Sage Advice on Gaining a Competitive Edge from Mike and Mo

On the subject of peak competitive performance, I heard pretty much the same advice from two very different places this week — a seasoned appellate lawyer in one venue and a seasoned athlete in another.

This semester, I’m teaching Georgia Appellate Practice and Procedure with Chief Judge Stephen Dillard of the Georgia Court of Appeals. This week, our featured speaker was Michael Terry. He spoke on his top ten tips for preparing for oral argument. Oddly enough, his number one tip was all about parking. Yes, parking! He led with that. Mike says that your top priority for oral argument should be to figure our how you will arrange your transportation to oral argument (He assumes you’ve done all the other things necessary to prepare for the argument itself. Literally, plan how you will get there and where you will leave your car. If you’re interested, Mike takes Lyft.

The issue is stress and energy management. He says that all of this is hard enough as it is. And you don’t need to add stress to the mix by worrying about something like traffic or parking. You should focus your energy on the task at hand. If you worry about making it to court on time, you’re being foolish with your energy. Having done this for years, I’ve had my share of traffic and parking mishaps. And it has never helped. It is a bad use of energy best directed elsewhere.

Now to Mo. I track my running with the Nike Run Club App. I’m pretty sure that I’ve given Nike way more data about me than I’ve given Google (And yet, based upon my splits, they have not referred me over to Rockport). A feature of this app is coaching from famous athletes and coaches. During a run of a set duration or distance a person gives coaching direction into your speaker or headphones.

And it’s as right around minute 20 that Mo Farah’s advice made me think of what Mike said. His number one tip for competitive running is to start slowly. He speaks of what a mistake it is to spend energy that could be devoted to an event with nervousness before it starts doing something unproductive like psyching yourself out.

And here the wisdom of Michael Terry and Mo Farah converged. For both, the number one tip had more to do how you manage the trip to the starting line than what happens after you cross it. Whether it’s running or an oral argument, the lesson is the same. How you manage the case or the event depends on how you manage yourself leading up to it.

The best advice from two sages from different professions is to start slowly and arrive with a sense of calm. Take care of your self as you approach the starting line, and you are more likely to be happy what happens when you reach the finish.

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