“I think he finally got the message that he’s got a lot of talent and he has a lot of ability but without the work, it is not going to happen.” — John McEnroe, speaking about Donald Young, a tennis prodigy who turned pro at age 15 then “spent the next seven years as a frustrating example of unrealized potential,” attempting to skate by on talent alone. (The New York Times, September 5, 2011, “Once Rising Star”)

The value of hard work is undervalued, particularly persistent effort that is repeated over and over and over, every day. Raw talent and native ability often are overvalued. Sure, talent is nice, a great start, but hard work coupled with good ability will generally triumph over great ability that is not honed, that has not trained, practiced, and fully prepared.

McEnroe (three-time Wimbledon winner, four-time U.S. Open winner, ranked #1 1981-1984) said Young was more physically fit than ever: “If you’re not fit, no matter how much talent and ability you have, you’re not going to get it done at the highest level.”

Young credited his new physical fitness to a new longer, much more intensive training regime: “You can’t get different results from doing the same old thing… Some can listen and do it, some people have to learn from experience… I was definitely one… Better late than never.”

The “entitlement” message is prevalent in our society, the lottery ticket “wealth without work” mentality is pervasive. It is a lie. There is no free lunch. Yes, lightning can strike and everyone talks about it when it does, but luck is not a business plan. Most overnight successes were decades in the making. The professionals make it look easy but it’s not. The media focuses on the highlight moments but they rarely show the long, dull, boring hours, days, and years of training, study, and preparation. That is reality.

If you want to live smart, learn from the experience and mistakes of others. Be one of those people who can “listen and do it,” NOT one of those who has to learn by making all the mistakes personally. Yes, better late than never, but best of all listen and learn.