The hustle culture, once so popular with its shiny #bossbabe hashtags and well-curated overhead shots of office supplies, is aging. Like a sticky bottle of salad dressing that takes up space in the fridge door, our society’s obsession with the hustle culture is probably past its expiry date. The longer it sits, the grimmer it looks. We probably should toss it out, but it is hard to get rid of. As recently as a few years ago, the whole idea of #riseandgrind really jazzed us up.
But who has the energy to #slay anymore?
With all the drama of a fast food wrapper being accidentally sucked out a car window, ‘striving’ has been sucked from my soul. I feel kinda feel bad, but it’d be a fool’s errand to go back and retrieve it. Did the pandemic suck my striving? Politics? My age or stage? Did my youngest take it with him when he left and emptied my nest? Maybe it fell out while silent-screaming on my rollercoaster of grief. Maybe it is watching my parents decline as I prepare to be a grandma. I’m not sure, but I don’t want to hustle.
I can’t bear the thought of slaying. And please don’t make me grind. I don’t want to lean in anymore; I just want to lie down.
Surely, there is a kinder and gentler way to fulfill our purpose, help others, love ourselves, and provide for our families? One that doesn’t shame us, making us feel like slackers when we simply want to sit and enjoy a cup of tea?
Recently, I had a session with a mentor. I laid out my business goals for her. She listened and was silent. Like, for a long time she said nothing. So silent, I felt like the Monkey Puppet from the meme where the puppet that is a monkey but looks like a bear awkwardly side-eye glances toward the camera in one frame and then away from the camera in the next.
Finally, measured, she spoke. ‘I think you’ve got it all backward,’ she said.
‘Seriously?’ I replied. ‘I mean, if you look at it, one step follows the next. One completed task builds on the other. I have to start at the beginning and end at the end. I don’t see another way. What do you see that I don’t see?’ I asked.
There was another pregnant pause before she said, ‘You’ll waste time if you continue to see things as building off one another. You’ll waste precious energy. Why are you pushing your big goal to the end of the year? Focus on that now. All those smaller but important goals will be reached along the way. You won’t fight yourself. You won’t make as many excuses. You’ll get things done and be happier a year from now.’
I sat in stunned silence.
Whaaa??? *insert mind-blown emoji here*
And that, my friends, is how all the chatter in my brain quieted, barriers disappeared, and the light crackled back to my soul.
Let me explain for those who don’t know this about me: I look normal on the outside, but on the inside, Resistance calls all the shots. Resistance is my inner gatekeeper. Resistance will often make me army crawl through jaw-dropping, action-packed labyrinths and pathways. Resistance will make me solve a series of impossible puzzles like I’m Indiana Jones or something before it grants me an audience with the wizard I like to call Get-Shit-Done. Usually, instead of actually getting anything done, I give up and start Zillowing. Or I clean the inside of my washing machine.
But the intuitive comment from my coach changed everything. I realized how I mistook being busy, hustling, and striving for actual work. I stopped trying to hustle and was rewarded with ease. I look forward to writing. I have the energy to tick things off my list. Without hyperbole, I think I’ve accomplished more in the last two weeks than in the last two months. Ending the hustle mentality changed my perspective, and it made getting out of my own way a joy.
Hustling is not progress.
Hustle feeds the I’m-never-enough monster that nips at my ankles like biting no-seem-ums in the summer. Striving for the sake of striving strips me of creativity. It is isolating, unsustainable, and bordering on the ridiculous with its toxic positivity. All the dicking around I have done in the name of striving!?!
There are far too many days, weeks, and even months I have gone to bed feeling guilty for not hustling enough. I feel inept. I chastise myself for not doing more. Shame oozes and hardens like oatmeal in a bowl. Hustling keeps me strapped to a hamster wheel of never-enough and not-good-enough. I get overwhelmed. Paralyzation sets in like rigor mortis. Then nothing, nothing at all, gets done and I feel smaller and smaller, my dreams further and further away.
Striving for the sake of striving is not progress.
To be clear, I still have dreams and goals; this isn’t about a lack of ambition or hope. I want to create and connect. I love helping people make sense of their lives and relationships. I know my life’s purpose, and I don’t want to squander time or innate gifts. I am willing to push myself out of my comfort zone; I want to create. I’m willing to feel vulnerable. But I also want to give myself credit for tending to the countless important things that pull me away from grinding. I’ll always be a wife, mom, aunt, daughter, and friend before I am a #BossBabe.
I want sane. I want to regain peace. I want to go to bed at night and feel like I am enough, that what I accomplished is enough. I want quiet moments that replenish my well.
I once had a revealing conversation with a man in a similar industry. I trust him; he is a friend. Early on a Monday morning, he chastised me for not taking sizable chunks of my weekend to work on my business. I felt instant shame. If my business really mattered, I should double down like he did every weekend, catching up and creating. My shoulders slumped; nothing I did was enough.
It took me weeks of his words tumbling around in my head before it occurred to me that he had a wife running the show on the other side of his closed home office door! She was connecting, planning, shopping, tidying up, running errands, and problem-solving family life. I did not have a wife to facilitate my family’s weekend; it is me; I am the wife. There is only one of me, and a steady, ongoing diet of nothing but busy weekdays followed by business-building weekends spent behind closed office doors starts taking on the shape of deathbed regret.
There’s a breathtaking haiku by Mizuta Masahide (1657–1723) that reads:
Barn’s burnt down
Now I can see
My coach’s insight burned down my metaphorical barn. She simplified. She rearranged. She made it so I could see the light.
Most of us could benefit from burning down our metaphorical barn.
Most of us tend to do life on autopilot. Sometimes, dismantling the status quo or burning it right down to the ground is exactly the thing that can reinvigorate us. We tend to repeat patterns and re-commit to habits without considering if our actions are serving us. We cloak ourselves in outdated beliefs without pausing to see if they still fit who we are today or if they are even flattering given who we are today. We cling to how things have always been done because predictability is comfortable. We don’t see our own blind spots. We believe people, tasks, schedules, or things are indispensable without realizing that, occasionally, their absence or removal could usher in new growth, much like rain renews the desert’s parched floor.
What light would you see if your metaphorical barn burned down?
Is there an easier way to do things? Is it time to let quiet the chatter in your brain? Is there forgiveness for yourself or someone else? Is there an ending or possibly a new beginning? Is it time to let go of something no longer urgent or important in your life? Is it time to let one dream die so another may be born? Can you usher in a new age of grace? Could you stop comparing yourself to strangers on the internet? Is it possible to notice how influenced you might be by what is trending online?
It is time we looked at how the hustle culture has affected our well-being. If hustling works for you, by all means, keep slaying! There is nothing inherently wrong with hustling. If, however, like me, you find yourself in need of regaining peace, take stock. Consider other options.
Take a chance and burn down a metaphoric barn or two. You might just see the light. End the hustle and reclaim some peace.