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Because I'm Good At It

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"Life's barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at."
Rustin "Rust" Cohle, True Detective

Someone has a less-than-morally sound job — a thief, a drug dealer, an assassin, or a lobbyist. They usually got into the job to make ends meet, especially if the work is illegal, and they might even hate it. But when they become financially sound or get the opportunity for a better job, they refuse to stop. When asked why, they give a simple answer: "Because I'm good at it." The fulfillment of being competent has surpassed the fulfillments of being a good person or enjoying your work.

95% of the time this trope will be about people who kill for a living, but that might just be because there's a lot of killing in fiction in general.

See also Do Wrong, Right and Punch-Clock Villain. Compare Evil Virtues and Chronic Villainy. Contrast Reluctant Warrior, who fights because he has to, with "being good at it" an independent variable. Many characters who choose to be Just a Gangster do so because crime is the only thing they're good at.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ruki of Comic Girls originally wished to be a manga artist for children's manga since she is fond of drawing animals. However, her editors felt that her art style was too sensual for children and more appropriate for josei romance, and with support from fans, decided to continue.
  • The eponymous protagonist of Happy Kanako’s Killer Life accidentally stumbles into applying for an assassination agency after quitting her old job. Her conscience initially feels nervous about the job and only takes solace in her first targets being Asshole Victims like the Bad Boss from her last job. Then she turns out to be an Instant Expert at murder and the praise and benefits she gets for her work do wonders for her Heroic Self-Deprecation, so she stays at the agency and eventually dreads the prospect of losing her job there.
  • Yurika's Campus Life: Yurika considers herself perfectly straight and would prefer to have a boyfriend. But she's good at seducing rich women, and it's really the only way for her to cover her living expenses...

  • Mr. Nice from The Batman Adventures wound up becoming a master criminal because he is incredibly good at it. His family first got an inkling of his future when, as a baby, he trounced and disarmed a burglar. He actually was a kiddy TV show host (his happiest days), until his live show was attacked by some terrorists and he discovered how proficient he was at combat by engaging them head-on and handily winning. His TV career ended that moment, and he discovered that being a nicer guy than Ned Flanders didn't stop him from being a freakin' great criminal, ultimately joining Mastermind and the Perfesser to form the Threatening Trio.
    • In the "Madmen & Lovers" arc in one Batman series, this is part of the Joker's origin story. He was a brilliant, psychopathic, criminal. But he was so good it was boring and he was ready to kill himself as a result. A young Harley Quinn (working as a bartender and unaware that her mopey patron "Jack" was referring to his skill as a violent criminal) convinces him that if you are really good at something, you owe it to yourself and the world to go out and do it. He agrees to try One Last Job. Batman shows up, and his obsession with the caped crusader begins, renewing his passion for life...
    • Oddly enough, averted with the man himself: in "The Joker's Five–Way Revenge", former professional boxer (and one–time Joker henchman) Packy White opines that Batman would have been a phenomenal boxer if he'd taken it up professionally.
  • The Incredible Hulk: Occasionally Bruce Banner is called out on the fact that, despite having an intellect on par with Reed Richards or Tony Stark, before becoming the Hulk he devoted his life to making bombs. His explanation? He was good at it. And indeed, he made the most destructive bomb ever; one that never stops exploding. The Hulk.
  • Lobster Random claims to be a professional torturer because he's good at it, understands it, and can't do anything else.
  • Nexus spent most of his career bitterly miserable that a Sufficiently Advanced alien was compelling him to travel the universe executing mass murderers. The oppressed cheered him for it and tyrants loathed him for it, but Horatio himself just wanted to stop killing people. When, after years, he finally gets his wish—the above-mentioned alien agrees to leave him alone, and another member of the alien's race agrees to maintain his super-powers—Horatio realizes that he's spent his entire adult life doing this and executing murderers is the only thing he knows how to do.
  • During several of his inner monologues, The Punisher acknowledges that killing is what he is good at. In Jason Aaron's MAX run, part of the reason he could not adjust to life after he left the military was that he had honed his skills as a killer; he knew no other way of life.
  • Wolverine has a whole catchphrase about this, in reference to his outstanding skills at, well, killing people:
    Wolverine: I'm the best there is at what I do. But what I do isn't very nice.

