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Hard Work Hardly Works
"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".

Compare/contrast Misery Builds Character (you might be able to achieve something without working for it, but it won't be as satisfying) or A Taste of Power (where you have to work hard to achieve something, but only after you've predestined your success by doing something spectacular without any work).

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 who keeps saying "I Coulda Been a Contender". Quite an opposite of Charles Atlas Superpower and Weak, but Skilled. Contrast Hard Work Fallacy. See also Technician Versus Performer, Incompletely Trained. Often accompanied by a Training Montage.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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. 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 even more superfluous than they already were.
    • It's also stated by Aizen that Shinigami have a specific limit to how powerful they can get which is determined long before they even start trying to get stronger, and it's implied that this applies to hollows as well. 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.
  • 25th Baam from Tower of God has a talent and affinity that borders onto Power Copying. He can emulate Shinsoo techniques others had to train for years (often decades) to perfect just by experiencing and witnessing them. It doesn't help catch much of a break though, rather the opposite.
  • Yamcha from the Dragon Ball series has an extreme case of this, particularly in Dragon Ball Z. Even in the original series, he was often used for The Worf Effect despite training a lot, 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 almost dying a third time in the Android Saga. By Dragon Ball 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.
      • Gohan in his mystic form ends up becoming the most powerful unfused character in the entire series due to his potential.
      • Gohan was outpaced again by the end of the series since Goku and Vegeta kept training while Gohan fulfilled his dream of becoming a scholar.
    • 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.
      • It should be noted that according to Vegeta, Goku still outpaced him even at Super Saiyan 2, which is why he sold his soul to Babidi to bridge the gasp between them. After being return to life, he maintained the power he gained as a Majin, most likely because of the Saiyans power-ups after recovering from death.
    • 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.
      • Although, it is hinted that Goten and Trunks never became as strong as their fathers because they slacked off in their later years. It is debatable, if you do not count GT, if they even reach Super Saiyan 2.
      • This seems to have become a trend for human-Saiyan hybrids, as the end of Dragon Ball 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.
      • The Super Saiyan transformation comes in response to a need, not a desire. In all known cases, the form has been initially triggered by either desperation or indignation. However, Saiyans are somewhat detached (the exception of Goku) which is why it is difficult. For hybrids such as Gohan, they possess the emotional connection of humans allowing them to reach it easier. Kid Trunks, Goten and Goku Jr., being young childern, have the easiest time being forced into desperation or indignation.
      • Goku Jr, Goku's great-great grandson becomes a Super Saiyan defending a bear against a pig-demon thing, a clearer example compared to Trunks and Goten.
    • The best way to describe this trope in Dragon Ball is that hard work cannot overcome natural talent, unless that talent is not maintained. Gohan, Goten, and Trunks have the ability to become far stronger than their fathers, but they fall behind because they do not work to maintain their gifts.
  • This is why Liz Ricarro from Immortal Grand Prix dislikes Takeshi. She trains herself so much whereas he rarely does anything and yet, they're just as good of being mech pilots. It can easily seen where Liz first beats him easily in a Kung Fu, what she has been practicing for years, on the first episode. But that is until Takeshi practices kendo where he easily beats her in the second season.
    • Then partly defied in the same season when Takeshi talks to the Insufferable Genius Max is about everyone working together.
  • 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.
    • One of the only moments in the series that makes Agon seem like less of a Jerk Ass is due to this trope. Habashira Rui has to sub in for Shin when he's injured in the final game against America. Everyone, Habashira included, knows that he's not good enough to take on America. But he does it anyway, and Agon removes his wig and glasses, taking the game 100% seriously for perhaps the first time, purely out of respect for Habashira and to remind Unsui what he should be striving for.
      • Shin heartily averts this trope, however. Hiruma explicitly defines him as "the opposite of Agon, a monster who achieved his strength through hard work."
