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Hard Work Hardly Works

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"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 Protagonist and/or The Hero it goes far beyond that.


Their 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 proving 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 to be chided about taking things "too seriously".

An alternative, sometimes usually used as a Hand Wave, 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. Other times the training is done offscreen to avoid 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 put more effort into their craft than the competition, but due to their own stubbornness, they refuse to acknowledge flaws within their approach or allow themselves proper rest to recover from their grueling routines. The end result is a training 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 Sweet and Sour Grapes (where you have to work hard to achieve something, but only after you've predestined your success by doing something spectacular without any work).

It 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!". This is the opposite of Charles Atlas Superpower and Weak, but Skilled. Contrast Hard Work Fallacy (the misconception that only hard work matters) and Talented, but Trained (ability plus hard work). See also Technician Versus Performer and Incompletely Trained. It's often accompanied by a Training Montage.


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    Comic Books 
  • In The Authority, Jeroen is the latest World Shaman, able to tap into the collected experience of hundreds of predecessors, automatically making him one of the most powerful beings on the planet, despite the fact that he's a lazy, immature drug addict whose money all comes from his rich wife. He is utterly hated by his teammate Engineer, who grew up in a poor, unexceptional family and had to work her ass off to be deemed worthy of becoming the new Engineer.
  • Played with in Runaways, where Tina and Robert Minoru, who've been presumably training in the dark arts for years, can barely use the Staff of One, but their daughter Nico manages to become proficient with it after just a few days, because the staff's power requires a creative mind, and Nico is far more creative than either of them. On the other hand, when she later encounters her ancestor, Witchbreaker, who has a much more powerful version of the staff and decades more experience, she is handily schooled.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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 tells 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. Specifically, he figured out that the buyout for layoffs was better than the retirement package, so he made a dedicated effort to be useless without actually getting fired. According to Adams, he succeeded.
    • It has also been mentioned a few times that Alice is the highest paid engineer in the company, so her effort isn't completely wasted, it's just that she isn't rewarded enough.
  • Subverted in Frazz. At the end of the summer when Caulfield learned to swim, Frazz praised him as a natural. He confesses to having snuck back into the pool after his lesson and practiced more.

    Fan Works 
  • As they struggled to find people for the Prime Candidate Program, Jesse in AWE Arcadia Bay (Rogue_Demon) reasons that they are trying too hard and they should just "let it happen." This is based on experience, as she has been known to get lucky in the Oldest House and paranatural phenomena runs more on faith than deduction.
    Jesse: Sometimes, I feel like if the house, or the board, wants us to find something, we will find it. Maybe we just need new information that hasn't come up yet?
  • 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 owns Sasuke. When Sasuke angrily shouts his Sharingan should make him better, Naruto calls him out:
    Naruto: 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.
  • Discussed in regards to Harry in Child of the Storm. While, unlike Hermione, he doesn't have a particularly good grasp of theory, and, indeed, doesn't have the mind she does (though he is far from an idiot), he has a level of raw power that was greater than hers even before it was revealed that his father was really Thor incarnated as James and an intuitive grasp for spellwork, particularly in favoured subjects, that means he grasps spells almost as quickly, or as quickly as (in some cases, even faster than) she does. It's not this, as such, but also his Quidditch skills and giving off the impression at being pretty good at whatever he turns his hand to, and, finally correcting her answer in Defence Against the Dark Arts, that upsets her.
  • The Second Try: In "Raise", Asuka remembers what she could never catch up with Shinji in spite of working hard to become the best. She also realizes that it doesn’t bother her or upset her anymore.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: During an argument with Shinji, Asuka throws in his face that he never had to work hard for being an Eva pilot, whereas that she trained hard for one entire decade to become the best, and everything that she got was getting her mind raped.
    "Do you want to know what your problem is?" she said, her voice rising shrilly. "You take what you have for granted, and you think it gives you the right to talk down to me. But you've never had to work for what you have, you just get in your Eva and it goes and you are the hero.
  • Once More with Feeling: One reason Asuka is so frustrated with Shinji is that his synch rate is higher even though he's been training for much less time than she has. Of course, Shinji has a couple of advantages (being a time traveler and knowing some things he shouldn't) over her.
  • The One I Love Is...: In chapter 9 Asuka complains that she worked hard for one decade to become the best pilot, and she was being beaten by a barely-trained rookie.
    Asuka: Of course I'm upset! How would you feel, Shinji, if you devoted your whole life to something and it didn't pay off? I've been training to be an Eva pilot for ten years. Ten years, Shinji! I should be the best! I worked at it, damn it! I worked hard for it! But instead, you, who's been piloting for less than a year, can beat me! And you're not even trying! What the hell was I doing, if I can get beaten by some jerk they grabbed off the street?!
  • Frigid Future: According to Cooler, belief in this is what got Freeza killed. The universe moves forward so if not Goku, then someone would eventually become strong enough to defeat him. This is why Cooler regularly trains to increase his power.
  • The Triptych Continuum version of Trixie Lulamoon gets screwed over hard by this trope. In the Continuum, a pony's magical strength is fixed from birth, and no amount of exercise, practice, or effort will ever improve it. Trixie's talent provides her with an unending supply of ideas for new spells, but she knows that she will never be able to cast most of those spells.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Katsuki Bakugou worked his ass off to overcome his debilitating childhood injuries, tearing his way through the U.A. Entrance Exam through his natural talent and effort. Unfortunately for him, his Childhood Friend, Izuku, happens to be Kryptonian. Because of this, he's constantly overshadowed by Izuku's constantly growing powers despite the latter's disproportionately smaller (but no less dedicated) amount of effort in training.
  • Mizuki in Son of the Sannin seems to believe this trope, citing it as one of his main reasons to defect from Konoha and sell himself to Orochimaru. In a rather ironic twist, the one who defies the trope to hell and back is Lee himself, who fights one-on-one against Mizuki (the latter even using a Cursed Seal for a power boost), and still manages to win by pure physical endurance and willpower.
  • Played With in Miraculous! Rewrite: Marinette works incredibly hard to break into the world of fashion design, and this ultimately pays off for her in "Queen Wasp" when Gabriel takes her on as an intern. However, this success also catches the eye of Audrey Bourgeois, and that causes her daughter Amber to have a massive breakdown over the idea that all of her efforts to please her mother might have been totally pointless.
  • The MLP Loops:
    • Invoked for laughs. Ascending to alicorn requires a Beyond the Impossible feat directly related to a pony's special talent as well as a powerful artifact (the specific artifact can vary, just so long as it's powerful). Ascending again, however, is infinitely easier. At one point a bunch of loopers prank Celestia by pretending to ascend for ridiculously minor "feats" like eating a lot of muffins, wearing a crown, and choking on a paperclip. Celestia eventually gives up, declares that ascension no longer grants any special privileges, and mutters about how she was an alicorn before it was cool.
    • Likewise, after obtaining the Elements of Harmony the hard way, Bearers can pull them out at any time, which is often used to troll people.
      Trixie: Spike showed his Loyalty by growing to the size of a small whale! Chrysalis showed her Kindness by putting up with me! Zecora showed her Generosity by paying for the first round at the bar! Berry showed her Laughter by making up some really good puns for the names of her cocktails! And Gilda showed her Honesty by beating up a manticore!
      Nightmare Moon: Those are not virtuous acts!
      Trixie: I think you'll find everyone who knows me considers putting up with me for more than ten minutes to be an inherently virtuous act. Oh, by the way, the sixth element is Magic. Boom.
      [Nightmare Moon gets blasted by the Elements]
  • Zig-Zagged in the Sleeper Hit AU. While Midoriya worked incredibly hard to pass U.A.'s Entrance Exam, his efforts prove pointless when Aizawa immediately expels him on Day 1 after rigging his assessment against him. He also struggles to find another Hero School willing to take him due to his Quirklessness. However, the Hamada Institute accepts him, and he's able to earn regard as the first Quirkless Pro Hero.
    • Shinsou also recognizes just how hard Midoriya worked, and uses this to Pull the Thread on Aizawa's claim of impartility, pointing out that the amount of training Midoriya did should have ensured that his physical scores edged out Hagakure's.
  • Mostly averted in The Awakening of a Magus. Harry does get a dose of Instant Expert that puts him above any regular wizard, but using anything resembling his full potential requires lots of hard training.
  • Averted in Ships Ahoy!. Oprah believes that Odd Squad agents hardly work to earn their "I beat this oddity today" bragging rights and eagerly revel in the perks they get as government employees, contrasting it with her own hard work that involves her plans to change the entire juice industry for the better and has her making an honest living even in spite of her hardships. What she's (initially) unaware of, however, is that Odd Squad agents work just as hard as she does at fighting oddness and making the world a better place for everyone, whether or not they're skilled at doing so and regardless of what hardships they face.

