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An Open Letter to All Who Hustle

A case for adding more flow into our work and lives

Yesterday after a lovely weekend, I got back to work like so many of us do. I checked Instagram. I looked at Medium. I read some news.

I felt like all I could see was the urgent call to HUSTLE.

This stressed me out more than motivated me.

It also made me realize that despite a surge in meditation, our society, is a bit preoccupied with the idea of hustle. This is true especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. And that bothers me. And when I’m bothered I write.

I’m wondering… Will hustle continue to be the predominant narrative as long as entrepreneurship is still largely male-dominated?

Is that how we’ve come to praise to the Hustle-mentality? It’s a word, and modus operandi that feels masculine to me. Controlling. Forceful. I think our obsession with hustle has resulted in us not giving enough credence to the value of flow.

It’s a situation that to me, parallels the work Susan Cain did for introverts in her research and release of the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Without having done 7 years of research like she did, my quick assessment tells me as a society we are more outwardly rewarding, socializing, and encouraging the “hustle” mentality. And we may be doing so at the expense of more flow (and I’d argue peace) in our selves, the work we do, and the context of the world in which we do it.

Just as Susan Cain argued we need both introverts and extroverts to have a seat at the table, I argue that both hustle and flow have a place just as long as they emanate from love.

The Love Affair with Hustle

Hustle. Society just loves it. We have successfully made it appear as a necessary ingredient to any entrepreneurial pursuit.

Exhibit A below.

It’s safe to say that the term has become inextricably linked to any money-making pursuit outside of a traditional full time job. (Ahem: Side Hustle).

It makes me wonder:

Has “hustle” become a means of signaling to the world that you’re “winning”. That you’re somehow doing more than non-hustlers are? 

Does hustling make someone feel they are more worthy of “x”? Or of success — however they define it?

If you don’t identify with the word, does that make you destined for failure? Does that mean you are not cut out for the entrepreneur’s life?

Does it mean you can’t change the world unless you forcibly exert your power (hustle) to do so?

I hope the heck not, but the loudest PSA for entrepreneurs right now is a message that sells the hustle-life vs. the flow that can bring us peace, and success too.

To me, all of that hustle slinging is frightening. While good intentioned, the word feels icky.

Hustle connotes scarcity. It’s a word, and mindset that leans towards fear vs. love. It’s a projection of what you don’t yet have, but are damned to get, lest anything get in your way.

It seems like the Machiavellian belief that the the ends justify the means, so behave as you see fit. Hustle without regard to the consequences. Work like nobody or nothing can or will stop you, because, you know — you’re hustling, so you deserve what you get. Screw everyone and everything else.

Too harsh?

I don’t think that’s inaccurate among the hustlers in Silicon Valley.

I’m asking you to reconsider the no-holds-barred hustle in favor of a bit more flow.

But don’t do it just for me, consider it for yourself — your own peace, and your part in bringing peace to the greater human family.

I ask this of you with a two questions in mind.

1. As a society, aren’t we time starved enough?

2. Shouldn’t we move past a scarcity mindset? 

I suspect we could all use a lot more flow to counter balance the over emphasis and over-saturation of hustle in our lives, and in our world.

Here’s the simple reason why. I believe: 

Flow = love & Hustle = fear

I’m not saying that hustle doesn’t have it’s place. I think it does, but from the foundation of flow (love) vs fear.

Just as Susan Cain made a case for introverts, I want to make a case for the flow seekers living in a hustle-praising world.

To be clear, to flow doesn’t mean you refuse to work hard. It’s not an excuse to limit effort or give up. Rather, it’s the sensitivity and sensibility to trust in the process, to see doors closed as closed for a reason and to creatively work around, but not to always believe the door needs to be hacked down with a machete.

Some would even say it’s getting lost in the work, thereby achieving a timeless state of focus.

I realize by saying this I’m portraying the “flow” types as weak. You may be imagining a meek person. This is not the case. In many ways the “flow” person is more secure in who they are, and the connection they have to the world. Perhaps what I’m saying is that people that more closely identify with flow are spiritual?