  • 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 Jerk Ass 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 Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. 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 as 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, 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: The series had the initial Aesop that hard work would trump natural talent any time. As the series progressed, however, that wasn't always perfectly represented.
    • Rock Lee seems like the poster child for this trope. He has absolutely no natural talent whatsoever and trains and trains and trains to prove he can be a powerful ninja without ninjustu or genjustsu. He has a good showing at first, easily defeating the two leads, but then proceeds to lose almost every other fight he gets into. However, those loses tend to come from extremely powerful enemies and Lee has impressive showings for those fights. His fight with Gaara, for example, had Gaara's teammates spend the entire match panicking at how badly Lee was manhandling him. Also, it is indisputable that Lee has come a long way from where he was in the academy, where even his beloved and supportive Guy sensei admitted he was pathetic. So, hard work may not have made him the best around, but without it he'd be useless
    • On the other end of the scale, Sasuke was born with The Gift, specifically one that lets him instantly copy any technique and, training and aptitude sufficient, execute it flawlessly, in addition to exceptional skills otherwise too. Now, he is said to train seriously, but most of it happens offscreen and he has gotten several powerups in a row thanks to Superpowerful Genetics mixed with The Power of Hate.
    • The titular character pingpongs between both ends. On the one hand, he starts the series as a talentless loser who's only saving grace is insane amounts of stamina. On the other hand, we learn that his parents were both highly skilled ninja and the Kyuubi implanted in him makes incredibly stronger, and is the reason for his incredible stamina in the first place. But, learning to control the Kyuubi's chakra was a long, dangerous process and the Sage of Six Paths has pointed out that incredible parents don't always pass down their talent. Sure enough, Naruto's fighting style is completely different from both of his parents' styles. Naruto will frequently undergo Training from Hell which would seem like an aversion, but he often gains extraordinary power from it that no one else could or would get and in some cases he uses his aforementioned incredible stamina to take shortcuts that wouldn't be available to use for other people. Finally, he's The Chosen One who is destined to succeed through hard work, as paradoxical as that sounds.
    • It's also worth mentioning Shikamaru. For most of the series, he is the definition of Brilliant, but Lazy. But in spite of his slacker tendencies, he ends up being the one of the youngest jonin of his generation. He also becomes co-general of his own division during the war. It could be said that he only grows strong after he starts working hard. But considering the effort he puts in compared to everyone else, it's obvious that his success is mostly due to his genius intellect.
  • 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 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.
  • YuYu 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Cloud Cuckoo Lander-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.
    • It's worth noting that it's basically revealed that Asuka was essentially piloting an Eva all wrong. The fact that she managed the highest sync ratio for any period of time is impressive and Asuka is still a better pilot than Shinji anyway. The main problem being that the series is Evangelion, where everything will always go wrong.
  • 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 from Medaka Box 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.
    • It's also played with in regards to the Supporting Protagonist Zenkichi. Despite being the Team Normal of the cast, he's able to keep up with other Superpowered characters through hard work and determination. Yet in a later arc, other characters explicitly stated to be normal easily upstage him in a Treasure Hunt.
  • Sword Art Online is a complete aversion, which is notable because it takes place in an MMO, which would naturally fall into this. The only way to increase your skills is to work, hard. If they weren't trapped inside the game 24/7, no one would have time to get past level ten. Even though everyone desperately wants to escape from the game, they grudgingly admit that it is fair. A very in-depth review of the series pointed out that this is largely because the series was written in 2000, before World of Warcraft, when MMO's were still grindfests where you could expect to do nothing but kill monsters to advance for most levels.
    • And then it's played straight in both the Fairy Dance and Phantom Bullet arcs ( where Kirito basically curb-stomps his human enemies), only to averted again during Alicization
  • Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo has a lot of this, because of the composition of the main trio: Sorata, who is neither very focused nor skilled; Nanami, who is very hardworking but probably not outstanding, and Mashiro, an Idiot Savant:
    • Sorata tells Nanami in Episode 15 that he hopes she succeeds at her audition because he's been watching her study hard ever since they were first year high school students, and hopes that it pays off at some point. Especially since both of them failed at their resepctive auditions the first time around.
