How you approach anything is how you will approach everything. This is universally true whether you find yourself on the field, in the classroom, or in your career.
As a pitcher on the baseball team at the University of Louisville, this principle is the foundation of our program. As a current law student, this is the principle upon which I have instilled in myself to strive for academic and professional success. If you are not striving for greatness in everything that you do, what are the reasons for which you justify your efforts?
Greatness will never be unachieved by an individual’s “lack of,” but instead from their degree of “will to.” Many have a lack of skills, talents, and knowledge in their respective careers, particularly from the starting block. This has never stopped the ones that have the will to be great. Regardless of where you start, it is all about where you finish. Nobody has ever been handed greatness. You must make the decision to become great. To do this, I always ask myself three questions.
- How willing am I to repeat my effort on a daily basis?
- How willing am I to stay focused and dedicated behind closed doors with nobody to hold me accountable?
- How willing am I to continue to persevere when I feel stuck or defeated?
These questions are too often geared only towards athletics, and not nearly associated enough with the professional world. I carry this demeanor over from my experience in baseball and ask myself the same questions in how I approach law school.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” – Theodore Roosevelt
In answering the first question, it starts with the grunt work. In the world of athletics, you have to hit the repeat button with your effort every day. You are getting up at 5 a.m. to get into the weight-room. You are at practice for three to four hours a day to refine your game. You are doing all the little things to make sure you have an edge on your opponents.
The same principle applies to law school. Whether it be completing lengthy casebook readings, taking hours of notes, or maintaining focus during class, your approach is the first step to success. Just like on the field, I challenge myself to never cut corners in my education.
The second question goes to how you apply your answer to the first. It’s easy to give a high level of effort when you are being watched. In law school, this is especially important. With the amount of time that law school demands, most of the work is completed away from the classroom. Staying focused in applying that daily effort, while being the only one to hold yourself accountable, is crucial. The most successful individuals make this a habit.
The third question goes right back to your “will to” be great. It’s much too common that individuals face adversity and begin to give up before allowing themselves the chance to succeed. This one is simple in both athletics and education. Overcoming the defeats will almost certainly reward you with future success. Law school is not supposed to be easy, and that’s the exciting part. The significance of the challenge you are up against should be the very thing that motivates you. Understand that you are in an elite choice of profession and embrace the victories and defeats.
Those that are able to stand out from the rest are the individuals committed to raising the bar and exceeding the expectations they hold for themselves. If you develop habits of cutting corners, your end result will certainly be a resemblance of such. How are you supposed to meet or exceed your expectations when you are content with flying under the radar? How can you expect to impress your supervisor when you are content with attaching your name to average work? Put aside the significance of the task at hand, and always ask yourself if you could give more. Develop a conscience that is never content with mediocrity. Strive to be the go-to-guy. Make it your mission to never let anyone think or say your name without greatness being right there with it.