    Film - Animated 
  • Frozen (2013) has an exaggerated and deconstructed version with born cryomancer Elsa. Not only do her abilities grow to phenomenal levels without any training or work, it does so while she is actively trying to suppress it. Her lack of control over her powers leads to it doing things she'd rather it not do, such as freezing the kingdom and killing people. It's not until after she starts actually trying to hone her abilities that she gains sufficient control over it to avoid such problems.
  • Subverted in the second movie. Elsa's inborn magic powers let her get past obstacles pretty easily while other characters struggle to keep up physically, but then she gets distracted in Ahtohallan and goes into the most dangerous part after already getting what she needed, getting herself stuck. The more focused Anna ends up having to fix things, despite her lack of magic.
  • This happens quite a bit with Po from the Kung Fu Panda movies, largely because he is the Dragon Warrior, The Chosen One.
    • In the first movie, 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 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 either. Additionally, both the dumpling battle with Shifu and the final battle with Tai Lung show 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 and skill, such as using the environment and unorthodox methods as well as a distracting measure (the Dragon Scroll). 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 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.
    • In a sense it's inverted with Po and the Furious Five and Tai Lung. Tai Lung and the Furious Five (as revealed in Secrets of the Furious Five) all had natural strength and ability even before they started training with Shifu and Oogway (with the possible exception of Crane). Po's talent wasn't very obvious at first but was eventually discovered through the hard work he did perform.
    • 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 the end of the first movie, by which point he was already an old man. Po consoles him by remarking that he had a great teacher. This 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 trauma. Po on the other hand, upon learning said trauma, 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.
    • By the end of the third film, Po has become a Master of Chi, even though Shifu studied for decades and only had a very limited form of chi manipulation, and is given Oogway's mystic green staff. Oogway reveals that he chose Po as the Dragon Warrior because of his descent from the ancient pandas, who could naturally use chi so well. This is lampshaded mercilessly at the end:
      Shifu: The student has truly become the teach—wait, where did you get that?
      Po: Oh, this? Master Oogway gave it to me in the Spirit Realm.
      Shifu: ...Of course he did.
      Po: I think I mastered chi.
      Shifu: ...Ohhh... of course you did.
  • 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 acquires an encyclopedic knowledge of just what it means to be scary, and all the diverse ways, which helps him improve others. Also, by the end of Monsters, Inc. the switch from screams to laughter means that Mike finds success in a similar field.