    • Played straight in the end of episode 20 and the whole episode 21: it starts with Nanami failing her audition; goes on with Sorata's game failing the last review due to another rhythm game which was more simple, traditional and more appealing to the market; afterwards, all of the main cast fail at getting enough signatures to prevent the destruction of Sakura Hall; finally, to add insult to injury, the game company that rejected Sorata ended up sending a work offer to Shiina as character designer thanks to the pictures she gave to Sorata.
  • Subverted in Hunter × Hunter. While natural talent grant you significant edge over untalented individuals, one still must train extremely hard to get results. Chief of the Hunter Association Netero stated that human potential is limitless and we know that nen can prevent aging. So, theoretically, talentless person will require much more time to catch up, but eventually will catch up.
    • And gloriously subverted with Netero himself, who managed to fight with Meryem on semi-equal ground due to insanely over the top training(even bu Shonen standarts).
  • Played straight on the 3rd episode of Hell Girl during Season 3. An Idol Singer is loved and worshiped for her beauty and natural singing talent. However, during her youth, the Idol Singer used to bully another inspiring singer who was working very hard. The flashback also showed that the Idol Singer didn't even practice and got by on her looks, taking Fanservice pictures. The bullied girl tries to blackmail her by exposing the fan service photos; she demands the Idol Singer give her a break in the music business. But the Idol Singer tells her that she never could sing well. A scene earlier proves this when she sung and sounded off key. The once bullied girl cries about how she worked very hard all her life. But the Idol Singer responds by saying: "Hard work is the last resort of those without talent." This makes the bullied girl call Hell Girl. And even though the Idol Singer paid her 3 million yen and wrote an apology song for the bullying, the bullied girl still sends her to hell, while the Idol Singer was singing the apology song live on stage during a concert. The revenge is empty however, as the Idol Singer went on to become a music legend, while the bullied girl is forever broken, being in her shadow.
  • Averting this is a key part of A Certain Magical Index. Anyone can become a powerful esper if they work hard and focus on the ability improvement curriculum. Mikoto Misaka, one of the heroines, started out as a level 1 and rose to level 5 (the highest level) through patience and determination, and is often held up in the series as an example of what you can do if you work at it. Except that's all a lie. Using the supercomputer Tree Diagram, the city's leadership knows who will respond best to the ability improvement. They focused their efforts on those children, while ignoring the majority of the city as not worth the investment of time and resources.
  • In Saki, a variation comes into play with Kaori, a complete beginner at mahjong whom her friend, the Tsuruga team president, recruited to the team so that they would have enough people to go to the tournament. Kaori manages to come out on top in her match with her uncanny Beginner's Luck, which disrupts the playstyle of Mako, her opponent from the protagonists' team, who plays with Photographic Memory of her time in her grandfather's mahjong parlor and cannot counter Kaori's playstyle due to never having seen an amateur at play before. When the Tsuruga girls prepare to go to the individuals, Kaori is forbidden from practicing, under the reasoning that if she lost her beginner's luck, she could not possibly improve enough in that short time to compensate. Kaori ultimately ends up getting eliminated before long, though.
    • In a more individual case on the flip side of this trope, Maho, who can imitate anyone's "special ability" for a single turn each day, nevertheless has many bad habits, such as revealing that she has no yaku, or trying to pick up a tile when doing so would get her penalized, despite having practiced for a year, and she's referred to as an "eternal beginner."
  • In Servant × Service, for all his youth Creature of Habit Jouji has been challenging Brilliant, but Lazy Yutaka. For all these years Jouji won for not a single time.
