How to Embrace the Grind

Jan 18, 2023

I really do love what I do! Teaching and helping grow future leaders is something that I’m deeply passionate about, but sometimes, it isn’t easy.

Last week, I taught our 5-day signature course, Master Leader. On Monday, I flew out from Charlotte (NC) to Phoenix (AZ) for a 2.5 day Intentional Leader class. And next week, I will go to Massachusetts for another 5-day Master Leader class in Southbridge. Yes, the travel can be a grind. Flight delays, tight connections, stress, getting rental cars, returning rental cars, hotels, etc. and most of all, weeks away from home. Yes, it can be a grind all around, but it is so worth it to see the positive impact our classes make in the professional and personal lives of others. Trust me, there are travel days when the last thing I want to do is go to another airport, but then I remember who is waiting for me and why it is so important to me personally to grind through the travel experience.

While anything we do can become a grind (defined as something that you do, but tend to dread due to its monotonous nature), it doesn’t have to be. The last thing I want for any aspiring leader is to feel that their day to day duty has become a grind.

My mother once told me, “Son, find a profession you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, she was right. I loved being a cop and loved my time as a chief. I truly enjoy my weekly opportunities to instruct others and help them become the best version of themselves – it’s why I founded Leaders Helping Leaders Network. I will confess, however, that there were days, weeks, and even longer periods of time when any one of the jobs I loved became a grind. I’m guessing many of you have and/or still experience this, as well. Even if you are “all-in” and absolutely passionate about what you do, there will be times that you feel you are stuck in the daily grind. Monotony can set in and make you feel that what you love to do has become a grind.

However, I want you to know that you are not alone and I want to share some specific things you can do to break free of the grind that I have found helpful through the years:

  • Find the passion in what you do. I often say to students and mentees that you have to “want to” be a leader. At its foundation, you must be passionate about what you do as a leader. It means being obsessed at some level with excellence in the activities you head up. If you are a school resource officer, you better “want to” work with kids every day. You as the leader, need to be passionate about relating to and protecting the kids you serve. When you are passionate about what you do, you will go above and beyond what is expected and not fall prey to the “grind.”
  • Get ahead of your day. When you do not control your daily actions and schedule, it is likely that others will. Unplanned meetings or even someone else’s schedule and daily to-dos will intrude on yours. One of the most important aspects of getting ahead of your day is that by controlling when you do certain types of activities, you will feel more passion about your work because you have scheduled the best time of day for you to work on those projects that require your focus and concentration. Time blocking, making manageable to-do lists, and eliminating distractions and interruptions are the key to truly getting ahead of your day – everyday.
  • Know when you need a break… and take it! Yes, you can take a vacation as a leader and still lead the organization. Often, the best thing you can do for yourself is to take some time off. Getting away from the day-to-day will allow your mind to gain better perspective on what you truly want to accomplish as a leader. Those who do take vacations report feeling more refreshed and creative. So when you start to feel that the daily routine is becoming a grind, maybe take some time off. Trust me, the work and challenges will be waiting for you when you return, but you’ll have a better perspective on how to address them.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist. While quality work is always important, perfectionism doesn’t create healthy workers or workplaces. Sometimes, it’s better to get the process, idea, or product out there rather than hold it until it is perfect. Here’s a little secret, it will never be perfect. Commit to learning from your mistakes, making the necessary adjustments, and then moving forward. The key is to focus on doing your absolute best rather than worrying if the outcome is perfect.
  • Take time to celebrate your wins! This is one I admit that I will forget to do at times. When you and your team have been working really hard on a project and you see it to a successful conclusion, take the time to celebrate. Personally record your successes in your leadership journal. Take your team to lunch or treat them to a fun outing – the goal is to celebrate success. It will starve off the "grindfor you and your team and reinvigorate each of you to push on to the next goal!

In closing, know that being a leader is fun and exciting as well as challenge and rewarding. Accept that no matter how passionate, excited, and/or enthused you are about becoming a leader, there will be times when the day-to-day activities become a grind – and that’s normal! By focusing on finding ways to incorporate these 5 tips into your daily routine, it will help you reduce the number of times in your career when the job you love feels like a "grind". I hope they help you beat the "grind" - I know they have helped me!

- Dean

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