Created By: KingZeal on October 3, 2011 Last Edited By: KingZeal on July 23, 2012
Nuked

Task Grinder

A person with a training disadvantage gets better at a task because of time they put into it.

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Trope

Alt. Title: Session Grinder

This is a trope that covers a character who doesn't become more powerful, more knowledgeable or more skillful by raw talent, ageless wisdom, or tutelage under an experienced master. Rather, they accumulate the bulk of their abilities slowly, by performing some lame, mundane, or unremarkable task over and over again.

For example: let's take a character who's never taken a music lesson in their life, but can compose an award-winning ballad just because they've listened to countless songs and have an innate understanding of music.

His/her "training" is their regular chores, hobbies or occupation, and their "dojo" is simply surviving or making a living in a World of Badass.

A Task Grinder may even fail constantly, but each experience improves them bit by bit, win or lose. But they still learn things that can be applied to wider pools than the others and that's the deciding factor.

This is common in older, wiser characters, as they might be an Old Master, Badass Grandpa or Retired Badass, or a creature that got Stronger with Age.

This sort of character can be either Weak, but Skilled (in which case they picked up their skills through Task Grinding) or Unskilled, but Strong (in which case Session Grinding slowly built up their physical strength).

Compare Training from Hell. Contrast Hard Work Hardly Works.
Anime & Manga
  • Earthlings in Dragon Ball. By the time the space men and the androids and evil magicians show up, the sheer amount of abilities, assets and resources the heroes have at their disposal is what saves the day. For example, the ability to sense ki, knowledge of how the Dragon Balls work, the ability to hide their power levels, the possession of a Dragon Radar, telepathic communication, and exotic techniques such as the Solar Flare, Destructo Disk, Kaio-ken and Spirit Bomb are what give them all a fighting chance against Frieza and his flunkies. The Z-Fighters were completely outmatched through most of the entire saga, but just having acquired these assets through years of adventuring is what eventually wins the day.
    • The Saiyan race in general in Dragon Ball. The Saiyans are a Proud Warrior Race that are some of the toughest beings in the entire galaxy, with the ability to transform into multiple Super Modes that can even the odds against any opponent. However, that's not even the scariest ability they possess, as other races (namely Frieza's species and the Majin) are just as tough and possess transformations of their own. What really puts the Saiyans over the top is "Zenkai", which is the ability for a Saiyan to vastly grow in power after recovering from near death. That means a Saiyan can literally just Task Grind their way to obscene amounts of power if they possess the time and the means. Vegeta himself abused this on Planet Namek, and it enabled him to eventually kill every single one of Frieza's henchmen. Also, Cell (an Artificial Human created partially with Saiyan genes) combined this with a natural healing factor to become one of the toughest foes the Z-Warriors ever faced.
  • According to several characters in Hajime no Ippo, the title character eventually fits this trope. By the time he's defended his title for the fourth time, Ippo has been acknowledged as a very formidable champion despite only having a limited repertoire. In a story where almost all of his contemporaries are innate "geniuses", this is Ippo's greatest advantage. Anyone who fights Ippo knows exactly what he's going to do: Attack! Attack! Attack!. But, due to the sheer gauntlet of skilled and varied opponents he's faced and trained to overcome, Ippo has the physical skill and ability to deal with just anything that's thrown at him. Ippo tends to get his ass kicked quite frequently in sparring matches or friendly exhibitions, but he always takes away some sort of experience from it that helps him win his actual bouts. This trope, in fact, is invoked when Coach Kamogawa is deciding how they will eventually face the World Featherweight Champ, Ricardo Martinez. While they could definitely challenge Martinez directly, the coach feels that Ippo currently wouldn't stand a chance and the best course would be to Session Grind against other Pacific region champions until he's built up the skill to face him.
  • Black Star from Soul Eater. Eventually he has to go through a period of Time to Unlock More True Potential to avoid him turning evil by way of Loners Are Freaks.

