Hard Work Hardly Works

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"It took me 50 years to complete the Kamehameha, and this boy simply just copied me in a few seconds!"
Master Roshi, Dragon Ball

Part of what makes fiction so entertaining is reading about how the protagonist is special and different, how they are the true heir, the Chosen One who has The Gift, wielder of the Cosmic Keystone, or simply that Badass. They may train to get their skills and powers, but part of their hero package is a certain je ne sais quoi that grants them a better ability or talent at their Serious Business of choice. While it's true that genetics and heredity give us all different advantages when learning knowledge or skills, for the hero it goes far beyond that.

A hero's power, skill, and ability rise geometrically with the effort they put into their training, if not spontaneously developing with no training of any kind. Even Book Dumb and slacker tendencies can't stop them from making sure that My Kung Fu Is Stronger Than Yours. These abilities are simply In the Blood due to their Superpowerful Genetics or because the Powers That Be have touched them with ultimate talent. This will endlessly frustrate The Rival, who puts himself through Training from Hell only for the hero to chide him about taking things "too seriously", especially if the hero's wins are due to sheer, dumb, plot-induced luck.

An alternative, sometimes usually used as a form of Scotch Tape, is that the protagonist did work hard for his abilities; offscreen. The Born Winner is in fact a survivor of The Spartan Way, a Disposable Superhero Maker which killed the other nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine subjects, the genocide of his fellow Physical Gods, etc. He just doesn't like to talk about it or doesn't know. There is actually a catch to this, sometimes the training is done offscreen to avoid entire segments of Padding.

Despite the unfair-seeming nature of this trope, instances do exist wherein the lower gain can be justified: such as when The Rival does work harder than The Hero, but due to their own stubbornness he or she refuses to note any flaws within their work or allow themselves proper rest. The end result is program that is certainly harder, but nowhere near as effective as one done "properly".

A specific and cynical Broken Aesop, occasionally due to Mega Manning, or The Worf Effect. Results in Can't Catch Up and Instant Expert, and the hard-working character becoming The Resenter. Quite an opposite of Charles Atlas Superpower and Weak but Skilled. See also Technician Versus Performer, Incompletely Trained. Often accompanied by a Training Montage.

Examples of Hard Work Hardly Works include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • To be entirely fair, Ichigo from Bleach has gone through Training from Hell lots of times, but that hasn't stopped him from conquering curriculum lasting approximately hundreds of years in the matter of weeks, days or hours. Likewise, despite initial trouble controlling his inner Hollow, he's now stronger than Aizen, and most of the cast by extension.
    • This bears some elaboration. Aizen is hundreds of years old, but does not appear to be a hard worker; he's had Story-Breaker Power for over a century with no explanation forthcoming as to how he got so strong in the first place. However, through use of a Reality Warper, Aizen exponentially increases his powers several times, evolving into an entirely new sort of being. Ichigo not only matches this process by meditating for three months, he is several orders of magnitude stronger than Aizen when they fight.
      • Which is why he had to lose that power in order to keep the story going, because if enemies are EVEN stronger than that state than the rest of the cast would be superfluous.
    • There's also Orihime Inoue, who tries genuinely hard, but either is relegated to the sidelines by her own companions or finds herself overpowered by enemies. To a degree, a Justified Trope since her powers are huge but largely rely on her Heroic Resolve: she hates fighting so her attack power is pathetic; she likes to protect but gets sheepish in battle so her defense-combat comes and goes; and she loathes seeing her friends hurt, so her healing is simply godly.
    • It's also implied that people have a specific limit to how powerful they can get which is determined long before they even start trying to get stronger. This trope was even discussed by Grimmjow's minions who, after eating thousands of hollows to try to advance to the highest hollow stage, noted that their growth just completely stopped at some point.
  • Everyone in some Digimon seasons pretty much work their butts off just trying to catch up to the rest of the crew...although it's pretty much pointed out that if you can't go beyond a certain point..then you Can't Catch Up, so sometimes...why even bother trying?
    • It seemed almost like the crew of Tamers was well-aware of this trope and decided "Why bother? We Can't Catch Up because we're not one of the three main cast (and Ryo&Monodramon), we'll just be here for the ride most of the season", and it shows...they practically don't even bother to lift a finger. It may be because some of them were made Tamers at the last minute.
  • Yamcha from the Dragon Ball series has an extreme case of this particularly in Z. Even in the original series, he was often used for The Worf Effect despite training alot, particularly for Martial Arts tournaments. For the third tournament at the end of Dragon Ball, he even does Training from Hell in alone the wild for three years, invented a new move from scratch, and still loses in his first match. In Z Yamcha never wins a single fight, and ultimately realizes he'll never be useful in protecting the Earth and gives up after dying a third time in hte Android SaGa. By GT he never achieved any of his goals in life(to get Married and win a World Martial Arts Tournament).
    • Vegeta, he trains and trains and trains, but Goku is always stronger than he. Yes, Goku trains (though it's usually unclear just how much, or whether it's because he just gets better training), too, but at nowhere near the level of Vegeta . The funny thing is that Vegeta was supposed to be the super-talented prodigy.
    • Averted with Goku and Gohan. Gohan has far greater inherent potential, but does not find fighting and martial arts fun, so he prefers having a normal life to constant practice. Goku, on the other hand, spends most of his life (and whatever parts of his afterlife we saw) undergoing ever more extreme Training from Hell and eventually outpaces Gohan.
    • It's played completely straight when you compare Saiyans with non-Saiyan characters: Tenshinhan and Chiaotzu eventually more or less pretty much spent all their time training after a certain point, and remained hopelessly behind the Saiyan characters nonetheless. Neither of them could even put a scratch on Nappa! Even though Tenshinhan was able to HARM CELL and they managed to survive the Human Extinction Attack Majin Buu did and later showed up against Super Buu...Super Buu practically only needed to cough to send Tien flying (though that's more thanks to the Sorting Algorithm of Evil).
    • Really, anyone who isn't Goku (and to a lesser extent, Gohan) falls victim to this trope. Piccolo, despite having no family or friends to distract from his constant training, and at one point being STRONGER than the Saiyans during the Android Saga, is nowhere near as strong any time afterwards.
    • This is lampshaded by Master Roshi with the quote at the top of the page, as back in the original series we had no idea what a Saiyan was.
    • Master Roshi gets to lampshade it a second time during the Android Saga when he admits he was once called the 'Strongest in the World' but now he'd 'give anything just to be able to help out again'.
    • Vegeta may not quite be able to keep up with Goku at Super Saiyan 3 (they tied at Super Saiyan 2), but he comes a damn sight closer than anyone else in the universe. There's a reason Frieza was scared of how powerful the Saiyans might become.
    • Vegeta kept falling behind because of his Pride. He almost never spars with other people, likely out of fear of being beaten. He overestimates his body's abilities, and gives himself punishing workouts where a more modest workout would work better. Lastly he never meditates, perhaps because he's afraid of what he would see if he looked inside himself.
    • Then there is the case of Goten and Trunks, who are the youngest of Super Saiyans. Gohan, Vegeta, Chi-Chi and Goku each had their own expressions of shock when they found this out. The three older Saiyans had to go through sweat and blood to accomplish their transformations, and the two brats just got theirs when they were playing in the woods.
      • This seems to have become a trend for human-Saiyan hybrids, as the end of Dragonball GT shows one of Goku's descendants (like great-great-great-great-great grandkid) randomly awakening the Super Saiyan transformation in a tournament sparring match.
    • It was his great-great grandson, and he becomes a Super Saiyan defending a bear against a pig-demon thing. Still applies though when compared to what it took for all the other Saiyans, not including Goten and Kid Trunks, to transform.
  • In Eyeshield 21, Unsui and Agon, twin brothers, couldn't be farther apart in ability. Unsui puts himself through Training from Hell (at one point shown doing one handed push-ups with another person laying on his back) and is only "a great player". Agon doesn't practice ever at all, and is "a once-on-a-century prodigy." He's also the only one of the Shinryuuji Nagas who has any luck with the ladies (being that they go to an all boys school). Sure, he's got The Gift, but he's also stone cold evil. Ever since his team's loss to Deimon, he has been working out with increasing fervor and desperation; He doesn't want to become the trash he sees everyone else as. Subverted twice, though, when Hiruma deliberately (and successfully) sets Yukimitsu (who is 0 percent talent and 100 percent hard work) against him, and when Hiruma himself (a physically average player) outruns Agon because he improved his 40-yard dash by 0.1 seconds through the training Agon disdains.
    • Leonard Apollo learned this the hard way during his time in the NFL, as well.
    • And then there's the Yuuhi Guts. Even the manager keeps a training regiment so brutal it would bring most other schools' players to tears, but they only score one touchdown against Deimon in the fall tournament.
      • It's worth nothing that the actual players (i.e. the ones that trained their asses off and ended up scoring the only touchdown) were only in the game for the last few minutes. The school had opted to use star players from other sports (Yuuhi being a renowned sports school where football was the only thing they didn't excel at), and they played terribly, having never practiced football itself and generally having no teamwork whatsoever. Had the actual football players been in the entire time, well, they probably still would've lost (Deimon was still the better team and trained every bit as hard as the Guts, after all), but it would've been a much closer game.
    • A lot of the characters avert this too, though. And almost all of the "I'm just that good!" types wind up getting their asses handed to them by Deimon, who are the results of canny planning, hell-training, and tenacity. Pretty much everyone on the Deimon team worked hard for their abilities in some way or another, and the closest it has to a "he's just that good" is the quarterback's planning skill.
  • Averted in the boxing anime Hajime no Ippo, as hard work usually does pay off. The Main character Ippo does have immense punching power by nature, his friend/rival Miyata is called a genius for his talent, and his Jerkass Big Brother Mentor Takamura is easily the best boxer in the whole series... but all of them still train their asses off to get better and so do most other boxers. Kamogawa once said to Takamura "Not everyone who works hard is rewarded. However, all those who succeed have worked hard!".
  • Subverted in History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi. The titular character is repeatedly said to be completely average and talentless, and his only strength is training hard.
    • Although the people he beats up on a regular basis also probably train hard as well. And probably have been doing so for more than a few months, unlike Kenichi who simply trains under numerous different masters, working 7 days a week and often dying from the training, only to be brought back with medicine and first-aid. So while Kenichi might not have trained as long as his opponents, he has trained hundreds of times harder.
      • This holds true for earlier opponents, but once he starts fighting Yomi, his opponents are all expert martial artists, raised since childhood by masters every bit as strong as his own, with techniques just as brutal, which comes back to playing it straight.
      • When Takeda begins his own Training from Hell under the underground boxing master, his abilities surge massively in a very short amount of time, putting him very nearly in Kenichi/Yomi tier within a much shorter time than Kenichi himself needed. He even began to unravel and utilize Kenichi's recently-learned perfect defense within a single sparring match. So apparently when a person who is already exceptionally talented (as Kenichi's masters have all noticed) starts that sort of training, the results are dramatic and much faster. So it's subverted in that for the prodigies, hard work really works.
    • Played straight at first with Berserker, a boy who has never had any training, but is so naturally talented that he has never lost a single fight. Then Tanimoto manages to defeat him, and afterward states that this entire trope is a lie:

"One part talent may equal a hundred parts of hard work, but what if it's one thousand parts hard work? What about ten thousand? In the world of martial arts, hard work will always trump natural talent."

    • Also subverted in the fact that there are prodigies among Yomi's ranks... and Kenichi's masters point out that being a prodigy doesn't mean anything without training yourself to back it up and that they can't simply rely on their innate talents. So, arguably, the entire STORY is a subversion of this trope in that you need to work hard to keep up in the world of martial arts.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is an extreme version. The title character literally did not train at all, instead skipping right to fighting monsters for an hour or two after school each day. Within a week she's stronger than someone else around her age who had been training his entire life, and by the end of the first season (at most a couple months) she's become A (elite) rank. When there are more seasons, much Rank Inflation ensues though there's at least a considerable Time Skip between the second and third seasons.
    • The second season and its supplementary manga explains all this by... turning Nanoha into a complete aversion of this. Her exponential increase in strength? It's revealed that thanks to Raising Heart, she's able to train every single waking moment of her life, displaying astonishing multi-tasking skills by running virtual reality training programs directly into her mind while she eats, goes to school, and does her other activities. This is in addition to her waking up early and going to bed late to practice her magic in the real world, and Raising Heart going on Pressure Mode to act like a magical training weight that forces Nanoha's magical growth by draining her mana when she's not active.
      • The third season then subverts it; apparently all that built up stress and exhaustion caught up to her years later, nearly killing her on a routine mission.
    • Additionally, said manga shows that while Chrono (said "someone else her age") isn't as powerful, his combat experience actually allows him to be able to defeat both Nanoha and Fate.
  • In Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, during Muhyo's days at the academy, Enchu works hard to become an Executor while Yoichi and Muhyo slack off. However, Muhyo soon realizes his talent, and despite Enchu pulling all-nighters when he and Muhyo are considered for Executor, Muhyo is chosen.
    • It's later revealed that there was more to the decision than aptitude; Page said the committee was concerned by Enchu's preoccupation with his ill mother (her death greatly contributed to his Start of Darkness, and was part of Teeki's plan), and chose Muhyo because he, in refusing the position, was thinking of others.
  • Averted/Subverted in Mx0. Kuzumi is thought to be an incredibly gifted wizard with a gold card. In reality he has no magic, and his innate skill is so low that he failed the entrance exam. Everything he does he does through careful lying and a lot of hard work. The series ends (aggravatingly abruptly, due to cancellation) with him temporarily transferring to another school with a special tutor who is going to push him up to gold card level through raw hard work.
    • To be fair about the whole innate skill thing, the reason why he failed the entrance exam wasn't because his skill was so low, it was because his sister had gotten someone to sign an autograph on his pamphlet, covering the magical message he was supposed to read.
      • In the manga, the message he was supposed to read couldn't be read by a Muggle (which he is), which is why he failed the test, which was meant to weed out the muggles. It had nothing to do with his sister.
        • Both of the above are wrong/right. If he truly had NO magical capability, he wouldn't have been able to do even the few things he did in the series. However, it IS true that it was due to his very low magical ability he had such trouble reading the message.
  • Naruto: Sasuke and Naruto are largely stronger that most other characters by the former having The Gift, and both winning the Superpower Lottery; Sasuke's gift specifically lets him instantly copy and, training and aptitude sufficient, execute it flawlessly. They do, however, take their training very seriously, working day and night to get stronger. Further, Gaara had the same advantage Naruto did, and apparently much less trouble learning how to use it and how to master other forms of ninjutsu, but Naruto won their fight.
    • Rock Lee is the poster boy child for the opposite side. Intense training, incredible strength, never manages to win any fight he gets into. It doesn't help that he always saves his best techniques for the most dire situation, where they will also fail to work.
      • According to the fanbook, Kishimoto wanted to use Lee to send a message in support of hard work, as he felt that it wasn't seen as "cool". While this does fly in the face of Lee's repeated losses, 1.) Lee initially wasn't even very good at taijutsu, so he'd be doing even worse if he didn't try (fans tend to forget that Rock Lee has only been training incredibly hard since he met Guy a couple years ago), and 2.) It's noted that hard work isn't everything, as Guy tells Lee that he also has to believe in himself (According to Kurenai, Hinata also worked very hard, but failed at missions because of her lack of self-confidence) 3.) Lee is the poster ninja for hard work, but not the only hard-working one—Sasuke, Hinata, Neji and even Naruto are shown at various points working very hard.
    • Technically, Naruto avoids this one more often than plays it straight. Very few ninja simply rely on natural gifts and talents to win, compared to those who rely on hard work. However, this is offset by the fact that the absolute best ninjas (not to mention a lot of the major characters) got to where they are by winning the Superpower Lottery, having The Gift, or being Cursed with Awesome (or some combination thereof).
      • Some, such as Naruto, do train quite hard as well, but Naruto's efforts tend to pay off FAR more than (say) Lee's, meaning a lot less training overall.
      • It might be argued that Naruto uses Kage Bunshin/Shadow Clone to train. Using this technique allows him to compress years of training into a couple of days because he is able to create thousands of clones. While it is fast it is not at all easy, as he not only has to feel the physical strain of one work out session, but the mental strain of thousands. However, this method has only been used twice in the entire series, and only once of those two times has he used an absurdly large number of clones, this being when he was trying to create his Futon Rasengan. Meanwhile, using a grand total of two clones, Naruto was able to completely master Sage Mode in maybe a month, where Jiraiya couldn't master it in over 30 years of being one of the greatest ninja to have ever lived.
    • This trope also applies to Naruto himself to some extent. The new powers and abilities he gets from his umpteen Training from Hell arcs still fall well short of the new techniques Sasuke either is gifted/steals or learns offscreen.
    • The situation of Naruto's skills versus Sasuke's has a lot of interesting twists; first, Sasuke, who has been a talented shinobi since birth, turns to evil because Naruto, who was a loser until very recently, has begun to surpass him and he fears his hard work will be insufficient to achieve the Revenge he is after. Sasuke proceeds to completely outstrip Naruto in every way over the Time Skip, but it is mentioned a big part of this is abusing the curse seal that artificially raised his powers, using Orochimaru's performance-enhancing drugs, and relying heavily on the powers of his Sharingan eyes, which he's always had and dramatically increase any ninja's combat prowess. Deidara taunts Sasuke at one point for confusing his Superpowerful Genetics with his own power, although he proceeds to lose almost entirely due to Sasuke having the Sharingan. However, as Sasuke continues to progress by using his Sharingan's inborn powers as a crutch for actual skill and hard work, it's implied that the incredibly dangerous Training from Hell Naruto needs to do from his powers has made Naruto the stronger of the two again. Most fans still find the failure of everyone else's hard work a bitter pill to swallow, though.
      • The most bitter pill, however, is the complete reversal of the series' supposed moral. In first half of the series, the idea was that no matter who you or your parents were, no matter how much inborn talent you had (assuming you had any) - everyone has the potential to be truly great if only they worked hard at it, and that there were no shortcuts to true greatness. Sasuke was gifted from the very beginning, with a special lineage with special powers and a knack for the shinobi arts, while Naruto had to fight to get anything his peers understood quickly on top of the curse being the host of the Nine-tailed Fox. However, Naruto himself has turned this on its head: he has his own special lineage in terms of both genetics and the legacy of the hosts, special stamina that allows him to use a special technique that lets him skip months if not years of normal training so that he can learn more special techniques, AND of all the Tailed Beasts he could have hosted, his is the most special and powerful of all.
  • Ren of Shaman King suffers from this. His entire life has basically been one long Training from Hell, and yet no matter how hard he pushes himself, Yoh always kicks his ass with what seems to be little to no effort, the whole while spouting off his own philosophy of not pushing himself too hard to do something he can't do (which would have been the thing required to defeat Ren in that particular battle) until for no apparent reason he is suddenly granted the ability to do that critical thing (or more commonly, the strategy that every experienced Shaman watching thought was total suicide turns out to work).
    • It's worth remembering that prior to the story's beginning Yoh was given Training from Hell by his grandfather and later his fiance, but said training didn't give him any hidden power for him to conceal or help him get over his slacker tendencies. Hell, he's practically the messiah of slackers!
  • In the first episode of the original series of Yu-Gi-Oh!! Yugi used an unfamiliar deck to beat Kaiba, who was an experienced duelist and had spent a considerable amount of money obtaining the rarest, most powerful cards he could. Summoning Exodia looks like use of the Magic Poker Equation at first, but it's revealed by the end that the Millennium Puzzle's power is to choose what cards are drawn.
    • The draw control actually only comes into play in the very last duel of the series, after his hidden memories have been awakened. And even then, only in the anime, not the original manga.
    • As for Kaiba, relied on the power of his Blue Eyes White Dragons, which he drew within turns of each other, to dominate the duel before Atemu/Yugi drew the final piece of Exodia, so he wasn't relying on hard work or even skill either, but rather on The Magic Poker Equation. Not to mention having more powerful cards than practically any other player on the planet.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Judai, despite sleeping through all the few classes he bothers to attend, effortlessly beats anybody who challenges him (except for Ryo that one time). Deconstructed in season 3 when an Isaac Newton-like teacher tried to take revenge on him for inspiring pupils to ignore studying and try to emulate his success and a villain convinced him that everything coming so easily for him meant he wasn't a true hero. It was almost like a summary of how nobody likes The Ace because nowadays, True Art Is Angsty.
    • The best example in the series however comes from Daichi, the Ra Yellow who was originally set up in Season 1 as The Rival to Judai. While exceptionally smart, he is shown spending hours upon hours studying and formulating strategies in order to beat his foes, being so Crazy Prepared as to make 8 different decks over the course of the series (6 elemental decks, a seventh specifically to beat Judai, and an 8th "perfect" deck he used for the rest of the series.) With the exception of Manjoume in Season 1, however, he rarely ever won duels on-screen, and the few times he did win were against nameless Red Shirts, and no one else cared. Be it Judai revealing an all new card perfect for the scenario, or the current Big Bad manipulating his will, Daichi's hard work all came to naught against the Magic Poker Equation, and ended with him running away from the school buck naked.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho; Case and point, Kuwabara trains hard to unlock his spiritual powers, Yusuke gets hit by a car. Yusuke trains too, sure. But always manages to find shortcuts, leaving everyone else to get there the hard way.
    • Eventually justified in that Yusuke is the descendant of one of the most powerful demons in Makai. It's In the Blood.
    • It helps that Yusuke gets Training from Hell from Genkai that literally and intentionally forces him to his limits, while Kuwabara trains on his own, although he gets some training from Kurama prior to the Dark Tournament.
    • Subverted in that compared to many other talented characters that came before (Goku) and after (Naruto) Yusuke's training from hell actually fits the definition of being less talented for the anime genre. His spirit gun initially is of no use against mooks. His other two more powerful companions, Hiei and Kurama have better game breakers while doing less hard work. He and Kuwabara prior to the Dark Tournament even teamed up to beat the merged Toguro Brothers using primarily Kuwabara's spiritual sword rather than Yusuke's powers and further subverted in that Hiei had to sacrifice a part of his power and had to work hard to regain his former power, Kurama's pacifist mindset forces him to sacrifice his mortal body as a punching bag and forces him to work hard at coming up with a strategy to get him out of the hole he puts himself into and finally Kuwabara also had shortcuts compared to his fellow humans and it turns out in the end he focused his hard work on somewhere other than training and is finally subverted in the last arc where everyone loses to people who truly did not do as much hard work as they did throughout the series but were more powerful than the entire main cast.
