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Thank You Thursdays: You Never Know Whose Life You May Have Changed

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This  New York Times article about how a 13-year old’s interview with an Olympic hopeful motivated him to snag one of the last berths on the 1976 U.S. Olympic swim team is a reminder of the role of serendipity in our journey in life or law and the power of a genuine thank-you.

Back in 1976, Karen Krouse was a shy middle-schooler and avid swimmer assigned a school project to create a fictional magazine. Krouse selected swimming as her focus, and identified 19-year old Mike Bruner, a super-star on her swim team as the subject of her interview.  Bruner graciously answered all the questions, and Krouse later gave a copy of her assignment to Bruner and his coach.

The following month, Olympic trials rolled around, and Bruner floundered, missing out on the team during his first few races.  Just before his best event – the 200 butterfly – his coach presented Bruner a copy of Krouse’s interview, where he read his own words on the importance of a strong mental attitude in a race.  Motivated by his own words, Bruner went on to break the two-minute barrier and secured a spot on the Montreal-bound Olympic swim team, where he later won the gold.

After the preliminary rounds, the media asked Bruner how he came back from the earlier losses, he credited Krouse’s interview for “bringing him back to reality” and reminding him about the power of having the will to win. Bruner’s coach showed that article to Krouse who decided then and there that:

“This is what I want to do when I grow up. I want to write about people and positively affect their lives.”


Thirty-one years later, Bruner emailed Krouse to let her know that he credits her story for his gold medal in the 200 fly and that he tells that story whenever he can. And Krouse remains grateful to Bruner for every article she’s ever written.

With all of the time we spend on planning and building and working, it’s always so odd how a single moment or person can alter the course of our destiny; make us within ourselves a power we never had (Bruner to Krouse) or remind us of something that’s been there all along but somehow was lost (Krouse to Bruner).  In law practice, it might be a professor, but more likely a colleague or spouse or a client or even a fellow blogger who reminds and inspires or changes our vision.  And yet we rarely thank them.

So make someone’s day.  Thank them for changing your life or share with them how they impacted you.  Send an email or handwritten card, or do it publicly – here at my blog on a Thank You Thursday (or else, you’ll be stuck reading my endless list).  If you have a submission for Thank You Thursday, send it to me at carolyn.elefant@gmail.com.

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