    Film - Live Action 
  • 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.
  • Lampshaded in Forrest Gump. Forrest never works to become a fast runner or a good table tennis player. He even impresses his drill sergeant while in basic training at the Army by disassembling his rifle and reassembling it, setting a new company record in the process; this was never his intention, as Forrest stated that he was merely doing what the drill sergeant told him to do.
  • Averted in Frost/Nixon, where David Frost and his team have to put in a good year's work, at all hours of the night, to trap Nixon into a confession.
  • Played with in Generation Iron a documentary about the top modern bodybuilders. During the documentary, there is a focus on the rivalry between fan favorite and peoples champion Kai Greene, and the seemly cocky and Hollywood acting Phil "The Gift" Heath. Called The Gift because of his body being genetically natural for bodybuilding, like Arnold Schwarzenegger's physique. During the segments, Greene often talked about how hard works beats natural talent. However, Heath responded with: " But what if natural talent decides to work hard?" It all comes to a climax at the Mr. Olympia competition. In which Phil Health's out-poses Kai Greene and wins the Mr. Olympia title with Greene finishing second. After the documentary, Phil Health would go on to win the Mr. Olympia title 6 times, with Kai Greene finishing second every year, expect in 2016 in which Greene wasn't there due to personal issues. Ironically, Kai Greene did win The Arnold Classic, the second most important bodybuilding competition, three years in a row, while Health only won the title once.
  • In High School Musical, newcomers Troy and Gabriella get the lead roles in the school musical over veteran actors Sharpay and Ryan.
  • In The Karate Kid (1984), the Cobra Kai undertake intense physical conditioning and training for years... only for Daniel to train for two months with Mr. Miyagi and defeat their best guy in a tournament. Justified with the implication that Kreese spends far more time punishing his students and teaching them to be completely ruthless than helping them develop their skills, i.e, it doesn't matter how long you train for if you train under a bad teacher. Daniel also didn't start from scratch, as he is mentioned to have taken basic classes before the film starts, and trains all day, everyday one-on-one with an instructor, instead of as part of a class. There's also a bit of Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors at work; the Boring, but Practical style focusing on fundamentals that Miyagi teaches is noticably faster than the flashy and crowd-pleasing Cobra Kai style. In the first sequel Daniel gets a sobering wake-up call when he gets in a fight with a more experienced practitioner of the same style and gets his ass effortlessly handed to him.
  • Parodied by Kung Fu Hustle, where the hero has inherited greatness in his chi, which spontaneously emerges upon emerging from a cocoon.
  • Man of Steel: A subversion. Clark is shown having to train himself to use his powers over a lifetime, finally mastering all of them as an adult. When Zod arrives on Earth he very quickly adjusts to the superpowers given to him by the yellow sun, and easily matches Superman in combat. However, Zod credits this to his own discipline and training instead of being naturally better.
  • 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 it is actually a matter of time dilation. Seconds passing in the real world for hours passing in intense training.
  • Patch Adams: Patch's roommate Mitch is livid when he sees Patch breezing through medical school with straight A's while Mitch has spent his whole life studying to be a doctor (thought notably this is an Informed Ability; Patch is never shown utilizing his medical knowledge onscreen).
  • Pitch Perfect: Beca initially wasn't interested in a capella and only joined when a member of her university's a capella team overheard her singing in the shower and told her she had talent. Beca clashed with team captain Aubrey, who had been a member since at least her freshman year, over choreography. In the end, the team decides to use Beca's choreography over Aubrey's during the final competition and ends up winning.
  • 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 because both assumed the symbols on the Stargate were letters of a language that translated into something. Jackson only solved it through a "Eureka!" Moment, realizing 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.
  • Kirk went from a cadet to captain in the J. J. Abrams Star Trek (2009) film. It would suck to be a commander in that movie.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope: 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.
    • The Empire Strikes Back, however, reverses the trope. Yoda explicitly warns Luke that he has just begun 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, did get at least several months of more grueling training under Yoda and he was dead set on killing Vader after being pushed off the edge. 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 Force Awakens, Rey manages to hijack Kylo Ren's Mind Rape ability and turn it back on him, and later defeats him in a lightsaber duel, despite having no training whatsoever and only having known about her abilities for about a day. This despite Kylo being a powerful enough Force user to halt a blaster bolt in midair. It's Played With though, as Kylo was decidedly not in any physical and mental condition to be fighting,note  was considering the possibility of turning Rey as a student, and Rey does have melee combat experience with her quarterstaff.

  • Based on a joke from Twitter:
    Neighbour #1: My eldest son has a bachelor's degree in economics. My second son has an MBA. My third son has a PhD. My youngest son is a thief.
    Neighbour #2: Why don't you just kick your youngest son out of the house?
    Neighbour #1: He's the only one earning money. The rest are unemployed.

