Turning Old Clichs into New Maxims:
Keep Your Nose to the Grindstone
By Richard Eyre

Note: This column appears every two weeks . with an old clich replaced by a new maxim each time.  Click here to read the full introductory column.

Get it done! Don’t stop! Get it over with! No interruptions! Get on to the next thing. Don’t be distracted! Keep your eye on the ball! Keep your nose to the grindstone!

Ugh! What are you ever going to experience with your nose pressed us against that old stone? We drive ourselves to work hard, and in the process we drive ourselves crazy and we drive past the joys and beauties too fast to really see them.

If we keep grinding away, where will it get us? Will we “get there”? To some mythical destination? To someplace that is better than where we are now? To the other side of the fence where the grass is greener?

To those who believe in a hereafter ? in an eternity (and surveys show that 95 percent of us do) ? where is there? Surely there is not some terminal, final destination, someplace where progress stops, where we stagnate and cannot ever go beyond.

If there is no full stop, no final end, if there’s no quitting point or ultimate destination, then perhaps all of life (this one and beyond) should be thought of not as a preface to something else, not as just the means to some other end, but as a long, even, unending journey where the point is not to finish or to arrive but to keep growing and progressing and the goal is not to finally get there but to find joy all along the way.


I couldn’t help noticing how opposite the two weekends were and how opposite their effects were on me. One weekend, keeping my nose to the grindstone, I went to a distant city, got some business done, and came home. The first weekend I rode on jets because that was the fastest, most direct way to get exactly where I wanted to go. The second weekend we had no idea where we were going, because the wind and the air currents didn’t tell us in advance.

The first weekend what I noticed was that the plane was late, my luggage was slow, and the meetings took longer than they should have. The second weekend I noticed the infinite loveliness of moving clouds, the patchwork quilt of the earth’s fields and forests; the joy and company of my two fellow travelers, and a thousand other things.

The overriding purpose of the first weekend trip was to get somewhere and get the job done. The reason for the second weekend’s trip was to enjoy the journey.


Jets versus hot-air balloons; fast noisy snowmobiles versus slow, quiet cross-country skis; motorboats versus sailboats; Zig Zigler versus Thoreau.

Travel metaphors abound: the time snow closed the airport and we had to take the train over the Rockies from Salt Lake City to Denver ? thirteen hours of exquisite, slow beauty instead of sixty-five minutes of fast boredom.

But real experience tells it better: Taking time to make a friend, taking time to notice, to enjoy, to smell roses and watch sunsets, taking time instead of using time to get there.

The new maxim for this column is completely obvious and not very new, but it’s worth repeating:


There is a phenomenon that’s hard to explain through logic or by cause-and-effect. When we think more about the joy of the journey and less about the pressure of the destination, we get pretty much where we wanted to go anyway, and we arrive rested and relaxed.

Join us in two weeks, when the next column will go head to head with the traditional wisdom that says there’s a time and a place for everything.

2005 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.