This week begins my fourth week as head of school at Lighthouse Christian Academy—a K-12 school in Bloomington, Indiana. There are lots of wonderful, dedicated people there whom I’ve enjoyed getting to know. I’m excited to see what the coming school year will bring. Although none of us know the future, we can absolutely count on two things: 1) God will be faithful to us along the way and 2) the work will be a grind, and by that I mean consistently hard and often tedious work. But that’s okay, because all jobs are, in one way or another, a grind. At least if one is going to do them well.
Before this job, I worked as a college professor for 28 years, and that was certainly a grind. Preparing lectures, giving lectures, advising students, serving on committees, attending faculty meetings, filling out forms, and endless grading. And the research and publishing part was just as difficult and tedious, if not more so. But that’s what it takes for success as a college professor—a willingness to push through, day after day, semester after semester with the tedium.
This is no less true in those fields that are typically considered glamorous or prestigious. Professional athletes are exalted in our culture, envied by many. Yet their work involves enormous amounts of repetition with training drills, weight-lifting, dietary regimens, constant travel, and media interviews. It’s an exhausting lifestyle, to be sure. Of course, we rarely pity them, because—at least in the case of major sport male athletes—they make a lot of money. But that doesn’t keep their work from being a grind.
The same is true in the entertainment world. A successful Hollywood actor must work through countless scripts, repeatedly rehearse lines and prep for their roles, work through conflicts with directors and fellow actors, and do tons of photo shoots and interviews, all the while working with their agents to establish their next acting gig. And the more successful they are, the greater the demands on their time. Likewise for rock stars; whether working in the studio or going on exhausting tours, their work is a tedium of repetition, and success (and sometimes even survival) hinges on how well they can keep the grind from crushing their souls or tempting them to abuse drugs or alcohol—a common problem in the entertainment world for just this reason.
Or consider a successful CEO of a company. Even the multi-millionaire mogul must endure daily briefs about the business, constant number crunching, and all that goes into monitoring product development, marketing, financials, and personnel issues, and pressures often created by rumors of scandal, social media issues, and one’s competitors, not to mention backbiters within one’s own fold. A truly stressful tedium indeed. Again, we never pity the Jeff Bezoses, Bill Gateses, or Jack Dorseys of the world because they are so wealthy. But their professional lives are every bit the grind of any other successful worker.
And then there are the other fields of work that are more obviously grinds—those who work in auto factories, retail management, manufacturing, accounting, mail delivery, truck driving, medical research, communications, informational technology, counseling, landscaping, dentistry, and law. Each of these industries, whatever one’s role, is in one way another a serious grind—again, assuming one is doing reasonably good work. One can avoid the grind by slacking off, of course. But that is simply to choose failure.
Bottom line: to be successful in this world you must resign to the grind. Real achievement necessarily requires a dedication to doing dull, monotonous, repetitive tasks and doing them well. (My latest YouTube video fastens on this point.) This is a fact about the human condition that the writer of Ecclesiastes sums up well when he asserts, “All things are wearisome, more than one can say” (Eccl.1:8). Amen to that.