  • This is the Aesop of Atlas Shrugged. While Dagny Taggart works very hard to manage Taggart Transcontinental and many of the people that get accepted into Galt's Gulch have innate abilities who also work hard, while 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 because he lacks their innate abilities.
  • 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 calls him some fun names while informing him that the disciples (all old sorcerers) spent months fixing the world's 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 disappear as the explosion is THAT big. Parts of the wall land kilometers out to sea as well.
  • In A Brother's Price, Jerin is able to marry the princesses because his grandfather was special, but his lockpicking skills and ability to read thieves' cant are all due to hard work. This is a family tradition, coming from his grandmothers who were spies, but Jerin and his sisters are shown practicing it. On the other hand, Jerin's Sex God abilities do seem somewhat implausible given that he's a virgin at the start of the novel and only had the theoretical knowledge passed to him by his grandfather. On the other hand, such things are subjective and the competition isn't any better, either, as chastity is highly valued in husbands in this setting.
  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, the only way into the Cloak Society is by descent from the founders; only they have the superpowers Umbra grants. Gage's father died in a lab accident because of his unceasing efforts to avert this — to demonstrate such inventing genius that they would accept him — and Gage is following in his footsteps. On the other hand, when it comes to actual skill, this trope is thoroughly averted. Both superheroes and supervillains are rigorously drilled both in their powers and in Boxing Lessons for Superman.
  • Averted in Dragon Bones: Ward's fighting skills are due to his aunt Stala, who worked hard for her experience, and taught her niece and nephews how to fight. When Ward regains the magical ability he was born with, but lost when he was a child, he can't do much with it, as he isn't trained in magic, and so can only do the most intuitive things.
  • Harry Potter is Playing with a Trope.
    • Harry is a naturally gifted Seeker. He doesn't seem to be that far above average while playing any other position. During the O.W.L. tests, Harry is the student (that we know of) with the highest number of O.W.L.s after Hermione. And before that, when the moment to learn the Patronus Charm came, he learnt it in a day.
    • This is also extended to Hufflepuff House, whose defining trait is hard work. The number of major/notable characters from that house that are crucial to the plot can be counted on one hand .
    • Ron can be called the poster boy for the trope. He starts as a rather mediocre Quidditch Player, but quickly becomes one of the best players of the Team. And when he studies hard, he actually got a very large number of O.W.Ls
    • Neville is Played Straight. Neville is at the rock bottom of the pecking order. While he does improve during the DA lessons he does not really reach the level of the main Trio or even the other students of the DA. Neville is a case of Can't Catch Up.
  • 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 Licanius Trilogy, Davian has been trying his entire life to wield Essence. He's studied every book and practiced every technique, but he just isn't able to tap his Reserve and wield it. That's because Augurs use Essence by wielding it from the environment, not their Reserves, but he has no clue about this until someone tells him. From that point on, he's a natural.
  • A Mage's Power averts this trope. Whenever Eric goes up against older and/or more experienced warriors, he is outgunned every time. The only way to victory in those cases is with guile.
    • Eric trains for hours every day before and after school for a couple of weeks and he gets humiliated by a veteran mercenary, whose experience ranks in a couple decades.
    • Anyone of the Black Cloak rogues could kill him on their own, so he pretends to be one of them and uses a quick spell combo to disable them when his ruse is discovered.
    • When he fights mages from the Royal Academy, note  he curbstomps all of them but one. When he fights Kallen Selios note , he is curbstomped himself.
    • In his climactic confrontation with Dengel, his only path to victory is exploiting the elder mage's ego and deceiving him. A direct confrontation would lead to a quick and permanent death.
  • Averted very hard in Dmitri Yemets' Methodius Buslaev books. The reason that Guardians of Gloom and Guardians of Light are so skilled in battle is that they have thousands of years in training.
    • The best of the Guardians of Gloom, Ares, is a God of War because that he constantly trains and fights. And even then it's stated that he can be killed if his opponents are enough skilled or have enough numbers.
  • In The Neverending Story Hynreck is a professional hero who spent his whole life being the best at everything he does, but he can't hold a candle against Bastian, who outmatches him with ease by virtue of holding AURYN and wielding Sikanda, a sword that can never be beaten.
  • Klaus of Spy Classroom achieved his mastery of spycraft intuitively, while his pupils studied for years and aren't nearly as good. This is actually part of the problem in the first book: because he mastered his craft intuitively, he doesn't know how to explain it to anyone else, making him a terrible teacher.
  • Tree of Aeons: When Lausanne first wants to train in combat and become a hero, Jura talks to TreeTree about how it only makes sense for people to train things they're naturally talented at, and Lausanne isn't gifted at combat, so he wants her to try something else. TreeTree doesn't have the heart to just crush her dreams, though, so he offers her what help he can. Results are mixed; with his many boosts to learning, the opportunities he gives her, and a lot of hard work, she becomes a prodigy by most people's standards — and yet she is left in the dust when she encounters the divinely blessed heroes, who can surpass her hard-won progress in days or weeks.
  • 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."
  • The Wheel of Time: 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 were 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 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.
    • Zigzagged with Rand. After struggling to learn the basics of channeling, Rand taps into the Ghost Memory of his prior incarnation, Lews Therin, who was The Ace in his time period, allowing Rand to spontaneously pull off complicated weaves with no practice. The catch is that Lews Therin starts to manifest as a voice in Rand’s head, and Lews is dangerously bonkers. So while Rand doesn’t have to put much work into being good at channeling, he has to put a lot of work into integrating Lews Therin into his own consciousness without driving himself mad.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is a problem Carlton has with Will in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. For all the hard work Carlton puts into it, Will has street and people skills that make it look easy. An example of this is in the episode where the boys get interviewed for Princeton. Will is reluctant to even get in but his wise cracks and street smarts impress the interviewer. Carlton gets jealous and mimics Will, resulting in the interviewer thinking he is insane and rejects him. This leads to Carlton begging, bribing and finally threatening the interviewer, resulting in his suspension.
  • This is part of Lindsey McDonald's motivation in Angel Season 5. He started in the mailroom of Wolfram & Hart and worked his butt off to become a good lawyer, while the Senior Partners just gave Angel the position of CEO overnight.
  • 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. In her words, most born magic users nowadays have to "work twice as hard to be half as good" was Willow, who picked up witchcraft during high school.
    • 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 5 just for having the ability to summon a little lightning and magically throw knives. Willow seems to get her magical upgrade in Season 6 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 7 was that Willow was "always" stronger.
    • Anya invokes this trope in Season 7 when she tells Buffy that she is not "better" than the rest of them, just "luckier".
  • Prue in Charmed (1998) 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 rawest 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.
    • Played Straight with Troy. He is shown to be naturally gifted in repairing things. He's so good that the air conditioning repair department of the college believes him to be their chosen one. At one point Troy challenges the head of the department to a duel centering around repairing broken air conditioners and bests him.
  • Played Straight in Drake & Josh when the two brothers get jobs at the local movie theater. Josh is a dedicated employee who applies himself to the job. Drake on the other hand charms the boss. Naturally, Drake is the one who gets promoted to manager.
  • Glee: At the start of the show, Finn was a stereotypical jock who looked down on the glee club. However, Mr. Schue forced him to join after hearing he had a fabulous singing voice. He soon became the club's lead male singer, beating out Kurt and Artie, who both had more of a musical background then him.
  • 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 of 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 sword-fighting 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
  • Felton from Homicide: Life on the Street espouses this viewpoint.
    Felton: You think people get things because they earn it? No. The more you deserve, the less you get.
  • Played straight in House. House cheated on his exams at Johns Hopkins and spends much of his time watching cable tv or playing a video game rather than reading about new medicine, new treatments, etc. He tries to invoke Eureka Moments. Then again, he is "almost always eventually right" because he still knows his stuff.
  • 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.
  • 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 micro-expressions because if she didn't know when he was in one of his moods and had to be avoided and/or placated, she got badly beaten. Talk about Power at a Price...of a screwed-up childhood.
  • The Next Step eventually reveals this as the reasoning behind Emily’s dislike of Michelle. Emily had been at the studio for years, starting from the bottom and working her way up to be captain of their best troupe, while Michelle merely walked in one day and was given a spot on said troupe without even doing anything.
  • An episode of My Name Is Earl had the woman who Joy had stolen Earl from undergoing Training from Hell so that she could get stronger and become a bounty hunter and one day get revenge. From all that training, she's built up as a complete and total badass... but when she finally gets her rematch with Joy at the very end of the episode, she gets taken down in the span of a few seconds.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Victorious: Tori Vega only got accepted at Hollywood Arts because she needed to fill in for her sister and had no prior experience in singing or acting. However, she repeatedly manages to out shine Jade, who is implied to have been studying performing arts since her childhood. This is a big factor as to why Jade resents Tori.
    • In one episode, Tori needed to take her Tech Theater Exam. She's tutored by Robbie, who had not only passed it, but had the highest score. Through out the series, Robbie has been shown to be the more tech minded of the group, while Tori needed to be shown the ropes when she had to do theater tech. Yet, despite spending only one night studying, Tori easily aces the test and beats Robbie's score.
  • WandaVision: As noted by Agatha Harkness, the Hex around the town of Westview is a complex set of thousands of simultaneous transfiguration and mind control spells that need to be maintained 24/7. Wanda manages the feat without even being aware of it. Meanwhile, it took Agatha years of study to master a spell that turns a cicada into a bird. As it turns out, it's because Wanda is the Scarlet Witch, a legendary magic user with the power to reshape reality as they see fit and create things and people from nothing.

