Why I hate the word “hustle”

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The “hustle” culture demands sheer hardwork and cultivates a simplistic and often dangerous notion of success.

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The word “hustle” is tempting. If it had taken human form, it’d be the coolest jock propped against the locker at the end of the hallway — zippy, high-octane, always-moving, the coolest person in school. And chipper high schooler you, you long for a nod. A smile, dare you.

You want its affirmation more than you care to admit. Because when you hustle, you feel good. And when you hustle hard, you feel like a superhero.

But only after a short while.

After some “cutting through the bullshit” and “just putting in the work,” you find yourself in a vapid cycle of stress, fatigue, and producing inferior work.

(I speak from experience.)

It’s not surprising. Hustling demands an exorbitant amount of hard work and focus, and too little of actual thinking. I don’t know how it got here, but the idea of “hustle” — or at least the culture around it — posits that if only you work from 5 A.M. through 1 A.M. the next day, every day for an indefinite amount of time, you’d be the next Gary Vaynerchuk.

Sorry to say this, but you won’t.

If you think battering your body by working 20-hour workdays will make your creative business successful, it’s time to pull your head out of the sand.

If it looks easy from the outside, it’s because of the amalgam of crazy and genius that Gary and other “master entrepreneurs” bear. No sane person is going to subject themselves to Gary’s extremes, because, well, they are not Gary Vaynerchuk.

And one thing is for sure: it’s criminal to attribute Gary and other experts’ successes to merely powering through workweeks. Because hey, if it were that simple, the poor fella next door juggling three jobs would have been out of that hole faster than I could finish this paragraph.

This grossly simplified notion of attaining success is mainly the reason why I hate today’s “hustle” culture — though, admittedly, I was quick to subscribe to it once. It’s dangerous, bringing a falsehood to our work that success is all but a big, elaborate pissing contest in which whoever puts more work wins.

If you come out of Gary’s “Ask Gary Vee Show” or “Daily Vee” videos with this misinformed takeaway, you’re missing Gary’s point. There’s heaps of invaluable information seeded across his — and others’ — content, and boy, he himself is pissed that either:

  1. People don’t take action because they’re lazy, or
  2. People take action without the golden bits of information that he’d just shared.

In either scenario, you don’t win. And I sympathize with Gary, as someone whose vocation it has been to help people, that when your audience doesn’t win, you lose too.

Further, the “hustle” culture shoots you up the moon. It gives a begrudgingly myopic view of what success is all about.

I’m sorry to bring those on the moon back to earth, but there are only so many people who enter entrepreneurism with a true hunger for changing the world — or at least to the extremes of startup founders and entrepreneurs. Many of us are happy to do gratifying work by solving problems for a certain audience.

In short, many of us are happy with simply sustaining a fulfilling creative and professional life. Even shorter, you should define your success. Not a bunch of KPIs (unless it’s for when you report at the end of a campaign).

I know. It barely sounds heroic or selfless, but as a solopreneur like myself, I’d rather you focus your attention on building a better business than a bigger one.

You don’t have to rack up millions in revenue to lead a lucrative, successful, and fulfilling creative life. Sure, you might need to hustle. But if you do, don’t be so phased by its culture, but by its idea — which is not about working harder at all, but about working at your smartest.

Good luck!