The Case for Giving up the Grind
By Rodney Long Jr, LSW, MSSA
Keep grinding. Keep hustling. Sleep when you’re dead. We’ve all heard these trite pithy life mantras about working harder than others. The dream being sold is that if you work hard enough, harder than others, that you too can have it all. There’s an idea I’ve never really understood. Time is a zero-sum game. Every hour spent at work is an hour not spent with your family and vice versa; so, in fact, you literally cannot have it all.
If you choose to make work your priority, that time will not be spent with your family. If you choose to grind for 16 hours a day in hopes that one day it pays off, you might get there. Maybe. But it’s much more likely you will not. It’s much more likely you will be an average Joe strutting along at his 9-5 and I think accepting that goes a long way.
It’s not your fault. We’re all being sold a dream. A dream that says it’s up to you. Just work hard enough and all your dreams will come true. It doesn’t usually work that way and I’ll share why.
Reason #1 for giving up the grind: You can never really have it all. Life/time is a zero-sum game. Whatever you give in one area of your life, you lose that time in another area of life. I get it. We all want more, want better. Want better houses, better cars, better bodies. Think about that.
We’re told that if we work hard enough, we can have all that and more. What if it’s not true and we’re all chasing something we may never get. But let’s assume you do get there. That you’ve hustled for years and it’s finally paying off. You have the house and the cars and the perfect body. What now?
What I find is that there are two types of people who want to have it all. People who say they want those things but don’t actually have the risk tolerance, patience, or skillset to get there and try anyway. Best case scenario, you place work above everything else for years to chase the dream and it never happens. Worst case scenario, you lose love, friends, and time on your way there.
Here’s where all the guys selling you on the dream will tell you that’s what it takes to get there. They’ll tell you not to worry about what you lose, because if your goal is to be rich, then do what it takes to get there. My point is, the one-percent is the one-percent for a reason. You’re probably never going to be in that club.
Reason #2 for giving up the grind: The system isn’t designed to let you join that club. Here’s where all the rich people come out and say “No, the world is yours for the taking.” Just work hard enough and you’ll get there. Here’s why that’s a bunch of crap. Socioeconomic mobility is super difficult. If you’re born poor, chances are, you’ll remain poor. If you’re born rich, there’s a good chance you’ll remain rich.
It’s nearly impossible to go from lower-class socioeconomic status to lower-middle-class socioeconomic status, and even more difficult to go from lower-middle-class socioeconomic status to upper-middle-class socioeconomic status, and extremely difficult to move into the upper-class socioeconomic club.
Here’s why. Most people are late to the party anyway. If you didn’t start saving, investing, and building a crazy work ethic as a teen, chances are that you’re not just going to be able to flip on the hustler switch somehow at 35. Now that’s not to say it can’t happen. Anecdotally, everyone knows someone who has struck it rich later in life because sometimes it works out. And that’s the dream. That it will work out. But the system isn’t meant to work out in your favor.
Car dealerships make more money on financing deals than they do from actual car loans. If you have poor credit for some reason, no one will loan you $2,000 for a car, but you’ll certainly find lenders out there willing to loan you $20,000 with a $400 per month car payment. Why don’t rent payments count in your credit score?
Why aren’t student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy? If you’re broke, you’ll likely remain in that spot instead of ever moving into the one-percent because you’re playing a game that’s rigged for you to lose. Again, that’s not to say it can’t happen, but do you want to spend your life chasing something you may never get.
Reason #3 to give up the grind: Acceptance goes a long way. We’re always on. Always hustling. Always grinding. And for what. The hope that we can have it all. The hope that we move up the ladder. I’m wondering when it’s time to stop grinding. Stop chasing. Because what if we did?
What if we accepted that the life we have in front of us is the best life we’ll ever have? I’m not saying don’t try to be better. I think that’s something we should all strive for. I certainly hope that I make more money, lose some weight, and have nicer things. But there’s a difference between wanting to be better, lose weight, make more money, and have nicer things and obsessing over it.
All I’m saying is, what does life look like if you learn to accept the life you have as the best version as opposed to chasing one you may never get.
I don’t want anyone to read this and think that I’m saying they shouldn’t get better. Be better if you want to be better but no one should feel bad about being happy with what they’ve got if it works for them. What if the life you have right now is the best version of your life and all that needs to change is your outlook on it? When we stop grinding, we can learn to focus on what we have instead of what we don’t.
I think life looks a lot different when we focus on the positives in our life instead of the negatives. The life you have is very likely to be the life you have in the future. There’s nothing wrong with accepting who you are and what you have. You don’t have to feel bad about the fact that you’ll probably never be a one-percenter no matter how hard you work. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get to living the life you are meant to have instead of the one you’re busy chasing.
Giving up the Grind