Comics
  • Let's just say that any western comic book character that is a Long Runner will unerringly fit this trope. Any superhero who has been around for at least two Ages (since the The Bronze Age of Comic Books or older) should qualify. Other examples in this medium should be limited to characters whose publications were shorter or are significantly newer.
  • Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. He received no training on how to use his Green Lantern Ring, and just happened to wander into the Call Reception Area where he lucked up on the job. After years of adventuring in The DC Universe, Kyle eventually became one of the most exceptional Lanterns in the history of the Corps despite having never received any formal Lantern training.

Film

Literature
  • Keladry of Mindelin: As a girl, everyone assumes she will be weaker than her male peers, so she does her work with lead-filled practice weapons, and trains from before dawn till breakfast every morning. By the end of the books, it's clear that she is the strongest in fighting and command work.

Videogames
  • Lili from Tekken. Her official story is that she is a Rich Bitch that got kidnapped once and fought her way out. That's it. From that experience, she learned that she had repressed Blood Knight tendencies and she sought out more and more battles without her father's approval or knowledge. From then on, she simply Session Grinded her way into being good enough to compete in the King of the Iron Fist Tournament. She has no formal training, no martial arts background, and isn't described as a "natural" at much except dancing and ballet. However, the sheer volume of opponents she's faced has slowly helped her improve.
  • This is how you improve skills in The Elder Scrolls: You keep using a skill until it levels up. Even skills that start at a measly level five can go all the way up to level 100 with enough practice. Even if a character does nothing but walk the entire story without touching a spell or weapon, they'll eventually be a superhumanly fast freak of nature.
  • According to Word of God, Chris Redfield, circa Resident Evil 5. While yeah, Chris has always been a Badass Normal and Made of Iron in general, Chris's Rated M for Manly redesign in the fifth game was to demonstrate what a man who battled Body Horrors and a Transhuman psychopath for a living would look like after years on the job.
  • The ''Street Fighter/Final Fight universe has:
    • Blanka, a mutant who grew up in the jungles of Brazil. Apparently, living in the jungle teaches you how to produce electricity like eels. (His profile in Street Fighter II explicitly says that watching eels was how he learned to do this.)
    • Cody, one of the protagonists of Final Fight, who gained most of his fighting skills from battling street gangs and surviving in prison.
  • Marisa Kirisame of Touhou has no extraordinary magical talent, but is very strong in magic due to sheer practice. This makes her a foil to Reimu, who is Brilliant, but Lazy, getting by on the innate power of the Hakurei bloodline.

Western Animation
  • In one episode of South Park, the boys played an MMO and spent months doing nothing but killing wild hogs to gain one point at a time until they were finally (almost!) strong enough to take on the Big Bad.
  • In Ben10, Dr. Paradox accidentally gets sent back to early Earth but finds himself immortal and doesn't need food, water, or sleep. He takes The Slow Path and, simply by having studied time before being flung back and then living billions of years, he came to understand the fabric of spacetime inside and out. This allows him to warp wherever he wants and travel back and forth through time at will. This was knowledge he developed out of necessity to keep from going insane for being the only human in a dangerous world for so long.

