Chief Judge Sylia Elias was always the bully’s number one enemy. She was the one who had the vocabulary, the moxie and the intestinal fortitude to figuratively (and sometimes literally) stand in front of the defenseless, voiceless or the fearful and plead their case on their behalf.
Elias entered into the field of jurisprudence for that very reason. A seemingly natural progression for Elias, the New Jersey native returned home and is now a judge in the Orange Municipal Court in Orange, New Jersey.
“I’ve wanted to go into law. People steered me in that direction, saying to me I had what it took: gift of gab, people’s person. So it was just a natural progression for me to want to go to law school,” Elias related during a women’s conference in Boca Raton, Florida recently.
“Oh, yeah, I can go for the jugular. I would always stand up for people who didn’t have a voice, who didn’t know what to say. So I would jump in and say ‘so this is right, and this is wrong.’ So I’ve always stood up for people.”
Today, Elias is the chief judge in the Orange Municipal Court in Orange, N.J. The Rutgers political science major and George Washington University law school graduate shares her keys to success:
- Being your own motivator
- Using God’s guidance
- Measuring the company you keep
“For me it’s about deciding to be positive and do positive things. And now I know that you can do good but also do good for yourself,” said Elias. “I started off my career trying to do good. But now that I’m in my … early 20’s (as she laughs) … you still have to make money in doing good. So I’m in the process of refocusing all of that and trying to figure out how do I earn a living and make things happen financially and then do good things for other people.”
What are some books that accelerated your success or were a revelation to you?
- Definitely The Bible.
- I Live Tony Robbins (books)
- 48 Laws of Power. It gives you the laws and then it relates them back to people and how the laws affected their lives or motivated them. It’s a great book. It talks about people you never heard of but they were powerful. It’s a great read.
What is the power of mentorship and do you mentor?
I mentor now. I had a program I did for 15 years to accelerate success for minorities in engineering because we are so underrepresented in those areas. But I definitely had mentors who let me see ‘if they can do it, I can do it.’ Unfortunately, a lot of my mentors have passed on. So I need to find new mentors. And I think that it’s important to have mentors in your field to show you that if they can dream, so can I.
I have to. Iron sharpens iron. People who think that they can take on the world. It keeps that fire going. And it’s important that you give back, but they are giving to you.
Balancing collegiate idealism with realism:
“Unfortunately, it’s definitely shifted. You start to acclimate yourself to your surroundings. Even though you say this is the way it should be … a part of you still thinks you can change it, but a part of you winds up conforming, ya know? It’s systematic. I have a somewhat rebellious spirit; it’s conforming. If I stayed in the ideas of this is the way it should go … if you think that it’s the way it should go, this is the way most people can be effective and benefit people, then you get stuck in the real world then you end up bumping your head so many times and get so exhausted that you say ‘it’s enough already.’”