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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 at all. 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 999999 test 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 training, but due to their own stubbornness, they refuse to acknowledge flaws within their approach or allow their body proper rest to recover from the exertion. The end result is a training program that's 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) and Sweet and Sour Grapes (you work towards something, fail, give up on achieving it, and then succeed).

This trope can result 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 Weak, but Skilled and Charles Atlas Superpower. Contrast Hard Work Fallacy (the misconception that only hard work matters) and Talented, but Trained (ability plus hard work). See also Technician Versus Performer, Superior Species and Incompletely Trained.

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    Comic Books 
  • In The Authority, Jeroen is the latest World Shaman, having inherited the magical power of hundreds of past reincarnations, automatically making him one of the most powerful beings on the planet. He's also a lazy, immature drug addict whose money all comes from his rich wife. He's 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 next Engineer.
  • Played with in Runaways, where Tina and Robert Minoru, who've been presumably training in sorcery for years, can barely use the Staff of One, but their daughter Nico becomes 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 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.
  • 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.

    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-fledged 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 (Beca having no choreo experience either). 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.
  • Parodied in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story when Al sends his tape of "My Bologna" to the Captain Buffoon radio show. His friends warn that it will require years — maybe decades — of hard work before he'll get noticed... Just before Captain Buffoon raves about the song and turns Al into an instant sensation.

  • 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.
  • A CEO drove up to work in his luxury car, at the same time as one of his employees arrived in a rusty compact. The employee couldn't help but stare in envy. The CEO noticed his gaze and said "If you work hard for this company, put in as much overtime as needed, strive to improve yourself, instill passion in your colleagues, and truly believe you can make a difference... I'll probably make enough to buy a better car next year."

    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. In other words, being saved will result in you doing what is good because you want to.
  • 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)
  • Zigzagged 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.
  • This is the logic behind wuwei (無為), a major concept in Taoism, translated as "inexertion", "inaction" or "effortless action". Alan Watts translated it as "not-forcing". Essentially, the more you reach and grasp for something, the harder it becomes to actually attain it. This is because desiring goes against the nature of things. Whereas, doing what comes naturally to you, thereby "doing without doing", tends to yield better results. In other words, working hard doesn't work as hard as hardly working. It should be noted, however, that wuwei does not imply that laziness is a virtue; rather it means that constantly striving for superficial concerns such as wealth, beauty and success will not yield it, while paradoxically, not striving for these things and being content with what you have will yield such things. By which time you realise you don't need them, as you have something much greater: the Tao.
  • 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 responsibility 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 
  • Zigzagged in Cyberpunk 2020. A character can easily learn any skill by paying for Neural Implanting, but such skills are at a low level and cannot be raised. In other words, one can effortlessly become Jack of All Trades with enough money, but excellence in a given field can only be achieved with 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. Gnome myths claim Kurtulmak was a minion of Tiamat who was sent to chase after Garl Glittergold, who outwitted him by luring him into a maze and collapsing it so Kurtulmak couldn't get out. Of course, neither party is exactly a reliable narrator.
    • 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."

    Visual Novels 
  • Averted in Canvas 2. Takeuchi can match the genius Elis if she really tries.
  • Danganronpa: Often played around with, given that half of the premise is that all characters have exceptional levels of skill at their specific talent that at least matches that of adult professionals (for example, Ultimate Cook Teruteru has three Michelin Stars already; the youngest person to earn three stars in real life was Marco Pierre White at 33) while still in high school. Naturally, most of them have some personal opinion on this trope.
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc':
      • 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.
      • Relatedly, Byakuya absolutely hates the implication that his talent is simply having been born rich. He is a financial prodigy and proud of it, but he had to work hard to become heir to the Togami coporation, by beating out his many half-siblings while still a child. Assuming he just had everything handed to him not only insults him by insinuating he's a useless rich kid, but it also insults his siblings by insinuating that they lost to a useless rich kid.
      • Averted in a very bad way with Sayaka. As she tells Makoto, breaking into the idol industry was a lot of hard work... and also involved doing some unspecified bad things, often assumed to be sexual favors for producers but never confirmed. She occasionally lets slip that she's under a lot of stress due to how demanding her job is and thinks of her band as her emotional lifelines. This is why she's the first to commit murder; Monokuma insinuates that he might have killed her bandmates and she becomes desperate to leave and find out what happened to them. And, well, she's done dirty things before, might as well do one again...
      • Leon Kuwata, on the other hand, plays this trope absolutely straight. He's naturally talented at baseball to the point where he plays both pitcher and cleanup hitter (usually, a player has to specialize in one or the other, to the point where there's a 'designated hitter' position whose job is to stand in for the pitcher when his team is at bat) on his team, but he admits that he doesn't really care for baseball and rarely practices. He actually aspires to a career in music, both because he thinks it'll let him pick up girls, and at least that's something he chose, while his baseball skill was pure luck of the genetic draw. Though if you take his route in School Mode, he eventually decides against ditching baseball, and resolves to apply himself and excel at both his interests.
      • Celestia Ludenberg is an odd case. While she will happily admit that her own gambling talent is mostly luck, she also considers part of her talent to be her skill with bluffing and game theory. Some fans have theorized that her playing up these elements (by titling herself Queen of Liars and bringing up common game theory problems in conversation) is a sign that she wants people to believe she worked for something, as opposed to just winning via The Magic Poker Equation.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, on the other hand, features Nagito Komaeda, who never shuts up about how much he believes in this trope. His talent is Ultimate Good Luck, so pretty much everything he had ended up dropped on his lap somehow (i.e. got rich finding a winning lottery ticket), and this has given him a firm belief in haves and have-nots; to him, the talented are just better than the untalented and nothing the latter can do will bridge the gap. His classmates find this creepy, especially since he tends to exalt their talents without caring who they are as people. On the other hand, he's an Unreliable Narrator who hates himself, hates his talent, and on some level just wishes he was normal- he just can't admit this to himself.
    • 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.
  • 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 aquaphobia), 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 and Inanimate Insanity have several instances where the team that worked harder ended up losing, such as "Theft and Battery" where, despite Suitcase being the one that got the battery in the first place, the Bright Lights ended up winning because Test Tube fixed MePhone4.

  • DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything: Most named villains and even Dongtae argue that you can't really change what you are born with even if you try, unless you have magic. Some Dicers go further and want to change the world with the Final Die becuase no amount of Dice can fix their personal issues. The only named character who doesn't agree with this is Eunju, who ends up becoming the Dicer to enforce her views.
  • 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 them over a hundred years to learn how to cast the most basic of spells, yet Elan could acquire that knowledge almost instantaneously with one simple decision (albeit with the potential handwave of having learned off of V by observation).
    • 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: after the party was split, Vaarsuvius nearly worked themself to death trying to contact Haley (who had been rendered unreachable as a side-effect from the Cloister spell cast over Azure City following its takeover), while Elan and Durkon mostly just sat around waiting for the problem to solve itself. In the end, all of V's hard work accomplished almost nothing in regards to finding Haley, because she found a way to contact Durkon first. This is a Justified Trope for three reasons: V was not resting at all in their tireless efforts (due to the relentless guilt they felt from checking out of the siege of Azure City after their resources were expended); no one short of an epic-level spellcaster could penetrate the Cloister in the first place; and a plan they implemented that should have worked didn't because of something that was not V's 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 running 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.


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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