Certain words irritate me. Particularly when they become super-trendy and everyone starts hash tagging the pants off them. So here’s the one that’s currently grating on me: hustle.
Rife in the online entrepreneurial space right now, it’s in every second blog post and Instagram meme. It’s hard to go a day without someone telling us to “Get your hustle on”, or to “Just keep hustling”. Because apparently “Hustle is the new black.”
Arguably it’s a catchy little word, meant to sum up the flurry of activity required to start, run and grow a business, and, I suspect, make intense work seem sexier than it really is. It’s become ingrained in the vernacular of many high achievers, such as Lisa Messenger and Jonathan Fields.
Lisa has declared it to be her word for 2016, defining it as “Getting where you want to go at all costs (more often than not, without a penny to spare)…It means trying every angle. It means not taking no for an answer. It means: game on.”
Jonathan takes a more pragmatic approach, describing it as “outbound marketing”, or the work that can only be done by getting out from behind content creation and the computer screen and showing up in person to grow your business.
I’m not saying Lisa, Jonathan or anyone else is wrong. I respect them enormously and gratefully consume their content.
So what’s the issue?
I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a negative, almost sleazy quality inherent in the word ‘hustle’. A quick Google search reveals definitions such as “to push roughly or jostle” and “obtain illicitly or by forceful action” and even “a fraud or swindle.” Now I know that those in start-up land don’t mean it that way. But it still makes me picture someone operating in the shade, rather than light and pushing their way in where they’re really not welcome.
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I have no doubt that the concept of hustle feels right and probably very energising for many. But it’s not something that’s rung true for me. In fact, those times when I push and force at any cost are often the ones where the desired outcome just won’t come. I’ve found that when I plant seeds in my business and life, nurture them with just the right amount of attention and good intention, more often than not, the rewards unfold in the right time. No forcing. No pushing. What’s more, I have found that when I revert to hustling, it’s not until I stop and ‘release’ the situation that something opens up and what seemed impossible suddenly shifts towards achievable.
But perhaps my biggest problem with the concept of hustle is that I strongly suspect it is a thinly veiled glorification of being excessively busy. And I thought we had wised up and moved on from that. Excessive, prolonged busy-ness robs us of the ability to stop and see what matters most, pay attention to those we love and soak up those tiny moments that add up to a life well lived.
So what to do? To hustle or not?
Ironically, I think the answer is articulated beautifully by Gary Vaynerchuk, a self-confessed hustler of the highest order, who says the intense work ‘hustle’ is not right for everyone and that ultimately, it boils down to self-awareness. In a recent podcast, Gary claimed that one of his gifts is the ability to out-work everyone else; and he’s used it as a competitive advantage in business, so for him, hustling is a great fit. But does that approach work for everyone? Gary says definitely not, and I agree.
If the word hustle makes you wince, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or not cut out to work for yourself. It’s simply that hustling doesn’t align with your personality, energy levels and values. It might be what a lot of the cool kids are pushing right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.
If the idea of a hustle-free life lights you up, embrace it. Because as Brené Brown highlights so beautifully in her latest book Rising Strong, “Grace will take you places hustling can’t.”
I couldn’t agree more.