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 Eighties
. 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:
- The American Dream: "In America, any man can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become a success."
- The Dogged Nice Guy: "If I keep telling her how awesome she is, buy her things, hold the door for her, listen to her problems, et cetera, she'll see how awesome I am and become my girlfriend!"
- Japanese Spirit: Persistence and hard work is one of three major values for the concept of "Yamato-Damashii". The idea being that if you work hard enough, your true power will be revealed.
- Rags to Riches: From poor to rich but not necessarily though hard work. Marrying someone who was already wealthy and winning the lottery are all valid examples for this trope.
- The Self-Made Man: Success boasted to be the result of hard work alone with zero favours, assistance (bar early childhood care), or luck.
- Training Montage: By working hard (Training from Hell level hard) you take a level in badass. (Gonna Fly Now from the Rocky Franchise is optional.)
- Underdogs Never Lose: Succeeds as a result of determination, surmounting all the odds no matter how large.
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.
- 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 communism.
- 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.)
- 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.
- A cornerstone of some American politicians ideals is that anyone can be rich. This ignores multiple factors like where you grew up, whether you had a good support environment or whether or not you were even safe in your home or at school. And even then, as David Wong points out in the above essay, it isn't 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.
- 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.