If at First You don't Succeed...

Twenty people in the past hour have listened to your sales pitch and hung up the phone. Five banks in a row have rejected your application for a small business loan. Your screenplay has just been returned with another letter that starts, "Thank you for thinking of us but..."

This is the moment you lift up your chin, square your shoulders, and say to yourself, "Maxcy Filer."

Why? Because the first time Maxcy Filer took the California bar exam in 1966 he was thirty-six years old. He didn't pass, so he tried again. And again. And again. And again. He took the bar exam in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Francisco, and anywhere else it was given in California. He took the bar when his children were still living at home, and he took it with two of his sons when they had earned their own law school degrees. He took the bar after he started working for his sons as a law clerk in their offices. And he kept taking the bar when he reached an age when most people start thinking about retirement.

And he passed. After twenty-five years, $50,000 in fees for exams and countless review courses, and a total of 144 days spent in testing rooms, he took the bar exam for the forty-eighth time, and he passed. Maxcy was sixty-one.


"Because I couldn't possibly quit," he explained. "I don't quit. I looked at it from the standpoint that the bar was passable, and one day I would succeed and I wasn't going to give up."

Despite every attempt, Maxcy simply refused to see himself as a failure. He had decided to become an attorney in the 1950s when he realized that law and justice did not always balance for the black man. He watched as Thurgood Marshall, Nathaniel Jones, Lauren Miller, and other attorneys began making changes and decided he wanted to use the law to change society too.

However, it had not been possible for him to go to law school after college. He and his wife, Blondell, had seven children to raise. So it was eight years later when he applied to, and eventu­ally graduated from, Van Norman University.

Maxcy has always felt that he knew the law as well on his third attempt at passing the bar as he did on his forty-eighth attempt. Over the years, he consistently scored in the top 10 per cent of the taw review courses he took. Maxcy served as a city councilman in Compton where he lived and impressed his sons with his knowledge of law cases in the office, drawing up all the complaints and doing much of the work.

So what was the problem?

Apparently, Maxcy didn't test well. The California bar exam, which has one of the nation's highest failure rates, is partly a writing test, and as Maxcy's sons pointed out, his "syntax" wasn't in the expected "lawyer" style. Maxcy certainly knew his cases, but he also had a tendency to focus on practical rather than academic law issues.

What kept him going long after most people would have switched to another field?

The unwavering support of family and friends, he said. Every time he failed, his wife would immediately type up another application, saying, "You know, Maxcy, you came very close this time. Try it again. I'm sure you'll do it next time."

It helped Maxcy Filer to recall some of his classmates who had been slackers in his school days. Some of those slackers were now practicing law. "So why should I give up?" Maxcy asked himself.

"I had an attitude that every time I took the exam, I was taking it for the first time and that helped," he explained. He also benefited from an unshakable belief that he would eventually pass. "The way 1 see it, I passed the bar every time I took it. They just didn't pass me." It was one of Maxcy's sons who opened the envelope that arrived after that forty-eighth attempt. Maxcy had tossed the envelope up on the mantle, just as he had all the others for twenty-five years, and it had remained there, unopened among the family's best china, for hours. Maxcy's son finally opened the envelope, let out a shout, then jumped on his father and began kissing and hugging him. It took Maxcy forty minutes to believe what he was reading: "Congratulations, Mr. Filer..."

During Maxcy's swearing-in ceremony, a thousand of his col­leagues were on hand to show their respect for a man whose optimistic spirit and tenacious persistence was like none other they had ever witnessed.

Today Maxcy Filer practices law a half-mile from the court­house in Compton, California. When he tells clients he'll fight their case to the bitter end, they can be sure he will.

"Keep going. Say 'I will do it' and you will." -Maxcy Filer

Excerpted from Unstoppable, p, 279-281 (Sourcebooks, $14.95) Copyright 1998 by Cynthia Kersey www.unstoppable.net

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Cynthia Kersey is a nationally-known speaker, columnist and author of the bestseller, "Unstoppable" and upcoming sequel "Unstoppable Women". Cynthia captivates audiences by delivering presentations on how to be unstoppable in their business and life pursuits. To learn more about receiving a FREE daily Unstoppable Insight, joining the FREE "Unstoppable Community" or bringing Cynthia to your next meeting, visit www.unstoppable.net .

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