  • Teppu is about how main character Natsuo has finally found a sport (MMA) where this trope doesn't hold for her, meaning she'll actually have to work to excel at it. This is exactly why she's interested in it. The manga otherwise has much the same attitude towards this trope as Holyland above: A good MMA fighter needs to have talent, training and experience. Natsuo has the talent, which is why she has the potential to be great at it. Her erstwhile rival Yuzuko has an expert coach and lots of training experience and hard work behind her, while Yuzuko's best friend Ringo adds a natural talent for the sport on top of it.
  • Averted with a vengeance in High School Dx D, where even the author has gone on record stating this is a series where hard work does pay off. This is exemplified at the end of volume 2/anime season 1, when Issei's Eleventh Hour Superpower expires before he can land more than one good hit on his foe. He goes on to win the fight thanks to everything he learned during his earlier Training from Hell, with a dash of Crazy-Prepared.

    Manhwa and Manhua 
  • 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 
  • 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?"
  • Gloriously averted in Naruto:Demon Path. Naruto ran away from Konoha at age 6 but met and joined Haku and Zabuza living like a missing nin for 6 years before going back. During his fight with Sasuke at The Valley Of The End he hands Sasuke his ass. When Sasuke angrily shouts his Sharingan should make him better, Naruto calls him out :
    "While you were sitting in class thinking of a quick fix to more power, I was busting my ass in real life-or-death situations. Seriously how long have you been a ninja? A few months? Try comparing that to my 6 years asshole!"
    • Naruto even refuses to use this power of the Kyuubi. When Jiraiya wants to alter the seal to allow more of the Kyuubi's chakra leak through. Naruto refuses to do so. Basically he acknowledges that he might have to use the Kyuubi, but he doesn't want to rely on it.
  • Discussed in A Growing Affection. Lee gives Sakura a scenario for the Chunin Exams with Ninja A (Crippling Overspecialization Bare-Fisted Monk) and Ninja B (Jack of All Stats). As Lee explains, Ninja B could go through the entire tournament and beat many in the third round but can lose to Ninja A and Ninja A will become a Chunin.
  • Very averted in No Chance For Fate. Ranma has to work hard to gain abilities and even then, he'd just have learned them but still needs experience to become better. The Senshi do get their magic for free, but have no experience using it. They also are still essentially normal teenagers and need combat training to learn everything they need to survive in battle.

     Film - Animated 
  • 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.
      • Considering how much physical abuse he got as well as climbing all the stairs despite not being in shape, he has plenty of stamina.
    • 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.
    • Which makes sense when you compare personalities. Shifu's strict and no-nonsense attitude made it difficult for him as well as his reluctance to face his truama. Po on the other hand, upon learning said truama, forces himself to face it much sooner for the sake of helping his friends and getting past it. While Shifu may have known the road, he had more self-imposed mental blocks than Po.
  • In Monsters University, due to hard studying at an early age, Mike has more technical knowledge than any other student but lacks the size and appearance to be scary.
    • The film averted this when Mike and Sully had to work themselves up from mailmen to a full-fledge team at Monster Inc. after being expelled.
      • Its also Zig-Zagged with Mike, as while he studies hard and still isn't able to be scary, he aquires an encyclopaedic knowledge of just what it means to be scary, and all the diverse ways, which helps him improve others.

    Film - Live Action 
  • 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.
  • Parodied by Kung Fu Hustle, where the hero has inherited greatness in his chi, which spontaneously emerges upon emerging from a cocoon.
  • Star Wars' Luke Skywalker never had more than a few days worth of actual Jedi training. He got a few hours of school aboard the Millennium Falcon with Obi-Wan, and learned enough for the Force to guide him as he blew up the Death Star.
    • Empire Strikes Back, however, reverses the 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 having no more than a few months of training. He gets his butt royally kicked by Vader, who had years of experience even when he was still Luke's age.
    • In Return of the Jedi, Luke is able to hold his own against Vader, but 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. But he still refuses to kill Vader, and the latter sacrifices 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 Path of Neo, we find out that its actually a matter of time dilation. Seconds passing in the real world for hours passing in intense training.
