There I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw it: an advertisement for a piece of jewelry that was clearly being targeted to female entrepreneurs like me. The letters “Hu” were printed on its charm, as if it were part of the Periodic Table of Elements. “Get your hustle bracelet now,” read the caption below the photo. “It’s the entrepreneur’s badge of honor.”
To that I had to say: Is it really, though? And since when did hustling become such a thing?
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The “hustle” is seemingly the surest sign of success these days. And the think pieces and advice blogs are a dime a dozen: “Want to Reach Your Goals? Adopt and Embrace the Hustle Mentality,” “What Is Hustle, and Why Successful Entrepreneurs Have It Mastered,” “How to Hustle Your Way to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur.” If you’re not “hustling”—you know, working late every night, rushing from meeting to meeting, barely having time to fit in a handful of almonds much less a full meal, but somehow always finding time in the day to talk about how busy you are—you almost have to ask yourself: Am I doing this wrong? And yet, when I see my fellow entrepreneurs burning the candle at both ends, racing from one speaking engagement to the next board meeting, all in the name of “the hustle,” the only question that comes to mind is:
Why are you hustling? Is it because you want to make more money? Is it because you want to achieve fame? And whatever your answer may be, I encourage you to ask yourself again:
Why do you want to make more money? Why do you want to achieve fame?
Maybe you want more money so that you can travel the world. Maybe it’s so that you can retire early and spend more time with your family. Maybe it’s so that you can provide the best possible education for your children or so that you don’t have to make sacrifices. Almost always, the hustling can be traced back to one simple underlying reason: “I want more time and freedom.”
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But here’s the problem. That’s exactly what hustling takes away from life: time and freedom.
It’s the entrepreneur’s Catch-22. We’re constantly hustling to keep our businesses—and our bank accounts—growing, all in the name of time and freedom, and yet we’re so busy hustling that we don’t end up truly having any time or freedom. So what are we supposed to do? The way I see it, when it comes to the hustle, there are essentially three different options:
1. Hustle with a deadline. If you're going to devote your every waking hour to "hustling", make sure that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Are you hustling so that you can retire early? Go for it! Just make sure to enjoy the end game.
2. Figure out your minimum viable income needed. How much money do you actually need to make in order to live the life you want or to provide a certain life for the ones you love? Figure out that number, and know that that's the floor. Work and chill, baby.
3. Love the hustle but accept that it has consequences. No matter how many people on the internet try to tell you otherwise, you really don’t need to hustle in order to get everything you want in your career. But maybe you love hustling so much that you don’t want to slow down. So then keep going. And don’t feel bad about it. It just means that you love the rush of the hustle incremently more than the time and freedom it provides.
There’s no one right way to deal with this hustling phenomenon, just like there’s no one right way to be a successful entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter how you get there. What matters is the end goal you have in mind—and that you never forget it. So let’s stop hustling for the sake of hustling. Let’s stop being busy just to be busy or to feel like we’re working harder than everyone else. But most of all, let’s not lose sight of why we’re doing any of this in the first place.