“Hustle Culture” Is Not The Answer, But This Isn’t Either - erincantwell.co

“Hustle Culture” Is Not The Answer, But This Isn’t Either

Ugh.

It happened again.

You’ve been hustling like crazy for the past several months. 

  • Late nights that make your kids’ bedtime feel like mid-afternoon

  • Extra shots of espresso in your 5 pm coffee (the “dinner” of champions?)

  • And screentime-induced headaches that convince you to just go ahead and order those blue-light filter glasses once and for all. 

This pattern goes on until you crash and burn. 

So you try something different.

  • Working less because, after all, they told us that once we were in alignment more success would flow easily.

  • Positive affirmations and crossing your fingers they work! 

  • Throwing money at another new training hoping THIS will finally be the answer you’ve been searching for

You’re ready to FAST FORWARD to the good part and press PAUSE on this vicious cycle.

That lucrative, success-filled lifestyle should be here by now, right?! You know… the one all those online business gurus PROMISED was right around the corner. 

But the only thing you’re seeing is more and more work and less and less energy. You think to yourself, “I must be doing this WRONG!”

I’m here to tell you:

There’s nothing wrong with YOU. You’ve just been receiving download after download of unsustainable information. You’re torn between two philosophies about the best way to get from where you currently are to where you want to be.

Entrepreneurship can feel like uncharted territory. 

So, when you see someone who has quote-unquote “made it,” you understandably want to believe that their wisdom and guidance will work for you too!

The problem is that most of these “experts” share extreme ideologies, and they tend to fall into two camps:

“Hustle Culture” Fans. The folks with bumper stickers that read, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” They hustle 24/7/365 and have one speed: PRODUCTIVE.

Or the “Anti-Hustle” Rebels. These are the ones who promise you can magically manifest your way to millions while sipping Pina Coladas on the beach.

In reality, there is a sweet spot right in between that nobody’s talking about yet.

Today, I’m going to debunk not just one but TWO common myths in the online business world. 

You’ll learn:

  1. How in the world it’s possible to be “anti-hustle culture” but pro-hustling in entrepreneurship (isn’t that an oxymoron or something?)

  2. Why the opposite of “Hustle Culture” is equally as toxic 

Plus, I’ll teach you how to find a balance between these two extremes in your creative business. 

Myth #1 “Hustle Culture”

“Hustle culture” is toxic.

I do not subscribe.

I am not a fan. 

“Hustle culture” is a mindset and way of living where your WORK becomes such a priority in your life that you sacrifice everything else. 

It’s an obsession with productivity just for productivity’s sake that leaves you constantly chasing for MORE (and with this approach, “more” is never enough). It disables your mental, physical, and emotional health, and you start to attribute your worth and value exclusively to your work or business. 

When you subscribe to “hustle culture,” you put work on a pedestal and everything else on the backburner. It can cause you to lose touch with the other parts of your life that makes up the human experience, like hobbies, family, friends, and self-care. 

Let’s look at a real success story brought to you by “Hustle Culture”: 

Jamie Kern Lima, founder of IT cosmetics.

I recently read her book, “Believe IT.” In the book, Lima talks about how she started as a struggling waitress and eventually built an insanely successful company, IT Cosmetics. She went on to sell her company for BILLIONS – yes, with a B–  to Revlon and eventually became the first female CEO in Revlon’s history. 

It’s easy to SEE the end result of Lima’s journey: glamor, success, and achievement. 

But pull back the curtain, and you’ll find a whole lot of unsustainable hustling.

For years she: 

  • worked over 100+ hours a week from her living room
  • barely showered
  • let her health go to shit (pardon my french)
  • watched her marriage and relationships suffer

Eventually, Lima embodied “hustle culture” so much that she basically moved into the hotel across from QVC to be on call all hours of the day!

We look at people like Lima and see where they’re at and the success they have now. But we don’t see the years where they struggled to BUILD the company. 

Disclaimer: NO shade to Jamie Kern Lima at all! I’m grateful for the transparency she provides in her book. While her route to success was full of non-stop hustle, I think she is hugely inspirational and impactful. 

Hustling like this may have WORKED for Lima and thousands of others, but she openly shares that it came at an extremely high cost.

I think we can do better.

Despite what we know about the importance of balance in our lives, many entrepreneurs continue to fall into the trap that is “hustle culture.” They come to believe that if they aren’t constantly pushing, they’ll never achieve success. 

They hustle non-stop…until they burn out! 

This can be so disheartening because instead of realizing the system is flawed, new entrepreneurs tend to think there’s something wrong with them that is preventing them from keeping up!

Some people will stay committed to that hustle mindset, while others respond to stories like Lima’s differently. 