  • 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". 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, realising the symbols were actually constellations, and the set of symbols represented a way of plotting coordinates in 3d space. There's some debate over whether the military ought to have stumbled on the relatively simple answer even without understanding how it worked, but that's all that we'll say about it here.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Played with then subverted in Any Given Sunday. At first it seems like the third string quarterback, Willie Beaman, is a natural player able to call his own plays, much to everyone's surprise. Later in the film you find out he was a hardworking top prospect, who suffered a setback in his career, because of a bribery scandal in college.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • In the Indian novel The White Tiger: Really sad example here: while Balram's father worked his guts out being a rickshaw puller, he ultimately ends up nowhere and dies of tuberculosis.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
      • However, in almost all of the Amy episodes up to this point Willow is not shown to really be stronger. Amy seems to be incredibly powerful when she can turn people into rats, and at the same time Willow complains about being able to barely levitate a pencil. Willow is complimented on her magical abilities in Season Five just for having the ability to summon a little lightning and magically throw knives. Willow seems to get her magical upgrade in Season Six from Rack. While it may be argued that she was stronger at that point, she had three more years of training while Amy was still a rat yet Amy's complaint in Season Seven was that Willow was "always" stronger.
    • Anya invokes this trope in Season Seven when she tells Buffy that she is not "better" than the rest of them, just "luckier".
  • 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.
    • In season 8, new intern Ed is another subversion in that while he was initially smart enough to get by with little work, eventually it became impossible for him to keep up and he was fired.
  • 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 Super Power 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: 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 thirty years.
    • Subverted in one episode where he has to learn to play pool to deal with that episode's Big Bad. Jennifer Garner's character tells him something along the lines of "You can put away your books. They can teach you how to play pool, but they can't make you a pool player."
  • 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.
    • Perhaps understandable in that Prue, as the oldest sister, has the most raw power at her disposal. After Prue dies, Piper is the oldest sister and the most powerful of the three.
  • 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 
  • 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.

    Religion 
  • A significant theme in the Christian New Testament (for instance the Book Of Romans) is that it's impossible to earn God's favor by good works rather than by having faith. For one thing, imperfect people can't perfectly keep God's Law, so no one really counts as "good." For another, God's grace is a gift, and gifts can't be earned.
    "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." —Romans 11:6

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
    • Note that this is one example of the Kobold creation myth; in another, presented in "Ecology of the Kobold" from Dragon Magazine, Kurtulmak was hatched from a half-spoiled egg of Tiamat when an army of thieves tried to loot her hoard, resulting in the collapse of her lair. While he was digging it out again, he found some more of her eggs, and from them hatched the kobolds, who are as they are today. The "Great Cave" still exists, but was a huge trap in which Kurtulmak planned to bury the other gods. Then Garl Glittergold came along and set it off on top of Kurtulmak alone — the kobold version is out of jealousy that he would never make something so impressive, whilst the gnomish is that he just wanted to see if it would work.
    • 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.
    • Also, wizards vs sorcerers, and to a lesser extent clerics vs favored souls (in 3.5e). Wizards spend their whole lives devoting themselves to their arcane studies; sorcerers are just born with it. Clerics devote themselves to their faith; favored souls just have divine power handed to them by a deity.
  • 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 
  • FEAR 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 monsters or people that can easily destroy the world so they didn't have to train as hard. Now the heroes on the other hand...
    • 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 Fu So Ya 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.
    • 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, in various medias, Sakura is able to go toe-to-toe with Zangief just fine.
    • 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").
    • 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...
  • Averted 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.
  • Dragon Knight 3: Knights of Xentar inverts this: Desmond (or Takeru in the original Japanese version) starts off being quite an 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.
    • This can be mostly attributed to the fact that the spy isn't effective at straight up fighting like all the other classes, just about all of his tactics revolve around being behind enemy lines, being unnoticed, destroying structures, and backstabs. All things that usually amount to pass/fail - hence a bad spy dies either failing to get anything done or before they can even try, while any other class playing poorly can at least get some shots in at the enemy team.
