Charlie's Blog: Embrace the Grind


Embrace the Grind

Oh blessed perseverance of the donkey that turns the waterwheel! Always the same pace. Always around the same circle. One day after another, every day the same. Without that, there would be no ripeness in the fruit, nor blossom in the orchard, nor scent of flowers in the garden.

The most glamorous and fun job that I can imagine is being a rock star. The rock star gets to make music and perform before thousands and sometimes millions thanks to television. They are rich and adored by many. Yet, we do not see the many hours that rock star spent alone in a room tuning his guitar, playing his scales, and learning his instrument. We do not see the hours in a recording studio laboring to create an album. We do not see the many hours spent on the road traveling from one venue to the next. That life of glamour comes with a great deal of grind. The reality is that virtually everything comes down to grinding it out. The secret to it all is to somehow learn to embrace that grind.

The grind is the name I give to all of the unglamorous tasks of life. It is usually your job but also the commute to that job. It is showering and shaving to be ready for that job. It is the making of breakfast and lunch to fuel that job. It is the laundering of clothes and uniforms for the sake of that job. The grind goes on and on. There is no end to the grind.

The opposite of grinding is daydreaming. This is when you allow your mind to wander and contemplate the glamour of the rock star. You think to yourself how great that would be except the daydream subtracts the hours of grind that is reality. There is only the cheering crowd, and your air guitar to enthrall them. There is none of the mess and the drudgery.

I despise daydreams. Dreaming is easy. Working is hard. So often, people have dreams, but they depend upon others to grind to make those dreams reality. The architect springs readily to mind. It is comparatively easier to design a building than it is to lay the bricks for that building. The same can be said for the music composer or the screenplay writer. Their professions are not quite the same as that of Michelangelo chiseling the stone bringing forth beauty with each hammer strike.

You have dreamers, and you have workers. Sometimes, the dreamer and the worker is the same guy. Other times, you have dreamers who do nothing, and you have workers with no dreams except a paycheck and a cold beer at the end of the week. Then, there are the failures who grind in monotony for no purpose at all. Their minds slip into madness as the absurdity grinds them instead.

There are essentially two types of people in the world. You have those who wish to escape the grind, and you have those who embrace the grind. This is an important distinction because it is the only one that really matters. Escaping the grind is the prerogative of the lazy and the dreamers. They want the fruits but not the labor. The only hard work they do is finding ways to not work hard. They scheme and connive and trick others into doing the work. This is because work is for suckers. These are the parasites.

Those who embrace the grind are the producers. Nothing good in this world would exist except for these producers. Look at any structure or product and contemplate the labor that went into it. Even a ditch required labor and machinery to make. Others had to make the tools and machinery which required even more digging.

The real dream of the producers is to be able to direct their labor towards their own ends instead of someone else's ends. Even the businessman must direct his ends towards the satisfaction of customer demands. But producers take more joy in plowing their own fields instead of someone else's field. It is a small dream to be able to plow your own field, but this is the dream parasites deprive from producers.

Culture is one of the few things that parasites are unable to filch from the producers. This is why so much rich culture comes from so much poverty. The working man may not own a field or even his own home. But he owns his talents, his creativity, and his work ethic. This may not seem like much, but this is the stuff that makes cathedrals.

Producers will work harder and take greater satisfaction if it is in service to something greater than themselves. The first is their family. The second is their country. The third is their faith. These three things animate the drive, work ethic, and creativity of working people like nothing else. They make the grind worth enduring.

On the personal level, people experience frustrations in life. These frustrations come when they desire things they are unable to attain. They can take the Zen Buddhist way and extinguish those desires. Or, they can try to overcome the obstacles to those desires. The biggest obstacles are themselves.

People find it easier to work for others than to work for themselves. That is a puzzling irony. It explains our reluctance to get off of the couch and go to the gym or hit the books or learn new skills or overcome bad habits. Leisure is the time we have to grind for ourselves, but we find it easier to escape the grind by doing nothing instead. This would be fine except we still retain our dreams and desires. We dream, but we do not grind.

The motivational snake oil salesmen tell us that our failures are in our lack of dreams. If we just dream harder, they will materialize. Those dreams and $19.95 for the home study course will bring you prosperity and happiness. The reality is that it will bring someone else prosperity and happiness.

The key to it all comes back to the grind. You need to dream less and grind more. Satisfaction never comes from the dream either in its creation or its fulfillment. Satisfaction comes from the grind. And that, Gentle Reader, is the mindblower. Jimi Hendrix was a rock star because he fundamentally loved playing guitar. He played the instrument compulsively and was rarely without a guitar in his hands.

People who are good at grinding find their pleasures and satisfactions in the grinding itself. This is easier in creative endeavors like playing an instrument or inventing the light bulb. It is a little less easier in digging ditches or riding a stationary bike at the gym like a hamster on a wheel. But I can attest that Leonardo took no more satisfaction in painting the Mona Lisa than I take in cleaning out my dirty vehicle. In the process and the end, beauty emerges.

Aesthetics can be a powerful motivator, but nothing is as powerful as the spiritual. The greatest monuments in human history have been erected for spiritual purposes. We find our greatest pleasures in the grind when they are turned to spiritual ends. In short, we should grind for God. In doing this, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

The rock star seeks his own glory and pleasures. The saint seeks the glory of God and finds higher and more satisfying pleasures in that pursuit. We should embrace our crosses. For most of us, this cross will be the grind. We should lose ourselves in the grind as we lay one stone upon another. We let God be the architect of our lives. We trust that His direction is better than our own. We do not see what God sees. We just see the stone that we are moving. All of these stones add up. And sometimes, you get a glimpse of what the grind is producing. It is a fleeting glimpse lest it be a distraction. But that glimpse is enough to let us know that we do not labor in vain. We can embrace the grind.