The entertainment news is filled with stories of the troubled lives of young people who have coasted on natural talent, and whose careers are just a flash in the pan. And business news is filled with stories of recently disgraced tycoons who thought they could make it to the top by cutting ethical or legal corners on their way up.

Where do we go wrong?

We enjoy seeing our names up in lights, but don’tNear enough becomes good enough appreciate the effort it takes to get there and stay there. The thought of basking in the adulation of an adoring crowd is exciting, but are we willing to put in the hard work that is required for genuine and lasting success?

The difference between a great writer and an adequate wordsmith is the dedication one devotes to the craft, and the hours spent editing and revising before submitting the final draft.

But it’s easier and more comfortable to just skate by on natural talent and future promise. Near enough becomes good enough. We might know what we need to do to succeed, but we’re not willing to make the sacrifices to do it properly. It’s even somewhat comforting to admit that we didn’t really try our absolute best, because then we tell ourselves that we can’t be blamed if we don’t achieve perfection.

Why we sabotage our chances of long-term success by not working hard enough is a question for a psychologist or life-coach, but the necessity for hard work and preparation is evident from this week’s Torah portion.

The Torah describes the various roles and responsibilities that the three families of Levites were assigned. There is a subtle but telling difference between the way the Torah describes the family of Merari and the families of Gershon and Kehat.

Gershon and Kehat were tasked with carrying the holy vessels and the beautiful wall-hangings of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The instruction to count the members of these families reads, “Single out and elevate the sons of Kehat and Gershon.”1 Merari, who carried the walls and supports through the desert, is introduced with far less elevated language: “You should count the tribe of Merari.”2

On the face of it, the contrast of these verses reads like an unfair value judgment: the A-List families with the fancy task of transporting holiness, gold vessels and brocaded wall hangings, were “singled out, elevated” and gifted with all the honour and glory, while poor old Merari, schlepping the heavy wooden beams and metal sockets, was almost ignored.

However, in a 1988 speech, the Rebbe pointed out that this kind of relative anonymity can actually be the true path to success. There is place for the pomp and ceremony of Gershon and Kehat, while at other times we should model ourselves on Merari.

On occasion we do need to reveal ourNo one ever achieved greatness in public accomplishments. There is a time for public achievement, a time to demonstrate our natural gifts and our accomplishments. However it is just as important to forego the gaud and glitter, to toil away in the background, and settle down to hard work and humble obscurity.

Of all the tribes, it was Merari who was transporting the real backbone of G‑d’s Temple: the foundation and walls that supported the Mishkan and assembled the structure that allowed holiness, glory and G‑dliness to flourish in our midst.

No one ever achieved greatness in public. It is impossible to achieve permanent success without adequate effort and appropriate preparation. We truly thrive in the long term only when we’ve put in the hard work in advance, growing and developing our ideas and skills before opening ourselves to the judgment of an audience.

The true challenge of life is not performing when the crowd is in place and the lights are on, but working with dedication and purpose in the leadup, so that when showtime comes, you finally deserve your chance to shine.