Stop the wheel. I want to get off.
Or, do I?
I just read an article about the “hustle and grind culture” of millennials. People brag about their “side gigs” and down copious amounts of caffeine so they can keep running.
Sadly, it reminded me of the go-go 1980s when I used to pride myself on working late every night and packing my oh-so-fashionable briefcase with work for the weekend. And then I too succumbed to the allure of entrepreneurship, often sacrificing family and friends for the next work project and scaling my business.
Getting off the hamster wheel is no easy feat. I love my work and plan to do it well into my 90’s or 100’s, re-inventing and re-booting as I go along. I confess that I am somewhat judgmental of those retirees who spend their days playing golf and going to happy hour. I need to stimulate my brain cells and feed off the energy of other people of all ages (even if they sometimes exclude me from their activities).
So, what’s the middle ground? (middle grind in mid-life?)
I often do what I call “day-parting,” chunking my time up into work time and play time and I now allow myself way more play time than I did during those formative years of wealth- and status-accumulation. At first I felt guilty getting a manicure midday or doing my work by the pool at the gym.
But then I realized that I’m simply giving myself a much-deserved break after all those years of deadlines, monthly financial reporting, KPIs, and MBOs. Not to mention hiring and firing babysitters, commuting, birthday cupcakes, proms, college applications, etc., etc., etc.
But I’m hardly a slacker. I have a wonderful big client who keeps me so busy with work that I love that it almost doesn’t feel like work some days. I do hourly consulting and am looking for teaching gigs. I joined a local non-profit board and am looking for a seat on a new one (because giving back usually doesn’t feel like work). I travel. I see my friends and family, make new friends, and attend many business events. And I write, I hike, work-out, and teach myself new tech skills.
Hmmm…that’s starting to sound a lot like hustling and grinding.
The big difference is that I now can usually do things because I want to do them or that they’re helping others, rather than out of a sense of obligation, competition, or compulsion.
You’re just as likely to find me hustling to a spin class as you are seeing me hustling to hit a writing deadline. I’m balancing on that hamster wheel but not confined to it.
As I’ve learned after 60+ years on this earth…every second you’re grinding is a moment you could be embracing and enjoying.