My priorities have been ordered this way at school: learning was easy as was getting good marks. School never seemed like hard work. It was only at university that I truly had to make an effort. I found my course pretty demanding, perhaps with an added layer of difficulty of studying in English, given that it wasn't my native language. And so I had to put in the hours to do well (and feed my competitive spirit).
Not everyone would admit to hard work. The cool kids in College often boast of how little time they spend in the library and try very hard to appear nonchalant about getting high marks for their papers. I hear this has been coined as a "duck syndrome": think effortless gliding with furious paddling underneath.
Hard work is just not cool, but is this fair? I think it was Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford, who once mentioned a study of successful athletes, which revealed that most of them weren't 'natural' as juniors and had to work relentlessly hard to get to the top. Similarly, when I interviewed English National Opera's violinist Nicole Wilson, she confessed that she had not been a child prodigy and had to earn her way to become a sought after musician through consistent practice.
Last Friday I went to a talk at the National Theatre where Rory Kinnear told the audience that his favourite place at the National is Rehearsal Room 2, where he spent many hours and days before going on stage as Othello, his latest role at the theatre. What's more, he also referred to Othello as his favourite role at the National, not because the play was so successful at the box office, but because it reflects all the years of hard work he'd put into developing himself as an actor. For him, the latest role will always be his best.
This makes me think whether I've got my pecking order right. You can't win on talent alone, and success does require hard work, whether you are an artist, an athlete, a writer or an entrepreneur. In fact, it's pretty much irrelevant whether you are naturally talented or not, as long as you have the right mindset, says Carol Dweck in her article The Mindset of a Champion. And the right mindset is when you believe that you can cultivate your abilities and develop talents through practice.
So let's give some praise to good old hard work and perhaps start give it credit more often. Next time you read a truly engaging novel, don't just think of its author as talented but recognise the hours he or she had put into it.