The Grind is a Bloodthirsty God
Is the increasing personal emphasis on success a type of self-abuse?
“The grind sharpens the axe, and the toil makes the man.” — A Proverb, Unknown.
Grind time. Beast mode. On the grind. Time to get this work. Don’t talk about it, be about it.
We all understand the sentiment. Set a schedule. Stick to it. Be disciplined. Accomplish tasks. Be productive. These are all good things.
Yet when it comes down to it, all this accomplishment, all this glorification of “the grind” is another form of distraction. It can become an idol. What if we are keeping ourselves so eternally busy because we are afraid to get to know ourselves?
What are we afraid of?
If we grind on the axe for too long, pretty soon all we’ll have left is a wooden handle. If the grind becomes our god, the tool itself soon will be no more.
So here it was. My grind. The grind that grinded me down into the ground. Maybe I became the salt of the earth. I was chasing success. I was demanding the most of myself. In the midst, I did not cut myself any slack. No balance. No mercy for me with myself. The result? — I offered no mercy, nor understanding, nor empathy to anyone else, particularly those closest to me.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. — Matthew 5:13
I did it for years. I had a full time job, a couple of part-time jobs, and aspirations of building another career, while climbing the ladder in my current career, while being a husband and a father with a medically fragile child.
I said “yes” to every opportunity and extra duty at my day job. I needed to gain the valuable experience and get ahead. I said “yes” to everything relating to my side hustles, even if the risk-to-reward ratio was severely off kilter. The experience would be worth it, right?
I had to progress, right? My family was counting on me. We needed more money to pay the bills and move into the next era of this Western progression we’d named success.
4:15A.M. wake up. 4:30 workout and train hard. 6:00 begin the commute. 7-Whenever the job is done — work. Eat dinner, put kids to bed, try to spend some time with my wife. I’d even broken it down to where my times for reflection, my periods of “free time” were scheduled into tight quarter-hour increments.
Do it all over again. For years.
I was the supreme zealot of grind. I grinded so hard that I didn’t recognize myself anymore. The problem was that no else recognized me either, and not in a good way. I had become so infatuated with grinding for the sake of grinding, that the grind itself took precedence over everything else in my life. I was completely unreachable.
But two years ago, I started getting sick. I’m talking like, everything. Strep throat twice, the flu twice, constant colds, stomach viruses. I got it all. What gives? I kept my diet in check. I exercised six times a week. I shouldn’t be getting sick. Getting sick slowed down my progress. I didn’t have time for it.
The message? — Life was telling me to slow the f$%k down.
The grind is a god that eventually requires a blood sacrifice if we don’t put it in it’s place.
The “Season” in Seasoning
Rest is essential. There’s no way around it.
Work, or periods of intense activity are essential. There’s no way around it.
We can argue the point, but avoidance of either has all types of negative ramifications.
Rest too much and we atrophy. We get sluggish. We become an object laden with inertia. Getting started again and the thought of it becomes harder than the action itself.
Work too much and we bite the dust. We burn out. We become a candle with no wick left to shine. We become the block of salt, pounded into crystals, but with nowhere to be used as seasoning.
I understand the sentiment of the grind. And I’ll admit, personally I was really REALLY productive. I accomplished in 6 years in my career and my side hustles what takes most people on the same trajectory 10–15 years. There were benefits to this, of course.
But one day when I got sick, I was forced to stay in bed, wrestle with the silence. I noticed there was smoldering anxiety lurking in my bones. I had tricked myself into thinking that constant activity meant I was being productive. Being productive meant I was successful.
Yet I couldn’t sit in my room for a day with nothing to do and not feel like I was going to have a panic attack because I wasn’t being productive. It was during one of these days stuck in bed that the realization came to me. I don’t actually HAVE to be productive. I can chill and not feel guilty.
So I worked on it. I allowed myself to have some downtime, as hard as it was. I began to become as consistent with my downtime as I was with my periods of activity.
I started telling people at work “no” to opportunities I didn’t feel suited me. I started saying “no” to opportunities presented in my freelance career. Then the strangest thing happened…
I had a creative explosion — at my day job, in my writing, in my freelance career. The world opened up to me in a completely new way.
Why? Simple. If we compare our own lives to the life cycle of a plant, we have to be prescient to the season. Spend too much time tilling the soil, and we miss the time to plant. Plant too much, and nothing grows. Water too much, everything dies. Water too little everything dies.
We need to reconfigure this notion of the grind. Let’s Take the essential elements of into the grind. Let our souls breath and diffuse according to the season. Then we can allow parts of our creation to be sprinkled across the fabric of our lives. It’s great to be productive. But we also must enjoy the fruits of our labor.
In essence, all this time on the grind produces great seasoning. So now let’s put the seasoning on our lives and see how much better it is. We are the salt of the earth. But if we don’t use the salt, we lose our flavor.
Yes, let’s grind. Let’s grind away. But let’s stope abusing ourselves and using the holy name of progress as justification.
Let’s make sure we work in periods of recovery, enjoyment and rest into our grind. If we don’t, we will turn into people ourselves and our loved ones will scarcely recognize.