Olympian Samyr Laine and the 5 Steps to Turning A Dream Into Reality (Updated)

If achieved, being a lawyer-novelist would be impressive.  But what about being a lawyer-olympian?  I’m talking about training for the Olympics while being a 1L.  Competing internationally while TAKING THE BAR.  THAT, my friends, is impressive.  Some would even say impossible, except that I know someone who’s done it.  His name is Samyr Laine, or as my college roommates and I like to call him, “Samsonite.”  He’s a lawyer with a job waiting for him at a firm.  But first, next week he will be going for gold in the Triple Jump.

Unlike these other people who I pretend to know by jumping into 1 second photos with them, I’ve actually known Samsonite for a long time.  And I feel the need to say that because I’ve discovered that once a friend has done something REALLY awesome, people don’t believe you’re actually their friend.  Well, I knew Samsonite back when he was Mark Zuckerberg’s roommate (oh, did I forget to mention that?) Yup, back when he just would casually tell us stories about how his roommate was a genius, and how they would play video games he invented.  We also went to law school together, but I was being a 1L and he was out triple jumping in Brazil or whatever, so I didn’t see him as much.

But even if you were friends with Samsonite, unless you actually saw him perform at meets, there was a good chance that you had no idea how good he was.  Sure, people would say “Sam is really good at track,” but it was kind of like how Sam would say “my roommate is a genius.” It was just impossible to appreciate the magnitude of their abilities at the time.

Anyway, this blog is about trying to pursue a dream.  Specifically, trying to achieve two big and extremely difficult goals at once.  I think we can all agree that Samsonite has accomplished that so let’s see what we can learn from him.

What Would Samyr Do? Five Steps to Turning A Dream Into Reality

  1. Be modest.  Samsonite is the most modest person in the world.  If newspapers didn’t write about him, none of his friends would even know that he was in the Olympics.  By being modest, the glamour of it all has remained secondary, enabling him to stay focused on his goals.
  2. Plan ahead.  Samsonite has been planning to be a scholar/athlete since high school.  I read an article that said that if he fell below a 95 average he couldn’t be on the track team, and when it fell to a 92, his parents actually made him quit for a season.  It’s amazing to us that Sam has simultaneously accomplished two major goals, but for him it was always part of the plan.
  3. Find a friend who gets what you’re doing.  All through college, Sam had a BFF who was also on the track team.  In addition to being roommates and teammates, they went on to the University of Texas together to take advantage of their extra years of eligibility.  Samsonite always had someone in his life who could fully appreciate both how hard it was to be a world-class athlete and the demands of pursuing a rigorous academic program.
  4. Be a big fish in a little pond.  Although he was born in the United States, Sam is competing for Haiti, which only has 5 athletes in the games.  Being an Olympian is always special, but potentially being able to bring a medal to a country that 1) hasn’t won one in over 80 years, and 2) has recently been devastated by an earthquake makes the accomplishment that much more meaningful.  Through his achievements, Sam is able to draw the attention of people with plenty of resources, enabling him to raise support and awareness for the country and his foundation, Jump for Haiti.
  5. Find the right combination of discipline and faith.  Samsonite has said that he has been inspired by Will Smith’s work ethic, and the actor’s philosophy that the mind has the ability to propel one do great things.  First, Samsonite believed in his own potential, then he fulfilled it.  You can do that too. 🙂

This is me, Samsonite and our college roommates (including the BFF mentioned above) before one our parties in Currier House.  We were trying to represent “T2” because we all lived on the second floor of “Tuchman.”  Ahhh, college…

UPDATE: Samyr made to the Olympic finals, finishing among the top 12 in the world.  He also got to chat with the President of Haiti and inspire a nation. 🙂 Some pics below:

Me and Haiti’s Olympians. Marlena Wesh, Moise Joseph, Samyr, and Jeffrey Julmis.

Samyr at the qualifiers.

Laine train.  Samyr’s family and friends (including me) cheering at the finals.

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She Did It (So Why Can’t I?): Emily Giffin (the Lawyer/Chick Lit Novelist)

Hola!! So, I know I’ve been blogging about other people a lot lately rather than my own endeavors.  It’s not that I don’t have some experiences that I want to reflect upon, I do.  But the summer is apparently book-tour season, especially for anything that might be read on the beach and the reality is if Emily Giffin (a lawyer who wrote 6 beach reads) is in town, I can’t not write about her you know?

