Lately, I have been struck by an insurmountable love of something. It’s not money, and it’s not food. And it’s certainly not status or reputation. No, the thing I have fallen in love with is something not a lot of people do fall in love with. It involves feelings of discomfort, of frustration, and of constant toil and occasionally pain.
And it’s something a lot of people I think—especially around my age—forget is the one thing we need to relish in.
It’s the grind.
My father, a hard-working, started-from-the-bottom-now-we’re-here-literal-embodiment of a man, has always told me stories about what I call, “The Grind”. As is generational gaps, though, he would always refer to it differently than I would. “Son, someday when you’re older you’re going to realize that the work you put in to something is really the reward,” or “Give me a man that understands the practicalities of sweat and real work, and I will show you a man that has value.” He would yell at showboating players in athletics competitions, and assume they were showboating because they felt entitled. “You don’t win by showing off! You win by putting in the work, dang it!”
He was always pretty intense about it, but I never really understood why. It boggled my mind as a younger kid. Why would you put so much love into doing difficult, boring, or annoying things? It’s just better if it’s easier, if I can just relax, I would tell myself. It wasn’t that I was lazy—I knew how to do something if I absolutely needed to—it was more that I never understood what his infatuation with “sweat, tears and a little pain” was.
When I moved into the wonderful world of public high school, my father encouraged me to join the wrestling team. Already at that time I was heavy into doing martial arts and fighting; I enjoyed being cross trained in boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Kempo-jutsu and weapons training (katana, swords, etc.). What was wrestling to me? It was just another means for me to learn how to fight—to learn how to take on people who would assume I was weak—and have an excuse to get into physical altercations. So of course, when the wrestling coach, Mr. Read, asked me to join, I immediately said yes.
The Three Tenets of the Grind
What I never expected to happen however, was that throughout those four years of exactly what my dad had said he liked—sweat, tears and pain—I was learning to love The Grind. I was learning to seriously fall in love with putting in a lot of effort to get a powerful end result. And what I am unbelievably thankful to my high school wrestling coach, Mr. Read—a good Christian man of values and ethics—for is helping me understand what I call the undeniables. The tenets of The Grind.
Effort dictates outcome.
One of the first things I learned that has stuck with me ever since is the notion that you get what you put in. I personally think the end result of whatever you are doing is directly related with a simple equation: maximum effort + peak passion = optimal conclusion. If you are devoting yourself to something, and focusing your energy and talents to it, you are only halfway there. You need to commit yourself to the idea that nothing can be held back. The more you reserve your efforts and abilities for any number of reasons—timing, fear, judgment—the more you are withholding yourself a chance at what you, and God, wants of you.
Think about it this way. If Muhammad Ali didn’t train every day, and in his prime, utilize the equation—maximum effort + peak passion = optimal conclusion—he wouldn’t have been nearly as great. He wouldn’t have beaten the likes of legends like Joe Frazier or George Foreman. Even outside of the ring he committed himself to putting his efforts and passion into being a spokesman for race, and stood up for people of color around the world. The man even stood tall against the U.S. government because he believed he was putting in the work for a generational outcome; and for a multitude of people that would span far beyond his prime days as a boxer.
Everyone knows his famous, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” quote, but one that I have on my motivational quotes list is this:
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
The Grind isn’t meant to be simple.
We live in an unprecedented era where there are so many opportunities at our fingertips that it is almost dizzying. One day you can tell yourself that you want to do “A”, and the next day you feel a faint pull to another direction and decide to walk that route instead. Admittedly, it is easy for all of us to do. It’s a tantalizing, seductive proposition: walk out now before things get too crazy and look for a smoother path.
But The Grind isn’t meant to be simple. In fact, the greats who have fallen in love with The Grind all have admitted to the rough and tumble road it entails. For those who truly understand this principle, the thought process goes like this: “If it’s simple or too easy, then it isn’t worth pursuing.” And why is that? It’s because nothing fruitful comes from easy.
We never grew the wonderful, organic foods we have today—fruits, vegetables, wheat—by just putting a seed in and staring at it. We toiled in the hot sun, tilling, hoeing and fighting the soreness of our bodies to make the soil right for sowing seeds. We gathered our compost and manure and spread it along the ground to fertilize the seeds, and came out every morning to water them and foster their blooming. It was never easy, and it isn’t meant to be easy. That’s because when the process of The Grind is more difficult and less simple, we are able to harness a powerful tool—learning—and strengthen every facet of ourselves to continue forward for the reward.
If you don’t enjoy the process, you won’t enjoy the outcome.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:2-4 (NIV)
These verses pertain normally to adversity, right? But something that I truly love about these verses is that they explicitly tell us to consider the process (perseverance) and The Grind a time of pure joy. The Grind most certainly is, as these verses suggest, trials of many kinds! Things will be the most difficult when you put your all into what you do; into the work you find value in. But the high note and solace you can find in this is that at the end of the day, it is going to be complete. Whatever you are putting all of your passion into will be finished, and it won’t be for lack of effort.
When you enjoy how you get to that end, it makes the conclusion that much sweeter. How much better is it to look back in life and say, “Well when I went through that grind, this seems like nothing in comparison?” How will you feel when everything is said and done, and you look back and tell yourself, “It was all worth it, and I would do it all over again?” When you enjoy The Grind—and I mean truly learn to have fun with it and take it in for what it is worth—you will feel an insurmountable sense of satisfaction, because you know that every drop of sweat; every second of effort; every setback and obstacle overcame, led to this perfect result.
Loving The Grind isn’t about being crazy, or being an overachiever. In fact, I would say it is the exact opposite; loving The Grind is about being the most sensible achiever possible. When you appreciate and find joy in all the labor you put into something, you are guaranteeing that thing’s success. It’s because you love the process of working on it that it truly becomes a masterpiece.
So when you’re climbing that mountain, look up towards the sun. Enjoy the burn and the sweat coming from your brow and say simply,
“Man. The view is going to be amazing at the top.”
Written by: Michael “Bboy Roach1” Roach