X% of Life Is Having Attitude...
Michael Froomkin says that much of life is about being optimistic and energetic and having enough attitude to keep making lots of low-probability bets, because some of them will turn out well:
Discourse.net: Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes: This will probably get me in trouble, but I wanted to respond to one of the comments to "UM Promises to Be Good About Something," which actually seems to be responding to something I said in "Class Warfare." There I wrote,
I'd expect that most of the faculty see students as junior versions of themselves and their friends. After all, we were (almost) all law students once. What the current fracas reveals is that many students not only don't see the faculty as senior versions of themselves, but seem quite unaware that even when it doesn't feel their pain, the faculty wants them to learn, and to go out into the world prepared to do good and to do well.
The commentator disagreed,
Your students see you and your colleagues as the Havard/Stanford/Yale elites that you and they are. When a Miami student looks around, they do not see senior versions of themselves because you are not that. Miami students do not see themselves as attorneys in the top DC/NY law firms, as federal clerks (and certainly not federal judges), as US/DOJ attorneys, and certainly not as law professors. How are you a senior version of the students that you teach? Almost none of them will be a tenured professor at a law school. You know that.
To which a former student replied, "Shoot higher... people in other UM Law classes certainly saw themselves in those roles... and are currently in those roles."
I think that's absolutely the right answer, and that the first commentator has let his reverse elitism get the better of him.
It's true that the odds of getting a teaching job coming from UM are low compared to a top 10 law school, although it has been done.... (If you want to teach, write publishable stuff: get on a law journal, publish a note and also write something else for publication in a non-UM journal -- something a number of my students have done while in law school. After graduation, work a bit, then get a pre-teaching fellowship from one of the schools that offer them. It can be done.)
OK. Here's where I get myself in trouble:
As I see it, the way in which the majority of UM students differ most from the majority of Yale students is that Yale students feel empowered and UM students by and large do not. While this feeling obviously has some empirical validity... the empirical element is nowhere as great as UM students think.... [W]hat really has the biggest effect on the rest is the self-fulfilling aspect of this prophecy: because UM students don't try lots and lots of stuff -- like apply for clerkships -- they don't get lots of stuff.
Rejection is a part of life.... [T]he really big difference is the extent to which people will take charge of their own futures, think big, take risks, do unconventional things, and take large efforts to apply for many things and risk tons of rejection, to get what they want. The top N% of our class would fit right in at Yale... more than 5 less than 15.... The next batch would stand out less for lack of brains than lack of... I don't know quite what to call it.... Maybe it's just "attitude".
I agree that not everyone at UM is going to have a big national career. But some will; and many, many will end up holding key positions in this state.... So, yes, UM students do look sort of familiar in many ways. Other than how they dress in February, anyway.
Mind you, I'm not sure he's right. Attitude without connections and allies may well simply get you fired quickly. I would agree that X% of life is about having attitude, showing up, picking yourself up off the floor and trying again. But I would not dare guess what that X actually is.