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The American Dream: It’s Who Knows What You Know

April 8, 2013

It’s not who you know.  It’s not what you know.  It’s who knows what you know.

I had the privilege of attending again the 2nd Annual Outstanding Women Lawyers Roundtable in Dallas, Texas this weekend, sponsored by Cordell Parvin.  It is an intimate event with about 15 women lawyers from all over the U.S. and Canada.  It is always a worthwhile trip.  Cordell is on the cutting edge of lawyering in this modern age.  I am always energized when I return back home.

He kept telling us:  It’s not who you know.  It’s not what you know.  It’s who knows what you know.

This advice has really stuck with me lately.

I am a believer in the “American Dream”.  What is the American Dream?   I guess  each person probably has a different definition or understanding of it.  Self-made.  Upwardly mobile.  “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it” -William Arthur Ward    …. and so on.

americandreambritney          Take Britney Spears for example. I love this t-shirt she is wearing. A little girl with a charisma, rhythm and a big voice. Boom. The American Dream.

To me, the American Dream means that anyone from any walk of life can accomplish whatever dream it is that he or she conjures up, no matter what race, sex, geographic or economic background.  Idealistic, or accurate?

What has influenced my own personal definition? I grew up in Weirton, West Virginia, one of the most ethnically diverse areas of West Virginia, a steel mill town just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.  With a dream for a better life and opportunities in America, our grandparents or great grandparents immigrated here from Eastern European countries to work in our steel mill.  With scholarship and my parents’ generosity and support, I made it through undergrad.   While I continued to sponge off my supportive parents, I borrowed a lot of money, and I mean a lot of money, to complete MBA school and law school at Villanova.

  • For the first decade of my career, I tried to learn as much as I could about business and bankruptcy law, shoring up WHAT I KNOW. The learning, of course, always continues.
  • What about WHO I KNOW?  I used to think about the phrase, “riding on the coattails” of those who have gone before you, or connections–  WHO YOU KNOW.   If you have those connections, great.  If you do not, then you have to build them.  I think of Keith Ferrazzi’s useful book Never Eat Alone and he instructs how to do exactly that.
  • But lately, with the encouragement of lawyer coach Cordell Parvin, I really have been embracing the notion, and advising my own clients and colleagues, that getting clients is making sure many people KNOW what YOU KNOW.

Social media is an instrument you can use to do exactly that– make sure people know what you know.  Demonstrate what you know by creating valuable content utilizing your expertise and then disseminate that content widely using social media.  So what will you be doing to let people (customers and referral sources) know what you know?

Cordell advised me to start another blog,  yes another blog, from scratch to write about my personal areaBlogging-requires-passion-and-authority-Cartoon of expertise— business bankruptcies.    So here I go:  1 Blog Post , 0 followers, 0 hits, 0 comments.  I am sitting in a geographic location between WV and PA and I practice actively in both bankruptcy courts; so, I am calling it the Steel Valley Bankruptcy Blog.  WISH ME LUCK.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Fay Stump permalink
    April 14, 2013 9:51 pm

    Scalene, I still have an envelope full of papers written by my junior English students years ago after they interviewed an older Weirton resident about their fulfillment of the American dream. Can’t bring myself to discard them!

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