    Manhwa and Manhua 
  • Subverted in Goddess Creation System. Seeing that Xiaxi favors his brother in part because of his physical prowess, Mingyi claims that even if he doesn't like archery or practice much he's still better due to his natural genius. However, it's soon shown that while he may be pretty good, Mingluan is still easily better due to his constant diligent practice.
  • 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 outmaneuver 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.

  • 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
    • However, Jesus in Matthew 25 says that believers must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, make strangers feel welcome, comfort the sick, visit people in prison, etc. This enables you to be recognized by him at the last judgement.
    • If one reads the Epistle of James and tries to harmonize it with Paul's epistles, they would see that believers are not saved by works, but rather they are saved unto doing good works.
  • Orthodox Christianity gives us such an answer: hard work is necessary, but it only works if it makes you humble see your sins, which you can't help but do. One Christian saint, Theophan the Recluse, even wrote that the reward (the Christ's salvation) is given not for the committing good acts and achieving virtues, and not for your efforts in doing this, but for increasing humility — and if you don't, then not only you gain nothing, you are in perish of corruption by pride, nullifying everything!
  • All throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes in The Bible is there a more cynical take on this.
    Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11, ESV)
  • Zigzaged in Islam. Believing in the strict unicity of God is what grant you entrance in Heaven. If you're not a Muslim, your deeds are vains (The Qur'an 9:17). On the other hand, God is said to reward the believers according to their works.
    • Specifically, it's said that on the day of judgment God judges everyone's actions based on self rights, divine rights and people's rights. God is willing to forgive violations of his own rights, but to be forgiven for any sin that has harmed other human beings you need to earn their explicit consent, which can complicate the calculations. So a non-Muslim who was a good person has much better chances at earning God's graces than a pious dedicated Muslim who was a Jerkass in life.
  • Zoroastrianism has the "Farr", which is essentially a cosmic spotlight. If a person has it, they have the attention of the pantheon, they have a special, significant life with huge reponsibilites and the glory that can come with it, and a rather unfair advantage over everyone who tries to accomplish anything meaningful without it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Zig-zagged in Cyberpunk 2020. A 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.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Kobold creation myths claim that their racial deity Kurtulmak laboriously honed his skill and power while in service to the Dragons, earned his freedom, and built a lair of unsurpassed design from which the kobolds were poised to enter the world as a major race — until the deity Garl Glittergold collapsed it on top of him and led his gnomes to dominance in their place. Neither Kurtulmak nor Garl is entirely trustworthy sources of information, however.
    • Leaked Experience means that a party of Player Characters get equal Experience Points from combat encounters, regardless of how useful each character was. DM permitting, it's possible to become a powerful wizard or sage just by watching your friends beat stuff up.
    • This trope competes with Time Dissonance to explain why a human can gain as much power in seventy or eighty years as an elf can in four or five hundred. Apparently, elves are just slower learners.
    • Wizards and Clerics have to study for years to gain their first Character Level and learn the rudiments of magic, which leaves them a bit cross when a budding Sorcerer intuitively taps dormant power in their blood or a deity awakens some schmuck as a Favored Soul.
  • Somakinetics in Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution. Somakinetics have super strength and speed, even if they don't work out or train. Also, even the most well-trained human can never master certain special combat techniques that require somakinesis.
  • 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."