      • Actually they probably did work as hard.Looking at most of their origins it can be assumed that they worked very hard.Yomi was weaker than Yoko Kurama was when Kurama was an A Class Demon.By the time the 3 Kings Arc comes around he is incredibly competent is one of the most powerful characters in the series.He himself isn't changed at all. No crazy transformations or surgeries or anything like that.The demons who lost embarassingly to Raizen all wanted to avenge their losses and it can be assumed that they trained considerably hard as well. Mukuro was just a slave when she started out and yet, just like Yomi, became a ridiculously powerful character by the time the 3 Kings Arc came around. The real difference is the amount of time they had to train. The more powerful characters had more time so it makes more sense for them to be more powerful. Interestingly enough, the only character who seemed to rely on his pure innate power was Younger Toguro who thought that the mentality of relying on pure demonic power because it never diminished, power that would enable him to never have to actually deal with his weaknesses and work with them, was wrong and wanted someone to prove him wrong. Interestingly enough he probably subverted this trope before then. It is highly likely that his demonic powers were far weaker than his human ones. After all of his training as a human, he was strong enough to defeat Kairen, who was said by Koenma to be a demon of the highest class.The demon body that was merely given to Younger Toguro was only a Upper B Class Demon at its strongest.So by forsaking the power he had as a trained human he made himself weaker.
        • Actually the origins are both an aversion and a subversion in itself. Yomi when he could see trained harder than Youko Kurama but could never match his powers despite being the 2nd in command. When Yomi went blind, he was forced to train harder in another area which is more of becoming a leader. Because he gained that status, Kurama would in turn end up being his adviser despite being considered smarter than him and just as reknowned. But because he used his time to gain his individual power rather than continuing to work on his leadership, both his decision to pick Kurama and to agree to Yuusuke's proposal end up biting him in the ass. It's showing how both hard work works (Yomi surpassing what Kurama left behind) and how hard work does not work (Yomi did the work to become a tactical leader and genius but since YYH has separate traits for attribute and decision making, Yuusuke outsmarted Yomi and got his way despite losing despite not being considered a genius for most of the series)
        • Mukuro's origins is a similar aversion. She had power but she could not free herself until Hiei. Hiei in turn subverts his own hard work. Working to become more and more powerful to find his sister, he ends up becoming weaker and weaker but with the power to persuade others without needing to utilize his power by the end. Something that constantly put him in trouble several times in the series. Hiei's hard work ends up being a waste but because he could save Mukuro, he ends up winning over Mukuro and gaining power through companionship where as Mukuro's power ends up being more subservient to Hiei's command though more as an equal than a ruler.
        • Raizen's friends/enemies broke this further. None has shown that they are more powerful than the weakened Raizen possessing Yuusuke even if they did expand a longer period of hard work. Worse, the final winner faced a weakened Yomi and there were not signs of Raizen's friends being known across the Demon World hence it's much easier to assume they led more of a peaceful reclusive life and trained in private meaning regardless whether they worked harder or less harder than the main cast, they're an example of Hard Work Hardly Works. It's just a question of whether they are an example of becoming stronger or of never being able to catch up as the new generation managed to close the gap quickly against them.
        • There's just plenty of examples in the YYH world of these aversions. Younger Toguro's body for example may be weaker but is more of a threat in the entire Demon World because he can absorb weaker demons. Something that would almost entirely make him out to be a better rule than the Makai 3 if he wanted.
  • Every Zoids protagonist of note tends to drop into the cockpit without much previous combat experience, and manage to kick the backsides of more than a few expert enemies who've fought for years. Bit Cloud might be a deconstruction, as he spent most of his adult life as a junk merchant specializing in Zoid parts and studying tactics, and isn't treated very seriously by opponents early on because he had little fame behind him.
    • Van and Bit are both justified by having the Organoid helping out from the inside. Van in particular starts out relying almost entirely on Zeke, and receives proper training later on. Bit might be smarter than he looks.
      • Bit also states at the start of the series he had wanted to be a pilot so it's possible he had trained beforehand. He's certainly good at coming up with a plan.
  • Negi of Mahou Sensei Negima manages to pick up martial arts pretty much over a weekend. He also manages to master incredibly advanced magical techniques in very little time. It's partially justified in that he uses a Year Inside, Hour Outside mechanism to cram whole extra months of Training from Hell in. Even so, in the space of a month or so, he puts together a Black Magic technique, the complexity of which surprises the person who created the Black Magic to begin with. Said person is an immortal vampire who previously spent years on it.
    • Jack Rakan might be an aversion. Unlike Negi, who was very powerful but didn't seem to put any effort into gaining that power, Jack Rakan spent almost whole his life fighting, he almost died many times but as time passed he became more and more powerful all thanks to decades of hard work. Even Negi refers to Rakan as "The Ultimate Hard-worker"
    • In a possible subversion, Rakan is generally still acknowledged to be a lot stronger. The general opinion of the matter is that Negi's greatest strength lies in how proficient he is in making new techniques. At one point it's mentioned that people would just love to stick him behind a desk somewhere and make new spells.
    • And for a completely played dead straight example, Nagi at the age of fifteen fought evenly with Rakan (forty years of combat experience) and presumably won their fight by a tiny margin. And Nagi is a lot less intelligent than Negi is and probably didn't do nearly the same type of training.
    • The aversion is underlined by Fate Averruncus when Negi manages to defeat him after learning Dark Magic- Fate is surprised by that Negi could ever beat him in a fight, and is unable to improve himself because he never needed to train in his whole life. He only survives his fight against Rakan by using an artifact that breaks the game even more than Rakan himself, because it MAKES the game.
  • The titular character of Ranma ½ possesses a Charles Atlas Superpower that, sometimes, allows him this particular luxury. Although he has to train long and hard to attain blinding speed (the Kachuu Tenshin Amaguriken and Parlay du Fois Gras training methods,) or learn a particularly devastating technique (the Hiryuu Shouten Ha and Mouko Takabisha,) "long and hard" for him means "a few days of experimentation," regardless of the decades it might have taken the techniques' original creators. Particularly noticeable in the case of the Umisenken, which he learned from watching it once, and practiced and mastered literally overnight, then used it to defeat the opponent who had trained in the opposite style Yamasenken his entire life.
    • It does help that the "Musabetsu Kakutō Saotome Ryū" (The Saotome School Of Combat Pragmatism) is actually absurdly simple - accent on absurd. Its sole method of training is Training from Hell - By Experience. As in, survive stupid suicidal acts repeatedly. For example, Genma taught him how to fall from buildings without killing himself by throwing him off cliffs. He survived over a decade of this. Starting at age two. Result: The martial arts equivalent of The Pretender. If there's something he doesn't know how to do with his body already, he can come up with a suicidal training aid and fill the gap in a day or so.
  • Explicitly subverted by Hell Teacher Nube: both Nube and Izuna are exceptionally gifted with immense supernatural abilities, but Nube endured arduous training for years and years to reach his level of skill, a fact that he always uses to berate Izuna when she tries to find a shortcut.
  • Practically spelled out in Fairy Tail when Natsu faces the Vanish Brothers. They say that the time spent training his fire magic should make him a Squishy Wizard and they should surpassed him in speed and strength from all their years of physical training. Nope! Not only does he have magic that they don't he's both faster and stronger despite being years younger.
  • In Hidamari Sketch, While Yuno is known to be hardworking, her skills will probably never be as good as those of her Ditzy Genius neighbour Miyako.
  • Likewise, Kisaragi in GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class is also hardworking and doesn't seem to be very skilled, unlike the more Cloudcuckoolander-ish Nodamiki. Unlike Hidamari Sketch, though, whether she's that bad compared to Nodamiki has not been demonstrated.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. Asuka is sent over the edge when Shinji's sync ratio got higher than hers even when she trained as a pilot for years. Then we found out why.
  • Averted and then played straight in the case of Kirino in Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai!. She has been able to be a highly successful student athlete by practicing really hard, despite the lack of talent. However, after she starts being trained as a professional athlete, it all falls apart as she clearly couldn't catch up those who also have real talent.
  • Played with in the manga Aisaretaino: Izaki bears a lingering grudge against Hakamada because Hakamada excels at everything he turns his hand to without even trying, while Izaki himself works hard for little apparent return. Eventually, however, he discovers that Hakamada feels inferior to him because his accomplishments, obtained without real effort, feel empty, and he admires Izaki's stubborn drive to succeed. (On the other hand, Hakamada is a wealthy author who wrote a bestselling novel in three days, while Izaki is a salaryman, so we can't really call it a subversion of the trope.)
  • Holyland, which reads more or less like the author's love letter to martial arts and street fighting, presents most fighters' skill as a mixture of training, fighting experience and inborn 'talent', and makes it clear that ultimately it's those with talent who rise to the top if they get the other two; training and experience can only compensate so much. Protagonist Yuu Kamishiro is noted to have talent and combines it with working himself to the bone and hard-earned experience to win over people who have martial arts backgrounds, despite lacking formal training and experience until his mid-teens (which would be a death sentence to most people's ability to compete). Some people, like Masaki, are noted to have all three, and serve as mentors or major street bumps during the story.
  • Medaka is about the epitome of this trope. Her abilities just literally come to her be it semi-naturally or through her ability Mega Manning, which not only allows her to acquire other peoples' powers just fighting or coming into contact with them(and later just by hearing some details about the ability) but allows her to master their ability even if the original holder hasn't done so themselves and create derivatives of them to suit her own needsalbeit ones that didn't take the original purpose of the ability into account. This later comes to a head as she is considered an opponent that even an introduced God Mode Sue can't beat. Before this series Genre Shift it wasn't really touched upon, but now since becoming a battle manga, she's starting to become a Deconstruction of overpowered main characters with more sure to follow.
  • One Piece Played straight and averted in the case of Luffy. It's shown he gets stronger throughout his various battles plus in order to use his powers for fighting he had to train extensively. But later he learns Gear Second and Third, abilities which increase his strength and speed in different ways which only could be made possible due to his powers. Gear Second was even lampshaded by Lucci who said if it weren't for Luffy's rubber fruit his heart would explode. It should also be noted that Gear Second was the only reason Luffy won against Lucci, the latter kicking his ass un-transformed before Luffy used it in their fight. Played straight again in Luffy's case later on when he fights opponents who are just Badass Normal like some of the vice admirals and Mihawk yet still gets his ass kicked in spite of his powers.
    • Zig-Zagging Trope with some of the other characters like the higher ups in the marines like the admirals when it's never said whether some of their abilities are due to their powers or in that they have DF abilities yet use techniques that most people could use such as a:
      • Zoan DF Vice Admiral who knows Rokushiki
      • Aokiji who possesses great speed
      • Kizaru who was able to match Rayleigh in a swordfight


