Grinding is a specified term to gamers. It is how gamers describe a repeated and meticulous task, that over time, provides benefits like items or quest completion.
In almost every adventure video game, there is a form of grinding in some capacity; grinding to find minerals and build weapons; grinding to kill monsters and gain experience to level up; grinding to find a singular item that seems to elude you; or the grinding that builds up your spell strength.
If you were a blacksmith, like Gendry from GOT, grinding is also the scrupulous art of slowly shredding the edges of a weapon, sharpening your chosen tool of death.
But, back to video games, many of which are now on our phones, and the term grinding still applies.
Four years ago, I started to play a game called Mini Warriors. At one time while I was playing, the game sent out an email boasting over 10 million registered players. I cannot say how many people were playing, though, I imagine quite a few.
Why tell you the number of players? It’s important for gauging the competition.
This game provided a set number of energy points which could be used daily. Once you used up all your energy points, they would slowly replenish over the course of hours, one by one. Meaning, if you completed a few missions before going to bed, by the time you woke up in the morning, there would be more energy points for you to use. As you leveled up in the game, more energy points were available.
While the game can be a passive amusement, I was actively attempting to better myself and my strategies. I was grinding. After playing for a few weeks, I joined a group of other players in what the game calls a legion. We would share information with each other to build everyone up — with stronger team members we were a stronger legion. New ‘heroes,’ or characters, would be added to the game and change the type of strategy needed to beat the other team.
Legions could also participate in a worldwide ranking system: by attacking and defeating a stronghold, the legion would be awarded points based on communal strength and speed of attack against the stronghold.
As I began to outgrow my legion in strength and noticed their lack in participation for the stronghold attacks, I left and joined a new legion. With this new group, I offered up my game strategies and know-how, and was quickly promoted to legion officer.
As the months went on, our legion began to slowly climb the ranking system. My legion communicated on the game platform, and to communicate with other sister legions, there was a mandatory chat app we were also required to download. We shared information on how new hero skills could best be used against an opponent; how to organize an attack with spells when facing a difficult opponent; what time everyone needed to attack the stronghold to increase our rank fastest across the many time zones in which we all lived; and, I even met up with one of the other legion officers for a drink (we lived in the same area).
It felt good to be a part of the community. It felt good to believe I served a purpose.
Then, finally, after over a year of discussion, organization, and countless playtime, my legion obtained the number one ranking in the world.
I was ecstatic!
I literally jumped with joy when I took that screen shot above. So much of my hard work had finally come to fruition. There was a small celebration in the conjoined chat, and appreciation was handed out to the consistent players.
Then began a new mission: to keep the spot, we need to grind every day to destroy the stronghold first. Do you know what happened after a few days of holding the number one spot? Having destroyed the stronghold a little slower that day, four other legions beat us.
It was a bit of a shock when I looked at the ranking. While I felt sad, I began to quantify how long it would take us to retake the number one spot — maybe a few weeks of grinding could do the trick.
I got home that night and planned a course of action with some of the other officers and having scheduled the next days’ attack, I turned off my phone and looked around my room.
That’s when it hit me: success in the game did not correspond to success in real life. Being ranked in first with my legion made me feel good and gave me bragging rights in the game, but outside the game, I had nothing to show for my hard work.
No employer was going to see how my strategy had helped build a better and successful team.
No peer was going to appreciate my leadership and view me as someone they could trust.
No manager was going to see the progression I made through patient work and diligent research.
No significant other was going to view my victories as strength and perceive me as a suitable mate.
No one outside the game could fully understand the pride I felt for our team.
It was like running into a brick wall. What was I spending so much of my time on this game for?
I looked around my room and noticed books I had purchased and had yet to open. I remembered I wanted to publish a podcast and write a book. I felt so thoughtless for having wasted precious time when I could have easily accomplished things in real life with the same effort.
I mean, with the same effort, I could’ve been making more money; spent time building a relationship; learned a new skill or started a new language; and maybe, just maybe, I could’ve used that time and energy to further my development in real life.
I made a promise to myself that night before I went to sleep, to apply the same patience in the game to the reality that truly mattered. And when I awoke, that’s exactly what I did.
Since then, I designed and produced that podcast. I wrote and published that self-help and motivational memoir. I’ve consulted a wellness app, a media start-up, and a commerce start-up on their broadcast and communication strategy. And, I’m in the middle of developing an audio research venture which spans across multiple states.
See, playing video games isn’t a bad thing. I cultivated more in that game than patience — I also refined my strategy and leadership. I recognized an uncompromising drive to succeed and nurture my goals until they materialized. My epiphany occurred because I was spending too much time in the game, and because of what fulfilled me in the game, I realized I could translate that fulfillment into real life.
I play with the perspective I have on life now, and it’s more fun.
The heroes in the game are the new connections I make with people. Sometimes they play an important role and influence my future, sometimes they’re simply cool heroes.
My grind has changed from leveling up to honing my skills and acquiring new knowledge.
The legion is my think tank, a group of trusted friends who push each other to build innovative solutions for our professional lives.
The energy points I was allotted to complete missions are the same as building up strength and willpower. The issues I had as a kid are not the same issues I have as an adult. I don’t cry when my toys are taken away or when someone doesn’t want to share. I can handle insults and move past rejection without pause. In a sense, I have been leveling up and gaining energy points since I was a baby, better equipped to resolve the struggles life presents to me.
And my goals for being ranked number one with the team? They apply in a more pragmatic way, and I’ll get there one step at a time.
I’m not mad or upset with myself for having that epiphany because now I’m more enthusiastic about life.
I wake up invigorated and am appreciative that I have another day to work hard on who I am, slowly turning myself into the person I dream I can be. There is an enchantment to life I now notice.
This epiphany set me free from a bondage to a technological land. It grounded me and gave me purpose. While I don’t play video games anymore, I apply the same patience I had in the game to each part of my life, and it’s slowly paying off.
It wasn’t the last epiphany I had, but it was the most important one for putting me back on the field in the game called life.