20 Under 40: Robert Thetford

Robert ThetfordLEGAL
Age: 35
Business: Private Practice
High School: Highland Park High School
College: SMU Deadman School of Law
Faith: University Park United Methodist Church
Community Involvement: Church Council, University Park United Methodist Church; Board member, Weekday School at UPUMC; Board member, Books are the Beginning

Growing up an Eagle Scout helped shape Highland Park High School and SMU jurist doctor graduate Robert Thetford into who he is today – an enthusiastic lawyer who believes in family values, undeniable effort, and being prepared. Farley works to advance solutions-oriented conservatism and effective conservative leaders who get results for our community, region, and state. Along with his wife, Staci, Thetford serves on several boards at University Park United Methodist Church, including the church council.

What is the best advice you received when beginning your career? “Accelerate your rate of failure. Fail faster.” My Dad would give this advice and, as I recall, it was usually after I had failed, which seemed to add insult to injury.

In actuality, Dad was letting me in on a secret about life: success is usually preceded by a series of failed attempts; the sooner you can move through the failures, the quicker you’ll reach success. Dad’s frequent examples: Heinz 57, which took 56 tries to get it right, then baked their story of failure and success into their brand narrative; and Ross Perot, who inked his first EDS client on his 78th sales call. In Dad’s way of looking at life, even missteps were steps closer to success.

Dad’s larger and even more important message: Don’t be afraid to fail or embarrassed to make a mistake. There’s a lot of failure when starting out in a career. Having the right perspective is critical to getting up, dusting yourself off and trying again.

What is your business philosophy? There’s something to be said for the World War II-era poster, “We can do it!” Enthusiasm and effort are indispensable to success. In the life of any effort, there’s a point where team members look at each other with doubt in their eyes, asking, “Can we really do this?” Intelligence, credentials, experience and skills are important, but those traits don’t address that fundamental question. In those chips-are-down moments, optimistic hard-workers are worth their weight in gold.

What inspires you? Aspirational Texans, like my parents. In 1987, they moved to this community to make a better life for their family and to find good jobs, excellent schools, safe streets and warm-hearted friends and neighbors. Today, throughout North Texas and across our state, millions of Texans are searching for, and building, those foundations for a successful career, family and community. Their efforts are an inspiration – and they deserve our support.

If you could tell 16-year-old you anything, what would you say? “Listen more, listen carefully, listen different.” People need time and space, sympathy and compassion, if we’re to fully, completely understand each other. Life as a teenager would have been richer, and perhaps less painful, if I would have been more patient when trying to understand others and myself.

What is your proudest career accomplishment? As a Boy Scout, the Scout motto – Be Prepared – means a lot to me. The foundation of my professional career has been a journey of preparation at several transformative institutions. That journey has equipped me for important challenges, in the present and for the future.

What did you learn from your best boss or mentor? “Watch your adjectives and adverbs.” Arguments are strongest in the form of short, simple sentences. Adjectives, and especially adverbs, put an advocate at risk of expanding a claim beyond its factual foundation. Modifiers can also introduce an author’s bias, opinion or conjecture, all the while distracting from more persuasive evidence. The worst: a reader might agree with the core proposition, but disagree after its been dressed up with unnecessary descriptors.

What was your first summer job? Putting out For Sale signs in yards for Allie Beth Allman

What do you love about your community? Friendships across generations. The roots in our community not only run deep, they run intertwined. Parents mentor their friends’ children; children grow up with “bonus parents” – mom and dad’s friends. At a time when many individuals feel isolated, a profound connectedness can be found in the Park Cities, which helps make our “city” and “town” feel like a community.

Where is the best place for a business power lunch in Park Cities or Preston Hollow? Breakfast at the Flying Fish

What is your fondest Park Cities or Preston Hollow memory? Eating a grilled cheese and milkshake on a summer afternoon at the Highland Park Pharmacy.

Where will we find you enjoying your hard-earned time off? Most weekends, mowing the lawn or on the golf course; on vacation, in the mountains of New Mexico

What do you want your last meal to be? Birthday cake – Happy 100!

What is your favorite color? Grey – the color of a good argument.

What fictional world or place would you like to visit? The Wall, Game of Thrones – During the Texas summer, it’s nice to know that winter is coming.

If you could be on a reality TV show, which one would you choose? The White House – To watch President Trump’s Twitter game in-person

What would your superpower be? Flight – Fast, convenient commute, no traffic or tolls.

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Bianca R. Montes

Bianca Montes is an award-winning journalist and former Managing Editor of Park Cities People. She currently serves as a Senior Editor with D Magazine's D CEO publication. You can reach her by email at Bianca.Montes@Dmagazine or follow her on Instagram @Bianca_TBD. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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