Path to success: Talent or hard work?
We have all seen the athletes and other sorts of celebrities exclaiming that their success is due to hard work. Successful business owners and executives nearly all claim that they and their companies have been successful primarily due to hard work and perseverance. While it is true that working at your trade, whatever it may be, will make you better at it, it is utter nonsense to say that you will win a Gold Medal in the Olympics by working hard. The talent to run or swim very fast must be present already, or you will never have a chance at that medal.
These celebrities stand on a stage and tell us that the fact they are there to accept that award is proof that anybody can do anything they want if they set their mind to it and work really hard. That concept sets up nearly everybody for failure and disappointment. It is possible that a child who struggles in math and science but is always stellar in art and literature may become an outstanding engineer, but it makes more sense to encourage them to develop their strengths rather than set their sights on something they have little chance of attaining.
There are many young men (and women, too, of course) who run pretty fast. They run faster than nearly all of their classmates. Should all of these young people believe they have a realistic chance at winning the 100 meter race in the finals at the Olympics? If you run faster than most of the people you know, you have no chance at that medal. Only the ones who are really, really fast—faster than everybody they know—have a chance to compete at the top level. Certainly you should endeavor to do everything you do in the best way you can. That usually means you must work at it. If you work at it and you do it well then you have reason to feel some pride in what you have done.
That does not mean that everybody is capable of being the very best at anything they try to do. If you are told that somebody succeeded just because they worked very hard, the other side of that is if you are not the best it is due to laziness. Hard work certainly will help a person to succeed, but without talent, the only thing hard work will get you is tired.