(Photo above by Leonardo Yip / Unsplash)
Want to break through? Embrace the grind.
We find some music software or pick up a camera. Try our hand at a song or two. Make a short film. Play it for a friend only to endure three minutes of humiliation and shame, waiting an eternity as they squirm to come up with a response that won’t crush our already broken sense of self. We decide, “I guess I wasn’t meant to do this.”
But aren’t we too quick to judge ourselves? As Malcolm Gladwell famously observes, it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Though Gladwell also explains it may or may not take exactly 10,000 hours, the concept is: It takes much more time and hard work than we think to achieve a worthwhile goal.
In other words, to make a breakthrough, we need to embrace the grind.
To make a breakthrough, we need to embrace the grind.
Here are some useful perspectives from Buddhists on how to keep grinding until we achieve something incredible.
- Take on what’s in front of us
We hit the same wall again and again, feeling we are getting nowhere. However, by leaning into repetition—challenging the same thing over and over again—we can unlock the key to making the greater breakthrough we want to see.
Andrei Borisov, beloved Russian theatre director, once made an observation while working as gardener in his youth. Ice covered his garden. He noticed if he struck it in several places it only made a few cracks. However if he struck it again and again in one spot, the entire ice broke.
The 13th-century Buddhist teacher Nichiren Daishonin once encouraged someone by saying, “The situation is like the joints in a piece of bamboo: if one joint is ruptured, then all the joints will split” (“Letter to Horen,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 512).
Challenging what’s in front of us will open the path to our dreams.
- Tenacity = Success
Someone once shared with the Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda their dream of becoming a world-renowned dancer. Ikeda responded:
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming to be the best. But you need to clarify your goals each step of the way and challenge yourself each day, sparing no pain or effort to achieve them. Dreams and determinations are two different things. If you simply long for what you’d like to be but fail to work at it with persistence and painstaking diligence, then you’re pursuing an empty dream. ... Success is another name for repeated, unflagging effort.
The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, pp. 27–28
It’s not magic. Working really hard is the only way to get to where we want to go.
- Make Up Your Mind
Picking yourself up after a rejection and believing in yourself against all odds are hard. How do we do this day in and day out? As Nichiren teaches, we “must simply make up our minds.”
Practicing Buddhism and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo allow us to make up our mind that we will succeed. It inspires us win over ourselves each day. In fact, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has long been described as a tool specifically for making up our minds.
Taking on the challenge in front of us, keep grinding no matter what and making up our minds each day—this is the Buddhist recipe to achieve anything. Happy hustling.