Your Impact is More Rewarding Than Your Personal Achievements

 While it is important to have personal goals, achieving those goals will never be as rewarding as leaving a lasting impact on others.

Tommy Zoccola

University of Tennessee College of Law, Class of 2023

Walking out of my first mock trial practice my 1L year, I was fully shellshocked. I had spent the previous three hours being thoroughly humbled in every component of a mock trial competition by the returning 2Ls and 3Ls on the team. Despite competing in mock trial as an undergraduate, I was nowhere near the same level of advocate as the returning members.

After that practice, I had a real “come to Jesus” moment. I reconciled the fact that this first year, I was not going to make an important enough impact to be put on the “A team” for our national competition. This first year was going to be about me developing my skills to become the best competitor I could be. Despite that realization, I made a goal for the following year. My goal was to win that national competition as a 2L.

However, during our team’s first practice my 2L year, my goals changed. As all of us walked out after practice had finished, I noticed that a 1L on the team was lagging behind the rest of the group. After taking a moment to stop and talk to this student, I saw the exact same shellshocked gaze that had adorned my face exactly one year before. From that moment on, I added a new goal: I promised this student I would make it my personal mission to train them. Every Wednesday for the following three months, I worked one-on-one with this student to develop their advocacy skills. Each week, they got better and better. When it was time for our national competition, I knew they were ready.

During the national competition, our “A team” consisting of Kyle Mangrum, Grady McGinnity, Alex Allen, and I performed fantastically. We won every round (4-0), every ballot (8-0) and won the competition. With the help of my teammates, I achieved the goal I had set 17 months prior. However, despite this massive success, I could not stop thinking about the pride I felt for the student I had taken under my wing had performed on our other team. They developed from an overwhelmed newbie to a truly amazing mock trial competitor.

Though I will always be incredibly proud of winning that competition and achieving the personal goal I had set, I will likely hold the impact I had on that student’s advocacy skills and future in an even higher regard. While it is important to have personal goals, achieving those goals will never be as rewarding as leaving a lasting impact on others.

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