Law in Contemporary Society

Career Lessons from Jeremy Lin

-- By DanielChung - 3 May 2012

One of the most important lessons Eben has taught me this semester is that I should build a “practice” or a career with my legal license rather than sell myself for a “job.” I must admit that for at least half a semester, Eben’s criticism of “job” seekers seemed impractical (forgive my pun). In fact, with unusual boldness in class, I asked Eben one day, “Would you be pissed off if I left class early for my job interview?” Despite—or maybe because of—Eben’s conviction that I would eventually leave class early no matter what he said, I sat in class until the very end. Throughout the semester, I searched for concrete examples of people who have pursued careers instead of jobs. Although not a lawyer, Jeremy Lin was one of the strongest examples I could find. The vicissitudes of Lin’s basketball career have taught me that the first step to building a meaningful career is to build courage.


The story of Linderella is a story of slow and frustrating beginnings. A native Californian, Lin struggled to dazzle basketball coaches at UCLA, Cal, and Stanford. As Lin admits, he was someone people had to watch more than once because he was neither “extra flashy” nor “freakishly athletic.” Even after second looks, the unassuming Lin garnered no Division I scholarships and ultimately decided to pursue basketball at Harvard. Undrafted out of college and later rejected by both the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, Lin stumblingly dribbled after an elusive NBA dream. Meanwhile, coaches doubted him, and the D-league beckoned. Even the New York Knicks initially considered releasing Lin and only started using him as a backup. Like his fictional counterpart, Linderella was constantly overlooked. Lin’s initial struggles encourage me to be courageous during the early parts of my career. Employers may overlook me because I am neither “extra flashy” nor “freakishly smart,” but I should keep dribbling toward my dreams. I should drive my own career, whether it be in the major league or in the minor league, and be willing to sacrifice prestige for purpose. Luck may have played a role in Lin’s career, but he reminds me to be courageous during difficult times and to waste no experience.


After Lin’s meteoric ascent this year, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted: “We should have kept @JLin7. Did not know he was this good. Anyone who says they knew misleading U.” Leading the Knicks to seven consecutive victories, Lin smashed expectations and stereotypes and attracted waves of new basketball fans who were addicted to Linsanity. A phenomenon was born in a matter of days, surprising coaches across the nation, outplaying NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant, and even beating the reigning NBA champions—the Dallas Mavericks. Throughout his winning streak, Lin remained humble but aggressive, refusing to be fazed by the extra attention and his talented opponents. Despite his historic 45 turnovers in his first seven career starts, Lin led his team remarkably and remained a team player (at least seven assists in each game) despite the temptation to take the spotlight. Lin’s extraordinary ascent reminds me that timing is critical to building my career. Circumstances can change rapidly, and those who are ready and willing can seize and capitalize on opportunities. Like Lin, I want to develop the courage necessary to take risks and to make the plays when the ball is suddenly passed to me. No matter where I begin my career, I know that there will be legal superstars who are better and bigger than I am, but I should have the courage to play ball with and against them humbly but aggressively. Lin’s high turnovers may reveal his carelessness with the ball, but they remind me that I can only lose something that I possess. I want the courage to dribble the ball in my legal career and chase after it with complete dedication even if it suddenly slips away from my hand.


Happily ever after only happens in fairy tales. Just before the NBA playoffs, Lin discovered that he would need surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Linsanity had already died down over the past few months, and now, Lin would have to miss several important weeks of basketball for surgery and recovery. Right after a successful surgery, Lin tweeted “Praise God for a successful surgery” and answered questions about his faith from Facebook fans. Throughout his career, Lin has been eager to discuss and proclaim his Christian faith, which he claims is a central part of his life and career. Some have even compared him to Tim Tebow for his very public faith. At Harvard, he led Bible studies, and he has continually expressed an interest in attending seminary in the future and pastoring in inner-city communities. As Lin explains, he wants to “trust God more…surrender more…[and] bring him more glory.” Lin’s ability to incorporate his faith into his career is inspiring. He teaches me that my career does not have to consume my life and that it can be a powerful means to a greater end. I should have the courage to integrate all aspects of my life—including my faith—into my career. Lin’s desire to become both a basketball player and a pastor challenges me to reimagine my career and not pigeonhole myself as a specific type of lawyer. Finally, Lin’s grace under repeated pressure reminds me that I need courage that will sustain me against the vicissitudes of life. With such courage, I know that I will be able to endure and to build a meaningful career.

So a system for marketing sports celebrity gossip marketed you a guy called Lin, who won some games until he got hurt. First you wrote a bunch of stuff using words made out of his name. Now you've attached every bromide and truism about careerism (courage, perseverence, Godliness, cleanliness too for all I know) to some basketball metaphor or other, using this gentlemen's few weeks of athletic prominence as an allegory. Surely I don't have to point out again that an extended metaphor isn't an idea.

It's true that I dislike having an advertisement pushed at me as a facsimile of an idea. But the weakness of this draft isn't that you can't seem to give up on the packaging: it's that the idea inside all the packaging is just platitudes.

Try making one draft without the Wheaties box ambience. Leave this basketball player out and write out the idea another way. Then we can make the intellectual payload as good as it could be, and if you want to wrap it back up in Sports Illustrated marketing pap, at least we'll know the product inside the wrapper has some value.

Some questions I had before I revise:

1. What's wrong with "[writing] a bunch of stuff using words made out of his name"? Whether it was marketed by the "system" or generated by fans, "Linsanity" and generating words made out of his name were part of the phenomenon that was Jeremy Lin this past spring.

2. Why isn't an extended metaphor an idea? What is your definition of an idea? Surely you don't mean something completely original. A metaphor is a comparison, and I think making a comparison (however trite or extended) is still an idea. Please clarify. It's one thing to hate platitudes. It's another to say that platitudes are not ideas. In fact, in the very next paragraph you say that "the idea inside all the packaging is just platitudes." So is the problem that I don't have an (original) idea? Or that my idea, although extant, is just unoriginal (trite)? Those are two very separate things, and I think that you are conflating them.


Webs Webs

r9 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:10:22 - IanSullivan
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