The negative impact of “hustle culture” fueled a new wave of entrepreneurship. These people rejected the idea that you had to work yourself to the bone to reach success. And so, the anti-hustle movement was born. 

Myth # 2 The Anti-Hustle Movement 

The “Anti-Hustle Movement” pushes against everything that “hustle culture” stands for. While there are some solid principles and beliefs at the core of this philosophy, too much of a good thing leads to an unsustainable work approach.

The antithesis of “hustle culture” is APATHY.

On the flip side of the “hustle culture” coin is another toxic work culture that preaches:

”Day 1 of entrepreneurship can and should look like THIS”

  • 3-Day work weeks
  • Flow state at all times
  • Never touch your alarm clock again
  • Work from the beach (fun fact: I DO spend my summers working from the beach. But in FULL transparency, it took me a lot of time and intentional planning to get there)

As a new entrepreneur, this all sounds too good to be true, right? 

You jump up proclaiming: 

SIGN ME UP!

We all want that magic fairy dust, the secret sauce, the “it” factor that the entrepreneurs we idolize seem to have unlocked overnight so we can ditch the hustle once and for all.

Sorry to burst your bubble…

but it SEEMS too good to be true because…

It IS too good to be true.

And yet somewhere along the way, we’ve allowed the online business “gurus” to use their smoke and mirrors to convince us otherwise. 

Why are so many gurus, influencers, and coaches preaching this “anti-hustle” philosophy?

Because it’s the season they’re in now.

Don’t get me wrong. It is fantastic that some of these entrepreneurs have found success and are in a place TODAY where they have more ease in their lives and can inspire their audience to strive towards that goal. 

Others, however, say “ease and alignment” but hustle around like crazy in the background to keep the illusion going. The word “hustle” has become taboo, and they want to keep up appearances.

Either way, they’re selling the destination, not the map to get there.

Even worse, they’re deceptive (whether they intend to be or not). This messaging pushes the notion that work SHOULD be easy or that hard work SHOULD NOT be required at all (umm, what?!). 

If that’s not your experience (it sure as heck isn’t mine…), you assume the problem must lie with YOU or your business. 

That is SO false!

I know for a fact every one of these people who’ve made it had to put in some elbow grease to find the success they currently enjoy (or appear to enjoy). Whether they want to admit it or not, the success they’ve achieved and the current anti-hustle lifestyle they now enjoy as a result, required hustle at critical points in their journey. 

The difference is, many of these entrepreneurs have been at it a while! They hustled, failed, and put the time in early on to enjoy the more relaxed lifestyle they have now. 

Take entrepreneur and podcast host, Jenna Kutcher, for example. She does not encourage hustle culture, but is transparent about how much she DID have to hustle early on when she was first starting out as a wedding photographer. 

Her mission is literally, “to help others do what they love (without it taking over their life).”

I admire Jenna Kutcher tremendously. Today, she talks a lot about finding balance in life and work. She believes in this so wholeheartedly, she even blocked out time for a traditional maternity leave when she had her baby to be totally present. She wants this for others too! 

However, Jenna worked really hard at the beginning! 

She hustled for years, put smooth automations and workflows in place, hired a team of experts, and built a thriving business through multiple courses. These are all things you can eventually have too, but they don’t happen overnight. 

Today Jenna works hard to cut through the noise and help other entrepreneurs find their way to a balanced life in business, but none of us can compare our STEP ONE with her STEP TEN.

Why The Extremes Don’t Work

You’ve probably fallen into one or both of these “camps” at one point or another.

We all have!

It’s easy to get caught up in the flawed logic that the more you work, the more success you’ll find, so you burn the midnight oil to squeeze in just one more client project. 

Hustling non-stop leaves you exhausted, defeated, and unsuccessful.

Understandably you pivot your approach. Instead, you become captivated by the shiny, glamorous words your favorite entrepreneurs are spewing about working fewer hours, relaxing more, and not hustling at all.

You try it out (because, after all, they seem really successful and happy)

But only working three days a week, lounging on a tropical beach (on a vacation that’s a bit out of reach financially when you’re just starting out), and wishing your way to success isn’t working as promised. Somehow, this approach isn’t creating the lucrative, sustainable success you expected. 

I get it…

You don’t want to become a work-zombie who eats, drinks, and sleeps your business. 

AND you also want a successful business that allows you to prioritize and enjoy your life outside of work. 

It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing…

The Middle Ground

I think this quote sums up how I feel about hustle and rest in business:

“Extremes are easy. Strive for balance.” – Colin Wright

There’s a time and place for taking sides. But I don’t believe you need to take an all-or-nothing approach to your work habits as an entrepreneur. 