    Fan Works 
  • In Forum of Thrones, this is one of the Burned Man's reasons for remaining in Oldtown even after it got so dangerous for him and despite Harpy's wishes. As a cripple, he simply has no other opportunity to affect the lives of others.
  • GitS:SAC - The Collective Unconscious: Part of the reason Motoko returns to Section 9 after resigning; she feels that she truly belongs there.
  • Sanza Salazar Saga: This is one of the reasons Sanza continues to put on the Red X suit and remains a thief even after working with the Titans so much.
  • Sold to the Highest Bidder: This is one reason Eduard wants Ivan to keep him as a bondsman instead of setting him free; he's spent most of his life becoming good at this specifically. Luckily, he does find another hobby.
  • This is why Konori of To Aruverse Rewrite Project intends to become a police officer once she's old enough.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • D.E.B.S. is about a lesbian Dating Catwoman relationship between Teen Superspy Amy and supervillain Lucy Diamond. When Lucy asks why she's a spy, Amy says you should do what you're good at (Amy is The Ace in all her tests at the Spy School), to the annoyance of Lucy who believes that you should do what you want to do.
  • Elektra gives this as the reason for being an assassin when Abby asks.
    Abby: That's messed up.
  • In The Ghost and the Darkness, Patterson picks up that Remington, the greatest of the great white hunters doesn't actually like killing and the doctor asks him why he does what he does. Remington answers simply: "Because I've got a gift."
  • Famous dialogue between a cop (Al Pacino) and a big-time robber (Robert De Niro) in Heat:
    Neil McCauley: I do what I do best, I take scores. You do what you do best, try to stop guys like me.
    Vincent Hanna: I don't know how to do anything else.
    Neil McCauley: Neither do I.
    Vincent Hanna: I don't much want to either.
    Neil McCauley:
    ' Neither do I.
  • Yuri Orlov from Lord of War is an illegal arms dealer who has several reasons to quit - his wife threatening to leave him, an Interpol agent dogging him, and building a successful lumber export company, but goes back to arms dealing because, at the end of the day, it is what he's good at.
  • In Say Anything..., this is how Lloyd explains to Jim Court why he and Court's daughter Diane belong together.
    Lloyd: What I really want to do with my life - what I want to do for a living - is I want to be with your daughter. I'm good at it.
  • Thank You for Smoking: Nick Naylor is a lobbyist for tobacco companies and invokes the trope by name in the movie (and the book?). He even associates with similar lobbyists (NRA and the alcohol lobbies) and discusses strategies and a viewer can tell that these people take pride in their work (at one point they're deeply insulted when Nick declares that only he would be hunted down by vigilantes for what he does). Later on, the Marlboro Man calls him out on it:
    "I was always good at killing VC, but I didn't make a career of it."

