Staff Opinion: Hard work doesn't always pay off

By Madison Pfeifer | February 24, 2019 2:51pm

Reporter Maddie Pfeifer shares why hard work is not always the key to success.
by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

Hard work doesn’t always pay off. I know, it’s hard to believe. It’s also something that I have found hard to accept.

I’ve heard it since I was a child: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” or “Practice makes perfect” or even, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Well, unfortunately, these adages are not necessarily true. 

The ideals of hard work and dedication have been ingrained in me since youth. I always believed them, too. Now, as a college student, I have learned that sometimes I can put in an immense amount of work and still not get results. But I am here to assure you that this is okay.

As college students, I think we all know a little bit about working hard. We know about staying up past midnight to go through the study guide just one more time because we know that the professor is going to ask the one question that we feel unsure about. We know about spending hours in the library, sacrificing meals, sleep and social time to finish an assignment. We know about anxiously and awkwardly going into office hours to ask our professor for help.

What I have learned through my almost two years in college is that I am not going to succeed in everything. I am not going to get an A on every test. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to be imperfect. 

In high school, everything came relatively easy. In college, that has not been the case. I have had multiple times where I took good notes, studied extremely hard and went into office hours, only to get a grade that I was not pleased with on the exam. The idea that I could put in so much work and not get an A was shocking to me. A part of my identity was so closely tied to this idea of working hard and getting rewarded. Needless to say, my experience at UP has taught me a lot about myself and life.

This idea of putting in work and still missing the mark extends past schoolwork too. I have found that when dealing with stress, anxiety and personal problems, working hard to confront these issues does not make them go away. Meditating, exercising and committing myself to a healthier lifestyle has not given me immediate results which I have found extremely frustrating. 

But through my experiences in college, I have at least begun to learn and accept that I will not win all of my battles. I am not going to get perfect grades or live a stress-free life. But that is okay.

I have learned that sometimes we just need to acknowledge that we are doing the best we can, we are doing everything we can and, unfortunately, that will not always result in the outcomes we want. 

But there is something liberating about striving to be the best that I can be and knowing that if I am trying my best, I am still succeeding in a way. I am learning and growing and sometimes that is more valuable than getting an A. College is a time to find out more about yourself, and I think I am doing just that through my shortcomings. 

I am grateful that the idea of hard work was instilled in me because it leads me to always try my best. However, I think it is important that we all remember that hard work does not always get us the victory, but that is completely and totally okay. 

Maddie Pfeifer is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at