I don’t see one group as winners or losers. I used to, but I’m moving beyond that black and white classification of the world.

Let’s define hustle and flow

Free association word exercise:

  • What comes to mind when you hear the word, “hustle”?
  • What about when you hear the word, “flow?”
  • Does one feel more peaceful, loving and welcoming?

When I hear hustle I think of other harsh words. Like “back to the daily grind” or “grinding it out” or “killing it at work. Words like “slay”. These all have negative connotations for me. They indicate to me a forceful, aggressive nature that’s pushing at all costs, irrespective of how you feel or it’s impact on others or society.

The word “flow” brings to mind things in their natural state, and often times in nature. A river flows. Dancers flow. Even athletes at their peak seem to flow — performing at a level which appears effortless, and almost peaceful.

When it comes to hustle vs. flow and it’s associations with time, one is anxiety-inducing, the other gives me peace of mind.

Hustle in my mind is associates with scarcity of time. It evokes a need for forced initiation, speed, and action at all costs.

Flow for me is closely tied to trusting time, and recognizing that what is meant to be and happen will manifest if and when it is ready.

There’s a certain trust associated with flow. Within flow, time seems to be less of an enemy, and in many ways it doesn’t matter at all.

Whereas hustle seems to be skeptical of time. Hustle doubts there is enough, will ever be enough, and so forces making the most of every minute. Hustle seems to get more life from racing against the clock. In hustle, time is a core motivator and rationale for pushing more, further, and in a relentless fashion.

Team Hustle vs Team Flow

Within my personal library of who I read and listen to there’s a clear division between those who support Team Hustle and those living and working via Team Flow.

I’m here to ponder — must we choose one over the other? Can there be a place for both?

I’ll admit, my intuition tells me that Team Flow feels better for me. It’s less stressful to think about, it’s more enjoyable to envision. (And to quickly diagnose this previous sentence you can see where my allegiance for Team Flow lies. I use the word, “intuition”, I “feel”. These are emotionally-charged words, but neither negative or overly positive. Rather, these are neutral, wait for it…flow-y, words.

Team Flow:

Jess Lively has built a following (and a living) on encouraging soul-seekers to write letters to their intuition. To look within to move forward. To trust that gut feeling inside of each of us vs. the often ego-led (fear-based) decision making that can direct the course of our life.

Gabrielle Bernstein: author, speaker, meditation leader. I’m reading The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Your Fear Into Faith The title says it all. She’s giving me a tremendous amount of peace in believing that what will happen, will happen. As a result, I should continue to work hard, but do so with the freedom to let life flow vs. force it.

Brene Brown: vulnerability and shame researcher, speaker, author.

If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. — Brené Brown — Hustle for Worthiness

Elizabeth Gilbert: author, speaker. In Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.Liz talks about the importance of doing work, but with undertones of letting what’s inside of you manifest through creation. In other words, the gifts are inside, we just need to align with ourselves and practice non-judgement to let it out. Address the fear, but kindly ask it to step aside so your work and treasures can be shared.

The Father of Flow: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness

Team Hustle:

Gary Vaynerchuck: a sensible proponent of hard-work with a call for urgency to create, and to do so today. It’s hard to miss his call to Hustle if you are active on social media. He sets the record straight on how he defines it in a recent Medium post. I agree with the first two statements:

Real hustle is deploying your energy in an actionable way toward the pursuit of some goal.

The only thing you can control is what you do with your time.

But, I find the last quote here to actually be de-motivating.

Stop crying and keep working. Hustle is the only activity of success.

It reminds me a bit of what Peter Thiel outlines in Zero to One, firmly suggesting that unless you can built a moat around a business idea you’re best to not waste your time trying. Call me soft, but I don’t think that sends a good message.

All I’m saying is that there are several ways to define success. In fact, the only definition that matters is the one you come up with.

What if you define success as unconditional love shown to the world in all that you do? Is hustle inextricably linked to that?