    Video Games 
  • 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. Interestingly, they acknowledge this and claim that instructing you is an honor beyond honor. Also it should be noted that they are much, much better at it than you are.
  • 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 that 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 FuSoYa 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.
  • 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 instantly 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).
  • Played With in Katamari Damacy with second cousin Miki. According to the King, she's a Spirited Competitor who always aims to land herself in the top three... but tends to end up in the top six instead. While that might not be as impressive a record as she might like, it's pretty high up there all the same. Particularly when you consider just how many of her cousins she might be competing with.
  • 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. The montage includes a scene of one of your teachers stating that to learn so fast is unheard of and that you have learned in weeks what takes years for others. The reason for that? This is not the first time you are going through the training.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, local mentor 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.
    • It should be noted that Link has Leaked Experience from all his past lives. The first Links had to train long and hard, but the later ones retain it in a manner similar to muscle memory. It should also be noted Link wasn't exactly goofing off to get those ten Knight's Crests.
    • Also played with in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in regards to Zelda. She was initially fiercely jealous of Link for so easily being chosen by the Master Sword when she's worked for years to awaken her own powers to no avail. It's heavily implied in-game that her father forcing her to try and awaken said powers by constantly praying to Hylia and putting immense pressure on her is what stopped her from awakening them sooner. Not only does hard work hardly work, but it was also quite likely actually impeding her!
      • Out of the Champions, Revali is implied to be resentful of Link because of this trope. Revali is acknowledged in-universe as a skilled warrior and has trained very hard to perfect his abilities, but (in his view) he was told that some random knight has been handed the important role of defeating Calamity Ganon while Revali is given the role of support, just because Link was chosen by the Master Sword.
  • Maplestory has Kaiser's and Angelic Buster's friend Velderoth get hit with this. With the former two gaining obscene powers from sheer luck of the draw he's left in the dust with nothing to show for it. Sadly, this leads to his Face–Heel Turn.
  • 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.
  • 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?
    • By the time Battle Network 5 and 6 rolls in, this trope starts losing force. So much that in the last game of the series, Megaman himself needs the combined Power of Friendship and the Deadly Upgrade of a digital monstrosity to keep up with what Protoman can deal with by his own vanilla self!
  • A recurring theme in the Metal Gear franchise is proving this trope wrong. The series is full of super soldiers with innate powers, artificial augmentations, virtual quick-training technologies, and gene therapy all being used to make superior soldiers, but it's always the soldiers who have worked hard to train and gain experience who come out on top. The Genome Army are just "video game players" according to Solid Snake as he takes them down by the dozen, the elite Cobra Unit with all their abilities lose to Naked Snake because he was trained by The Boss, the effectively robotic B&B Corps go down to the experienced Old Snake and his bag of obsolete guns and the cyborg Raiden takes the most savage beating of his life from the guy with a robotic arm and a lot of training with a sword. At the end of the day, the series makes it very clear all these special abilities and augments only serve to enhance what has been built by rock-solid training and experience.
  • Nasuverse:
    • Played with, as 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 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.
    • This is a major part of Waver Velvet's character arc. When he was a young man, he would often claim that, despite not coming from a notable mage family, he could still be the equal of the great masters if he worked hard enough. Many years and many adventures later, he remains mediocre at best, and he admits that the people telling him he would never be as amazingly powerful and talented as them were right. Nevertheless, while he cannot become a master magus, he finds that he can still contribute in his own way: he's an excellent teacher, a skilled detective, and while his actual magic is poor, his knowledge of magic is not.
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5, this is averted when it comes to increasing your character's non-combat statistics. Before exams, you'll need to have studied quite regularly to get the most out of it, and one of the characters in Persona 3 even tells you that studying a bit each day rather than just cramming will go further.
    • Played straight at one point in 3 though. You can try talking to distressed 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. And thanks to New Game Plus, at least in Persona 3, you get to keep all your progress in academics.
    • 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.
    • Persona 5 has an example in Ann and Mika. Both of them are popular models, but Mika has to follow a careful diet and exercise regime to maintain her looks, whereas Ann doesn't do any of that and even eats cakes and sweets whenever she feels like it. But ultimately zig-zagged during Ann's major social event when she tries to land a serious modeling gig against Mika. Yeah, Ann is lucky with her fast metabolism, but doesn't understand that it takes more than looks to be a top model. She also needs to have good social skills, charm, persuasiveness, the ablity to pose in all the right angles, and a competitive edge. Because Mika took modeling seriously, she had all these traits and wins the audition. Afterwards, Ann promises to take modeling more seriously and work hard at it.
  • 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.
  • Radiata Stories subverts this. Every Hopeless Boss Fight is against people older, or at least more experienced than the protagonist. And there are many hopeless boss fights, even in the late game (in one path). Gerald personally lampshades it.
    Jack: [after getting utterly defeated in his entrance exam to the warrior guild] Aw man! I didn't even come close to winning.
    Gerald: What did you expect fool? I was a swordsman years before you were born.
  • Zasalamel from Soulcalibur 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 schoolgirl 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.
    • 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 Manipulation 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.
    • Dan himself is an example. Despite being the son of a master and training for years, he just plain sucks at martial arts, with any improvement or advantage he has being totally eclipsed by his sheer lack of talent.
  • 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.
    • Truth in Television, as real life Mixed Martial Arts fighters learned how being a specialist in a single fighting style may not prepare you to handle other styles. Andy might win every time against a ninjutsu fighter from who he knows what to expect and how to react, but Terry's practical training means he taught himself to face any fighting style.
  • 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.
  • Touhou Project 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.
  • Undertale: Papyrus and Sans are royal guards for King Asgore. Papyrus takes his job seriously and practices constantly, both at work and at his cooking skills, but never seems to get any better at either of them. Sans bums around, flat-out refuses to do his job, and takes laziness to what other tropers describe as an art form; not only does he cook delicious hot dogs, he is by far the strongest single entity on the planet, serving as the True Final Boss of the Kill 'Em All ending. While not thematically related, he's also stronger than Flowey, the Big Bad, who has spent a century or two trying to manipulate an Eternal Recurrence to his favor; the Fallen Child, the Greater-Scope Villain, who has been training in the afterlife about as long as Flowey; and the player character, who is required to go Level Grinding no fewer than nineteen levels to even be allowed to battle Sans. Only a Fusion Dance of the Fallen Child and the player character is enough to finally bring Sans down. The battle part is justified in that Sans cheats with the mechanics of the game. By the game's stats, he only has one attack point and one defense point, implying that his lack of work really does result in him being weaker...on paper. In-game, he gets around the latter by simply side-stepping attacks, which no other enemy does, and he gets around the former with a combination of bypassing Mercy Invincibility and overly long attacks that require fast reflexes to dodge.
  • 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 outnumber him 6 to 1 or more!

    Visual Novels 
  • Averted in Canvas 2. Takeuchi can match the genius Elis if she really tries.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc's Kiyotaka 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.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, on the other hand, features Nagito 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 a Super High School Level skill is automatically just plain better than anyone who might try building up their abilities through hard work and practice.
    • In the bonus modes of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the two actually meet and argue about this. Ishimaru declares he wants to make a world where hard work matters and people don't rely only on those with talent. Komaeda simply doesn't comprehend what he's talking about and focuses only on the hope that Ishimaru can bring to people.
      Ishimaru: Something tells me we're not having the same discussion here...
  • 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 wouldn't participate in any sport until he can found someone better than himself — which is the point where the game begins.
  • Kazuko Kawakami of Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! trains every day to become an assistant master at her family's temple, to the point of dragging tires behind her while she's walking to school and wearing weighted armbands in her daily life, and has never once let her sister Momoyo outwork her. Then, early on in her route, she fights her sister for the first time and cannot hit her once. Momoyo and grandfather Tesshin tell Kazuko that she simply does not have the talent to become an assistant master. They do give her another chance, telling her to win an upcoming tournament in order to challenge Momoyo again and then land a hit against her in that match. Kazuko spends the next month training in the mountains, learning a new naginata move and massively improving her form after her passion is kindled by the realization of just how much everyone's support means to her. But, in the tournament's third round, after multiple refusals to stay down, she finally collapses after finishing Chris, ending her dream and sending her into a Heroic BSoD. The trope is ultimately Reconstructed, as the knowledge Kazuko acquired over years of managing her food intake for her training leads her to find success and satisfaction as a dietician, and all of her effort has still made her very physically capable, allowing her to win a race for her friends and carry an injured Yamato to safety in an earthquake.

