Is anyone else in the tech world super tired of being told to “hustle”? Are you also incredibly tired of “X ways to scale your company SUPER FAST RIGHT NOW!” posts that seem to proliferate across publications like Medium and Forbes?
Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredibly good tech publications out there, like Axios Tech, Recode, and Crunchbase News. I read all of those often and always get value from them.
But if you look in many other places in the entrepreneurial tech content world, you get the same message:
Hustle harder, go faster, scale quicker, raise more money, don’t take breaks.
Over the last month there have even been some entrepreneurs who have tweeted things about the holidays being a time to get ahead of your competitors, to “hustle harder”. In exasperation I tweeted this, which seems to have caught on a bit:
2018: no more reading content on “scaling fast”. I have no interest in that. I want to scale well and sustainably.
Ignore the noise. Focus.
— John Doherty 🤓 (@dohertyjf) December 27, 2017
I am an entrepreneur. I’ve been working for myself since September 2015 and don’t ever plan to go back to work for someone else, firstly because my company is doing well and secondly because I’m a bad employee.
As an entrepreneur, I love to work hard. I’ve had a job since I was 12 years old, cleaning horse stalls for $1 a stall. I optimized my cleaning so that I could make $5 an hour at 12 years old. I felt super rich.
Allergic to hard work I am not.
Most entrepreneurs I know work incredibly hard. I hate the term “work hard, play hard” (which is better suited for another post), but most entrepreneurs I know have the “work hard” part down.
We don’t need to be told to “work hard.”
If anything we need to be told this:
It is ok to play and to play hard and to enjoy it, and you’ll be a better entrepreneur for it.
2018: My Year of No “Hustle”
I am tired of being told to “hustle”, to burn myself out in the pursuit of some ethereal unknown “greater” that “they” think I should be striving for. I’m tired of arriving at the end of a 3-5 month hard push of work with no breaks (and some weekends) and being totally burned out and feeling like I need a month off in order to be truly useful running my company again.
I am tired of every few months arriving at the point where I am so burned out that all I want to do is take my company offline and then curl up on the couch and cry under a blanket.
That is no way to live life, and in the last six months I’ve committed to reinstating a work/life integration that makes me happy, personally.
In fact, a couple months ago I wrote this reminder to myself that sits right under my monitor (photo taken while writing this post):
That’s what being an entrepreneur should be about – having fun.
If you are young and single and have no life outside of work/your company and are going to say “But John, hustling is fun for me!”, then by all means go do your “hustle”.
But if you’re like me, mid 30s married with a dog and looking to buy a house and finally living in a place that you really enjoy that allows you to participate often in your hobbies, then keep reading.
What does “no hustle” mean for me?
A few weeks ago I shared this on Instagram:
I fully believe it, and being almost 2.5 years into my business and having it at a stable and growing place means I have some comforts that are not afforded to a lot of entrepreneurs. I have consistent and growing revenue, the ability to really crank on revenue if I want/need to, expenses under control, and the ability to invest in people and mentors to help me take the business to the next level.
For me, growing my company in 2018 looks completely different from what it looked like at the end of 2015 and heading into 2016.
In 2018, growing my company looks like:
- Building a great team. I’ve gone fast alone, and now it’s time to look towards the horizon and go far with the right team;
- Re-working the Credo product from the marketplace it used to be to a tech-enabled lead gen company/agency, by hiring the right person to do it;
- Focusing down on sales and marketing to handily grow the number of projects and work coming through the platform, which will lead to exponential revenue growth;
- Automating the right things, but not too early (CaboPress in October 2017 was huge for my thinking on this);
If you look closely at the above, it’s not me doing all the work. Sure I have to do the hiring, but I just made a big hire and the second one I’ll get some help on. I plan to do most of the sales/marketing myself, but areas where I am not world class (especially paid acquisition) I’ll hire an expert.
In 2017, I’ve worked with two amazing mentors who have helped me out in huge ways to fix my business model, get clarity on my personal skills/passions/zones of genius, move through some personal mental blocks to hiring, and figuring out what the Credo product needs to be.
Growing Credo in 2018 is not John hustling or working harder. I literally cannot work any harder. I need help.
“Not hustling” doesn’t mean you’re not working hard or don’t care
If I’m not working 80 hour weeks, am I less committed to my business than working 40 hours a week?