If you want to open a cupcake shop because you get joy from baking, should you stop before you even start because cupcake shops are already a thing? No.

I guess what I’m realizing as I type is that not all advice is good advice for YOU. 

Sometimes the wealthiest person with the biggest voice can make it seem like their way is the right way, but that’s just not true. The right way is your way. The right way is the way that’s aligned with what you value — not what someone else may encourage you to value.

I want to make it clear to anyone that’s reading this and feels discouraged or has a thought that maybe they shouldn’t even try if they aren’t motivated by money. I say, please — do what you want to do.

Hustle or not. You are worthy. What you do does not define that worthiness. Just as hustlers are not better, or more worthy of happiness than those that don’t identify with that word.

My hope is that people that want to become entrepreneurs aren’t deterred by what Peter Thiel may teach them in Zero to One, but that they instead set their expectations accordingly.

The same is true for their requirement to hustle. Should we all expect to work hard in order to achieve something? Yes? Does it take focus, dedicated effort, and commitment? Yes. Does that mean needing to have an aggressive, masculine energy that “powers through” at all costs, regardless of what signals from your environment or universe may be telling you? I say, hell no.

Lewis Howes: Lifestyle Entrepreneur, author, coach.

I guess in his sense, hustle is to mean — you can be anyone and achieve anything. Lewis’ story is rooted in his ability to relate to the common man. A couch to self-made millionaire story meant to inspire. One built on the belief that anyone, regardless of education, can be scrappy and work hard to share their skills and been rewarded monetarily. Again, this is based on the assumption that money for you equates to success.

Travis Kalanik: As taken from one of his former employees, Amy Sun who recently reflected on her experience at Uber in a Medium post.

Travis often says, “Fear is the disease, hustle is the antidote.”

This to me says it all. Hustle and fear are inextricably linked. As are flow and love. Perhaps then the ideal business is built of talent that has both; to be love-leading while also fear-managing.

As Tim Ferriss recently shared, fear is better dealt with when articulated. Plan for it. Address it head on. Know it’s there. You’re only kidding yourself pretending it’s not.

Hustling is in recognition of fear — but I don’t think it makes it go away. It doesn’t make us feel better.

We’d be better off hustling from a place of love vs fear.

Maybe then we’d all be a bit more kinder, enjoy the ride, and take the missteps in stride. We wouldn’t take our work and worthiness as tied to our level of hustle.

CONCLUSION:

If you are hustling for you — and not as a result of what your ego tells you. If your hustle is intrinsically motivated, then maybe it’s okay. To hustle for others. To hustle in service of your ego. To hustle to tell or show others that you made it. Well, that seems like a bad use of your energy. Nobody cares what you are doing except for you. Get that in your head.

To flow, well that may seem too wishy washy to some of you. Maybe it doesn’t strike you as disciplined enough. As structured enough. That’s your fear talking, not love. Could it be that you’re driven by fear of time or lack of achievement? Is that what’s making you think you need hustle?

Maybe what you need after all is more flow. To gain more trust in the process. More faith in the timing, and more belief in yourself as loved irrespective of the outcome.

I choose flow, with maybe a dab of hustle. But I’m not going to be killing, slaying, or grinding out any type of work. What I’ll create and share with the world will manifest, flow, and connect with people as it’s intended.

Flow doesn’t mean lazy. It’s about letting love lead and taking fear out of the driver’s seat and buckling it up in the backseat. You know fear is there as you can see it in the rearview mirror, but it’s not calling the shots.

My job, and possibly your job? Trust in the process, while putting in the honest commitment to whatever it is you’re creating. (And we are all creating — daily).

I choose love. I hope you do too.

ACTION:

Are you looking for more meaning in your work? Have you had the feeling that you need change for quite some time, but don’t know where or how to start?

I invite you to connect with me, as I value the opportunity to get to know one another better.

I’m finding the principles I’ve used in 10+ years of strategy for brands apply to the most important brand and campaign of all — who we are, and how we spend our time.

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