    Web Animation 
  • Battle for Dream Island has it in several episodes
  • Just like Battle For Dream Island, Inanimate Insanity has several instances where the team that worked harder ended up losing.
    • Theft and Battery: Despite Suitcase being the one that got the battery in the first place, the Bright Lights ended up winning because Test Tube fixed MePhone4.

  • Kill Six Billion Demons:
    • Discussed by the God-Emperor Incubus — this is the pitch he sells when offering his Deal with the Devil. Why spend the effort developing your own potential when you can take a piece of his spirit into your mind, let him unlock it for you, and "Bam! Instant badass"? Terms, conditions, and eventual spiritual ruination apply.
    • Part of the reason Incubus' pitch works so well is because the multiverse normally averts this trope pretty hard. Enlightenment Superpowers and Supernatural Martial Arts are the order of the day, so everyone has to earn their power some way or another. Allison is one of the very rare exceptions, as she got the most powerful artifact in all Creation shoved into her skull for doing nothing whatsoever. After a Time Skip, she's finally begun to avert this by training with White Chain, but she still tends to fall back on her Key when things get dicey, making her Unskilled, but Strong.
  • 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. In the end, all the hard work accomplished almost nothing in regards to 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.
  • Twenty-Fifth Bam from Tower of God has a talent and affinity that borders onto Power Copying. He can emulate Shinsu techniques others had to train for years (often decades) to perfect just by experiencing and witnessing them. It doesn't help him catch much of a break though, rather the opposite.

    Web Original 
  • Dr. 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.
  • 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.
  • Deconstructed, in a manner of speaking, in My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series: Rainbow Dash could clear the skies in a manner of seconds, faster than any other pony, and not have to put in the hard work they have to to do their job. But she's paid by the hour, so actually using her speed means a smaller paycheck, which is why she's so lazy at work. So in this case, Hard Work Hardly Works, But It Pays More.
    "One day someone told me to just stop doing that and now I make enough to put onions in the soup."
  • 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.
  • 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 for 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.

    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 than Azula does when Mai and Ty Lee do a Heel–Face Turn against her. It also gives him an advantage that was demonstrated as early as the third episode; he doesn't have the flashy or most powerful moves that more naturally skilled firebenders possess, but his superior mastery of the fundamentals can make up the difference.
    • 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.
    • In the sequel series, The Legend of Korra, this is played straight and subverted in different situations. Tenzin studies spirit lore for decades and it gets him exactly nowhere in regards to actual spirits, yet his eleven-year-old daughter has a natural connection to the spirit world and sufficient Airbending skill that she's nearly as good as her father. On the other hand, while Zaheer can sledgehammer almost any bender in a one-on-one fight despite having only been one for a few months, it turns out this is because even before Harmonic Convergence he was a talented martial artist and simply adapted his style to include airbending; he had also been reading the philosophy behind it for years beforehand by complete coincidence, and gets a lot of mileage from using extremely obscure abilities he learned of in this study. When he does come up against someone who has been studying the same bending style for decades, it's only the intervention of his allies that prevents Tenzin from destroying Zaheer.
  • Charmcaster in Ben 10 spent years learning magic. Gwen, meanwhile, is naturally talented and can do it without any training. Justified since she is part Anodite, aliens who are literally made of magic.
  • 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.
  • 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 owns them. At least until they join into a Humongous Mecha.
  • The Loud House: The episode "Flying Solo" has Clyde want to sing the solo, believing that having a month of training and practice and wanting to sing the solo more than Lincoln makes him a better choice for the part. So, he tricks Lincoln into losing his voice when Lincoln gets the part instead. But it is only after Clyde tries to sing the solo, but keeps making mistakes during practice, when he realizes that he's actually physically unable to sing the solo correctly because all the training in the world can't change the quality of his voice. Unlike Lincoln, whose voice is actually right for the part.
  • Zig-zagged in Metalocalypse: Toki is the world's second-best guitarist by virtue of natural talent alone, and it is outright stated that he doesn't practice. However, Toki is nowhere near as good as Skwisgaar, who is the world's best guitarist (as well as Dethklok's primary songwriter), but Skwisgaar maintains a near-insane practice regimen specifically to ensure that he will always be better than Toki.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Played with in "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 zig-zags this trope; she spends her entire life studying magic to the exclusion of all else (except friendship) to become as powerful as she is, but Celestia took her on as a student because she already knew the significance of Twilight's Cutie Mark and set her on the path to fulfilling it. So basically Twilight worked pretty hard studying magic, but this was largely immaterial because she was only picked because she was the Chosen One who won the Superpower Lottery.
    • Also played with then subverted in "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.
    • In "The Cutie Map", Twilight copies Starlight Glimmer's shield spell after seeing it once. Starlight complains that it took her years to learn it.
    • This is later inverted in "The Cutie Remark", where Starlight Glimmer matches Twilight Sparkle, a pony who has saved Equestria multiple times and spent her entire life learning magic, in combat, and also manages to create a powerful, unprecedented time spell.
    • Unicorns as a whole exemplify this trope. Characters like Starlight Glimmer can have borderline god-tier powers even if they never practice or train in magic merely because they were Born Lucky or let their emotions get the better of them, while characters like Trixie and Sunburst can spent their entire lives training in magic but be lackluster at it simply because they weren't born with innate power and there's nothing they can do about it.
  • Frank Grimes from The Simpsons, rather darkly Played for Laughs. He's a man who has had to struggle through his life to land a mid-level position in the Springfield Nuclear Plant and immediately comes to resent Homer for having a job despite his incompetence as well as a large family, house and a bunch of awards from his various misadventures. When he attempts to humiliate Homer by entering him in a children's science project, the fact that he's still congratulated drives him insane and leads to his death.
    • A dramatic example occurs in "Bart Gets an F", where Bart actually tries to study for a test, and still gets an F. Fortunately, his knowledge of an obscure historical fact impresses Mrs. Krabappel enough to give him a D-.
    • In "Mom and Pop Art", Homer's failed attempt at building an outdoor barbecue winds up becoming an renouned outside artist, which annoys Marge since she was painting long before him. She doesn't acknowledge that she hasn't done any painting in years or done anything to advance her supposed career since she painted that portrait of Mr. Burns, making her criticisms of how quickly Homer got popular a bit insincere.
  • 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 get his license 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. However, the episode also points out the other side of the coin — though the Outrider took shortcuts rather than constantly training, it freed him up to actually spend time with his wife and stepdaughter, something that Orpheus was never able to balance out with his mystical duties. Ultimately, Orpheus has to admit that the Outrider is much happier and better-adjusted than he is.

