Hustle. It’s a phrase that is thrown around with gay abandon these days, especially in the context of entrepreneurship. It seems everyone and their uncle is firmly in the camp of hustling your little heart out until you achieve your dreams reach success.
Sounds pretty simple, right? If you want to get ahead in this big, unforgiving world, you’re going to have to push, push, push. Call in those favors, keep door-knocking until you land those meetings, never take ‘no’ for an answer. Sleep? Ha! Maybe when you’re dead. There’s work to do, there’s twenty-four hours in a day, and if Jeff Bezos has the same amount of time as you, then what the @%#! Is your excuse?
Do hustlers get ahead? Hell yeah, they do. But the way we’re so often told to go about it is killing us.
Look, ‘the hustle’ in unavoidable when you’re trying to get ahead as an entrepreneur, especially in the startup phase. You will work hard, long hours and your schedule will be punishing at times. You will have to be persistent, but all of that is impossible if you’re already run into the ground. You owe it to yourself to find a sustainable balance between getting shit done and looking after your health.
So, let’s try a different approach, shall we?
Superman is not real. Stop trying to be a superhero.
In the very early stages of a venture, it’s highly likely you’re a one-person operation, forced through lack of resources to do a great majority of business-related tasks yourself.
This is a tough reality of starting out, but as you gain traction and grow, it may feel as though you have to hang on to those numerous small tasks that eat away at a day. Perhaps it’s a trust thing - no-one knows the business as well as you, no-one does it quite ‘right’.
The problem is, for every admin or accounting task you’re concerning yourself with (and we’re not talking about the overall big money picture - you should definitely be across that!), you’re eating away at the normal working hours in a day. You’re stretching yourself unnecessarily, on sweating the small stuff that a virtual assistant or part-time office support could take on board and do well.
Trust and the ability to let go and delegate are very important for any leader - you can’t, and shouldn’t, do it all yourself. When you set the smaller things free from your iron grip, you can focus on the tasks that only you can do - the real hustle - like pitching to investors, meeting with potential collaborators and following up those unmissable opportunities that will come your way.
You will have to make sacrifices. But sleep shouldn’t be one of them.
The entrepreneurial path isn’t a smooth one - there will be twists, turns, setbacks, triumphs, late nights and early mornings. Inevitably, there will be times where you’re not putting your own wellbeing first.
While burning the midnight oil is okay occasionally, the ‘hustle’ is often synonymous with stretching yourself to breaking point, using every possible second of the day and then some.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a highly successful entrepreneur and Olympic-level hustler. While his videos and blogs contain a motherlode of inspiring advice, his mantra on hustling isn’t all that sustainable.
As writer Jon Westenberg points out, Gary Vee advocates a rather radical approach in his book, Now Is The Time To Crush It. To paraphrase, if one already has a full-time job, he recommends that you stop complaining and start working on your side hustle - after all, you can get a lot done working ‘after hours’ between 7:00PM and 2:00AM (or, yikes, 9:00PM and 3:00AM if you have children).
In his defense, the sentiment of that section is in general, to work super hard at reaching your goals and achieving your dreams. Fair enough, right? We all should find the drive to work at something that brings us happiness and fulfillment. However, existing on five hours sleep per night or less to sustain a full-time job and a side-hustle? That’s going to grind you into an early grave.
Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, conducted far-reaching studies on the effects of inadequate sleep, concluding that getting only six hours of sleep a night or less was associated with setbacks in performance, including mental alertness and driving ability, and increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
Want a real-life example of sleep deprivation destroying an entrepreneur? Just ask Arianna Huffington. She collapsed from exhaustion in 2007 and has since been on a crusade to educate us on the effects of poor sleep, starting with her book The Sleep Revolution:
“It is our collective delusion that overwork and burnout are the price we must pay in order to succeed.”
The harsh reality is that prolonged sleep deprivation can be hugely problematic for your health, make you generally unproductive and pretty bloody miserable. If you want to make better use of your day, try a Pomodoro timer to enhance productivity. You’ll still need to be dedicated, you’ll still need some extra ‘above and beyond’ hours (especially for a side hustle), but you can use less time more effectively. Just get to bed on time, okay?
All the hustle in the world won’t help without some direction. Are you hustling for hustling’s sake?
Entrepreneurial and working life can be taxing, chaotic and at times, unplannable. And really, you don’t need a huge, detailed plan of everything (in fact, that may even hold you back in crafting a successful business). However, if you’re so focused on moving forward at any cost, you risk sacrificing key elements of achieving goals and frankly, wasting your time.
Ask yourself this important question:
Is what I am doing right now aligned with my big-picture strategy?
In other words, you need to ensure you’re traveling in the right direction to actually meet your desired goals. Getting distracted from your path can have negative consequences, especially if you’re pushing yourself hard to achieve outcomes and meet deadlines.
It can help to write a simple priority list (as opposed to a catch-all to-do list). This will get you to think outside the nitty-gritty and make sure you’re devoting energy to the right areas of your business. Your big-picture approach is a vital component in success (we’ve done the research to prove it!) so it pays to not get too off-track.
The ‘right’ hustle… isn’t a hustle at all.
You’ve likely heard that old saying, something like “love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. Apart from sounding slightly naff and being appropriated to different sources -- everyone from Confucius to Marilyn Monroe -- it’s actually pretty true.
When we work against our true passions, it can be incredibly draining - physically and mentally. Ever worked a job that you could barely muster the will to attend? When you don’t even like, let alone love what you’re doing, you’ll find yourself depleted and running on empty. And if all of your hustle is for something that doesn’t align with your passions, well, it’s going to be an endless grind.
On the other hand, when you are guided by your passion, when you can barely go a moment without thinking about the plans you have for the world, the hustle can feel effortless, as is observed by F4S founder and CEO, Michelle Duval:
“When your work is aligned with your personal purpose and mission, and your role closely relates to your intrinsic work attitudes, you will likely feel fueled in your hustle rather than burnt out.”