If I’m not thinking about or taking phone calls from the chairlift or checking my phone every 15 minutes for new emails, does it mean I don’t care?
The answer to both of the above is no.
I can’t help but think about my business. I’m an entrepreneur and my business is my baby, and the most important thing to me other than my wife, dog, and friends. It’s equivalent with my most-loved hobbies of skiing, rock climbing, and travel.
Let me make this clear: I genuinely enjoy working hard and seeing the fruits of my labor ripen.
But I’ve also come to realize that:
- Repeated late nights probably mean that I haven’t delegated well;
- Burnout means I haven’t delegated well;
- Weekends working means I haven’t planned (or delegated) well.
There are absolutely times that you need to dig in and work a long week, because projects creep and clients need things and life happens. But these weeks should be the exception, not the norm.
When should you “hustle”?
2018 is my year of putting into practice everything I’ve learned over the last two years. But I of course don’t want to leave this post without talking about when you should put your nose to the grindstone short to medium term.
You need to work incredibly hard and maybe put yourself through the toughest time of your life if you are an entrepreneur and you:
- Don’t have enough revenue or a business model that works;
- Your product is non-existent or does not meet your customer’s needs;
- You’re at the very beginning stages of your business. This is the time to really dig in. Inertia begets inertia, so push on that flywheel.
This said, you also should not hustle so hard that you get depressed, angry with others, or start losing friends. If you’ve done that, then you’re doing life entirely wrong.
We only have one life to live, and we should enjoy it.
Yes working hard can be incredible fun. But do you know what else is incredibly fun and probably exponentially more rewarding long term?
Don’t sacrifice your life now for some future “other” that may not come to pass.
What about you?
What’s the focus of 2018 for you? I’d love to hear it in the comments.
7 thoughts on “2018: The Year of No “Hustle””
I’ve set some modest goals for 0 to 1. I have tons of ideas and launch most of them. But I’m only just now realizing- for serious – that “launching” means nothing until someone accepts the launch, someone accepts for the service i offer. It isnt about revenue, its about crafting a message where someone else says “yes I want that.” I launched three things last year and had scores of people say YES I NEED THAT. But none of them paid for it and all politely declined when I asked point blank for them to do so.
So 2018 is about refining, learning, and figuring out what it is I am not communicating well enough to get excited beta users to actually pay. I don’t care about the money. I offered all of the products/services for $1 for a lifetime “early adopter” price. I raised prices. Lowered prices. Nada. So this year I care about the learning and understanding how to get from 0 to 1. Because I’m full of ideas that get people to say “that’s awesome sign me up!” Now I am interested in translating that excitement to them opening their wallet, even for a near-zero amount. O to 1 That’s 2018 for me.
Colin, I love this approach. You’re absolutely right that launching means nothing until someone accepts it and you start making revenue from it, if that’s how you’re treating it and your goal.
What specific steps are you taking to get that first sale? You should read this transcript of an interview I did with Dan Martell – https://www.johnfdoherty.com/talking-entrepreneurship-product-marketing-dan-martell/
Great post John. In the consulting or agency world, hustle is good as long as it doesn’t mean churn. If hustle results in client churn, that’s never a good thing. Keeping current customers happy and growing is key!
Sean, thank you for the comment! I’m not quite sure how you are defining hustle. I would say “hustle” how I defined it, as in working yourself to the bone and burning yourself out, is never good for anyone. Working hard is absolutely good, and if you’re working hard and smart then hopefully in the agency world you will not have much churn!
2018 is a year for redefining priorities of so many people around. And I somehow understand the reason – people are simply tired because of the information overflow. Simple focusing on one’s life and priorities has become a challenge.
That’s why 2018 for me is a year to step back a little bit and polish what I want to master. And at last get a little bit of vacation. Gosh, it’s good to have people like yourself publishing on the Internet!
Cheers, keep on doing good job!
Aleksandra, good to hear that you also are taking some time to step back, polish what you want to and have mastered, and also taking a vacation! We all need that, and I hope you find some rest.
I set reasonable goals for myself and then work toward them on a regular basis. Along the way, it feels like I’m just making tiny bits of progress here and there, but those bits add up! Looking back on the past year, I’m amazed by how much I accomplished.
Hustling might make sense, if you’re working to impress a boss. Hustling is a waste of effort when you’re focusing on creating value.
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