal and professional opportunities as they are presented. I look forward to the upcoming year, and I believe we will be successful.

Lieutenant Colonel James M. Durant III, the guest author of this issue’s column, is Chair-Elect of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. He may be reached at

Copyright 2009

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