So yeah, Emily Giffin was in DC and Bethesda on Monday promoting her new book “Where We Belong.”  Of course her lawyer background makes her particularly intriguing to me, as she graduated from UVA law school and worked at Winston & Strawn in New York before knocking out “Something Borrowed.”  Although Emily had quit her job and moved to London before she wrote that extremely successful novel turned movie, she did actually write a complete manuscript while working at a law firm.  At the firm, she completed a young adult book, which means I can honestly ask the question: she did it (i.e., write a novel while simultaneously being a professional), so why can’t I?    Unfortunately, that particular work was rejected by eight publishers so she gave it up.  However, maybe it’s for the best because then she started writing about adults, producing a story about a lawyer–obviously one of the best consequences of Giffin’s background in the law.  Emily Giffin has actually managed to publish a chick lit (yes, straight up chick lit, not Lady Lit, but I’m not the one who thinks that’s a bad thing, others do!) novel starring a woman who was not a fashion writer, but an actual lawyer!  The protagonist wasn’t Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice trying to save a community center either, she was a lawyer at a firm!  One thing I know for sure is that you don’t see many books with pink covers about law firm lawyers.

Anyway, so I was really excited about the Giffin book signing.  I’ve actually read all five of her previous novels.  (“Something Borrowed”  was my favorite, then “Love the One You’re With” and “Baby Proof,” and you can read about them all here).  My friend and I were already late to the signing, so we decided to get a drink at the café.  The place was packed, but somehow Emily Giffin ended up being, literally, right next to us preparing for her talk (I don’t know how this stuff happens).  She was an inch away, we could hear her whole conversation and everything, and I was just looking at her (without a book because I hadn’t bought yet) thinking, “should I bother her? Is she trying to get in the zone before her speech?” While I was busy doing that, some girl walked up to her and Emily proceeded to sign her book, take a picture with her and give her a hug before marching to the front of the room and giving her presentation.  After that it was a wrap, and I was officially at the end of a 3 hour line, opportunity missed.  The line was so long that (no joke) my friend and I left, got dinner, had a long deep conversation and came back only to find at least an hour-long wait.  I ended up leaving, which is why I have no me + famous author pic to share. 😦

As for the talk itself, it was short but worthwhile.  She discussed the latest novel, of course, about a girl who was adopted and the mother who gave up her child for adoption (two points of view).  (Side note: the premise actually reminded me of a decent movie with Kerry Washington and Naomi Watts called Mother and Child). From what I gather, it speaks a lot about identity issues.  Rather than read from the book, Emily recited letters from two fans who had read the novel and identified with the struggle of figuring out “where they belonged.”  That part was actually very inspiring to me.  It reminded me of the ultimate purpose behind this novel dream, which I think involves having impact on women’s lives.  Like I’ve said, I am drawn by this idea about being young and “lost,” and from those letters, it really sounds like Giffin was able to touch some “lost” people with this latest work.  I think it’s a wonderful accomplishment to have shown some girl out that her crazy confused feelings simply are not unique to her.  That definitely made me smile.  🙂  Til next time, ciao!

He Did It (So Why Can’t I?): A Law Firm Attorney

Welcome to the first installation of He Did It/She Did It (So Why Can’t I?).  These are blog posts about professional people who successfully managed to write a novel on the side.

The first person to get profiled is Anthony Franze, counsel at Arnold & Porter who I met yesterday at a DC Bar Foundation’s Young Lawyers Network event.  It was essentially a reception and a book signing for Franze’s first novel “The Last Justice.”  It’s a murder mystery that follows a Solicitor General’s (the government’s top lawyer) investigation of the shooting of six Supreme Court justices (yikes!)

Unfortunately, I got to the event late, so I missed the author’s speech and the synopsis of the book.  However, I did get to ask Franze a few questions. 🙂  More than anything, I wanted to know how the heck he managed to finish the thing!  When I asked, he gave a response that I actually had heard before: he wrote a little bit each day for about a year.  Some people wake up at 5am, but Franze did his writing at night after his family had gone to bed.  But, I continued to press him—“seriously, how did you write this??”  Finally, he explained that, in terms of dealing with the scope and overwhelming nature of the project, he approached it like a writing a legal brief.  He conducted research, formulated ideas and then committed to putting them on paper… That makes a lot of sense; however, in case you haven’t noticed, this blog is called “Illegal Writing (i.e., Not Legal Writing),” emphasis on NOT LEGAL WRITING lol.  Therefore, I don’t know if the legal brief approach is going to work for me, personally. I just never liked how formulaic legal writing is.  But, according to Franze, fiction writing has some rules too.  He said he expects his next book to be a lot easier to write now that he knows those rules.  Sigh. But the whole point of this novel thing was to rebel against rules and my legal identity!  (If you’re someone I work with I’m just kidding.)

Anyway, I bought the book and I’m going to read it.  I’m also going to take him up on his offer to get coffee (assuming that’s still open after this blog post lol).  Holllerrr