Manhwa and Manhua[edit | hide]

  • Veritas subverts this big time. In the Reunion program, Gangryong faces other students far more powerful than he is. Their power comes through medical ki treatments, while his is earned through good old fashion hard work. Gangryong's training also gives him the added edge of an exceptionally strong grasp of fighting basics. His opponents can throw a fireball that can destroy a building, but many of them don't know how to defend against a cross hook, maintain a perfect stance, or out maneuver an opponent who fights dirty. As a result, Gangryong is able to win enough matches to move up through Reunion ranks.
    • The one technique that signals Gangryong becoming an actual threat is mastering a half step to the side.


Fanfiction[edit | hide]

  • This is discussed in Oh God Not Again when Draco points out that the Hufflepuff house never comes out ahead specifically because working hard is such an ingrained, defining trait of theirs. “What are they going to do? Do exactly what they're supposed to do MORE?"


Film[edit | hide]

  • Clash of the Titans depicts several egregious uses of this trope, such as when Perseus has a pegasus show up for no apparent reason and literally finds a magic sword laying on the ground. The original Clash at least attempted a justification by showing the gods interfering in the course of events. While jarring to a modern audience, this kind of thing was actually very common in the original Greek myths. So common, in fact, that they served as the origin of the phrase, deus ex machinae.
    • It seemed pretty clear that everyone knew that they came from Zeus. Perseus just wanted nothing to do with him. More daddy issues.
  • In High School Musical, newcomers Troy and Gabriella get the lead roles in the school musical over veteran actors Sharpay and Ryan.
  • Mozart, the vulgar prodigy and subject of hard-working Salieri's poisonous envy in Amadeus.
  • Parodied by Kung Fu Hustle, where the hero has inherited greatness in his chi, which spontaneously emerges upon emerging from a cocoon.
  • Po from Kung Fu Panda. The Furious Five and Tai Lung had to train for years, if not decades, to become as powerful and as skilled as they are. All Po requires is the proper motivation and a Training Montage that couldn't take more than a week or two.
    • It also helps that his particular Training Montage was tailored specifically to his psychology. He is a talented learner, and has incredible stamina and willpower as shown when the Five cream him one after the other and he asks for more!
    • Natural immunity to Tai Lung's instant-KO special move doesn't hurt.
    • Additionally, watching both the dumpling battle with Shifu and the final battle with Tai Lung shows that Po did not defeat Tai Lung simply through matching him in techniques (it would be impossible in such a time frame) but by engaging him in a battle of wits as well as skills, such as using the environment and unorthodox methods as well as a distracting measure (the Dragon Scroll). In which he was helped by Tai Lung losing his usual perceptiveness and tactical thinking due to his initial arrogance and ongoing Villainous Breakdown. By the time Tai Lung is focused more on killing Po than getting the Dragon Scroll for himself, he's taken a fair amount of embarrassment and damage from Po, and is mentally crushed by the Dragon Scroll's revelation, allowing Po to put his newfound skills and immunity to nerve strikes to good use and own him. Compare and contrast to the sequel, where Po was about on the level of one of the Furious Five (still awesome, yet way below Tai Lung) normally, but utterly outclassed by Master Tigress when he temporarily succumbed to his fears and confusion.
      • Also, when Shifu discovers how to train Po its shown that he really is athletic, maybe no stamina, but he climbed a high shelf and is doing a split while casually eating some cookies without realizing what he did.
    • In the sequel Shifu expresses exasperation that Po has managed to learn inner peace at such a young age, when he himself didn't manage it until midway through the first movie, by which point he was already an old man. Po consoles him by remarking that he had a great teacher.
  • Isn't anyone else bothered that Luke Skywalker never had more than a few days worth of actual Jedi training? I mean, he got a few hours of school aboard the Millennium Falcon with Obi-Wan, then a few days in Dagobah with Yoda... And that's it!
    • A few days? It took the same amount of time to do his training as it took the Falcon without hyperdrive to get from Hoth to Bespin - even if they were in the same star system, that should take months, at least.
      • One wonders what two robots, one hairy Wookie and two people that most expressedly despise each other get up to during those dull, dull, boring months on that small flying junkpile... oh yeah right, venturing into some damp, squishy, parasite-infested cave only to almost being eaten by a gigantic space worm. Symbolism!!!1!
      • Problem is, there's not months worth of food, or water on the Millennium Falcon. Nor was there any indication that they were out in space for a ridiculous amount of time. Let alone the fact that Darth Vader, the most innately powerful Force warrior in the galaxy had, what, 20 years worth of training and another 20 years worth of experience and still gets his ass handed to him by Luke in Episode VI.
        • How do you know how much food and water was on the Millennium Falcon? Water is easily recycled, and in real life, you can fit 2,250 cases of "Meals, Ready to Eat" in a standard 40 foot shipping container. 2,250 x 12 MRE's per case / 2 MRE's per day = 14,260 days worth of food, or 39.7 YEARS, for one person. And that's assuming nutritional science hasn't advanced any.
      • It should be noted that the entire above exchange ignores the canon Star Wars fact of backup hyperdrives, which are usually slower than primary systems by more than half but still go FTL. This not only allows for relatively rapid transit between star systems, but more time for Luke to train.
      • This gets particularly silly when you realize that, at one point in the comics, Vader slaughters half a dozen Jedi with his right hand cut off.
    • It is also generally understood that he trained considerably between episodes V and VI; possibly, between episodes IV and V, too.
      • It is also generally understood that...midichlorians.
      • It's been suggested that being dumped into lava and being kept alive by cumbersome armor is really bad for your fighting potential. Of course, if that was the case, Obi Won shouldn't have waited 20 years to fight Vader again, given that Vader couldn't defeat him even when he had all his limbs.
      • There is also the idea that Vader might just have been going easy on him, not really wanting to kill his son and all that.
        • Vader's goal seems to be to beat Luke into submission, not to destroy him. Note how he toys with Luke the whole way through. He could probably have killed him easily, but instead he threw large hunks of metal at him while asking him to join the dark side. He also spent that entire fight at Cloud City fighting Luke one handed, to show the vast difference in skill.
        • Also, remember how Vader was a crippled old man while Luke was a twenty-something paragon of physical fitness, while force knowledge was (pre-prequel) more about spiritual attunement than super-saiyan powers? Remember that? That was neat.
          • You mean aside from the stuff like telekinesis, lightning powers, and blocking laser beams with your bare hands?
    • This movie actually subverts this trope. Yoda explicitly warns Luke that he has just began his training and he shouldn't go to Bespin. Nevertheless, Luke decides to help his friends despite short training time and gets his butt royally kicked. Also 'the Force is strong in this one' may mean that he has very high innate potential that 'only' needs to be channeled properly.
      • Luke Skywalker got lucky with severing Vader's hand during that last fight. Vader was already wavering in his resolve to convert Luke, as evidenced by the regret in his voice during his earlier conversation with Luke in the lift. Luke, however, was dead set on killing Vader at that moment. However, Luke regained himself and threw away his saber, choosing death at the Emperor's hands over killing his father. This was enough to move Vader to sacrifice himself to kill the Emperor so that Luke might live. So if anything, it showed that Yoda was right, and that Luke was definitely not prepared to face either Vader or the Emperor, while Vader ended up being the one to defeat the Emperor and save the Galaxy.
  • In The Matrix, you can become an expert in just about anything in seconds by having the skill uploaded into your brain.
    • Although it's implied that the process is normally physically and/or mentally taxing on the individual, judging from Tank's incredulous comments about how long Neo has been downloading.
    • In the video games, we find out that its actually a matter of time dilation. Seconds passing in the real world for hours passing in intense training.
      • You can't really consider Path of Neo to be canon though. Unless... no, that doesn't save it either.
  • When Daniel Jackson got the gate to work in the Stargate movie, he was told that he "solved in fourteen days what they couldn't solve in two years". Fans are still not quite clear on how the operation of the gate is so complicated.
    • In all fairness, the military's trouble, and Jackson's initial 2 weeks of utter lack of progress was due to the fact that both assumed the symbols on the Stargate were a letters of a language that translated into something. Jackson only solved it through a Eureka Moment—a lucky flash of inspiration in realising the symbols were actually constellations, and the set of symbols represented a way of plotting coordinates in 3d space.
      • Still, they had the first 6 chevrons handed to them. You'd think they would have tried using the 6 + 1 random glyph and gone through the set. Assuming 2 hours per attempt, they could have done it in two work-weeks. Or they could have done it in about an hour and a half assuming a dialing takes 2 minutes and they immediately moved on to the next address after a failed dial.
      • There was never any indication that you needed 7 symbols for activation. Th cover stones only had 6, and they tried those. Trying to open the gate with random dials is prohibitively expensive, especially for a top secret project. Just the sheer power requirements alone... Besides, how were they to know that it wasn't 8 symbols, or 9, or that a symbol went before the 6 they knew? Science is not based on randomly trying things until they work through sheer blind luck. Also, you don't mess around with an alien artifact unless you know what you're doing.
      • Well, there was that episode of SG-1 which showed they had done some experimentation in the 1940s-1950s with random symbols, and had even enjoyed some "success", albeit at the cost of their lead researcher of the time and the shelving of the project until Catherine got it resurrected sometime in the 80s.
  • Averted in Frost/Nixon, where David Frost and team have to put in a good year's work, at all hours of the night, to trap Nixon into a confession.
  • Lampshaded in Forrest Gump. Forrest never works to become a fast runner or a good table tennis player.
    • Yes, he did. He just didn't consider it training. He spent his youth with heavy metal on his legs, his mental "fortitude" meant he ignored everything else when completing a task and he didn't consider his table tennis work "training" but he repeated simple, direct motions working in muscle memory and skill for precise shots. Really, his ability to focus (well, inability to unfocus) was his only superpower lottery win.
  • Kirk went from a cadet to captain in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek film. It would suck to be a commander in that movie.
  • A classic example is the famous movie The Great Escape. Seventy-plus British POWs plan an extremely elaborate escape over a period of several months. The plan ends as a massive failure with only three people managing to escape and over fifty of the rest killed on the spot. One American simply grabs a motorbike during the others' escape and makes it further than the others. Pointed out by Eddie Izzard.
    • That random American, played by Steve McQueen, was actually one of the POWs' tunneling experts due the experience gained in his many, many prior escape attempts. His grabbing a motorbike and running for it was more a case of playing to his strengths and capitalizing on the chaos of the escape.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • This is the Family-Unfriendly Aesop of Atlas Shrugged. While Dagny Taggart seemingly effortlessly manages Taggart Transcontinental and many of the people that get accepted into Galt's Gulch have innate abilities, Eddie Willers, who works hard for Taggart Transcontinental, ends up breaking down in the middle of the desert trying and failing to fix the train.
  • His Dark Materials: Lyra learns how to use the alethiometer in less than a month. It's supposed to take decades. On the other hand, she's not the only one.
    • Justified, somewhat, in that it's explained that Lyra was granted the use of the alethiometer for a short time only, and that when she's completed her role, the ability leaves her. However, she can regain the ability through years of study just like anyone else.
    • More to the point, the information she gains out of the alethiometer is angels talking to her. Another character in another world has been working on a computer program that does the same thing, essentially, and after a certain point the angels get impatient and simply spell it out for her.
  • In the Whateley Universe, one of Chaka's powers is the ability to see Ki and how it moves. She keeps picking up Ki attacks every time someone uses one around her, because she 'sees' how it works. This really cheeses off a lot of people who have spent years learning these Ki attacks.
  • Seen in the Wheel of Time series:
    • Egwene and Nynevae are described as being some of the most powerful channelers Moraine has ever seen. When they get to Tar Valon in the second book, Egwene is entered at the level of Novice, but Nynevae gets to skip Novice and proceed directly to Accepted, the middle rank. They leave the Aes Sedai for an extended portion of the second book, and when they return in the third, Egwene is raised to the level of Accepted.
    • Mat Cauthon inherits past memories of incredible martial and tactical ability. With barely any combat training, he defeats two excellent swordsmen at the same time, despite the fact that he's practically an invalid at the time. He goes on to become an extremely successful general.
      • Not hardly any training, he was trained in the use of the quarterstaff by his father, who was the best in their hometown. It also helped that the swordsmen where underestimating him...and that the Warder instructor noted "a farmer with a quarterstaff" was the only man to defeat the greatest swordsman in history, suggesting the clash of styles worked in Mat's favor.
      • He had to work hard to get good at the quarterstaff, but as for the army management...in his first large-scale battle (where he has any command) he takes a group of essentially new recruits and carves his way through an ambush laid by overwhelming numbers of the best warriors in the world. Justified in that many, many people had to work hard, and even die, to get Mat those skills, he just wasn't one of them.
  • Pataki, from Tibor Fischer's Under The Frog. "Pataki had just found out about his speed one day and found it there whenever he needed it. If Gyuri didn't run every day, he'd slow up and balloon; if he didn't play ball every day his edge would blunt but Pataki could wander onto the court after a month in a Parisian restaurant and still be able to whizz down infallibly and dunk the ball in the basket. There had to be a good reason for Pataki to stir and training wasn't one of them."
  • Averted with Garion in The Belgariad. Anyone gifted with sorcery will still need years of training to truly master the art, and even near the end of the second series he's still getting plenty of pointers from his elders. He is a lot more powerful than a sorcerer of his age should be, but that's largely thanks to the Orb and his acknowledged status as the Child of Light rather than any innate ability. It's also worth noting that in his final battle with Torak, sorcery has nothing to do with it- it is his willpower, and rejection of Torak, that grants him victory.
    • Of course, not every sorcerer is privy to the full details of his unique status, so there is some confusion when he pulls of feats he probably shouldn't be able to.
    • At the start of the next series he causes problems due to large power and little training a few times. He stops a battle of knights by creating a lightning storm and a few months later an irate Belgarath call him some fun names while informing him that the deciples (all old sorcers) spent months fixing the worlds weather. He also, with the help of the orb, blows up a gate in a city his army is attacking. As he is angry the orb gets enthusiastic and the gate with part of the wall dissapear as the explosion is THAT big. Parts of the wall land kilometers out to sea as well.
  • Harry Potter is just naturally good at Quidditch, compared to Ron and Ginny who actually had to practice to get good but still isn't portrayed as being as good as Harry.
  • This is how D'Artagnan impressed the Three Musketeers in the Three Musketeers. Might also be the reason why Aramis eventually became the Big Bad and the sole survivor of the musketeers. Also lampshaded by the women and several of the nobilities. At one point, a former friend remarks to the Queen (who had been suffering immensely at that point) that her ignorance of a worse suffering is the equivalent of Africans feeling cold in the mountains and not realizing that people below the mountains are dying from heat and hunger. It's also important to note that the events past the ones included in the kiddie version has D'Artagnan lamenting how after growing old, losing contact of many of his friends and saving everyone did not pay off. He ends up being more jaded as the novel goes along and despite the rewards he received, the other Three Musketeer in an aversion, gains more riches than him while doing less work. (Reversing the advantages, D'Artagnan had with his swordsmanship.)


