This series has finally come to an end. As you will see, it isn't a coincidence that we ended the series with hard work. Most of us have felt at least at some point in life the joy of hard work. It's the happiness that comes along with a job well done. The extra planning, thinking, and effort taken into consideration are what elevates someone from good to great. That is the way it must be. If great performance were easy, it wouldn’t be rare. The reality behind it all is that we aren't held to some naturally granted level of talent. We can shape ourselves. Greatness isn't handed out. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication.

“Nothing worth gaining is ever gained without effort.”

Take a close look at some examples. Athletes such as Michael Jordan, Candace Parker, Michael Phelps, Lorena Ochoa, Tiger Woods, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Wayne Gretzky, Lance Armstrong, and Muhammad Ali all worked hard and defied adversity to achieve their greatness. Now examine even the most extreme examples including Mozart, Edison, Newton, and Einstein and you will find more hard won mastery than gift.

If you take a look at any field, the top performers are rarely more gifted than the average person. What sets them apart is that they outwork the average person. This doesn't mean that some people aren't more athletic or smarter than others. Yes, the elite are partly at the top because of some genetic gifts for learning, physical size, and hand-eye coordination (though even those can be adjusted nowadays). But the very best rise because they have taken great pains and sacrifices to maximize that gift.

It occurred to me that from the outside looking in, the top performers “make it look easy” to the common folk. This is because their preparation is so focused, rigorous, and thorough that they don't strive for anything less than giving it their all, day in and day out. Obviously, they won't win every game, match, or tournament, but they make it look so easy because of their commitment to hard work.

Most researchers have dug for the secret on explaining how greatness is created or achieved and why it is so rare. Top performers and elite athletes have shown us this for years through hard work. It isn't magic or innate for that matter. It happens because a person of good intelligence can put in the sustained and focused effort it takes to achieve this greatness. Great athletes and performers are legendary for their brutal discipline. World class musician Vladimir Horowitz said it best, “If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it.”

This type of hard work and dedication isn't something that everyone is up for. The elite generally invest about ten times as much time and effort as the average person would ever dream of putting in. The facts can seem overwhelming, but our idols have proven again and again that most people can do something extraordinary if they're willing to put in the work. Never fall to the notion that you aren't gifted enough and simply give up. Everyone begins somewhere. It is up to you and you alone to unleash that potential.


  • Colvin Geoff (2008) Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. 1st ed. New York: Penguin Group.
  • Dobbs David (2006) “How to be a Genius.” New Scientist Magazine 15.

Muhammad Ali image courtesy of

Determination image courtesy of