Know Your Hustle. Own Your Hustle.

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What are you chasing? What are you running after? Is someone chasing you?

To hustle or not to hustle? That is the question. Or, at least, that seems to be the battlecry of everyone you follow online. There’s always a plane that someone is on, an important meeting that someone else is attending, some major event that you’re not at, at big business meeting that you wish was yours, and more. It can feel like everyone is hustling and – even if you are working hard – the message can often feel like: “you’re not hustling enough!” Facebook and Instagram send out this narrative, and we feel it: “everyone is doing something more interesting than I am. Why am I not there? What am I missing?” FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real… in our personal and business lives.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”Thomas Merton.

My friend (and current SVP of Marketing at Sysomos), Amber Naslund wrote an incredibly powerful piece on her blog the other week titled, I Give You Permission To Stop Hustling. Now. If I were to think of someone with an opposing point of view to Amber’s (and, perhaps, a small part of the inspiration for her post), it would be someone like Gary Vaynerchuk (who is also a friend). Gary would tell you that “hustle” is the most important word ever. Seriously, watch his video. Gary is amped and fired up for success and it’s both impressive and intimidating.

Here’s what Amber thinks:

“I can’t handle achievement addicts anymore. It’s taken me 20+ years of professional experience, illness and the failure of a business to learn it, but I have finally realized once and for all that life is for living. Not for constantly being neurotic about achieving the next thing, relentless self-help reading and feeling inadequate, working a thousand hours, never sleeping or having hobbies, beating ourselves up for whatever we think we ‘should’ be doing because that’s what the other guy told us would make us valuable… Too many of us are defining our self-worth by how many hours we work or what stages we’re speaking on or which clients we can list on our resume. Our careers are not the sum total of our identities, and it bothers me that especially in the digital world, we glamorize the world of entrepreneurship even though it exacts a heavy price on many. We tell people to hustle harder to be a better man. We hold up workaholics as people to emulate, even as the behavior claims people’s well-being, or worse yet, their lives.”

Define your hustle. 

Amber wears her heart on her sleeve, and her sentiment will resonate with many people. While I can empathize with her position, and have many personal scars from the day-to-day grind of over 25 years of “hustling,” I still believe that you do, in fact, have to hustle with this one life that you have. The challenge is in defining your own hustle, and to not base it off of what others say, think or do on social media. The people who are hustling (and telling others to hustle too) tend to have a clear path, strategy and exit strategy. They’re working hard, not to take away from the myriad of riches that life has to offer, but hustling because the work really matters to them (granted, their reasons for why this work matters may have a very different reason than why you do what you do). So, if you don’t know what you’re chasing, or why you’re chasing it, Amber is right… maybe you need to step away from the hustle. 

Hustle with intention. 

A personal story: a very successful individual (not just in business, but in both their personal and community involvement) once cautioned me – at a very young age – to be careful about where I put my time and energy. In this instance, Mirum (then Twist Image) was still very new and fragile. I was giving a lot of my time to the community (volunteering, attending events, trying to get people to get involved and give money). They questioned why I was spending so much time on the community, and not on my business. My personal philosophy has always been that we can’t have a strong business without a stronger community to support it. Still, this individual intimated that I was still young, and that my best “earning years” we now (early thirties to late fifties). The time to grow my business is now, and the time to give back would be more valuable (both in terms of time and money) later in life. While that timeline for financial accumulation sounds like a long time, it isn’t. This individual didn’t define “earning” as solely financial. They were simply cautioning me to get very clear about what my professional strategy for growth was.

Hustling doesn’t mean giving in or giving up.

It’s something to think about. The opposite of hustling isn’t giving in or giving up. Some people work to work. No harm. No foul. My hustle comes from a very genuine place: I take work very personally. I always have. We all spend a good chunk of our waking hours at work. For me, it has to count. It has to be work that motivates and inspires me. And, like anything else in life, it’s not about achievement… it’s about doing the work that you were meant to do (achievement is an outcome, when that stuff happens). I’m blessed, because hustling has never stopped me from having other hobbies (have you checked out my podcast about bass players and my other one about heavy metal?). Hustling has never stopped me from having coffee with a friend (in fact, I just came back from a great lunch, that ended with a cappuccino and killer conversation). In fact, hustling has enabled me to find the balance in everything. I don’t always get the mix right, but I can tell you this: I love my hustle. And, it is that internal hustle that has allowed me to see much more of the amazing world, and life, that is happening around me. 

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”Simon Sinek.