  • Belisarius doesn't particularly like being a soldier, but he's the best that the Romans have got, and he knows that the empire needs him as a general. Even if some days, he'd really rather have been a blacksmith...
  • Li Kao from Bridge of Birds is an inversion. Born to a pair of cons, he already had a natural talent for stealing. However, he also proved to be the smartest man in China, and when he grew up, he found that a life of crime was so easy it was boring. Solving crime, however, was a much more interesting challenge, and he chose to do so for the rest of his life instead.
  • In the Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, there's a master architect, Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos. His backstory consists of him inventing marvels for various royals, only for his employers to mutilate him so that he couldn't repeat the invention for anyone else. When his latest employer asks why he didn't just give it all up and try lettuce farming, he replies "I'm good at it."
    • And is promptly killed.
  • Subverted by Peter Wiggin of Ender's Game, who once identified his greatest gift as seeing the flaws in a system and bringing it down without even trying. He does do this, but he combines it with a much harder-won talent for building a better system out of the ashes to achieve world peace.
  • This is common among skilled warriors in The First Law novels. A common character type in the books is the jaded veteran who thinks that War Is Hell and that Being Evil Sucks, but what can you do when killing people is the only thing that you're any good at?
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' Gaudy Night, Harriet Vane discusses how she continued to write murder mysteries after being tried and acquitted for murder; she says that anyone with feeling would rather scrub floors, but it happens that she would scrub floors very badly and writes mysteries very well.
  • In The Godfather Returns, the interquel to The Godfather, Vito Corleone is suggested as following this trope. During a flashback history lesson, the book discusses Vito's early days as Don. While his children were still growing up, Vito used his Genco Olive Oil delivery trucks to deliver alcohol during Prohibition, amongst other things. As Prohibition came to an end, Sonny and Fredo had joined "the family business".
    Even so, he had amassed millions of dollars: A staggering amount of money in the '20s and '30s that would let him and his family live in comfort for the rest of their days. Instead, he tried to form an alliance with Maranzano, the kingpin of New York. Maranzano refused, beginning the Castellammarese War that ended up with Vito as the undisputed head of New York's underworld. Vito had made his fortune without stepping on anyone's toes and had sworn that his children wouldn't have to follow in his footsteps.
    With such a fortune and his own wits, there were any number of legal businesses and ventures he could have undertaken. However, the book suggests that once Sonny and Fredo were part of his business, he had to continue on the path he's chosen. Not only because he was so good at it, but because his two oldest sons were not good at anything else. Left on their own, with no supervision or protection, no real skills or education, and a criminal mindset, Vito felt they would both be dead within a year.
    • This is also why Michael stays with gangstering in later books. He keeps insisting he's somewhat ashamed of the family history and keeps wanting to go legit and "they're always pulling him back in", but the fact is he's really good as a ruthless criminal mastermind.
  • Honor Harrington: Honor does what she does because she's "better at it than most other people" (almost direct quote from the book). Given as what she does is lead fleets into battle, and almost always wins, it might count. It's clear that she doesn't like it, just that she's very capable. She might not like the idea of killing hundreds of people on both sides in her actions, but even she admits at times that she enjoys the thrill of battle, especially if her target is someone who deserves it. Her own husband thinks of her as the Handmaiden of Death.
  • Fisk, in the Knight and Rogue Series is a good-hearted fellow who got into the con business to try and support his sisters, and since he's such a natural at coming up with unbelievable bull on the spot, kept with it. Until he got saddled with Michael, that is, and he still gets away with plenty of well-woven lies and card tricks.
  • In The Lies of Locke Lamora, the Gentleman Bastards don't do anything with the huge amounts of money they acquire from their long cons. It just sits there. But they are excellent thieves, so why would they give up?
  • Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar Cycle describes Jimmy the Hand thus:
    He took no pleasure in being a thief, but he took great pleasure in being a very good thief.
  • Spenser muses on this sometimes. For the most part, he sees violence as a byproduct of his job as a PI but is also aware that part of the reason he picked this as his work is that underneath his Deadpan Snarker and Genius Bruiser personality, he is deeply violent, and this kind of job allows him to channel his violent impulses in a useful direction.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Better Off Ted: The case for most of the main cast, especially Ted, who's especially adept at his job and serves the morally questionable conglomerate Veridian Dynamics despite his otherwise squeaky clean morality.
  • Breaking Bad: This is Walt's Motive Decay, going from making meth to provide for his family when he's gone to making meth because it's the only thing that lets him use his previously wasted skill at chemistry. He eventually admits this to Skyler in the series finale.
    Walt: Skyler. All the things that I did, you need to understand–
    Skyler: If I have to hear, one more time, that you did this for the family–
    Walt: I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really...I was alive.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "City of Death", the Fourth Doctor and Professor Kerensky debate the ethics of messing with time, and the Doctor replies, "Well, I'm a professional; I know what I'm doing." Then again, the Time Lords are professional time-travelers who make sure that the timeline doesn't get too screwed-up.
    • This exchange between the Doctor and Romana in "Nightmare in Eden":
      Romana: I don't think we should interfere.
      The Doctor: Interfere! Of course we should interfere. Always do what you're best at, that's what I say.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The reason Tyrion Lannister, acting Hand of the King, gives to his mistress for remaining in the Decadent Court of King's Landing, despite the fact that people are trying to assassinate him, he was stripped of power after his father takes over as Hand of the King and he has been denied any kind of reward for all of his hard work:
      Tyrion: I can't. I do belong here. These bad people... are what I'm good at. Out-talking them, out-thinking them... it's what I am. And I like it. I like it more than anything I've ever done.
    • Subverted in "The Queen's Justice":
      Jon Snow: You've been talking with Tyrion?
      Daenerys: He is my Hand.
      Jon: He enjoys talking.
      Daenerys: We all enjoy what we're good at.
      Jon: I don't.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: One episode featured a handwriting expert who used his skills for nefarious purposes, "because I'm brilliant at what I do!". The expert was played by one Stephen Colbert.
    • Also used by Detective Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) in his introductory episode. In his case, there's nothing really wrong with the work he does, as he's an honest cop, but he's also an exceptionally talented musician who could have had a much more prestigious career in music. After he gives a demonstration of his musical abilities as part of a case (using it to connect with the suspect as that person is also a musician), Wheeler asks him why he became a cop with that kind of musical skill, and he gives an answer along the lines of this trope and then shows off a little skill in that area to support his statement.
      Nichols: I like [being a cop], and I'm good at it...and that kid is a killer.
  • In Orange Is the New Black, the inverse of this is the reason given for Alex seriously contemplating going back to dealing drugs after getting out of prison - she doesn't know how to do anything else.
  • Person of Interest: Root, on her track record of murder and theft: "My mom told me to follow my talents, and I'm good at what I do."
  • Nancy Botwin from Weeds is much the same in her career as a marijuana dealer, or at least she thinks she is.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In response to suggestions that he enjoyed pain, hardcore legend Mick Foley denied it, citing this as the reason why he spent his career taking massive beatings and jaw-dropping bumps.
    I don't enjoy being hit with steel chairs, I just think it's something that I do rather well.