    Real Life 
  • Anyone reading this section should note that this trope is very much Played With in real life. There's nuances in nearly every case where this trope may come into play and the trope itself is a sensitive issue for many so expect that YMMV applies for each example.
  • 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.
    • This is also true with bodybuilders, power lifters, or any athletic practice that focuses on building lots of muscle to compete. Every person has an area on the body that is easy to grow muscularly, not taking many sets of reps to get a serious pump, which turns into gains during rest and muscle repair. There is also an area of the body that is the weakest and needs the most work during weekly training. This is why most pros will tell beginners, find the weak part of the body and focus on building that more than the strong part, because spending too much time of the strong area of the body is mostly a waste of time, outside of a standard set to keep it toned.
    • 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 have 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 toward them with bare hands. It's a matter of 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.
      • 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 willpower and discouraged "laziness".
  • This trope seems to go all the way to the medieval ages when longbow archers were considered a very valuable commodity in the battlefield. There was even a saying that speaks of the amount of work it takes to train an archer, effectively saying, "If you want to train the best archer in the world, start with his grandfather." Part of the reason guns revolutionized warfare was that they didn't have the range or speed of longbows, but you only needed a few days to teach a peasant conscript how to use it.
  • 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 (presumably also for other players' safety, as a wheelchair rolling around the court has a fairly high chance of running over feet), 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.
    • Gladwell has pointed out in interviews that it's often overlooked that his point about 10,000 hours is meant to support a larger point: No one could possibly devote 10,000 hours of work to a single task unless they have a solid support system in place. Practice may make perfect, but it doesn't pay the bills.
    • To the trope's point, follow-up researchers Macnamara et. al (2014) did a meta-analysis across disciplines, critiqued the 10,000hr Rule (apparently a somewhat arbitrary number), found deliberate practice explained roughly a quarter or less of success (some fields as low as 1%), and concluded "deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued". It may be a requirement for many kinds of success, but by no means a guarantee.
  • 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.
    • On the other end of the scale, there are also those who have worked for years in a given industry, only for it to be made obsolete by advancing technology. The workers find their skills are of little use since the new industries involved require different skill sets to the old ones. And none more so than the IT sector, due to its inherently fast-changing nature.
  • 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 nowadays don't even remember when Fishburne's daughter made a sex tape, or that 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 probably working his butt 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.
    • Another possibility: not mentioning the working their butts off because it seems more awesome to just be "a natural".
    • Or the inverse 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.
  • Double Subverted by Thomas Edison and his maxim Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Edison was known for his "brute force" approach on innovation. That is because he had absolutely no knowledge in engineering theory or science and he simply repeated and repeated the experiment and tried something different until it worked. Nikola Tesla, his bitter rival, stated If Edison had had any theoretical knowledge on how things work, he would have made it with one-tenth of the work.
  • 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 having 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 beaten, only to have the trained fighter get jumped by the other guy's buddies and beaten to a pulp (Dirty Coward). Toyed With: Numbers will overwhelm regardless of any mindset, but even Bruce Lee praised kickboxing's potential of defending against multiple opponents.
  • 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 mixture 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 shoot 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 championships. 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.
    • In 2011, James would face the Dallas Mavericks and James' team would lose, largely because of his sub-optimal game in the post. As a result he spent the off-season working with Hakeem Olajuwon, a legendary NBA center who is famously known for having a spectacular post-game. The result was a championship the very next season.
  • 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 number of hours before getting bored and moving on to the next game.
  • 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. Downplayed when you Take a Third Option (per Mike Rowe): Work smart and hard.
  • Related to the above, this is the essence of the saying "If you want something done the easiest way possible, find the laziest employee you have and make him do it". He or she will find the easiest and most efficient means possible to get it done with as little work as humanly possible.
    • Averted, however, in that the task will probably not be done well.
  • Can be Played Straight at first, then Averted in later life in the case of people with naturally high intelligence. In the early years of education, they're able to get away without studying much, or at all, relying on their natural ability to retain, process and regurgitate information learned in classrooms. As they get to higher learning, where research and independent study become necessary to succeed, students who didn't take the time to develop these skills will find themselves overtaken by (comparatively) less intelligent, but harder-working peers.
  • Australian comedian Tim Minchin, at his 2013 honorary degree ceremony at the University of Western Australia, delivered a speech about making it through university as being "all luck".
  • A common way those with ADHD describe the disorder is "Twice the work, half the results" because their above-average energy levels spend a large portion of said energy to actually keep them doing the thing they need to do. The medication helps by boosting their energy levels high enough to enter a hyperfocused state.
  • The wealth disparity between high-ranking corporate executives and rank-and-file workers is sometimes cited as an example. CEOs are often paid several thousand times (or even more) than the average worker, even though it's not humanly possible for them to work thousands of times harder.
  • A key rule of the Stock Market is that, when day trading, you more often lose gains than avoid losses, and, in the words of Warren Buffet, "you shouldn't hold a stock for ten minutes if you're not willing to hold it for ten years." Those, combined with lower taxes if you hold stocks or crypto for longer than a year (it's taxed like a paycheck if sold before that), and the fact that the market overall trends upwards despite crashes and recessions, and it's considered wiser to buy and hold when dealing with stocks and crypto.
  • They can apply in the workforce, especially low wage jobs whenever a company increase their minimum wage. Veteran employees who work in the job for years may end up with a wage barely higher (or even less) than a newly hired employee despite years of hard work and hourly raises.


Video Example(s):


Tubby Tummy

Yang is not pleased to learn that Nora can lose weight simply by burping while she has to exercise a lot.

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Main / HardWorkHardlyWorks

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