Hard Work Fallacy

This is the argument that states that the outcome is directly proportional to the effort the individual put in. Failure is therefore the result of simply not having put in enough effort. This argument ignores other factors that may be at play. For example, sometimes who you know is more important than what you know. Or that your unrequited Love Interest isn't dating you because s/he's dating (and satisfied with) someone else. Or that the so-called Self-Made Man did indeed have help from other people, even if it wasn't direct or reserved only for him. It implies that people are rewarded based on the hard work they do, rather than on how valued that hard work is in the particular time and place they live in. (For example: "Homemaking is not real work because you don't get paid for it. You don't get paid for it because housework and taking care of the kids is not that hard.") Or that you may be naturally gifted at something, have to work a bit more at something else, and be completely awful at yet another thing...and that no two people have exactly the same combination of talents.

A staple of movies from The '80s. Contrast Hard Work Hardly Works when the extra effort doesn't achieve much and You Were Trying Too Hard where the extra effort prevents you from succeeding.

Often involves the words, "If I can do it, so can you!"

Common corollaries are the Gambler's Fallacy and the Sunk Cost Fallacy: "If I keep doing A/B/C, or put a little more work into it, I'll get what I want!"

Some tropes that rely on this:


Anime and Manga

  • Zig-zagged in Rudy. The eponymous character works really hard in spite of having no athletic talent or societal advantages and achieves his goal of playing for the Notre Dame football team. However, it's never even presented as a possibility that Rudy will ever become a good football player. His teammates have to insist on allowing him to suit up for a game simply because his hard work was an inspiration for the truly successful members of The Team. However, when he's given the opportunity to play in a real game for two whole downs, he gets a sack.
  • Flashdance: Underprivileged girl is finally given a chance to prove herself at a prestigious conservatory... and gets in. To do so, she hones her dancing skills and auditions.
  • 8 Mile: The main character (who is in no way an Author Avatar of Eminem himself) seeks to prove himself a great rapper, despite poverty, relationship troubles, and racial issues.
  • Million Dollar Baby has a minor character who who wants to become a boxer... never mind that he plain sucks at it.

  • Discussed in Starship Troopers. A teacher points out the fallacy in the notion by pointing out that all the effort one cares to put into a mud pie won't make it edible, while on the other hand, a substandard cook can take valuable ingredients and turn them into a worthless mess. Being that the book was written in the 50s, this was written as a Take That against the Labor Theory of Value, which is associated with communism.

Live-Action Television
  • On My Name Is Earl, Earl gets a promotion from docker to appliance salesman based on hard work and determination, despite teasing from everyone else...and wins their respect. (The episode is a parody of the above-mentioned Rudy, even featuring a few of the actors from that movie.)


Western Animation
  • DuckTales: Scrooge attributes his early success in life to the motto, "Work smarter, not harder." Not that he doesn't work plenty hard, but he doesn't reach his full potential until he learns to apply his effort effectively.

Real Life
  • A cornerstone of some American politicians' ideals is that anyone can be "rich". This idea is the basis of the American Dream, but is difficult to reconcile with reality, as it ignores multiple factors like where you grew up, whether you had a good support environment or whether or not you were safe in your home or at school. It also isn't even close to possible for an entire society to live the life of millionaires since somebody has to clean the toilets. Unless we become advanced enough to develop robotics.
  • Defying this is the above-mentioned mantra of "Work smarter, not harder." When taken as more than just an excuse not to work your hardest, it means that knowing when and where to focus your efforts and resources will be more effective that just plowing through a situation on brute force.
  • One of the cornerstones of the sales industry is that anyone can be an effective salesman as long as he works hard at selling. Never mind things like market fluctuation, the economy, the fact that some people just plain don't want what you're selling or the fact that there is a personality type that goes along with being geared toward sales, and not everyone has that personality type. Of course, all of the above is usually dismissed by career salespeople as "excuses", "bad attitude" or "a refusal to put in the hard work."
  • Realizing this is a fallacy gives the lie to the discredited labor theory of value in economics, which states that the value of a good is based only on how much labor it takes to produce. In Starship Troopers, one of Heinlein's Author Filibuster mouthpieces points this out by pointing out that spending all day working on a mud pie still makes it a mud pie with no value, whereas a master chef can create a very valuable meal with less effort than an untalented cook. See also the Sunk Cost Fallacy.