  • 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 theory. In practice, the series demonstrates the professional soldiers who have trained for years are MUCH weaker than a bunch of amateurs who have just joined the army, the point where even one of their newbies can beat several enemy soldiers at a time. The sequel makes this worse, where veterans are easily outgunned and outclassed by the supposed academy's failure class, none of whom can keep up with the fresh faced 16-18 year olds, aside from a few boss characters, marked out by their own special talents. And the leader maybe a careless idiot who doesn't understand and doesn't even try to understand tactics, rushes into situations and laughs in the face of a danger in a way that would get his unit violently wiped out in a real war, but dam if he doesn't completely overwhelm the enemy, even they out number him 6 to 1 or more!
  • 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.
    • Played straight at one point in Persona 3 though. You can try talking to disstressed Junpei a few days before the exams, which makes him sarcastically note that it seems the only thing you do is just walk around talking to people ...which you actually find yourself doing. And given the protagonist really seems to be successful in whatever he does, you can totally understand Junpei's grudge.
    • Persona 2 zigzags this, as it does work largely like "any RPG" as mentioned above - you go from normal high school student (or magazine editor, or cop, or whatever) to monster-slaying, god-enslaving, world-saving Badass in what might generously be two weeks. However, some of your biggest foes are other people who have been granted immense power... and used it as a crutch to lord over others. So all your hard work lets you kick them in the face. Seemingly played straight again at the end of Innocent Sin, where you beat up Nyarlathotep, except shortly thereafter Nyarlathotep reveals he was just playing down to your level and isn't remotely inconvenienced, then goes on to end the world while you just stand by exhausted from the fight. No, you didn't just Punch Out Cthu- er, Nyarlathotep like you thought you did, and it takes another god's intervention to turn back time. Played more straight in the end of Eternal Punishment, though the hard work has been put in twice over by some people, this time. Though all this is probably Justified because the collective unconscious is reshaping the world, meaning heroes can rise up out of nothing because enough people believe they can.
  • 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.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Greybeards of High Hrothgar live lives of seclusion, spending their lives to learn the Thu'um. The Dragonborn just has to kill a dragon to learn a shout instantly.
  • Averted for most E-Sports professional gamers. Many of them spent countless hours playing a game to master it before competing in tournaments. They often times do nothing but spend all day-and-night playing the same game, only pausing for bathroom breaks and eating. And some of them forget to eat altogether. They also eat a lot of sugar and drink a lot of caffeine or energy drinks to stay awake and lose countless hours of sleep. In the case of games where you pick separate characters (like fighting games) or classes (like shooters and role playing games), you'll have gamers spend thousands of hours playing one character or class, unlike most people who'll only play each class for a certain amount of hours before getting bored and moving on to the next game.
  • Agria in Tales of Xillia believes in this trope, and she even berates Leia for the latter's insistent belief in getting stronger via hard work. This is because she was once Lady Nadia of House Travis, who lost her family, affluence, and sanity to a fire (and she ironically uses that element in combat).
  • Terry and Andy Bogard of the Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters series are both solid and versatile fighters. However while Andy spent years abroad honing his skill and training under the Shiranui style of ninjitsu, Terry trolled the streets of Southtown and just mastered fighting the old fashioned way. Come time for them to compare skills, Terry's "do what works" background ended up giving him the superior fighting talents. Sometimes this gets under Andy's skin but it's not enough to ruin their relationship.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • Dangan Ronpa's Ishimaru wants to prove this isn't true at all. While he attends the elite Hope's Peak Academy, he notably reacts poorly to being called a 'genius', as he connects that term with the concept of being born with talent as opposed to working hard for it.
  • Super Dangan Ronpa 2, on the other hand, features Komaeda, who appears to wholeheartedly believe that the only way to have any sort of talent is to be born with it. He cheerfully claims that anyone with an Super High School Level skill is automatically just plain better than anyone who might try building up their abilities through hard work and practice.
