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The Grind Can Be Good!

By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus


We’ve all heard of “The Grind.” In fact, most of us have probably gotten lost in it – whether it be the grind of to-do lists, a long day of meetings, or the grind of daily life in general. Whatever your situation “the grind” is slang for, it typically contains a negative connotation; a “grind” is something to be avoided.

Instead, it is often recommended to “work smarter, not harder.” Why grind when you can find a shorter way up the ladder, start your own gig, retire early, and/or play more? Ask almost anyone, and a life of leisure would be more highly sought after than a life dedicated to the grind.

However, I would contend that the “easy” way – the shortcut to success or the “get rich quick” program – is not the way to joy, happiness, or growth. When something comes easy, we often ended up taking it for granted. Take lottery winners, for example: as reported by US News and World report, studies found that instead of getting people out of financial trouble, winning the lottery actually got people into more trouble, with bankruptcy rates soaring for lottery winners three to five years after winning. Lottery winners aren’t alone; the percentages for professional athletes who lose everything and end up broke is nearly as staggering: CNBC reports that 67% of NBA players go broke within five years of retiring. And 78% of NFL players experience financial distress within two years after retirement.

With time, the Puritan/Protestant work ethic emphasizing diligence and hard work has fallen out of favor in our current social and business cultures. Grinding is not celebrated; finding the shortcut that requires the least amount of effort or work is what is celebrated. As a culture, we have become so focused on the Lagging Indicator that we overlook the Leading Indicators. It then becomes more about ‘Where’ someone is (in terms of fame, wealth, or power) than ‘How’ someone got there. However, great leaders and successful people know that the ‘How’ is more important than the ‘Where.’ Or, in other words, it is about the journey, not the ultimate destination.

Take the example of a butterfly. While it is still in the chrysalis, a small opening emerges to reveal the outside world. The struggle – the grind, if you will – is for the emerging butterfly to fight and strain its way to freedom. The process ensures the butterfly will strengthen its wings by forcing blood into them. The process is hard. It is a grind for the butterfly. But if not for this process, then the butterfly would not be able to fly. Its wings will be shriveled up and too weak to fulfill its ultimate design.

Nature, business, and society have many more examples, as well. Gaining too much success too quickly usually ends poorly. Avoiding the hard (and, frankly, sometimes boring) work that must be accomplished to get where we are going is the real danger to true ‘success’. Think about Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, or Jose Canseco, in sports, or Bernie Madoff, Kenneth Lay of Enron, Lehman Brothers, WorldCom… the list could go on and on of people and organizations trying to avoid the hard work to success.

If you want true success, then embrace ‘the grind’. Be willing to put in the hard work to accomplish your goals. Know that when you are willing to work hard at something, it produces many benefits, including:

  • Confidence: As Individuals, it gives us confidence, because we survey our abilities and we know what we are capable of.

  • Relatability: As leaders, it reminds us of what we may be asking others to do and shows them that we are not above doing what we are asking them to do.

  • Strength: As people, it pushes us to develop muscles that will serve us later on our journey.

  • Gratitude: And as citizens and humans in this society, it allows us to be thankful for what we have and have accomplished, as well as the ability to put our heads down, work hard, and by doing so, we can all get past this current crisis. Why? Because we have done it before, and we will do it again!

Don’t be afraid of the GRIND. Embrace it!

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