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • This was actually used as motivation for Amy the witch in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At one point she was really powerful and not unfriendly to the main cast, what with them saving her from being trapped in her mom's body. Fast forward five seasons: Willow is now the resident Deus Ex Machina, and Amy is royally pissed that Willow (who wasn't even aware magic existed until the age of sixteen) has more magic in her pinky than it took Amy, an already accomplished mage, years of training to get.
    • She's also rather upset that Willow attempted to destroy the world and didn't get more than a slap on the wrist and some friendly counseling.
    • The whole "stuck as a rat" issue probably didn't help her attitude either.
  • Played straight in House. House cheated on his exams at Johns Hopkins and never seems to do much work, but he's far better at what he does than his hard-working colleagues.
  • Averted in Scrubs, which indicates on several occasions that hard work is the most important part of being a good doctor. For example, Dr. Cox tells J.D. that Elliot has overtaken him as a doctor because he spends too much time goofing off with Turk.
  • Averted in Heroes. Of all the main characters, only the main antagonist Sylar is shown rapidly mastering his abilities (his original power, Intuitive Aptitude, is a literal applied version of The Gift). All the actual Heroes have to spend several episodes (the space of a couple months) figuring out How Do I Shot Web? or trying to avoid a Superpower Meltdown.
    • Played straight in that office worker Hiro Nakamura, after a single swordfighting lesson from his father, becomes skilled enough with a katana to fight evenly against and ultimately defeat Takezo Kensai, a professional mercenary and swordsman. Of course, Hiro can slow down time. It could be an extra long lesson...
  • In Lie to Me, Dr Lightman has spent years of his life memorizing and learning the various reactions and facial tics he uses in the show to be a human lie detector. Ria Torres, a former airport security guard, intuitively recognizes all of these with no formal training.
    • Also subverted. Lightman repeatedly notes that while Torres intuitively recognizes facial cues, she doesn't necessarily understand the context. So The Gift works, but practice is better.
      • Also, The Gift isn't much of a gift. Torres picked up the ability to intuitively recognize facial cues because her father was a vicious prick and an alcoholic; she learned how to recognize microexpressions because if she didn't know when the bastard was in one of his mood and had to be avoided and/or placated, she got the shit beaten out of her. Talk about Power At a Price... of a fucked-up childhood.
  • The Pretender is this trope turned Up to Eleven. Surgery? Profiling? Sniping? Naval tactics? Golf? If Jarod doesn't know how to it, he can learn overnight. The Justification? He's a One In A Million Mutant stolen from his parents at age six and taught to do nothing other than this for twenty years.
    • Technically, this means that it's averted, as he was put through Training from Hell in order to be able to figure these things out. The hard work comes in training to be able to learn these things in a matter of days.
    • Also on a number of occasions at the end of the episode Jarod explains that he actually cannot do something because he actually is not what he pretends to be at the moment. He is very good at faking the general behaviour of the professionals he is pretending to be but he does not have the detailed knowledge that those professions really require. Thus he tries to accomplish his task and leave before he is discovered or blunders enough to cause harm to innocents.
  • Sam on iCarly gets away with multiple school projects by winging it, whilst Freddie and Carly fail after spending an inordinate amount of time and effort on theirs. Example, the Green Aesop science experiments in iGo Nuclear where Sam passes by demonstrating the "green qualities" of an orange. Namely that it's edible, and the peel is biodegradable.
  • Prue in Charmed suddenly gains super awesome fighting abilities with her telekinesis, better than Phoebe's who had been studying martial arts for years. Sure Prue was a cheerleader in high school but she worked in a museum and an auction house in her adult years. Though this averted with regards to the sisters' powers as they are shown developing slowly over the course of the series. Though Prue's develop faster than her sisters' do.
  • Averted and Lampshaded with Jeff Winger on Community. Despite thinking it applies to him, Jeff can not simply win a debate or create pottery just because he thinks he is special. He actually has to end up working hard to succeed.

Jeff: "The funny thing about being smart is that you can get through most of life without having to do any work."