  • Averted in Canvas 2. Takeuchi can match the genius Elis if she really tries.

    Web Comics 
  • 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. Rivals are always the same level as the PC (if not higher), so she 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 
  • Doctor Horrible's 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.
  • As in the Dragon Ball examples above, Dragon Ball Z Abridged takes the various plot points involving this (Vegeta gaining the ability to sense energy just by visiting Earth, Saiyans getting stronger with every defeat, everyone stealing Krillin's Destructo-Disk) and runs with it.
  • There's a joke in The Sharkasm Crew that if you don't train in Super Smash Bros. Melee, you'll get better at it.
    • Subverted in that Kason, Sauxuas and Vyzor, the top three members, play Melee the most.

    Western Animation 
  • In Aladdin: The Series, 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!
  • 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 :
    • 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. In the end, however, this becomes Zuko's strength against Azula, as his determined nature allows him to bounce back from failure better then Azula does when Mai and Ty Lee do a Heel Face Turn against her.
    • Per Word of God, this is the point of bending in general. They wanted a magic system that you actually have to work at, rather than just being handed power. There are geniuses like Azula and Toph, but they still had to train. Even the Avatar, the local messiah, has to master each element individually every time they reincarnate. In fact, the Avatar State is basically just accessing the experience of hundreds of Avatars at once, stacking thousands of years of training to cheat the system and do things that no one with a mortal lifespan could ever manage.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Spongebob's inability to his licenses was from his nerves getting to him, as shown in an early episode. Patrick's clear-headedness allowed him to help Spongebob in nearly getting it (but it was cheating.) In this episode, Patrick ate Spongebob's informational index cards and retained the knowledge, allowing him to get the license.
  • Dr. Orpheus of The Venture Bros. 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.
  • Played with in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000." The Apple family competes with salesponies Flim and Flam to see who can make the most cider - the Apples with their personal and hoof-made method, or Flim and Flam with their fancy machine. Flim and Flam win by a large margin despite the rest of the Mane Six joining in and helping the Apples, but soon thereafter are run out of town because they turned off their quality control to gain a larger advantage, so the cider they try to sell is terrible.
    • It should be noted that Twilight normally averts this trope, having spent her whole life in study to the exclusion of all else (including, of course, friendship) to be able to be as powerful and knowledgeable in magic as she is.
    • Also played with then subverted in the episode Hurricane Fluttershy. After finally deciding to help Rainbow Dash and the other Pegasus create a powerful tornado to make clouds, the viewers are shown a Training Montage where Fluttershy is training to fly at a certain speed to help create the tornado. However, when she's tested, Flutershy still ranks well below the needed amount of speed. Later, when it all on the line, Fluttershy proved the training really paid off, as she is able to fly faster than anyone and complete the tornado. Turns out Fluttershy was holding back, because she remembered the torment other Pegasus did to her when she was younger and was afraid to fail.
  • Averted in Generator Rex in Rex's battle VS the Consortium w/Meta Nanite powers. They may have power over things like gravity, time, electricity, fire, ice, and have similar abilities to Rex, but Rex has had his powers for longer and promptly hands them their asses. At least until they join into a Humongous Mecha.

    Real Life 
  • 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 height.") 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.
      • Neither genetic gifts, nor Training from Hell can grant a human being the ability to shrug off the laws of physics or biology. Example: throughout the world, men like Mariusz Pudzianowski had worked themselves through hellish training, diet and exercise, to be able to raise cars or pull trucks, railcars or planes, but none of them, regardless of training or muscles, would be able to stop a comparatively small econobox car running towards him with bare hands. It's a matter or physics, size, weight and ultimately flesh against metal. Metal always wins.
