Why Hardworking People Won’t Always Be Successful

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You’ve probably heard it before; put in the hard work and you’ll eventually become successful…

They lied to you…

It takes a lot more than hard work in order to become successful in life. Yet most people assume that the harder they’re working, the better off they’ll be. Forgetting about all the other factors that are involved.


Why Hardworking People Won’t Always Be Successful

Hard work is necessary to achieve a goal, but it is not a defining factor. Here are several things to bear in mind as to why hardworking people aren’t always successful in life:


1. You Need to Work Smarter

In order to be successful, a person needs a great plan and well-balanced attack to execute the plan. None of that suggests working harder is helpful. It may actually work against someone. The key is to work smarter, not harder.

For instance, someone can work really hard to lose weight, but what matters more is understanding your body’s physiological capabilities.

You can’t just assume that you can go jogging for 30 minutes a day or stop eating carbs and magically shed pounds. That might not be what your body needs or how it reacts.

Runners understand the idea of efficiency. It takes a lot of endurance to make it through a marathon, half-marathon, even a 5K. Although, there is a lot more to running than just slogging through the miles.

In order to finish the race, you have to know where to hold back and reserve for the more critical moments. Technique and planning will make the run easier and more valuable of an experience.


2. Be Natural

Forbes published an article showing how hard work may not help, but actually hurt in a lot of cases. Passion will drive people to do more and more for what they love. However, that shouldn’t include people that are simply better at what they do.

There is something to be said for innate ability.

Some people were meant to be faster runners or longer distance runners. Some people were meant to be musical prodigies. Other people were meant to stock market wizards.

Not that naturally gifted people don’t have to work hard. But people in the wrong field end up working harder to compensate for not being a natural. Work in areas that you are naturally pre-disposed to do and success will come much easier.

Psychologist Elyn Saks wrote a book called The Center Cannot Hold, which basically considered all the limitations that hold people back even with all of their best efforts.

Just because we work hard to overcome hurdles doesn’t mean we can hurdle the 1250 foot Empire State Building. Some things just aren’t going to happen and a smarter person will temper expectations and know where to best invest efforts.


3. Be Well-Positioned & Channel Inner Drive

A lot of people spend the best years of their careers with the assumption that hard work always pays off in the end. They put in long hours and pass on vacations to get ahead. Then expecting there will be some reward, such as a raise or promotion at the end.

In reality, the more a person volunteers to do things, the more of a mule they become, the less smart they appear. Meanwhile, the slacker that just shows up to please the boss and has great staff relations is the person that gets promoted and becomes successful in the company.

Some jobs just come with an inherent self-sacrifice role. Different jobs take much different levels of dedication and sacrifice.

The nonprofit sector has traditionally sent workers into an endless void of self-sacrifice, presumably for the amount of good the job does versus the amount of revenue available.

Somewhere along the line, people determined that’s not always best for a company’s mission. An organization can’t make much of a difference in an industry relying on haggered workers that never sleep and subsist off of energy drinks.


4. Consider the Value

Non-profits are starting to realize that what’s good for for-profits may help them too. When one worker does the work of two people, it undervalues the product or service. The net result will be underpayment.

Companies give and apply for grants, fund operations and staff employees based on labor data. So if they find something that worked for a budget last year, they will stick with it. It is important that the data show an accurate picture of what it takes to get a job done.

Customers and colleagues need to know what kind of service or product to expect. Where proper staffing creates a more valuable product, a good marketing plan highlights the product.

No matter what the business is, or how much work it takes, if no one knows about it, then the work is mostly for naught.

Staying on top of current trends like video marketing and trade-show interaction help highlight the effort and convert into deliverables. Or whatever measure will ultimately translate into success.


5. Develop More Finite Skills

Almost anyone vying for a position or a promotion works hard. Hard work is not a unique qualifier. Experience and capabilities, however, are unique qualifiers that need to be highlighted first and foremost.

Creativity and efficiency are also invaluable intangibles that may not show up in the resume, but will show up in the output. A person needs a versatile skill set of all the intangibles, hard work is only one of those intangibles.

A person needs to develop skills and then strengthen them through hard work in order to become successful. The hard work does not become the success by itself. By no means should the hard work be overdone.

The burnout factor is a huge obstacle for success. A person only eyeing the prize and not the process is not likely to be successful.


6. Take Luck When You Can Get It

As I used to tell my students when I was a teacher, winning takes 40% approach, 40% planning, 15% hard work and 5% luck. Sometimes despite all your best efforts, you just aren’t destined to win.

The 1981 Cincinnati Reds won the most games of any major league team that year, yet didn’t qualify for the playoffs. It was a weird situation, but sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way. Luck certainly will help put you over the top.

Make the best of bad luck situations and re-channel energy into a better game plan and the odds will eventually work out in your favor. Former Boston Celtic, Von Wafer, is figuring this all out the hard way as he sends pleas into the Twitter-verse for another chance:

“Wish I had this mentality at a young age. I don’t care how talented you are. If your mind is not in the right place talent can only go so far.”



Here’s a short breakdown of the points covered in this article:

  1. Work smarter
  2. Be natural
  3. Be well-positioned & channel inner drive
  4. Consider the value
  5. Develop more finite skills
  6. Take luck when you can get it

Have anything to add to why hardworking people won’t always be successful? Leave a comment below.

Dan Western
Dan Westernhttps://wealthygorilla.com/
Dan Western is the founder of Wealthy Gorilla. Dan has been running Wealthy Gorilla and studying self-development, personal finance, and investment for the last 7 years. To this day, Wealthy Gorilla has become one of the fastest growing wealth infotainment sites in the world; with over 300 million views worldwide. Dan doesn't use personal social media anymore, so you won't be able to find him on Instagram, or Twitter.


  1. What up Daniel,

    Nice article here for the hustlers out there.

    Sometimes that hard working but naive person will NEVER get where they want. They’ll spend their whole life stressing and pushing.

    Ever wonder why some people can approach lackadaisically and get it all? They’re thankful for what they’ve got, they do only the important stuff that they love, and they are not stressing on “getting somewhere” all the time.

    These people work smart and do the 20% that get the 80% results.

    Keep up the great writing!

    – Evan


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