The Hustle Culture is popular among entrepreneurs, business owners, and others within the professional ranks. If it doesn’t resonate with you, you aren’t alone.
I remember when I first got started with my own business a decade ago. I followed numerous entrepreneurs and marketers on social media. It was common to see posts from them late at night, on weekends, or during holidays, letting us know that they were working. It was a weird humble-brag of sorts.
That’s not me. For a while, I tried to fake it. But, my priorities are different.
This isn’t meant to make light of those in the Hustle Culture. Maybe you thrive on “the hustle.” You enjoy working late into the night, getting up early, working on weekends, and on the holidays. You have a certain pride in it.
That’s fine! This message isn’t meant for you.
My message has a very specific audience. It’s meant for those who feel as though the Hustle Culture is “normal,” but they don’t fit into it. That if they don’t follow along, they’re somehow abnormal.
You’re fine. You’re normal. Do not feel shame in it.
No hustle, no guilt.
There’s a reason I feel this way. There’s a reason I value time and experiences over cold, hard cash.
In this post, I’ll tell my story and how it shaped my perspective. Then, I’ll outline the mistakes I’ve made in designing my lifestyle, how I’m correcting those mistakes, and how you can apply what I’ve learned.
My Son Michael
It was 2003. I was 28. My wife Lisa and I had a very typical life. We were scraping by, trying to provide for our small family. Our son, Michael, was two-years-old and Lisa was pregnant at the time with what would be our second son, Ryan.
After dealing with some breathing issues for months that doctors couldn’t pinpoint, Michael was given an x-ray. There, our biggest fears were realized. A mass in his chest.
Our little guy. Cancer. How was this possible? Our lives stopped.
Michael had neuroblastoma. Typically a bad prognosis, but he was lucky. He had a golfball-sized tumor lodged between his aorta and spine. A very delicate surgery would be needed to remove it, but the doctors were confident that the cancer hadn’t spread.
It was a frightening time. Knowing we couldn’t protect him from this monster. But that we’d do everything we could to rid him of it. And Michael, meanwhile, oblivious to everything.
Impact on Perspective
The surgery would be successful. Michael would require countless scans over the coming years. We’d get the occasional scare after eating bananas would lead to elevated numbers and he’d need to be retested.
But, Michael is a fully healthy, super-smart, young adult now. He’s a junior in college at Texas Tech and is studying to be an orthopedic surgeon. He’s an amazing human, and I’m so proud of him.
Not surprisingly, our experience with Michael’s health completely changed all of us. And, surely, the experience impacted Michael, and it’s a big reason he is who he is today.
After Michael, his brothers Ryan and JJ would eventually enter the world. While his brothers weren’t around to go through it (and Michael only has the physical scars), Lisa and I will never forget.
The little accomplishments, ceremonies, and growth matter so much more now. Everything our kids do gets me emotional and puts me on the verge of happy tears. Always, in the back of my mind, I think of this period in our lives.
Once we went through this as a family, none of the stuff I previously obsessed over or cared so much about seemed to matter anymore. When given the chance to have some say in my career, I took it.
I didn’t want to waste valuable hours on the road commuting to and from work every day.
I didn’t want to travel the world speaking at conferences and meeting with clients.
I wanted my kids to be comfortable. I wanted to experience life with them as much as I could. I wanted to coach their baseball teams (I even started a team for them!).
Bottom line, I wanted to take full advantage of evenings, weekends, summers, and holidays. Not, of course, for “hustling,” but for sharing experiences with my kids.
It’s not that we don’t know that these things are important. We all have a big, life-changing experience like this at some point. When it happens, it helps hit you in the face and reminds you about what is truly important.
I got hit hard. How I would live my life no longer felt like an option.
Designing My Business
Once I was laid off for the second time in 2011, I had to make some choices. I had been working from home for the previous three years. This was a desire of mine, inspired mostly by Michael.
It was an easy decision. Every day, we’d walk our kids to school. As a family. Every day, I’d see them when they returned. I’d attend school events. I’d rarely miss anything.
So, having a taste of this lifestyle, I knew I couldn’t start working in the city again. I certainly couldn’t move our family again for a job. I had done that already when we moved across the country to take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the NBA.
Once my business became a “business” I started to take more control over it. I was never the boss before, and suddenly I made the decisions that would impact everything.
Soon, opportunities started coming in. Requests for my time. Potential partnerships. Work offers. Eventually, I would need to prioritize.
After a period of people-pleasing, that prioritization soon became easy. Decisions were based in my core values. My vision for the life I wanted to live.
Does doing this thing energize me? Does it conflict with my desire to spend more time with my kids? Will it take me from them?
Hustle Culture opposed everything I wanted to build. And my vision for what was and wasn’t important made saying “no” so easy.
Something I’ve realized this year was that I may have over-adjusted instead of joining the Hustle Culture. I was on a constant quest to delegate and work less. My plan was to one day take the summer off.
And so, I worked less. I accomplished less. I felt less needed and less productive.
And if we’re to be honest, my wife and family didn’t need me to be around all the time. And I was around all the time.
The problem with the Hustle Culture, for me, is less about working hard and more about the lack of balance. Well, I overcorrected and lacked balance going the other way.
By doing less, I was missing out on all of the things that made me feel so good during the first few years of my business. The struggle. The goals. The accomplishment.
Working hard feels good. It’s how I feel accomplishment. It’s exciting to see the results of that hard work.
But I can certainly work hard while working smarter. A big part of that is learning to plan better. To schedule my day. To respect the time I’ve set aside for my family. To take advantage of the time I set aside to work, bust my butt during that time, and bank content when I can.
If I don’t work hard during the window I’ve set aside for it, the impact spills over. I don’t feel as good about myself. I’m distracted by what wasn’t accomplished. I can’t enjoy that time with my family as much as I should.
These were really important lessons that I fully believe I’ve learned from. I’ve already started applying these lessons and I’ll continue to apply them long-term in 2022.
I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to design my business around the life I want to live. The fact that I overcorrected was a good problem that most people don’t have the chance to experience.
If you’re hoping to run a business that fits the life you want to live, I have a few recommendations on how you might design it.
First, make a list of your priorities that have nothing to do with business. These are things you will build around. They aren’t the things you’ll do “if you have time.” You will make time for them.
For me, I prioritize the following:
- Baseball (coaching, watching my kids play, practicing with them, taking them to lessons)
- Summers (usually baseball!)
- Time with my family (games, experiences, vacations)
- Mental and physical health (sleep, meditation, reading, running)
The things on this list all take time. But, I won’t skip them. Business has suffered, at times, as a result. But, that’s a choice I have made and it’s a result I accept.
Allow your priorities to shape your choices. To shape your opportunities.
If you have a clear vision of what is important to you and what you stand for, you will suddenly have a clear vision of what is a good opportunity and what is a bad one.
It will become so much easier to say no.
Prioritize these things, and take advantage of the time you set aside for work. Be productive. Create a routine. Plan. Knock out your work early, if you can.
Another lesson I’ve finally come to accept is that procrastination does not work. For my entire life, I convinced myself that procrastination was my process. That I thrived off of it.
The reality is that it creates more stress. It’s a built-in excuse for not getting done today what can be put off until tomorrow.
Admittedly, this was a very wordy way of saying that you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t buy into the Hustle Culture. Work hard. Find clarity in what is important to you. And build your business around it, if you can.
Anything you’d add? Let me know in the comments below!