Hustle. It’s the battle cry of the modern entrepreneur. It means work hard, work long…put in more hours, make more sacrifices than the next guy. Or than anybody else.
The notion is that talent and skill are largely what they are. And that the big variable is the effort, which is quantified by what you do and how long you do it.
My view of hard work is that yes, it’s hard. And often necessary. But I’m not going to make some sweeping generalization about it either.
We love to hear stories of Larry Bird as a child shooting thousands of baskets daily out on the family farm. We lionize the effort, the dedication. For good reason. It’s noteworthy.
There are countless stories that could be told of high achievers who found something they were quite talented at that didn’t require such levels of extreme dedication or practice. People very capable of greatness who didn’t necessarily have the obsession to do that thing at the expense of everything else.
Where do you fall in all this? Where do I fall? I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I can truthfully say that I have confidence in myself about many things and a complete lack of confidence about many other things. There are things I enjoy that I think I’m pretty good at, and other things I enjoy that I’m less sure about.
Working to exhaustion seems to be the mantra that most disturbs me because I have perspective. I’ve done it. Multiple times in my career. Often because I had to. Other times because I wanted to. Like most things in our lives, it ebbs and flows. Some days you eat the bear. Some days, the bear eats you.
My biggest advances forward, my most positive moments of growth didn’t happen in the middle of the battle when I was putting in 80-hour work weeks. They came when I stepped back and took a deep breath. Either because circumstances gave me the opportunity, or because I felt myself simply needing a reprieve from the grind.
Deep breathing time. Reflection time. Time to ponder.
Frenetic movement doesn’t mean you’re hustling. Don’t mistake motion for action.
There’s a reason you hear the cliché of getting our best ideas in the shower. Stepping away gives us a perspective that’s difficult to see when we’re dodging bullets in the battle.
Our minds need time to process the work. To reflect on what we’re doing, and what we’re learning. To come up with alternative solutions, or to just come up with any solution. To spot opportunities unseen in the daily grind of it all.
I have an iMac. It’s got a high-speed processor and plenty of RAM, meaning it’s got good horsepower. Most of the time it hums along quietly while multiple programs are going. I’m sure under the hood, it’s working hard, but it’s not hitting its full capabilities.
But I can start processing an hour long video, have email open, have multiple Chrome tabs open, and start recording audio and all of a sudden I can hear the internal cooling mechanism kick into gear to cool down the engine. I can quit one or two of the less taxing efforts – like closing down Chrome – and the computer clearly stops pushing itself so hard. I’d imagine I could go the other way though and try to process a second video file and I’d quickly find out how much the computer could take. Would I be able to tax it enough to cause it to shut down to protect itself? Yes. The computer is designed, so I’m told (I’ve never tried it), to shut down if it begins to overheat.
What a stupid feature, right? I mean, doesn’t this iMac know the value of hustle. Can you hustle too much? Can you work too hard?
Work requires rest.
Some people need more than others. I’ve lived my entire life not needing much sleep. I love to sleep, but I don’t get much of it. And the older I get, the less I get.
Additionally, my circadian rhythm has always involved about 90-minute sleep cycles. I can sleep for 90-minutes then be up for hours, and keep that cycle going until morning. It’s not terribly uncommon for me to squeeze in two 90-minute cycles in a night. And I can just about set a watch to the 90-minutes. When I say “about” 90-minutes, it’s within a minute or two. Weird.
Even freaks like me need rest though. Some days I have to nap. Not often, but some days. My body just starts telling me, “You’re done!”
It’s important to listen to yourself and not the entrepreneurial landscape that’s yelling for you to earn your HUSTLE merit badge.
Rest is rebuilding. Gaining energy for the work ahead.
It’s also healing. Regenerating time.
Rejuvenating time. Giving your brain – your processor – time to cool down to a more optimal temperature where it’s able to perform at a higher level.
Permit me to make some suggestions.
Devote a bit of time each day to do nothing. No meetings. No phone calls. No reading. Just something completely passive. Time where it’s not about accomplishing anything. Checking something off your to-do-list.
For me? It’s slapping on headphones and listening to music. I may do it for a few minutes here and there, multiple times. I may do it for an hour. I do it until I’m ready to get back to it, whatever IT is.
Schedule time to reflect. Reflection is looking back. What’s working? What’s not working? Reflection is meant to teach, not punish. This isn’t time set aside so you can berate yourself of your mistakes. Instead, it’s time to learn, like the athletes who watch film of their last game…you’re looking closely at what you did so you can do better in the future.
Schedule time to consider tomorrow. For me, this is dreaming time. Not dreaming during sleep, but intentional dreaming about the future I most would like to create. It’s time when I ask myself what I most want and why. Sometimes it involves writing. Sometimes it involves talking to myself. Sometimes it involves fantasy, imagining what may seem like the impossible. It’s my time to permit my mind to go wherever I’d like to travel. Future time. Better time.
I hope this helps you. Better yet, I hope you’ll more soberly consider it and give it a go. Let me know how it works out.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!