Real Life
  • Professional Street Fighter player Wolfkrone. Unlike most pros, Wolfkrone didn't train with top competitors, learn trade secrets to give him a competitive edge, or have godlike execution skills from the beginning. He merely sat down, logged on to Xbox Live, and played match after match after match until he was good enough to win most American tournaments.
  • Len Wickwar. A boxer with a record of 338 Wins, 85 Losses and 42 Draws, for a total of 465 professional bouts.
  • Miles Davis was said not to have natural talent on the trumpet; he practiced a LOT, making him an excellent playe
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • October 4, 2011
    deuxhero
    Marisa Kirisame of Touhou has no extraordinary magical talent, but is very strong in magic due to sheer practice. This makes her a foil to Reimu, who is Brilliant But Lazy, getting by on the innate power of the Hakurei bloodline.
  • October 4, 2011
    Acebrock
    This is how you improve skills in The Elder Scrolls: You keep using a skill until it levels up. Even skills that start at a measly level five can go all the way up to level 100 with enough practice.
  • October 4, 2011
    Acebrock
    Edit: wrong Ykttw
  • October 4, 2011
    Koveras
    Not to be confused with Stronger With Age.
  • October 4, 2011
    Bisected8
  • October 4, 2011
    deuxhero
    Touhou is a video game series.
  • October 4, 2011
    Damr1990
    • On Secret Of Mana each spirit gives your character their magic spells, and they must be grinded separately, the level is not determined by your character's level, but by the amount of Orbs you have and by the amount of times you've used a spell, also due the game limitations (just 3 enemies per screen and a relatively low mp avaiable for your characters), you'll probably level grind your deffenive/Status Buff spells near an inn for the girl or chain blasting offensive spells at theMetal Slimes for the sprite
  • October 7, 2011
    Arendos
    Hell, this is pretty much how being good at anything works in real life. There are no secret magical techniques or almanacs of forbidden knowledge. You want to be good at violin? Start working now, and you might be in ten years. Want to be a writer? Write a lot. Unsurprisingly, it's a lot less fun than fictional methods of learning.
  • October 7, 2011
    Lumpenprole
    Would the South Park World of Warcraft episode count? The one where the boys spent months doing nothing but killing wild hogs to gain one point at a time until they were finally (almost!) strong enough to take on the Big Bad.

  • October 7, 2011
    KingZeal
    Yep. Added.
  • October 7, 2011
    nman
    The laconic one needs to be a bit clearer. It says "A person who grows in power, talent or ability simply because of time they put into it." while the description states "Their "training" is simple everyday life. Their "routine" is their regular chores, hobbies or occupation."

    Now, the laconic makes me think of someone who trains "for" what they are good at, like spending 20 years learning karate. The description you have, though, makes me think of "wax on, wax off", or that Tony Danza movie where he kicks his garbage truck a lot so he is good at kicking a football.
  • October 7, 2011
    KingZeal
    Neither of those examples actually fit.

    It's really hard to describe this trope accurately. I've written the description several times over in order to better explain, but I'm still not satisfied with it.

    The basic premise is that you have someone whose defining factor is the amount of "sessions" or "tasks" they've completed to get where they are. Like, let's take this scenario:

    Person A is a heavyweight champ. They train 10 hours a day, seven days a week by hitting the gym and sparring with elite training partners. Despite being undefeated, the champ has only been in 12 professional bouts and sparred roughly 72 times.

    Person B is an average joe. He doesn't train, he doesn't spar, but he works a very rough job in lumber mill by day and just about every day since he was 20, he's had to fight off gangs and other punks trying to make a name fo themselves. To this, he has fought roughly 450 times and gotten his ass kicked roughly 420 of those times. He's mostly learned how to absorb punishment and survive.

    Yet, for some reason, when the two wind up fighting (for one reason or another), the scrapper is roughly equal to the champ. The skills he's acquired simply from doing the same thing over and over again has offset the champ's professional training.
  • October 7, 2011
    ClockStopping
    See also Einstein Sue, where a character with no professional training whatsoever is able to outsmart a bunch of experts due simply to their common sense or life experience.
  • October 7, 2011
    nman
    So, I guess while "wax on, wax off" wouldn't fit, that Tony Danza movie would apply, then. They guy is a garbageman, and spends his days kicking cans and trucks, yet he can play/kick well enough to go to the big leagues.
  • October 8, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    Basically, it's someone who becomes good at some certain thing because their lives are rough, right?
  • October 8, 2011
    KingZeal
    ^^ Okay, that might work, then.

