The Value of Intensity
There's an old saying in boxing:
"A round is not a round, and not all miles are created equal."
There's a huge difference between merely going through the motions of your workout, versus attacking your workout as if you're life depended on it. Two people can do the exact same workout, but the amount of blood, sweat, and tears they put into it can be entirely different. It's simply a matter of intensity. A mile is as hard as you make it.
The same is true of your day-to-day work. The amount of effort you put into it is directly proportional to the end result. You can't expect to become an exceptional designer/writer/programmer without exerting exceptional effort. Sadly, there are no shortcuts. The road to success is paved with intense, focused, hard work over an extended period of time.
Exceptional people make exceptional effort. It's rarely about talent; it's almost always about intensity.