It can be easy to get caught up in the “hustle culture” frenzy or the illusion that is the “anti-hustle culture.” In reality, both “camps” have their place in our work!

Both are essential, but you have to do them well.

Between the exhausting “hustle culture” and the idyllic fantasy of “anti-hustle” lies a REAL place where there is balance.

  • No, it’s not easy all the time.
  • Sure, you probably will have to work your booty off from time to time (not gonna lie or sugarcoat it).
  • No, you won’t have to hustle like that every day.
  • Yes, you’ll be able to balance your work with your friends, family, hobbies, and self-care.

The key to avoiding hustle culture and not getting sucked into the entrepreneurial illusion?

Seasons of Hustle & Seasons of Rest.

What Are Seasons of Hustle & Seasons of Rest?

I believe building a thriving, sustainable business DOES require hustle, but not “hustle culture.”

Unpopular opinion alert:

Entrepreneurship should come with assembly instructions that read, “Some HUSTLE required.” 

To get your business up and running, you ARE going to have to hustle. 

It’s just a fact.

Your work has seasons of hustle. They may be seasons you plan for (internal factors) or seasons that naturally occur in your specific line of work (external factors). 

For example, you might be in a season of hustle because:

  • Every year your business ramps up sales during the holiday season.

  • You choose to put in extra effort to launch a new offer or product.

  • You start building a team and need to put in more energy to onboard your new hires and get your workflows into a good rhythm.

  • Maybe you hustle on Mondays so that the rest of your week can be more restful (yes, you can even have seasons of hustle and rest built into your week)!

You might be in a season of rest because:

  • Your kids are out of school for the summer, and you intentionally plan to spend more time with them.

  • You leverage a lull in your business to plan for your next season of hustle.

  • You build in a month or two of rest after a big launch to help you recover from the extra push and effort that busy season required. 

“So, Erin… you say you’re against the “hustle culture,” but you’re advocating hustling. How can it be both ways?”

It doesn’t have to be so black and white.

I believe it is possible to structure your time and business to allow for necessary seasons of hustle. You can balance this work, effort, and energy with rest and ease. You’ll be productive when it counts so that you can maintain boundaries between your work time and your time. 

The benefit of this approach?

When you focus on finding a balance between hustle and rest, you’ll avoid burnout. It will help you work more intentionally as you build, grow, and sustain your creative business. 

5 Ways To Practice Seasons of Hustle & Seasons of Rest

Use these five tips to redefine when and how you hustle while prioritizing rest and ease.

  1. Lean into seasons in business. Internal and external factors influence the natural rhythms of your work. As you gain more experience, you can observe and respond to trends in your business such as busy selling seasons, dry spells, vacation time, and more. When you track and respond to these seasons and patterns, you can prepare better throughout the year. You’ll be able to plan for seasons of hustle during your seasons of rest. This preparation lets you trust the work you did in advance so that you can focus on getting things done when you’re busy. Click here to learn more about how I track the seasons in my business.

  2. Set and maintain clear boundaries. Define your work time and make sure it is separate from your personal time. Acknowledge that certain seasons may require you to hustle more. You can adjust these boundaries temporarily. Productivity tools aren’t just a way to do more, more, more. In reality, they help you optimize your work time to protect your time for family, friends, and yourself. Make the most of the efforts you are putting in so that you DON’T have to hustle more than necessary. Let your streamlined systems and automated tasks pull the weight for you, so you can show up from a place of more ease, less hustle. 

  3. Prioritize Creative Time. As a creative entrepreneur, your creativity is the driving force behind your success, so it can be easy to entangle the thing that brings you joy with the thing that makes you productive. Build-in time to create just for fun’s sake so you can fill up your cup. Your creative work isn’t just a means to an end, and you don’t have to let it define your worth.

  4. Build-in time for maintenance. Business isn’t always about creating more new stuff. It’s also about tending to the foundational pieces you already have in place. This is a time when you maintain your workload and work behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly. Instead of pushing for growth, you can take advantage of seasons of rest in your business to shore up your foundation and update systems. You can also use this time to prepare for future growth or anticipate your next big push. It’s an ideal time to “let the dust settle” and recover after coming off a big launch or busy season.

  5. Always take a vacation. Reserve time on your calendar every year for a holiday and completely step away from your work. Don’t wear busyness as a badge of honor!

Ultimately, you should build rest and hustle into your business throughout the year. Every season of hustle needs to include some time for rest and vice versa.

When you weave seasons of hustle and rest into the fabric of your business, you’ll be able to intentionally strive for those big goals without sacrificing your health and wellbeing.

Ready to dive deeper into what Seasons in Business are and how you can leverage them strategically as an entrepreneur? I have an entire blog post on this very topic that’s ready and waiting for you! Click here to learn more. 

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