  • Boxer "Aussie Joe" Bugner's feats include going 12 rounds against Ali and Frazier and staging a surprisingly successful comeback in his middle age, but after his second retirement, he admitted he never really enjoyed boxing.
  • During his Hall of Fame induction speech, former NFL running-back Curtis Martin admitted that he never particularly liked football. He only took up the sport because he saw it as his best option to get him out of his crime-ridden neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

    Video Games 
  • Zelos, protagonist of Blazing Souls, is a mercenary/hitman, as it's the only thing he knows he can efficiently do thanks to his own Lack of Empathy.
  • In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Wilhelm's entire background and motivation are summed up as "As a kid/teenager, I was good at fights." Note that this is Not Hyperbole. You can find logs from his attempt at getting an autobiography where his childhood and teenage years are literally summed up as "I was good at fights."
  • Dragon Age:
    • Zevran from Dragon Age: Origins notes that even if he wanted to be anything other than an assassin, which he doesn't, he has been doing this work all his life and doesn't know how to do anything else.
    • Isabela in Dragon Age II gives this as an excuse for her continued career as a pirate (other than simply enjoying the freedom that comes with it), though other characters have pointed out that her skills could easily be put to use doing something else, and unlike Zevran, she chose to become a pirate and there's no one threatening to hunt her down if she quits (Castillion comes close, but he really only cares about the tome she stole, not what she does with her life afterwards). One could make the case that this actually makes her come off as much more selfish, given how easily she can ignore the people her actions hurt. The Qunari incident perfectly demonstrates what happens when this trope reaches its zenith, as Isabela gets several hundred people killed during a mission she didn't need to do. Yet it also marks the point where she starts to go through a bit of Character Development. Provided she has a good enough relationship with Hawke and doesn't run off first.
    • Implied to be the reason why Hawke prefers to work outside the law as a Part-Time Hero, instead of getting an actual job or position of authority in Kirkwall. Similarly, why they continue to perform odd jobs for people around the city, even after becoming independently wealthy. Although after Act 2 the city makes it a job and position of authority, naming them Champion of Kirkwall.
  • When asked why she became a private detective, Petra from Emerald City Confidential responds that she took on the job because she was good at it. To be fair, she also has the option to justify her work by saying that she wants to help the helpless.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening: In the Harvest Scramble DLC, Gaius reveals to Libra that his offscreen contributions to the Shepherds involve sneaking into enemy camps, spying, sabotaging, and occasionally assassinating when the situation calls for it. He knows it's Dirty Business, but because it increases the odds of survival for the other Shepherds, and because he's the best at it out of all of them, he'll do it without a complaint.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
  • Hitman: Agent 47 attempts to retire after the first game... but it doesn't last. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is essentially him coming to the realization that, being literally bred to be a Professional Killer, that's all he knows, and he can't live away from it any more than a fish can live away from water.
  • Mondo from Killer is Dead apparently became an executioner after waking up one morning with a cybernetic transforming arm. Because when you have a cybernetic transforming arm, you might as well use it. His backstory has him being really good at killing even before the event that took his arm happened.
  • Metal Gear:
    • The plight of those who are natural soldiers versus the concept of peace is one of the oldest and most important themes in the series. Solid Snake is loath to admit it even under the most excruciating duress, but he loves battle, and while his enemies often seek the proliferation of worldwide conflict for the benefit of natural-born soldiers like himself, he has a selfless moral instinct that forces him to stop them at any cost. In a meta sense, we as players participate in this contradiction by playing the games because we enjoy and pay for simulated violence, yet portray characters who strive to prevent conflicts. The secondary plot line of the series follows the journey of his father, Big Boss, which sees him face the same quandary yet reach a completely different conclusion, choosing to fight because it's all he really has in his life and can't see any other alternative, nor does he think he needs a reason like following orders or wanting to stop the bad guys. However, the prequels have added additional, increasingly nebulous reasons for Big Boss's actions.
    • At the climax of Metal Gear Solid, Grey Fox laments that fighting was and is his only talent in life, but takes some consolation from the fact that he never sold out his beliefs or fought for a cause he felt was unworthy. This is a deliberate, non-callous comparison to Solid Snake at this point in the series, who is an even more gifted warrior yet has always blindly followed orders without philosophy.

