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The Cult of "Working Hard"

Updated on July 9, 2012

We always hear how important it is to "work hard" in order to excel or to succeed. This is especially true whenever the Olympics rolls around, with supposedly inspiring stories of athletes who have worked hard to become champions in whatever sport it is they do. But what about people who have a natural talent for something and hardly have to work at succeeding in it? These people are almost ignored and vilified. It's as if American society were angry with people who succeed without having "worked hard" for it. Its as if people who are naturally better at something without having to work for it is to be looked down upon in favor of someone who struggled for it. This sort mindless idealism and sentimentality is probably quite annoying for people who are naturally gifted in something.

Just because someone is naturally talented doesn't mean they are not as worthy of winning as those who have "worked hard." Its as if our society sees them as having cheated in some way. No matter how hard I try, I will never be able to play chess as well as a Grandmaster who just has an innate talent for playing. Does that mean that people should feel sorry for me? Does that mean that those with natural talent should be seen as arrogant and lazy and taking away from those who can only dream of being as good as they are? No. The problem is that we are force fed the idea of equality, and that if we work hard enough we can accomplish anything. This idealism stays with Americans into adulthood. Even if many people actually realize after a while that this is untrue, and that people are not created equal, they still pay lip service to this pointless and harmful propaganda. People cannot be equal just by the fact that there is always a winner and many losers. We need to accept that we cannot be anything we want to be. Realism is much more helpful than a mindless adherence to the idea that hard work can get us anything we want.

Despite all the lip service to these ideals, American media coverage tends to focus "touching" stories about the winners and those who have no chance of winning, like the Jamaican bobsled team. What about everyone in-between, those who come in 5th or 7th place? These would be the "Everyman" that best represents most of us, who are average. However, it is just these people that are overlooked an ignored in coverage of the Olympics.

Working hard is a good thing, but we just need to realize that simply working hard does not guarantee us anything. Also, some people are just better at certain thing than others, even if they don't work at it. This is just a fact of life.

So when the Olympics start up and we see the champions, they should be honored for being the best at their sport, whether they are just naturally that talented or if they worked hard to get there.

Whether or not these athletes are doping, however, is another story.


Is the Cult of Hard Work overemphasized at the expense of natural talent?

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    • oldrick profile image

      Richard Ingate 5 years ago from UK

      Unrealised potential is a cliche. Natural talent is wonderful to have and I have it in music but never put the work in to develop it. Whatever you want to create you have to put the time in and natural talent is a wonderful bonus if you have it.