Hustling has always had a negative connotation. Sometimes it means to push and jostle, sometimes it means overly busy (as in hustle and bustle), and sometimes it can even mean to trick or con someone.
Yet more recently the word has been adopted by productivity and motivational gurus and been turned into something more positive, or at least supposedly more positive.
The concept of hustling as a term for working hard and putting your nose to the grindstone has created a sense that if you aren’t working towards something, then you’re wasting your time.
We’re being told that working 9-5 isn’t enough if you want to be the best. And then we’re told that if we don’t want to be the best, then don’t even bother playing the game.
Those two thoughts combined are incredibly dangerous. Trust me, I know from first hand experience.
For a time I was self-employed. Or at least, that’s what I called it. I had a handful of clients but for the most part I was doing nothing much at all.
And I hated myself for it.
Every minute I spent watching TV or playing video games was time wasted as far as I was concerned. Now wasn’t the time for relaxing, now was the time for working as hard as I could, as much as I could.
Now was the time for hustling.
All the successful people said so. And they were successful so they would know, right?
According to them, the key to success was simple – work hard.
It was an alluring proposition. All I had to do was put in the effort, put in the hours, and success was mine.
Except, something didn’t quite make sense to me.
I’ve always been a quick worker. I’m more of a sprinter. I complete the task at hand quickly and then I rest.
To an outsider, it may seem like I’m lazy. You might wonder why I don’t immediately move on to the next job.
But for me, those breaks are crucial. Far more crucial than time spent working.
Breaks provide me with a way to collect my thoughts, to mull things over, to switch off for even the briefest of moments.
It’s getting harder and harder to do that now. Social media and email demand our constant attention. We have so many opportunities at our feet that it would be rude not to chase after them.
The world is our oyster, and we want as many pearls as we can carry.
But juggling all these pearls comes at a cost – it exhausts us, it consumes us, and it’s killing us.
It’s no secret that mental health problems are increasing. More and more people are being diagnosed with anxiety or depression or chronic stress.
Part of that, I think, is down to our obsession with hustling.
We’re made to feel like failures if we aren’t working every waking minute. So we work and work and work until we can’t work any more.
It’s unhealthy. We aren’t designed for that. We aren’t robots.
I’ve learnt that working for work’s sake isn’t going to help. It’s far better to work smart than work hard. And if I need to take a break, then I’m going to take a break.
So the next time you feel like you need to hustle, take a moment to stop and think about whether you really need to.
Learn to listen to yourself and if you need some time out, take some time out.
Health should always come before hustling, and it’s about time we all realised that.