Devotion to the Daily Grind

Sep 9, 2014 | Professionalism

Mortar and pestle for grinding

Are you living a life of quiet desperation? Perhaps you spend every day doing what everyone else does: work, eat, sleep, repeat. Yet you sense a deep restlessness that you choose to ignore, if only to keep your job and paycheck. Few take time to analyze the inner struggle that accompanies monotony. At some point, everyone dreams of being great. But when expectations are unmet and the daily grind becomes a chore, life loses some of its fullness.

The Real Daily Grind

The phrase “the daily grind” came from a period before the fall of the Roman Empire when the Anglo-Saxons would daily grind wheat and corn kernels to make flour for bread to avoid starving.

Today the daily grind continues in the form of a predictable and monotonous work day. Sometimes routine tasks become so boring that motivation is difficult. You wonder if your life is missing something that could catapult you into greatness, into a more exciting lifestyle. But you continue through the motions of responsibility.

The Reality of Greatness

Greatness may not always yield excitement. Maybe it isn’t a promotion, a better job, more money, fame, or popularity. What if greatness could be found in even the boring routines? Maybe the greatest, most fulfilled lives belong to those who find joy in the little things.

Some of the greatest people have been the most loyal to the grind of daily life. Though they may never have their names in lights or receive a crowd’s applause, they are the foundation for others. Without people who commit to the daily grind, the world would cease to produce essentials like plumbing, electricity, food, clothing, and education. Dedicated people provide the necessities for excellence.

As Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Giants are not always people who live exhilarating or famous lives—they are faithful people who create foundations for success.

What Does Real Greatness Look Like?

For instance, consider the elementary basketball coach, committed to teaching the rules of the game, day after day—never dreaming that one of his players would grow up to be in the NBA. Or consider the grocery shelf stocker who never realized the products he handles keep people from starving. People like these, who are committed to the responsibility of everyday tasks, are greater than they know.

While no one dreams of being a stepping stool for others, there is something to be said of he who makes little of himself to benefit others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A great man is always willing to be little.” Anyone can put himself first, but it takes true strength to hold someone else up. You may not think your daily grind is benefitting anyone, but it is.

Imagine how each task you complete will satisfy your next customer. Envision the overarching purpose of your product or service and its impact on the world. Consider how dedication will propel you further in your career. Remember that runners get to the finish line by putting one foot in front of the other, over and over.

What’s the Takeaway?

Next time you want to give up on the daily grind, remember why you do what you do. Your work matters. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be paid. Don’t give up just because you lack fame or excitement. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.” You may never know how your dedication impacts another person’s life. Meanwhile, look for the little gifts you can be grateful for—thankfulness sees greatness in even the trivial.

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