Opportunity looks a lot like hard work

Ashton Kutcher’s right.  I can’t believe I just said that.  But Ashton Kutcher’s right.  Yes, the same Ashton Kutcher from That 70s Show.  The same Ashton Kutcher who married a 43-year-old Demi Moore.  The Ashton Kutcher who takes way too much pleasure in obnoxiously punking people and has more Twitter followers than hairs on his body.  He’s right.

Ashton Kutcher gave a speech at the Teen Choice Awards that rocked the virally social nation.  As he combated incessant shrieking and screaming of “I love you” from Twitter fans 1, 2, 3 and 14 million, he said something that’s not only true or a good reminder, but something that’s a real kick in the pants.

“Opportunity looks a lot like hard work.”  He describes how growing up he took job after job – from washing dishes to sweeping a factory floor.  He got another job, then another, and another and he never thought anything was beneath him.  He just did the work – because work is better than no work, right?

Sitting with some friends over dinner in DC this weekend, we noted (again) how we – as the younger generation – were told to follow our dreams.  That’s it.  Follow your dreams and go somewhere.  We all took that to heart and believed it.  But that was the problem: We were all told that.  We all took it to heart.  And we all believed it.  And in the reality outside of our iPhones, it isn’t true.  We can’t all achieve our dreams.  It’s just not statistically sound.

One friend commented that she always wanted to be an Olympic figure skater, but she was and forever will be too tall.  It starts to sound cynical, but there are some dreams we won’t achieve.  No matter how badly we want them or how hard we try.

Another friend suggested that if he ever has kids, he wouldn’t tell them to follow their dreams, but rather to seize every opportunity, learn every skill available and see where the road leads.

Because everything worth having takes time.  We don’t learn things or achieve things over night.  We invest time to acquire a skill and we do that skill for years in order to build, accumulate or achieve anything large.


It was refreshing to witness this idea as I finished my first half marathon.  I didn’t just wake up that morning and run 13.1 miles.  I started training for the race five months beforehand and barely running three miles at a time.  Each week I went one mile further.  And each week, I went on one more run to increase my endurance so that by the end, by race time, I could run 13.1 miles with pleasure and ease.  I’d earned that ability.  I invested in that opportunity with hard work.  And I took the time needed to achieve that goal.


I don’t think it’s to say that dreams can’t come true.  I think it’s to say hard work leads to opportunity, which over time adds up to a dream.  And that dream is usually different from anything we first conceptualized in our heads.  But that’s a good thing.