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October 23rd, 2019
‘The daily grind’ in some sense seems to communicate something that is counter to human nature. A child certainly doesn’t think of playtime as a grind.
For most, the daily grind seems to be this unpleasant but necessary ordeal that we must put ourselves through in order to keep moving forward.
Though, if we examine the real verb here, grind, what happens in the literal sense? You sharpen a blade by grinding a dull edge down to a point, and then you continue the process of honing it down to a fine sharp edge with a finer form of grinding, with a smooth stone or a leather strap.
Similarly in the older gasoline cars, it’s possible to ‘grind gears’ by shifting the transmission improperly. The gears begin to loose their teeth and therefore their effectiveness and soon enough they are too smooth to work.
We must ask, in the daily grind, what is being ground down? The work? or the person?
If the daily grind is just grinding the person down, then we might think of that person loosing their bite, the same way a gear looses it’s teeth when it’s ground in a transmission.
It’s no surprise that so many view retirement as some kind of heaven, like a respite from the daily grind and unpleasantness.
And this is perhaps the fitting interpretation for most people in the machine. They are gears, and cogs that are slowly being used up, worn down and worn out until simply useless by exhaustion.
But there is another interpretation, and it might lend a hint of directional change for those who feel like a cog that’s being used up.
What does the daily grind mean if it’s the work that is being ground down?
Like a fine blade, the more we grind an edge, the smoother it becomes.
If you just keep grinding, then whatever it is you’re grinding will get smooth.
And then you’ll be gliding.
While the barrier to entry for much of the best work we can do is a grind in many ways: a grind against social pressures to be a cog, a grind against the loneliness that no one is noticing, a grind against the sense that such work is useless because it’s not bringing in much money, the farther we go, the smoother the path gets. Efforts compound and soon enough the work isn’t so much work as it is play.
And what is the difference really between work and play aside from the perspective we have for the given task?
The juxtaposition of the two different interpretations of the daily grind calls to mind an important question about the work you are doing:
Is it possible that the work you do will one day feel easy and fun and rewarding once you’ve grinded it down enough?
Or is it just grinding you down?