    ^ No. It's someone who becomes good at something because their life or career is an extreme repetition of a specific task. Said task need not be difficult.
  • October 8, 2011
    nman
    So I guess the laconic version, then, is basically Wax On Wax Off, but without some master who purposely makes them do it because they know they're getting good. It's just accidental.
  • October 8, 2011
    KingZeal
    Well, the problem is that it overlaps with a lot of different training and gaming tropes, but isn't exactly the same as any of them. Your point of Wax On Wax Off is spot on, but it need not be fighting-related. As I mentioned in the description, this could be a musician who was never taught and never learned how to even read sheet music. He learned to be a composer simply by obsessively listening until he gained a "sense" of about music.
  • October 9, 2011
    Chabal2
    Batman. In one crossover with Planetary (in which Frost is evil and behind the deaths of Batman's parents), the showdown has Batman telling Frost he's been training for twenty years for this moment, from inside a thermically-isolated Batsuit. Frost then tries to shoot him, Batman easily blocks the bullets with his batarangs.
    Batman: "Twenty. Years. Training."

  • October 9, 2011
    ChimbleySweep
    Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, full stop.
  • October 9, 2011
    dalek955
  • October 9, 2011
    CharacterInWhite
    Truth In Television ? How does anyone acquire skills if not by doing something related to it, constantly? Young geniuses are usually only considered so because of the immense amount of time they've put in compared to others of their age. The only special part about them is that ability to commit to the task - the skill they acquire simply comes with the time they put in.
  • October 9, 2011
    KingZeal
    New title. Redone description.

    I think this finally gets to the bulk of what I'm trying to say.
  • October 9, 2011
    nman
    I really like this trope, but hot damn is the title and laconic killing the mojo. Right now, they're pretty general and not good indicators of the trope. I think a laconic description that mentions something along the lines of "A character's lifestyle acts as an accidental training program and causes them to excel at a completely different task". Also, "Imperfect Practice Makes Perfect Skill" doesn't really show what this trope is about. I'm bad at naming stuff, so I can't think of anything good, but maybe something like "Periphery Badass", "Hard Work Has Perks" or "Lumberjack Batter"(because a lumberjack would be good at baseball, right?).

    In addition, I found that movie I mentioned on The Other Wiki and bothered to write an example:
  • October 9, 2011
    KingZeal
    ^ I'm trying the best I can. This trope is really hard to pin down without being a repeat of Wax On Wax Off or Taught By Experience.
  • October 9, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Conan The Barbarian the 1982 film. Somehow pushing a wheel around for years turns young Conan into a Badass killing machine.
  • October 24, 2011
    Lumpenprole
    The Sherpas are reknowned mountain climbers, but all they did to get that way was live their whole lives in a high-altitude mountainous region doing physically demanding work such as herding goats.
  • October 26, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    All right, I think I understand what this means now, and I think I can provide an example.

    Western Animation: In Ben 10, Dr. Paradox accidentally gets sent back to early Earth but finds himself immortal and doesn't need food, water, or sleep. He takes The Slow Path and, simply by having studied time before being flung back and then living billions of years, he came to understand the fabric of spacetime inside and out. This allows him to warp wherever he wants and travel back and forth through time at will. This was knowledge he developed out of necessity to keep from going insane for being the only human in a dangerous world for so long.
  • October 26, 2011
    nman
    You didn't add my example yet, bro. I don't like tampering with other people's YKTTW's, so I'll give ya a hat once you do.
  • October 27, 2011
    dotchan
    Would the opposite of this trope be Hard Work Hardly Works?
  • October 27, 2011
    MrInitialMan
    In real life, Miles Davis was said not to have natural talent on the trumpet; he practiced a LOT, making him an excellent player.
  • October 28, 2011
    KingZeal
    ^^ As noted in the description? Yes.
  • October 28, 2011
    Hedgi
    in literature: Keladry of Mindelin IS this trope. as a girl, everyone assumes she will be weaker- in her arms and legs, and in her grip- than the boy pages that are her year mates, so she does her work with Lead filled practice weapons, and trains from before dawn till breakfast every morning, on top of her regular work- and by the end of the books, it;'s clear that of her year mates, she the strongest in fighting, and in command work as well.
  • March 1, 2012
    nman
    Here's a bump.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=bu7jg84z00tl0pklmsqtdzxx