View from the Cheap Seats

July 18-24, 2016

Try this

By William O. "Bill" James

I remember once in college someone telling me that there were a lot of geniuses that were going to fail out of school.  When I first heard this, it did not fully sink in.  What I learned after a few semesters up at Fayetteville is that the person that said that was absolutely correct.  I saw a lot of very smart people fail to make the grades to stay enrolled.  At the same time, I saw a lot of people that I did not consider intellectual giants, doing quite well and making it through the prescribed college curriculum in four years.

I exaggerate a bit in the paragraph above about what I saw and perceived in my first few years at college. The truth is I did not do much more than show up at college early on and I can tell you that there was not a lot of effort exerted on my part to move forward towards a degree.  I ignored a lot of advice in the years immediately following high school. To the extent I blamed anyone or anything for my poor showing in my early years in higher education, it was never myself.  There were plenty of excuses, but they were never directed at the man in the mirror.  I always thought I was smart enough to do well in college, I just did not put forth the effort.

Last week, I watched a competition on ESPN involving teams of college students running an obstacle course against other. After one team beat another more respected team, the captain of the winning team was asked about the victory and he fell back on the age old adage that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  Wise words from a young man.  It certainly got me to thinking.

Hard work doesn’t solve all of life’s problems.  Nothing does.  However, if we truly do our very best in life, the rest will pretty much take care of itself.  This is pretty simple advice that is accepted and implemented by very few people.  There are people of great talent that amount to nothing because they don’t try or they give up. We all know someone that fits that description and to some extent we all would be better off with a little more effort in our lives.

It is easy to blame a lack of talent or opportunities in our life on what we are “unable” to achieve.  Hard work is often the great equalizer.  I can’t think of a person that would not benefit from a little more hard work towards their goals.  The only person that would not benefit from more hard work would be the person that is already doing all they can do.  How many of those people are out there?

It is true that hard work will not always overcome great talent.  This is especially true in athletic type competitions.  On the other hand, life is a different competition. Working hard to be your absolute very best not only helps you perform at the highest possible level, it helps build character.  In the classic sense, winning is not everything.  Sometimes, you have to redefine what winning means.  The bottom line is that the only person that you are really competing with is the aforementioned man in the mirror.   That is the only scorecard that means anything in the competition of life.

How are you hurt by trying a little harder today?  Pushing yourself to your own limits can open up opportunities that previously seemed unavailable.  This is certainly easier said than done.  No one can go 100% on everything all the time.  But we can try.  Sometimes, that is all you can do and few are ever criticized for trying.  That is true for everybody, especially for those of us way up in the CHEAP SEATS!

Bill James is a criminal Defense attorney and co founder of the James Law Firm with offices in Little Rock, Conway, and Fayetteville, Arkansas.  He may be contacted at