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Hard work conquers all?
Let's stop pretending

 by Gene Lyons


With the possible exception of sex, few topics make smart people stupid like anything to do with wealth, intelligence
and social class. Question the relationship among talent, hard work and sheer good luck in any area of American life
 -- business, academia, the arts, even athletics -- and prepare yourself for a fight, likely a nasty one at that.

When the subject is "nature vs. nurture," people who understand the pointlessness of debating whether dogs, say,
are superior to cats, can’t resist taking sides. Politics aside, members of what psychologist Steven Pinker calls
"the Horatio Alger right and ... the egalitarian left" appear equally inclined to extreme positions, fiercely defending
the barricades of folly against common sense.

Thankfully, in real life, hardly anybody acts as if they believed the things they say...

In real life, moreover, most of us know that the only answer to "nature vs. nurture" or "talent vs. practice" is: both.
Some imponderable, unpredictable, often unfathomable mixture of both.

Furthermore that, as Ecclesiastes has it, "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread
to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
But it’s impossible to have a serious discussion about it if everybody’s playing let’s pretend.

Here’s the essence of it: Pick the "genius" of your choice -- Bill Gates, Eric Clapton, Carl Sagan, Luciano Pavarotti,
Ray Charles, Rafael Nadal, Meryl Streep, anybody. (I’ve listed several who leave me cold.) Did they get rich and
famous through innate ability or practice and determination?


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