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Dilbert, Alice is a consistently hard-working employee while Wally does virtually no work at all. The Pointy-Haired Boss treats them equally and sometimes even tell Alice that she ought to be more like Wally.
    • Justified in that the boss is a moron.
    • It is sometimes shown that Wally is a brilliant worker when he wants to be, but this is practically never, because he's realized something that Alice hasn't: effort doesn't pay off in a company that steals all your achievements without granting you slightest recognition, and the management doesn't recognise the difference between a lazy slob and a devout employee.
      • Wally is based on a real-life individual that Scott Adams knew. Wally was a brilliant worker who gamed the system so that he got the best outcome from minimal effort.
      • The real Wally was also apparently making a concerted attempt to subvert the company and it's goals entirely; that he remained employed in spite of this was probably the inspiration for the PHB.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • According to Kobold Creation stories in Dungeons & Dragons, when Io gave the secret of creation to the first true dragons, the first dragon to use that secret was Caesinsjach, a green dragon. The first kobold was Kurtulmak. Because he was the first, he was much larger than any of his kin. Because of this Caesinsjach commanded her kobolds though Kurtulmak. Naturally he ascended to a position of leadership, when Caesinsjach told the kobolds to mine for precious metal, Kurtulmak invented the pickaxe. When she ordered them to tile her lair with gold, Kurtulmak minted the first draconic coin. And when she told them to mine precious stones, Kurtulmak taught himself sorcery to divine where minerals were located. When Caesinsjach's lair was finished and she had become the wealthiest dragon in creation she let the kobolds go free. In emulation of his former mistress, Kurtulmak immediately began mining a lair for himself. Every kobold came to his aid. Kurtulmak found a spot with a near limitless supply of metal ore and precious stones. With Kurtulmak commanding the operation, it quickly became the most structurally sound and resourcefully designed mine the world had ever seen. Garl Glittergold, the god of Gnomes, was not pleased. While his gnomes were playing useless games, the kobolds were busy working and were ready to emerge as a dominant race. And so with a wave of his hand, Garl collapsed Kurtulmak's mine, crushing all the kobolds inside. Then, Io resurrected several Kobolds at decreased strength and from those the modern ones are descended. And the gnomes are considered good in the game.
    • Pish, much simpler D&D example: the best way to become the greatest sage or wisest wizard in the world is to accompany a bunch of heroic sociopaths as they kill green people and take their stuff. Who needs to study when chunks of XP are begging to be fireballed?
    • Then there's the "relative ages" thing, which makes this trope apply to whole species. Elves live for centuries, humans for decades. You'll find just as many high level human wizards around as elves, possibly even more because humans are the Jack of All Trades and optimize easily. This makes some sense for certain stages in life; a human will grow to adulthood during the time an elf of the same age is still a child, so it makes sense that the human is more developmentally mature. But the elf will probably learn just as much when in their "prime" as a human does, even though the elf's prime years are many times the length of the human's. Apparently they are just much slower learners, despite magic being a major focus of study in their culture.
      • Heck, this can get even worse when you consider the benefits and penalties of aging. A hundred year old human is pretty much at the end of their life, and physically much weaker than a younger one. But his or her mental ability scores will have actually improved by a few points, since senility doesn't exist in D&D and you always get smarter/wiser/more charismatic with age. A hundred year old elf isn't even at the minimum starting age for adventurers yet, and will need to wait until age 350 to get the same stat bonuses.
  • From the concluding notes of the original edition of Traveller: "The typical methods used in life by 20th century Terrans (thrift, dedication, hard-work) do not work in Traveller; instead travellers must boldly plan and execute daring schemes for the acquisition of wealth and power."
  • Zig-zagged in Cyberpunk2020. Character can easily learn a lot of skills by using memory implants but such skills are pretty low and cannot be risen naturally. In other words, one can effortlessly become Jack of All Trades but excellence in a given field may be achieved only by blood, sweat and tears.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • F.E.A.R. is a particularly jarring case, as it's suggested this is your character's first time working with the team, and fresh out of training. You promptly take out an entire army of clones, while your teammates are either turned into ash or helpful chatterboxes by the end of the first level. It is eventually justified, as the Big Bad that fried your teammates only wants to give you a hug that would instant kill you. On the other hand, he has been a spec ops soldier for quite some while and has gone through some pretty intense training (That is, since he was born.).
  • In Psychonauts, Raz can pick up psychic abilities almost instantly and far outperforms children who have been coming to Whispering Rock for years. His mind is also so shielded that not even Oleander can read his thoughts, despite the fact that Raz has never had psychic training.
    • His dad's training probably had something to do with that. Also remember that Raz is much more focused than the other children, and actually is training throughout the game while the other kids just worry themselves about trivial things.
  • Played with in the Nasuverse. Archer trained and fought and worked his entire life and eventually became who he is today. Tohsaka, in contrast, is a played straight counterexample of what geniuses can do compared to a normal person, does work hard but doesn't need to and not nearly as hard as Shirou.
    • This is also true of Nasuverse mages in general, at least in the case of the Magic Association. The main way of becoming a good magus is to inherit a magic crest from your ancestor, to the point that, in general, a magus family will only train one successor (hence why Sakura was given away to the Matou family). Good training can help, but to get anywhere in the Association, you have to be the heir of a prestigious family.
  • Radiata Stories subverts this hard. Every Hopeless Boss Fight is against people older, or at least more experienced, than the protagonist. Gerald personally defies it
  • In Mega Man Battle Network Chaud is shown to spend most of his time training. However, Lan (who is clueless, lacks foresight, and is later Flanderized into being Book Dumb) always winds up beating him senseless (at least 3 and 6 make him a difficult Bonus Boss) and admits he isn't strong enough to help Lan when he decides the fate of the world in the final battle (barring the Big Damn Heroes moments he is always in), all because 1) Lan is the Player Character, and 2) His navi is Megaman.EXE, the title character.
    • The games DO go out of their way to attribute a great part of Lan's success to The Power of Friendship, which "Lord Chaud" clearly lacks.
    • That, and apparently training ten hours a day makes Protoman very predictable.
    • There's also the fact that Chaud's entire training process doesn't even make sense. Supposedly, he spends ten hours a day secretly training... leading to the following questions.
      • 1) How do you keep something you do 10 hours a day a secret?
      • 2) Since Net Battling is usually measured in minutes, if not seconds, how could you spend ten hours on it?
      • 3) The games note that Chaud doesn't actually operate Protoman, so presumably he's just watching the entire time. How is this supposed to help him?
      • 4) Protoman is a program. He can't really "train", as he doesn't have anything to develop.
      • 5) The only thing Protoman could conceivably fight for ten hours are viruses. Moving away from the fact that repeatedly battling extremely predictable enemies isn't really going to help in an actual Net Battle, how does this make him different from Megaman, who also spends a lot of time virus busting?
  • Pick an RPG, any RPG. In most cases, the ancient and terrible evil that terrified the world for centuries is Punched Out by the hero who goes from zero to hero in about a month. Yes, those guards at the towns who have been training their entire lives are useless.
    • Final Fantasy XI both subverts and averts this. Storylines sometimes laud the fact you defeat powerful foes compared to other hardened warriors... though they never mention the other five people you had to group with to do it. Then you go to Besieged or a Campaign battle and see the generals do 1000+ damage every 15 or so seconds and take hits like you never, ever, will. In fact, the only reason you're normally involved in the story is because you keep putting your nose where it doesn't belong, You Meddling Kids!
      • To be fair, those guards in RPGs never had to worry about fighting against Cosmic Horror or Person of Mass Destruction that can easily destroy the world so they didn't have to train as hard. Now the heroes on the other hand...
    • Possibly inverted in Final Fantasy IV. Golbez comes right out of nowhere and is easily able to get everything he desires right from the start. No matter what you seem to do, he is always one step ahead of you, and nearly every time you encounter him, it's a Hopeless Boss Fight. When you do manage to actually defeat him in a fight, he's able to escape with the MacGuffin as though nothing had happened. And if it weren't for FuSoYa, you wouldn't have been able to do anything to stop him. This also applies to the Man Behind the Man, as he is able to easily defeat Golbez and FuSoYa in a fight, and if not for the Plot Coupon Golbez gives you and your allies assisting from afar with a Combined Energy Attack, you can't even touch him.
    • In Final Fantasy III is perhaps one of the most egregious examples. All the characters are orphans, and only one has any battle experience. They all can learn any job very easily, especially if you use the job level glitch in the DS version. From a story standpoint though, they defeat the ultimate evil in what we are led to believe is a few days. Of course, the actual amount of time it takes to beat him is subject to how long you stay at ye olde Trauma Inn.
