The term "Embrace the Grind" was coined and trademarked in 2007 by my friend and fellow OSU wrestling alum Mike DiSabato. It should come as no surprise that Mike was able to put into words the raw emotional pathos of the sport. He won the Big Ten’s Medal of Honor, an award given each year to a graduating athlete who demonstrates academic and athletic excellence. He had the ability to translate raw emotion into words. This is very difficult to do. No doubt, that growing up, DiSabato was a grind. With the families success in the sport, they understood and embraced the grind.
I see this word used by coaches and trainers, and typically what I see is the manifestation of the physical nature of the grind. This concerns me and until now I've struggled to accurately define what the grind is at its core. For Fathers Day this year, my wife and daughter bought me a copy of "Above the Line" by Urban Meyer. In chapter 4, "Relentless Effort," Coach Meyer provided me with valuable insight.
The last lines on page 90 read, "The key is that his training strategy must be applied consistently and with conviction. Conviction is the depth of belief, consistency is the duration of it." Coach Meyer is speaking of the impact his indispensable protege, Mickey Marotti, has on the program, and this is one of his directives. Farther on page 91, Coach Meyers goes on to state,
"Success is cumulative and progressive. It is the result of what you do every day." Here is a key point! "Both successful and unsuccessful people take daily action. The difference is that successful people take action Above the Line. They step up and act with intention, purpose, and skill." For Every goal you are pursuing a process is involved. There is a pathway you must follow. To achieve your goals you must commit to the process with daily Above the Line behavior. Not just once or twice, but repeatedly over time. Success is achieved by focused and sustained action." "Goal clarity is essential, but so is process clarity. For every goal you set, be exceptionally clear about the process necessary to achieve the desired outcome. By acting Above the Line consistently over time you can accomplish the almost anything."
"When things aren't going right, the most important thing you can do is slow down, go deep, and figure out why. It is very easy in the world we live in to get so caught up in the tyranny of urgent that we don't make time to think." This is what I see in many coaches. When I was teaching, I would ask my class, "If you were hired today to be a head coach in your sport, what would your first practice look like?" After some consideration and thought, the unanimous response was "It would look a lot like your first practice the last season you competed." That's human nature, we do what we know and we know what we've done. My next question to the student was "didn't you tell me sometime last week that you thought your coach was an idiot?" Why would you choose to duplicate that experience?
On page 191 Urban talks about a what he learned from Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. "Thinking about problems, challenges, new ways of doing things and creativity is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It also brings you the finest results."
Grinding for grinding's sake, doing so without a goal, something that can be measured, may actually be driving you from your objective, not closer to it. Grinding, without goals and process is an extension of "Both successful and unsuccessful people taking daily action." Being able to draw a line, to establish an expectation, to be able to measure the change, being able to tune your process is where you find success. Work without goals and process is just taking action, Are you grinding, or being ground?
As I said earlier, grinding is both physical and mental. As a coach and a leader we have to be willing to grind ourselves. Ask questions, does everything we ask of our athletes have a purpose, process, a measure? Are we measuring and are we getting the desired effect? If you can document the effect, great, march on! But if you're not measuring, or if there is no evidence of change, then stop and be willing to grind yourself. Grind in your thinking. Go deep, do the same things mentally that you ask of your athletes physically. Go into places you're not comfortable, be willing to put yourself in a place where the only tool you have that brings you back is the trust you have in yourself, no one else, yourself.
Embrace the Grind, but do so with intention, process and goals!