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

Fan Works
  • In the Marvel fanfic Twilight War, Thanos has acquired the Infinity Equation which is increasing his power to omnipotence and is heading towards Earth. Earth's heroes watch as a fleet of 150,000 alien warships attempt to intercept Thanos, who promptly wipes them all out without sustaining a single scratch from their combined firepower. One hero asks "He just defeated 150,000 ships. What chance do we have?" Captain America responds by saying "THEY weren't fighting for their planet," insinuating that it wasn't a lack of firepower but a lack of dedication that defeated them and that Earth's heroes will do better at fighting Thanos when he arrives because of their personal stake in it. He might have just been saying this to keep up morale, but still insulting all those aboard those ships who sacrificed their lives for Earth and ignores the fact that Thanos wasn't hurt in the slightest by physical attacks and that they should be concerned by this.

  • 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.)
  • The Wire: Deconstructed in the character of 'Bodie', a lowly soldier in The Game who figures that by doing everything he's told and working hard in the drug trade he can eventually advance beyond his station. By the later seasons he's still in the same position if not worse off, and realizes that The Game is rigged.
    Bodie: We like them little bitches on the chess board.
    McNulty: Pawns.

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, and even pure dumb luck. 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.
  • The fallacy of survivorship bias thrives on this. To name a few examples, it's all too easy to forget that for every Google and Facebook that become Silicon Valley giants, there are dozens that crashed and burned like Webvan, Pets.com, Boo.com and Friendster. Much is made of Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates dropping out of university to make it big in the tech sector, with little mention that they already had the affluent family backgrounds and university and business connections. There's even less mention of the many university dropouts who wind up with massive debts and dead-end jobs.
  • This fallacy is written into the American diet industry and beauty industry; particularly, in the idea that being thin is just a matter of cuttin' out the calories and doing lots of exercise - anyone can be thin if you just try hard enough! This then extends into the idea that people who are overweight must be lazy, and/or junk food addicts. This fallacy ignores factors such as genetics (some people are genetically hardwired to store fat; a lot of exercise will probably make them healthy, but not "thin"), income (healthy food is almost always more expensive), leisure time (exercise is a time-consuming hobby), and any number of other factors.