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Joe Eames for Thinkster

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You Can't Cheat the Grind

In your life you have a calling, a mission. Possibly more than one, and certainly over the course you will have many. But right now, you may have one primary goal. Something you need to learn, master, or endure.

It may be becoming a better programmer. It may be getting your first coding job, or getting through school. It may be starting a side business, or launching a startup. It may be something more personal, like caretaking for a loved one, or being a parent or a committed partner. It may be something internal, like enduring through a serious health problem, or recovering from an addiction.

No matter what it is, there is a grind that must be performed. That grind will take many forms. It may be improving in something. It may be getting more consistent with something. It may be enduring something challenging. It may be mastering your mind and your attitude. It's likely a combination of all of the above.

Whatever it is, it's natural to look at this "grind" and want a way to shortcut it. You can't cram for a diet. You can't learn to be empathetic without a long time spent fighting your gut impulse to be judgemental and defensive. You can't just step into a Sr technical role and perform without putting in the time to gain experience. You can't be a good part of a long term relationship without making consistent day after day effort to do all the things that entails.

It can be tempting to see this grind as simply a hoop to jump through. "I just need to pass my classes to get my degree.", or "I just need to put in three years to get that senior developer title" or "I just have to deal with my kid until they get out of this phase" but these attitudes rob us of seeing, and appreciating, and often gaining the value that the grind actually gives us.


Photos by Derek Howard

A weightlifter has a much easier time seeing that each kilo of weight they move is a necessary and valuable step down the path they're trying to go. They can see the direct correlation between each rep, and their goal. For a bodybuilder, they know that getting the recognition COMES from doing the grind. It's not the win that makes them a great bodybuilder. It's the work they did.

A mountain climber knows the same thing about each step they take up the mountain. Each one has value. They don't hate each step, because each foot placed is meaningful movement in the right direction. A helicopter that simply took them to the top of the mountain wouldn't give them what they truly want.

Arnold Schwarzenegger summed this up very well. "Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength".

If your goal is to get promoted to architect, then if your boss came to you tomorrow and promoted you to architect, that act doesn't truly make you an architect. If you aren't performing at that level, then you'll always know that you aren't what you are pretending to be. But if you work, study, learn, and struggle, then the promotion to architect - that "win" - will simply be a recognition of what you've already achieved.

So don't hate the grind. Don't try to find ways to cheat it. See it for what it is….a fire that forges you into what you want to be.

What grind are you doing that you hate? What daily efforts are you ignoring the value of?

Happy Coding!

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