  • Belkar from The Order of the Stick admits that "hurting people is the only thing I'm good at." Most of the time, he doesn't have a problem with that... Most of the time.
  • Sarilho: This is how Nikita justifies his commitment to the army.

    Web Animation 
  • The Accuser: When interviewed by a reporter who described his recently acquitted client as a "racketeer and reputed killer", Amoral Attorney Dan Mason claimed he did his job and was "proud of it". His wife even complained he was "too good".
  • In RWBY, when Emerald asks Mercury why he chose to follow Cinder, he explains that his father raised him to be an assassin, and that's what Cinder was looking for the day she found him. As far as he's concerned, he's exactly where he needs to be. Tyrian deconstructs this by saying that all that really proves is that Mercury has never known a life that didn't involve violence, and he's afraid to try something else.

    Western Animation 
  • In BoJack Horseman, when BoJack asks Princess Carolyn why she works so hard at being a successful agent when it often seems to only make her unhappy, this is her response.
    BoJack: Does any of it matter? Why are you an agent at all if it makes you so miserable?
    Princess Carolyn: Because I'm good at it. I mean, stuff hasn't been hitting lately. But, usually, I'm really good at it.
    BoJack: Just 'cause you're good at something doesn't mean you have to do it. I'm good at driving sober, but I don't relish the opportunity.
  • In The Simpsons, Krusty the Clown once manages to refresh his comedian routine by starting to complain cynically about the modern world, and becomes popular as a stand-up act again. Soon, however, he's once again persuaded to start endorsing a product even in his act in the middle of complaining about everything else, immediately losing his credibility. He doesn't regret it, though, because as he explains he's realised his real talent isn't comedy - it's selling out.
  • This is pretty much Dr. Girlfriend/Dr. Mrs. The Monarch's entire rationale for choosing to be a #2 on The Venture Bros. She certainly has the smarts and talent to become a supervillain, but isn't vicious (in fact, she can actually be outright kind a lot of the time), nefarious, theatrical, or ambitious enough to want to be an Arch herself. However, her cleverness, pragmatism, and refusal to pick up the Villain Ball all make her a formidable baddie in her own right, but an indispensable #2 for The Monarch (who, as an Arch, is expected to let his supervillainy go to his head now and then) who helps to keep his diabolical schemes grounded and feasible. Once they get married, The Monarch considers her to be his equal even though she plays the same role.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Jack Spicer quits being evil only to turn back again when he is afraid he'll actually be worse at being good than he was at being bad. Ironic, given he was much better at being a good guy.