Certain buzzwords out there that have grown in popularity, and “hustle” is one of them. I’m not a fan of what it’s become.
It’s not the first term that I’ve tired of; “Inbox Zero” is another that immediately comes to mind. When the term was coined by Merlin Mann years ago, it didn’t mean getting your email inbox to zero messages. Rather, Merlin meant that the zero represented “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in [his/her] inbox.”
What does that mean? It means taking what is currently known in your inbox and knowing what it represents. It does not mean constantly living in your email inbox so that by day’s end there’s nothing left in there. That kind of activity can (and often does) result in other work – deeper work – not getting done.
The word “hustle” has started to grate on me as well, much in the same way “Inbox Zero” has.
Because it infers that you need to keep moving. Relentlessly. Without stopping.
I see plenty of people embodying the “hustle” mindset when they attack their to do lists. They go in and try to check off as many boxes as possible, doing so as quickly as they can. The problem with that is you can spend time checking off boxes that aren’t ones that need to be checked off. When you’re always hustling, you run the risk of not slowing down to strategize. You don’t step back long enough to gain perspective. (In fact, stepping back can appear to be a step in the wrong direction.)
Sure, there are plenty of people who hustle and still pause and reflect. Or at the very least they chronicle their days so they can review them at their leisure. That’s one way around it.
But not everyone can (or wants to) do that.
You also can’t “hustle” your way to true personal productivity. You need to focus on your intentions and then have a means to pay attention to them consistently, so you make forward progress with them. Sometimes – and I know this is cliché – it’s slow and steady that wins the race.
Keep in mind I’m not talking about “side hustle” here. That’s a term unto itself. It’s also a noun. I’m talking about the verb.
Also, keep in mind that the other definition of hustle is to con or swindle. I know it might be a stretch to say that when you try to “hustle” your way to success or to peak personal productivity, you wind up conning or swindling yourself because it’s not sustainable.
It might be a stretch to suggest that, but I’m going to share that thought anyways.
Jeff Goins agrees with my stance on the word as well. Here’s one of his comments on this Facebook discussion thread he started:
“If you rush the work, you can do more harm than good. That’s the problem with hustle. So let’s take our time and move with intention.”
While Jeff goes on to say in that thread he prefers the term “perseverance,” I’d like to propose an alternative. Rather than focus on hustle, focus on being lively.
Hustle is about doing. But “lively” is about being. I’ve often said we should stop “doing” productive and start “being” productive. I say we should be lively in everything we do instead of focusing on the hustle mindset.
The definition of “lively” I’m going for here is as follows: full of life and energy; active and outgoing.
I believe that if you approach your life and your work in a lively manner, then you’ll receive all the benefits of the hustle mindset but you’ll have a greater chance of lining it up with what you really want to be doing with your life.
I’m just beginning to explore this idea (first touching on it during my Think Better Live Better talk in Florida), and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it as well. You can do so in the comments below or share it on social media and tag me in the conversation.