Defining What It Means to ‘Hustle’ in 2020

What does ‘hustling’ mean to you?

Is it about working as much as you humanely can?

Is it a mindset? A lifestyle? A non-negotiable to achieving ‘real’ success?

If you’d asked me any of those questions in early 2019, I would have said
abso-fucking-lutely (that is, if I even had time to reply to you because, well, hustle). And then, life happened.

In my last post, I shared the personal story behind my burnout — it’s a story you’ll have heard before. Maybe you’ve even lived through a version of it yourself.

It’s no secret that burnout is a major topic in the business community. So many of us are trying to navigate the space between knowing we need to take better care of ourselves, and actually figuring out how.

But while talking about burnout is most definitely on the rise, I’m even more interested in the next part of the conversation. The post-burnout conversation.

Because when you’ve got goals to achieve and bills to pay, what does post-burnout hustle look like in reality? And how can we, as founders, keep up momentum without losing ourselves in the process?

Woah. Big questions.

For me, redefining my own relationship with hustle came from understanding the source of my struggle. As the co-founder of a growing advertising agency, I realised that I LOVED my work, but it only worked when I was actually connected to the higher purpose behind my work. I also realised that I’d been mis-sold a dream of relentless hard work being the only path to success because, hello, overworking is where most dreams go to die.

The reality is, when you’re in the thick of building and growing a business, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and disconnect with the stories and beliefs that once resonated with you and your customers.

So, that’s where I started: by reflecting on the stories, the beliefs and the people who I set out to help in the first place. That, and a load of reading on the topic of hard work and hustle.

Here’s what helped: going back to the basics around how I, personally, have defined what it means to hustle (outside of the clutter and noise of everyday life): To me, hustle is the action that follows the intention to fight for something you really give a shit about.

Ok. Great in theory, but where does it go wrong? When we start hustling too hard because, ultimately, we lose our way.

  • We hustle when we don’t feel connected to people
  • We hustle when we’re not seen and heard
  • We hustle when we don’t know what we stand for
  • We hustle when we don’t feel like we belong

In other words, we hustle when our egos take over. Brené Brown said it best: ‘the ego is the hustler’. I mean, AMEN. Co-signed. Interestingly, if our egos are the ones hustling, then isn’t it time we started hustling from a more conscious place?

Drumroll, please…

Enter something I call the ‘conscious hustle’.

Consider this a manifesto for hustlers everywhere. Conscious hustlers.

Burn-out hustle vs. conscious hustle

Burn-out hustle says ‘I had to’. Conscious hustle says ‘I want to’.

Burn-out hustle is reactive. Conscious hustle is reflective and proactive.

Burn-out hustle is obsessed with the grind. Conscious hustle prioritises the mind.

Burn-out hustle means always being alert. Conscious hustle is about awareness.

Burn-out hustle operates from the ego. Conscious hustle operates from our higher selves.

Burn-out hustle feeds on imposter syndrome. Conscious hustle knows to separate self-worth from output.

Burn-out hustle glorifies busyness as a badge of honour. Conscious hustle only celebrates working with true intention.

Burn-out hustle seeks approval in the form of likes and shares. Conscious hustle means turning to the people who know you best.

Burn-out hustle glorifies busy, frantic work. Conscious hustle is all about REAL, focused work. The sprint vs. the marathon.

Burn-out hustle is alllll about vanity metrics. Conscious hustle only focuses on the very few things that matter: clients, cash flow, community.

Burn-out hustle treats everyday as a series of small, persistent fights. Conscious hustle only cares about the real reason worth fighting for.

The need to work hard isn’t going anywhere (spoiler alert: any time soon.) But smarter, more conscious work is the thing that can really get you somewhere and that’s what I’m about these days.

In practicality, it’s about working in a way that reflects this:

It also looks like boundaries, rules and better communication — with yourself and those you work with. For me, this has meant knowing — and articulating — my limitations. I’m forever learning how to spot the first warning signs that I’m doing too much, and learning to bring myself back from that place. It ain’t easy, but believe me when I say it’s so much better than the alternative.

There’s a quote I have on my wall (by poet, David Whyte) that serves as my daily reminder: Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity. Discipline and familiarity may not be the sexiest, most Insta-worthy statements, but they pay major dividends.

What I know for sure is this: The more you take time to know yourself and become aware, the more focus, clarity and joy you will have in your business. What’s the point in running a business if you feel shit and moan about it day in, day out? That’s no fun. That’s a waste of life. That’s not why you started.

I’ve always said to myself and my team: the moment you wake up and feel low/grumpy/de-energised about going to work, somethings not right. It shouldn’t feel like ‘work’ it should feel interesting, exciting, challenging and fun. That’s the goal. That’s living.

If you’re serious about conscious hustle, you’ll say ‘no’ more than you say ‘yes’ and sometimes it’ll feel uncomfortable. It’ll get easier. You’ll learn to guard your time like a burly bouncer, and you’ll start respecting yourself more for it.

You’ll wonder why you didn’t start hustling in a more conscious way sooner.

Conscious, centred, focused and intentional? Boom. Now that’s the kind of hustle I’m interested in. Shall we?