Friday, March 27, 2009


In 1532, English writer/martyr John Frith first cited the phrase “keep your nose to the grindstone”. This idiom came from the act of knife grinders placing their faces precariously close to the grindstone as they sharpened their blades. Commonly known with a positive connotation; applying yourself conscientiously to your work, “keeping your nose to the grindstone” actually can be quite dangerous.

In “keeping our nose to the grindstone” we actually focus so hard that we lose focus of our surroundings. This distorted view of space and time actually allows us to let more pass us by then it allow us to get things done. Vary rarely does opportunity come in the form of one singular task right in front of our faces, rather it is multidimensional and can come to us from many angles. When our focus is too narrow, we miss out on many of the gifts that surround us simply because we were oblivious to anything other than what is right in front of us.

The zone of optimal functioning or “The Zone” is achieved through a narrow/external vision, meaning that the width of our focus must be small and its direction must be outside of ourselves. While at first glance, this supports the notion of “keeping your nose to the grindstone” entering the zone means that we must focus on more than one external object. In focusing on one singular external point we become a one dimensional person in a three dimensional world, missing out on two dimensions of opportunity.

Frustration in action comes in the form of external objects interfering with the work we are trying to perform. This frustration is rooted in our inability to see anything other than the point where the blade meets the grindstone, so anything outside of that becomes distracting. Many times what we first see as distractions are actually opportunities to see something a new way, yet when we instantly label them as a distraction we throw away the chance of possibly learning something new. If we just pull our noses back from the grindstone just a bit we open ourselves to a whole new world that we have been too busy to see before. Within that new world is our chance to transform into something better or more productive.

It is important to remember that what we think is relevant is only relevant because we have not allowed other options to enter our consciousness. In “keeping our nose to the grindstone” minute by minute our relevance is only allowed to be as wide as our too narrow focus. John Frith summed it up best by saying "This Text holdeth their noses so hard to the grindstone, that it clean disfigureth their faces."

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