We love to discuss us some “hustle” these days, especially in the startup/tech world. Everyone is hustling. It’s noble. Let’s deify it. Break your back trying to work harder than everyone else. Get that money.
** Puts rifle up to scrotum **
I’m not the first person to argue hustle is bullshit; this guy even did back in 2015:
Here’s the thing: everyone hustles. We’re all just trying to survive and to succeed in this life — whether that’s professionally or personally — and giving another person a lecture on the extent of your hustle is intentionally self-aggrandizing and wholly deluded. How about just shut up and work hard in silence like the rest of us? Is there a point to your hustle drivel outside of self-promotion? Can you not interrupt me with that shit when I’m trying to eat my pasta? How many times do I have to roll my eyes before you get the hint? Why did you say your girlfriend left you, again?
I will add my voice to this chorus, however.
What is this whole “hustle” deal really?
It’s just an extension of three things:
- Human beings aren’t very good at managing their time
- We love to be “busy” even if we’re not productive
- Workaholics are seen as a good, virtuous thing
Basically, the culture in America is often this: “Work kind of hard, but consistently convey to everyone in your sphere that you work super hard, even though in all likelihood your time management skills are a 3 on a 1–10 scale.”
That’s pretty much all “hustle” is.
What would be a better approach?
Here’s an example from a recent Dorie Clark article on HBR:
Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of The Coaching Habit, hardly knew anyone when he moved to Toronto, and he asked his friends for help. Melissa knew Lindsay, who knew David, who knew Nancy, an HR executive at a local bank. After this circuitous chain of introductions, Bungay Stanier invited Nancy to attend one of his workshops, and at lunchtime, he recalls, “She pulls me aside and says, ‘Brilliant. You know what, I was just about to sign a contract with a different vendor, but I’ve decided I want you to do our coaching program. Can you give me a contract by tomorrow . . . [and] can you invoice us for $100,000?’” It was four degrees of separation, but the relationship Bungay Stanier developed with Nancy proved invaluable.
Here’s what happened in that story: a dude put in the work — i.e. tried to extend his network in a new area — and got a six-figure contract. That’s the reality of everything. You slog, slog, slog, slog, slog, have awful bosses, work on low-context projects, have no idea what’s happening, outreach, outreach, outreach and eventually there it is. That’s life. It’s not “hustle.” It’s putting up the bar.
The other thing that anecdote underscores is the power of weak ties.
Can we get rid of the “hustle” concept?
Absolutely not. Dude bros who can code and want to be seen as world-builders with their copied startup idea will always attach themselves to the popular vocab of the time, which would currently include “hustle.”
But it’s trite bullshit. We all work hard. We all try to put on the deck. And we’re all varying degrees of successful on that front. Fuck “hustle.” Just try to get through and be as productive as possible.
Thoughts on the “hustle” culture?