What, exactly, is “the grind?”
We have to look to antiquity for the origin of the term, because we technically don’t do much in the way of literal grinding today.
Before the industrial age, the process of making flour from wheat required considerable physical labor. Kernels of wheat were ground between large stones, typically called millstones.
Similarly, refining and sharpening metal required the use of manually-driven stone wheels called grindstones.
At some point, the concept of doing hard, repetitive work was referred to as having one’s “nose to the grindstone,” or, simply, to grind.
It’s an apt etymology for a term that not only describes the act of working hard, but of refining something raw and making it useful. Whether it’s the wheat made into wholesome flour, or the metal honed into a fine blade, the notion of grinding to perfection is a fitting metaphor for mastery and self-improvement.
And yet, we seldom enjoy the grind. The very term bears a bitter connotation. Because the grind is WORK.
We don’t like to work. Just as the industrial age brought about machines to do the literal milling and grinding for us, the digital age has made physical and repetitive tasks almost entirely unnecessary. We’re spoiled by automation and convenience at nearly every point in our lives now.
You can go from cradle to grave at a level of comfort that would have seemed opulent a hundred years ago, without having to work towards mastering anything. Not your trade. Not your physique. Not your education. Nothing. There’s simply no incentive for it anymore. It’s easy enough to just get by.
There’s a lot of talk about the widening gap between the rich and the poor, between the elite and the mediocre, and an argument could be made that there are fewer that reach the ranks of the elite today because there’s no need to do anything close to the amount of work it takes to get there.
Average, in the first world, is pretty comfortable. Average will get you enough food to make you obese and enough television and internet to make sure you never have to leave your sofa.
Do you want to be average?
Then you need to master something. Preferably a few things. And that’s going to take work. Repetitive, daily, long-term work. A lifetime of work.
That notion might depress you, but it ought to invigorate you. We know that we are what we do – so if all you do is work towards mastering something, then that is what you become.
Master your physique. Master your health. Master your nutrition. Master your education. Master your profession.
Embrace the grind that mastery demands. Embrace it as if your life depends upon it; because your life DOES depend upon it. The life you want. The only life you have. This is it. It’s all you’ve got.
What are you going to do with it?
Make excuses? Great men and women have emerged from far worse circumstances than you are in right now. I can guarantee this, because you have sufficient resources at your disposal to read this article. That alone gives you more than Abraham Lincoln had for an education. Or Frederick Douglass. Or John D. Rockefeller. Or Anne Frank.
Lack of education isn’t an excuse.
And lack of money isn’t an excuse, either. Money doesn’t buy you any shortcuts to mastery. You still have to do the work. You can point your fingers at the athletes who are “obviously on steroids,” but steroids don’t build muscle if you sit on your ass. You can dismiss the Hollywood stars who can afford personal trainers and nutritionists to help get them into shape, but, guess what?
They still have to do the work.
Yes, they pay for an elevated degree of accountability, and, yes, they have a fantastic financial incentive to do the work.
But they still do the work. And you can still do the work.
Someone with less time and less money is doing the work right now. At this very moment, you are, in fact, being out-hustled by someone who has a better excuse than you do.
You make the decision. Average is fine. Average is comfortable. Average is easy.
Mastery is difficult. Mastery takes a lot of work. Mastery is painful, repetitive, monotonous, and often very lonely.
Mastery is also great.
It starts with your mindset.
You have to embrace the grind.