      • This is also the crack in the edifice of life-coaching: the likes of Tony Robbins they repeat so often, so hard and so convincing their stuff is magic and grants magic powers, people may soon believe it is, which is not the case. Barbara Ehrenreich has much to say about life coaching in her book Bright Sided.
      • The book "Talent is Overrated" gives a good reason for this trope: People tend to work on what they're already good at, while avoiding what they're weak at. For instance they researched elite figure skaters and sub-elite ones. The elite ones practiced moves that required a ton of falling and standing up and constantly getting out of their comfort zones (called "deliberate practice"). The sub-elite would constantly practice the moves they had already mastered (normal practice).
      • This was the rationale in the early 70s for putting children with high reading comprehension on a math and science track, while tracking mathematically gifted children into English. Supposedly it developed will power and discouraged "laziness".
  • 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 of Prosthetics, 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.
    • It also didn't work. Most people now-a-days don't even remember when Fishburne's daughter made a sex tape, or if he has a daughter at all.
  • 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 naturally 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.
  • It's possible for an untrained brawler to defeat a skilled martial artist, but outside of the occasional lucky hit ending a fight, this is generally a matter of either the martial artist have trained to defend against a narrow range of attacks or the "untrained brawler" having years of fighting experience in informal venues.
    • Martial artists with tunnel vision tend to fall victim to this a lot; it's not at all uncommon for some random schlub to start a fight with a trained martial artist and get his ass kicked, only to have the trained fighter get jumped by the other guy's buddies and beaten to a pulp.
  • This may be the reason why American students tend to underperform in mathematics when compared to Asian students. Asian cultures usually have the attitude that anyone can be good at math (or anything else) if they put in enough effort, which leads to the perfectionist Asian parent stereotype. In contrast, Americans tend to believe that most people just don't have "the right type of brain" for math, and only a select few geniuses can be good at it, which tends to undermine people's confidence. The reality is that aside from people with actual number-processing difficulties (such as dyscalculia), most people can understand higher mathematics with a good teacher and some effort, essentially a mixing of the two.
    • However, the emergence of the hikikomori in East Asia, especially in Japan, is starting to expose the limitations of the "perfectionist Asian parent stereotype". It's also a reflection of Japan's "Lost Decade" following the bubble burst of the early 1990s.
  • Averted with Superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. It's been often said one of the things that makes him a great boxer, isn't his polished offensive and defensive skills or his very high ring intelligence, but his reputation of being one of the hardest workers in the boxing gym. There are many training videos that highlight this. And Mayweather's favorite saying is: "Hard work. Dedication."
  • Averted according to Bruce Lee's trope page.
    Bruce Lee: "I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times."
  • Averted in a big way with the basketball superstar Lebron James. During the Finals against the San Antonio Spurs in 2007, a seemingly unstoppable Lebron "King" James got exposed when it was revealed during the series that he couldn't make mid-range jump shots. It got so bad that by Game 4, the Spurs intentionally let James shot from outside the paint, knowing he would miss - which he did. The Cleveland Cavaliers ended up getting swept and the destined new King of basketball was humiliated. Six years later and one championship under his belt, Lebron James, now a member of the Miami Heat, faced the San Antonio Spurs again in the Finals of the 2012-13 season. In Game 7 of a tough series, the Spurs once again forced Lebron James to shoot the ball from mid-range by covering the paint all series and not allowing him to drive to the basket - just like in 2007. Only this time, Lebron James made his shots and helped the Miami Heat win back-to-back champions. This was because after 2007, Lebron trained hard to become a better shooter and his shooting percentage kept increasing every year as a result. This was proven during the 2012-13 season when Lebron James made the most mid-range jump shots of his career during the regular season. This improvement helped him win a 4Th regular season MVP along with a Finals MVP for scoring 37 points in Game 7, mostly off of mid-range jumpers.
  • This is the reason the saying "Work Smarter, Not Harder" exists, because if you're working hard, but not efficiently, you're not going to get very much done.


Look What I Can Do NowSkills and Training TropesMooching Master

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