An Open Letter to 2013

by John M. Phillips

2013 was the best year of my life so far.

You think you have it made in your 20’s, but you honestly aren’t wise enough to truly make the best of the most situations.  I was determined to Run with the Bulls before I turned 30 because I somehow thought it was the end of an era for me.  Far from it.  I also sat 100 feet down at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef because I thought that would mean I had seen it all.  Not even close.  Those relics of my 20’s don’t hold a candle to the memories of my 30’s.  It was just the beginning.  As I reach the last full year of my 30’s, I realize just how much I have grown and how much I appreciate this God-given life and being away from the drama and insecurity that insight and wisdom can bring.  So call me old if you like, but my 2013 kicked some serious tail.  So, I am saving this for prosperity.  Read if you like.

In 2013, I got married to my best friend in the paradise of Maui.  It was the highlight of an amazing year.  I saw my son go from his first steps to climbing, from syllables to sentences and much, much more.  He is his own little person now and it has changed me at my core.

Professionally, I saw my office grow in an era where my competition spends well over $10 million a year advertising in Jacksonville, alone, making it hard to survive.  We moved into an office that echoed from its emptiness last December and now it is full.  My 2011 Today Show appearance was one I was/am so proud of because it was my first national interview.  It was accompanied by dozens of others in 2013 with countless hours of coverage on multiple cases, being a prominently featured personality on HLN and having a nightly segment on first coast news for a month.  I even got to sit in the HLN chair and comment on the Zimmerman verdict as it was released like one of my mentors as a child- Gerry Spence.  It was very cool.

I argued an appeal trying to change the law to protect children victims of violence which was filmed by every local station.  We still await the result, but as a former bully victim myself, it was a moment bigger than me. Related to bullying, I was literally referred a case by Dr. Phil (which we ultimately didn’t take).  The excitement of that phone call was towards the top of the meter.  However, that excitement didn’t touch the level of thrill I got from the first call from Paul Solotaroff from Rolling Stone.  Paul did an amazing job with the article about Jordan and I cannot thank him enough for his heartfelt interest in Jordan.  I am beyond honored to be one of the voices who get to honor him.

Related to all things media, we had two documentary crews spend time at the office.  Both contain some of the world’s greatest storytellers and I have learned so much about my craft as a storyteller from them. I was asked to be apart of a pilot “people’s court” kind of show and have had people reach out with interest in what we are doing, including a former judge who has agreed to come work with us.  I received more professional gratitude than ever before and evolved my practice into one surrounded in love.

Awards mean so little in the scheme of things, but it was a good year- an AV peer rating, super lawyer, best of Jax in folio weekly, #1 in void, top lawyer in 904 by Jacksonville Magazine, top lawyer by Ponte Vedra Recorder, top 100 trial lawyer in Florida, American Society of Legal Advocates and many others.  The best are those voted anonymously by my peers- they mean so much.

More significantly than that, we Marched on Washington, attended an invitation only Seminar about Race in America, I spoke at Howard University, spoke with leaders on the state and federal level, supported a client in her testimony before the US Senate and spoke before the Florida House of Representatives.  I stood up to bullies, even at my own detriment, and we made corporate polices change.  Any single one of those would have made for a great year.

I learned that you can be a friend to clients and there is so much more to being a lawyer when you are.  We have cried and laughed, set precedent and made relationships that I can’t wait to take into the next decade.  From Twitter to Board Rooms, I have had the chance to meet some amazing people and change the way I look at things around me.

Not without trial, I dealt with the biggest betrayal and defamation of my life in 2013, including making some tough decisions about those who find it easier to be hateful and spread lies. I will never forget that.  I saw the worst in people, including some I admired and learned how bad this country has become and how selfish and hurtful so many are.  But I found forgiveness for some who betrayed me, including one person some thought I’d never forgive.  I smiled a lot. I laughed even more.  And I found true love just about every day.  The pleasure made it worth all of the pain.

This year, I made some new lifelong friendships and came to love older friends even more.  I was blessed to be able to give more to charity than in any prior year.  I learned more about myself and the sanctity of life through the losses of others.  And yes, in 2013, I saw my teams (Alabama and the Red Sox) win national championships.

I weighed the least and the most I have in one calendar year and I learned how to dress better than I have before at either size.  Thanks to Darren Kavinoky for the advice.

I prayed more than ever and promised I’d try every single night to pray for someone else because I know my mother’s prayers got me through some tough times without me even knowing they were there.  And I found my own Heaven right here while dancing with a two year old.

I will miss you 2013.  You taught me how to be a better man, husband, father, boss and friend.  I will use all of it to make 2014 even better.  This, I promise.


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