  • Zasalamel from Soul Calibur 3 and 4 has been cursed with immortality. This SHOULD have given him countless lifetimes of fighting experience, but game wise, he is an average fighter.
    • This is a bit subverted in that Zasalmel isn't the traditional type of immortal, he lives a normal life, dies, then is reborn with his memories intact. While he remembers how to fight, he needs to retrain his new body. You'd expect those lifetimes of experience to at least give him a boost, though.
    • Like the Street Fighter example, this is a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation. Zasamel was able to beat Killik and Xianghua simultaneously without too much effort.
  • In Street Fighter, Zangief is a Russian professional wrestler who trained in Siberia, by wrestling polar bears. In contrast, Sakura is a Japanese school girl who taught herself martial arts by emulating Ryu, possibly after seeing him on TV. However, during Gameplay, Sakura is actually the better fighter. This is blatantly obvious after looking at the Capcom Vs. SNK 2 tier list. Sakura is ranked Top Tier A, where as Zangief is Low-Mid Tier K, only slightly better than the Joke Character Dan Hibiki.
    • Doesn't really count, since gameplay and storyline fighter rankings are generally separated. Simple tweaks to the game mechanism can have drastic effects on the tiering, so it is usually not carried over to the story.
    • Still, they have been in several different games with varying tiers, and STORYLINE-wise, Big Z is a lot stronger than Sakura. So this is more of a case of "Gameplay and Story Segregation" than Hard Work Hardly Works.
    • Ken Masters is also an example of how hard work hardly works.
    • This is even lampshaded in the Sakura Ganbaru! manga adaptation, where, in the first few pages, Dan demonstrates his Gadoken and explains the basics of Ki Attacks to Sakura. It takes her less than a minute to perform a complete (albeit still weak) version of the Hadoken, and in no time at all she's using full-power versions of the technique. Seeing this, an outraged Dan pauses for a minute to comment on the absolutely terrifying potential she possesses.
  • Touhou features this in its heroine, Reimu. She is specifically noted to be extremely lazy, and relies upon her bloodline's innate superpowers and her magically sharp intuition to defeat the various Gods, demons, and monsters with powers on par with Eldritch Horrors of Gensokyo on a regular basis. In contrast, her main rival is Marisa, who relies upon a variation of Charles Atlas Superpower to learn her magic, having no talent for anything but a single-minded devotion to becoming a "Magical Girl".
    • How hard a worker Marisa is may depend on how you interpret "steals a lot of stuff", though. You didn't think she developed the Master Spark herself, did you?
    • It's stated in Perfect Cherry Blossom's manual that Reimu does not believe that effort will be rewarded (so much so that her shrine's paper fortune does not carry the fortune "Least Luck," which can be interpreted as "You will get exactly as your effort").
    • And subverted in the (borderline Canon Discontinuity) Silent Sinner in Blue manga, where Yorihime, pretty much a Reimu who did actual training, starts curbstomping the main characters.
      • Even before that, though, Lunarians are considered something fierce. Houraisan Kaguya is the kind of person you'd expect to give no effort at all and, though her spellcards are considered to be not so difficult by decent players, she has more cards than any other boss in any of the games.
    • Reversed with Meiling. The character who is said to train the most (and be in a position to be challenged more often than others) can never claim canon combat success over anyone. It doesn't help that her few victories with plot were All Just a Dream.
  • Knights of the Old Republic. All it takes is a visit to Dantooine and a literal training montage (a week, maybe a month?) and you can go from a simple republic trooper to full-scale jedi. Of course, there's a VERY good reason for this...
    • The training montage includes a scene of one of your teachers stating that to learn so fast is unheard of, and that you have learned in weeks what takes years for others. The reason for that? This is the second time you are going through the training.
  • Averted heavily in Mass Effect, in which pretty much every character (including Shepard) has been a soldier or at least getting in a lot of fights for the best part of their life, making your Badass Crew perfectly believable.
    • The only exception is Grunt, who due to his origins comes right out of the cloning tank a fully-grown super-soldier ready for combat. This troubles him to the point of having a crisis of faith about his status as the 'ultimate' krogan, leading him to seek a personal connection with his race.
      • Even Grunt isn't an exception; he's an extremely good fighter straight out of the tank because of his genetically-engineered physique and programmed-in skills, but as Mass Effect 3 shows it takes actual field experience and studying under master warlords such as Shepard and Wrex to let Grunt grow into his full potential as a soldier and combat leader. The post-loyalty-mission Grunt that leads the krogan special-ops unit Aralakh Company pulls off stuff in ME3 that ME2 Grunt couldn't hope to survive.
  • Dragon Knight 3: Knights of Xentar inverts this: Desmond (or Takeru in the original Japanese version) starts off being quite advanced and powerful knight in the beginning of the game. A bit into the story, though, a daemon tricks our guy, and he ends up becoming weak and forgetting everything he learned. Starting from Level 1 again, now the hard work (and not just hard work with the ladies, of which there are a lot in the story) hacking up monsters....
  • In Team Fortress 2, it takes a lot of practice to become a good Spy, possibly the most practice of any class. Spy's best counter? The Pyro, a class that can be used fairly effectively with almost no practice.
    • In fact, all of the classes except the Spy and perhaps the Scout can be used at least somewhat effectively with a small amount of practice.
  • Completely and utterly inverted in Valkyria Chronicles—hard work always works, but natural-born talent (if it puts you in a class above your peers) is completely and irredeemably evil.
  • In Persona 3 and Persona 4 this is averted when it comes to increasing your character's non-combat statistics. Before exams in Persona 3, you'll need to have studied quite regularly to get the most out of it, and one of the characters even tells you that studying a bit each day rather than just cramming will go further.
  • Used as a plot point in the Hentai Visual Novel Season of the Sakura. The Player Character is naturally talented at practically every sport (the sole exception being swimming, due to severe hydrophobia), and decided to try and be the "school hero" by trying out for every team and leading the school to victory. Unfortunately, he quickly learned that his classmates hated him because they had to work hard to get where they were, and him flaunting his skills came off as egotism. It got so bad that he transferred schools and he made a promise to himself that he would't participate in any sport until he can found someone better than himself - which is the point where the game begins.
  • Averted in Canvas 2. Takeuchi can match the genius Elis if she really tries.
  • In The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, local Badass Grandpa Orca teaches Link the Hurricane Spin, a technique gained by gathering ten Knight's Crests (a feat in and of itself) - and lots of practice. Before performing the technique, he'll mention that it took him years to become so accomplished and that age caught up to him before he could fully realize his dream. He's moved to tears upon witnessing Link execute it flawlessly in a matter of seconds. This trope is also played with in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess where the Hero's Shade teaches the new Link several techniques called the "Hidden Skills." Although he will patiently review them until Link (i.e. the player) gets them right, he makes it clear that Link's status as The Hero means this trope should be in full effect and only shows approval after Link masters them appropriately.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In this Order of the Stick comic, Bard Elan considers taking a level in Wizard. Vaarsuvius (the party's resident elven Wizard) complains that it took him/her over a hundred years to learn how to cast the most basic of spells, yet Elan is acquiring that knowledge almost instantaneously with one simple decision.
    • Later inverted when Xykon talks about how he is more powerful than Vaarsavius due in part to hard work, but also due in part to who he is and the nature of power—power that can be taken away easily isn't power at all, whereas power that is made inherent and immutable to the self is the only real power.
      • However, it's played straight on another occasion: Vaarsuvius nearly works him/herself to death trying to break through the Cloister and find Haley, while Elan and Durkon mostly just sit around waiting for the problem to solve itself. At the end, all the hard work accomplished almost nothing in regards of finding Haley, because she had contacted them and Durkon was actually the first to know. This is a Justified Trope for three reasons: V was doing so much hard work and not resting at all, because he/she was still feeling guilty about something done recently and didn't want to have nightmares; no one short of an epic spellcaster could penetrate the Cloister, period; and an idea that should have worked didn't because of something that was not his fault (i.e., his friends were hungry).
      • On The Origin of PCs contains an example noted above in Tabletop Games: Haley convinces V to try adventuring because a few months of level-appropriate encounters will have him/her picking up new levels and spells faster than decades of sitting around and actually studying magic. Of course, battling monsters on a daily basis is certainly "hard work", but the levels you gain can go toward improving anything. Haley mentions that one adventure somehow caused her skill at lockpicking to go up, even though she never encountered a lock.
        • Similarly played straight with Crystal, Haley's rival, who gains levels whenever Haley does without having to do anything to gain them herself. Another character mentions wanting to pick a fight with a PC to gain this benefit themselves.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog makes fun of superheroes who don't need to work for their powers during the scene in the laundromat when Smug Super Captain Hammer is confronting Dr. Horrible in his street persona.

