The Difference Between Hard Work & Hustle

Establishing a healthy perspective to the value of hard work

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Photo Credit: Forbes
Photo Credit: Forbes

I am the son of an immigrant. In 1960, at the age of 15, my father came to the US to flee the Castro regime that had taken over Cuba.  I remember him telling me what his father, my grandfather, told him as he said goodbye to his son. He told him, “they can take our cars, they can take our houses, our boats and our money. However, they can never take our hope, our name and our willingness to work hard.”

Those words must have had quite an impact on my father as he is one of the hardest workers I know and by being so consistently set a good example for my siblings and I.

However, along the way, something has happened to what we in this country have long known as a good old fashioned work ethic. There has been an exchange that has slowly eroded the pride and nobility of hard work and instead lauded the hustle, the obsession with more and the unhinged pursuit of business success.

In the words of Alex Ohanian, it’s called “hustle porn”. He describes it as people (in his case those in the tech world) overworking themselves. And while Ohanian is a staunch voice against this idea of overworking and “grinding” the names that are lauding it seem to be far louder and greater in number.

Advice from these prognosticators of the hustle and the grind range from Jack Ma endorsing a 9-9, six-day-a week work schedule, to Grant Cardone encouraging a 95 hour work week to Kevin O’Leary stating 25 hours per day as the key to success. And these are just a few.

While nobody can question the monetary success these men have made, all should question if money is THE measuring stick of success and the unhealthy impact these statements and guidelines have on those in business. However, many are not stopping to ask these questions and rather they are heeding this advice to their own detriment.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Americans work more than anyone else in the western world (insert hustle and grind here) and it is taking its toll:

So when does it stop? When do we collectively come to a place where we reject the message of “put everything else on hold while you work yourself to exhaustion in hopes of business success?”

The reality is . . . it is a choice.

When I owned my first small business, I made the choice to throw all I had into my business.  I was determined to out hustle, out grind and do whatever it took to be successful. While my business did grow, everything else around me declined. It was not until a wake-up call in the form of almost losing my family that I decided to make the change and live life within boundaries.

I ended up leaving the business and began another one, but with a much different perspective and with defined boundaries on what I was willing and not willing to do.  Make no mistake, I still work hard, but the hours I give to my work are defined and are not as many as I give to investing and cultivating my relationships. I also give more attention to my whole health – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical.

I have found that this new approach actually makes me better in my business.  I am wildly more creative, my clients get the best of me and my work product and better yet, my relationships are stronger as a result.

There are 86,400 seconds that each of us have in a day and only we can decide how to use them.  We cannot use the majority of them within our work and then give leftovers to ourselves and our relationships, something in the process will most certainly suffer.  

It is time we recognize there is a difference in working hard and the hustle. One is noble and the other one is downright toxic and unhealthy.

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