Captain Hammer: You look horribly familiar. [...] Have I seen you at the gym? [...] Wait, I don't go to the gym; I'm just naturally like this. Oh, well.

  • Chaka from the Whateley Universe is a Ki prodigy, able to pull off crazy stunts with a few seconds of planning. She can do things her teacher studied for years to learn, and nothing is a problem to her. There's a scene in Aquerna's story where she feels depressed and useless because her powers suck compared to nearly anyone's, and she can't do anything remotely resembling what Chaka does. The subsequent conversation with their sensei implies that he suffers from similar feelings because he worked for years to do what he does, while Chaka gets it naturally.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • One of Mozenrath's main beefs with Aladdin was how easily Al had gotten his genie - Mozenrath had studied extensively for decades, even given up his own right hand for power, and here comes this guy with an all-powerful genie at his side, and the kid doesn't even seem to realize that it's unusual!
    • Hey! Semi-phenomenal, nearly cosmic power!
  • Played straight and then averted in an old episode of Arthur, dealing with a school-wide Spelling Bee. In the initial round, Arthur gets through by sheer luck in that the only word he studied was "Aardvark", whereas a few other classmates studied furiously. Deciding to win through skill the next time, Arthur studies rigorously and does succeed in the end.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender example ahoy: Katara feels this way when Aang masters Waterbending seemingly without trying, when she's been self-training for years. This is lampshaded partly in the numerous references to past Avatars—Roku notes to a hesitant teacher that the Avatar has already mastered the elements a thousand times, which means learning them might be more like remembering something you forgot a long time ago. In addition, Katara was self-teaching, but Aang immediately benefited from everything she learned. When they both get some supervised training from a true Master, she learns much faster because he doesn't take it very seriously: Katara makes enough progress in days for said master(a Straw Misogynist who only changed his tune after a near-defeat and some Epiphany Therapy) to declare her a Master in turn. Lesson: being a Determined Prodigy is superior to being Brilliant but Lazy. Zuko also laments to himself about things come so easily for Aang, just like for his sister, while he has to constantly struggle for anything he wants and loses so many times.
  • Subverted in The Boondocks episode "Ballin'", where Riley constantly watches basketball videos and mimicks the players until he can break through any defense with ease... but it's all for naught because he can't actually shoot the ball to save his life, a fact that didn't come up until his first game because he refused to go to practice.
  • Frank Grimes from The Simpsons, rather darkly Played for Laughs.
  • Thoroughly averted in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, where Leonardo is unquestionably the best fighter of the four almost solely due to his training and discipline, while Michelangelo, who is acknowledged to have the potential to be even better, isn't because he doesn't have the discipline or the will to train.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has been trying to obtain his boating license for years. Then Patrick, The Ditz, gets it on his first try, and unintentionally rubs in Spongebob's face for the rest of the episode, though Patrick is hardly the world's greatest driver.
  • Dr. Orpheus of The Venture Brothers is, despite his Butt Monkey status in his personal life, one of the closest things to a Deus Ex Machina in the show. However it's shown this power came at a price; his incredible dedication to his mystical profession and training lead to his wife divorcing him, and has been a cause of major strife in his life. So when one fourth season episode has him shown up by the Outrider, the guy his wife has now hooked up with—he's far more powerful, and hasn't made nearly as many sacrifices to get his skill—he has a crisis. This trope is then subverted by revealing the Outrider cheated, he's "cyborged" a mystic artifact into his brain... which ends up going horribly wrong.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • This is the case with many professionals or aspiring pros, especially athletes and musicians, etc. In the case of athletes, overtraining can wreck your body and cause burnout. In most cases with music, overpractising can lead to voice fatigue in singers, tendonitis or muscle damage in keyboardists, string players and even conductors, and damaging muscles in the area of the mouth for wind instrumentalists, particularly those who play brass instruments. It's a bit of a balancing act—if you don't work hard enough, you won't reach the heights, but if you work too hard, you'll hurt yourself and your training will suffer while you're injured.
    • Also, it should be worth mentioning that this trope can be invoked if one practices or trains, but doesn't use their time efficiently - i.e. a basketball player who is really good at free throws should still practice free throws, but probably not to the extent that the rest of their game suffers or doesn't get developed.
    • Another point: some people are, well, genetic freaks and unusually well-suited to some tasks, athletic or otherwise. You can build up your lung capacity, but you cannot train to have the build of, say, Michael Phelps who is apparently proportioned exactly as well as any human can be for swimming (large upper body, proportionally short legs). You can build up your leg strength to jump higher and build up your muscle mass to make you stronger and heavier, but you cannot work yourself to being as tall as Shaquille O'Neal. (Which is something of a saying in basketball; "You can't teach 7-feet tall.") You can improve your flexibility, but you can't make your joints double-jointed if they're not already. You can be anything you want to be, but that doesn't mean you'll be good at it.
  • Some researchers have discovered a "10,000-hour rule", which was discussed by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. In effect, to be really good at a skill, a person has to work on it for approximately 10,000 hours. People whom we refer to as "experts" either started young (e.g. Mozart), or if they were able to achieve greatness over a short period of time (only a few years instead of decades), they practiced or worked intensely (e.g. the Beatles). One might still argue that some people might have an innate ability to maintain mental focus for longer, or sleep less than others and thus have more waking hours to work with, but that doesn't disprove the rule. Of course this is assuming a human being without any severe disabilities—one can probably safely assume that a double amputee isn't going to play in the NBA no matter how many hours of practice he puts in, except in the case ofProsthetics, of course, but they have actually opened up another aspect of this; some of the prosthetic limbs are now being examined to see if they would actually grant handicapped athletes an unfair advantage over ordinary and less efficient human limbs.
  • For college graduates entering the job market, it's a very fine line. If you devote your time and energy into schoolwork, you're going to have trouble finding a job because you have little work experience. If you get a part-time job and work hard at it, you won't get hired because your grades are slipping. If you manage to hit that sweet spot of grades, internships, part-time work, and extracurricular activities, you might end up being overqualified for any entry level job you apply to (and might not get the job since you're supposed to be paid in proportion to your abilities). Quite a few career counselors basically tell student now that grades and experience don't matter nearly as much as networking.
  • In a non-exercise or training version, Laurence Fishburne's daughter made headlines when she decided she wanted to become famous, but didn't want to go through all that Paying Their Dues stuff. So, taking a page from Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, she released a sex tape and hoped that would attract attention. You better believe Dear Old Dad wasn't happy.
  • That one friend, who never really seems to spend much time studying or doing his/her work, but always gets perfect grades and seems to be good at everything. Is probably working his ass off whenever he's alone, and just doesn't complain about it as much.
    • Or alternatively, has learned a studying style that suits them the best at a young age. This is especially relevant in high school and studies progressing beyond that. Or maybe they're just naturally talented. The problem with talent being there eventually becomes a wall where only talent isn't enough.
    • Or the inverted of that. The person who is natrually talented at everything and so is bored quickly and unwilling to put in the work to go from good to great. These people tend to end up as the jack of all trades. An older jack of all trades can pick up new things incredibly quickly as once you have a broad basic and intermediate skill set, it's more about putting existing knowledge into new areas.
  • You can work hard your entire life and never be as rich as the guy who inherited his father's banking fortune.
    • Wealth still has to be managed properly though, there's a reason most lottery winners go broke in a short time.
  • It's possible for an untrained brawler to defeat a skilled martial artist, since he isn't as predictable as a styled one.