burnout culture

Overcoming Hustling Culture in Entrepreneurship

Hustling culture is costing you time, money, and meaning, and it’s counterproductive to your success in entrepreneurship.

  • How many times have you felt exhausted, but pushed through anyway? 
  • How often do you prioritize “just one more thing” on your to-do list, instead of finishing work on time?
  • How easy is it to postpone a date night or a get together because you just feel that there’s too much to do?
  • And when is the last time you fully unplugged from your business for more than a week?

There is a baseline level of anxiety (some call it “drive”) that simmers quietly when we’re hustling, and rears its ugly head in protest when we’re not. 

We don’t know how to slow down. We haven’t ever done it long enough for our brains to categorize it as safe. We’ve bought into the narrative that entrepreneurship is ‘hard work’, that success requires sacrificing your health, your relationships, your hobbies… and what have we got to show for it? 

A generation of entrepreneurs that are exhausted and burnt out.

In this article, I want to share the truth about hustling culture, explain the effect it’s having on entrepreneurs and their businesses, and tell you exactly how you can overcome it to create not just financial success but fulfilling success™ in life and business.

hustling culture

Hustling culture is a way of working that celebrates the sacrifice of sleep, hobbies, relationships, and health on the altar of success. Also called ‘grind culture’ or ‘toxic productivity’,  it’s the mentality that working longer and harder than anyone else is the only way to achieve your professional goals. 

The hustling culture narrative reinforces the notion that you must sacrifice your life to have a successful business.

And most entrepreneurs are buying it!

Many entrepreneurs don’t bat an eye at the notion of putting in 12 hour days, skipping important family events, and not thinking about anything but their business for hours/days/weeks at a time.

At a recent talk I gave to a business accelerator program, 100% of start-up founders in the room believed that entrepreneurship requires burn-out for success. 

Hustling culture has become an epidemic in entrepreneurship

Recent data shows that entrepreneurs are burning out faster than ever

  • 30% admit they are often or constantly burned out
  • 95% are unsure of how to achieve a healthy work-life balance
  • 67% admit they see no other option but to continue working despite their exhaustion.

Today’s society glamorizes overworking and celebrates people who are constantly running from one thing to do the next. Ask anyone on the street “how are you?”, and 99% of the time you’ll hear “good… busy!” 

One business coaching client came to me after he had worked 60-80 hour weeks consistently for the last 10 years, worked 26 x12 hour days in a row without a day off, and hadn’t taken a single vacation in those 10 years. He was seen as successful among his peers because his business was growing and his wealth was building… but he was absolutely miserable.

hustling culture

How did we get here, to a place where your hustle is valued more than your happiness?

Related Post: What Actually Makes Entrepreneurs Happy | 3 Keys To Happiness

“American culture valorizes overwork” says Arthur C Brooks in his article on Why Success Won’t Make You Happy.  We are told that working longer and harder than anyone else will pay off in wealth, praise, and accolades. We are told it is the key to happiness. Since our values are formed at a very young age, we adopt this way of thinking subconsciously, and we don’t question it until after it has seriously impacted the quality of our lives.

Hustling culture is not only detracting from your life experience as an entrepreneur, it’s preventing you from achieving your full potential in business. And, to make matters worse, it doesn’t even pay off…

The average person makes over 35,000 decisions in a day and they all deplete time and energy (source). At some point, “you are either putting the decision off until later, making a rash decision based on little evidence, avoiding the decision altogether or battling back and forth between various choices” (source), none of which is an effective use of your time or headspace as an entrepreneur. 

As a business owner, your success depends on your ability to make effective decisions. If you’re working too many hours and burning out your brain, it’s negatively impacting your business.

Our best decisions happen when we are feeling energized, inspired, and excited about the work we’re doing. If you haven’t felt that way in a while, it’s time to make some changes.

Working more does not mean you’re going to see a correlated increase in results. 

In fact, a recent study has shown that there is no benefit to working more than a certain number of hours a week as your earnings do not increase (source). (In this particular study, they claim it’s 55 hours a week, but I believe that number changes person to person). 

The bottom line is that true productivity isn’t about the number of hours you work, it’s about the importance of the tasks you are getting done, especially in entrepreneurship. 

58% of entrepreneurs started their business because they got tired of the lack of flexibility in the corporate world, and yet, they’ve unwittingly recreated the corporate grind in their own businesses! 

When you subscribe to hustling culture, you are more likely to dismiss activities you find meaningful and enjoyable – in fact, more than 54% of entrepreneurs have given up their hobbies because they’re told they should be going “all in” on their business. 

I disagree. Your brain needs time away from the business in order to recharge, so that it can come back and operate at its highest level the next day. You cannot be ‘always on’.

Related Post: How To Shake Up A Monotonous Life

Research has proven that long working hours negatively impacts your mental health and increases anxiety and depression.

Not only that, but hustling culture can actually be deadly: A global analysis by the World Health Organization found that “the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours has increased by 42% over 16 years”! “People working 55 hours or more per week have a 35% higher risk of a stroke than those working 35-40 hours a week.”

You might be caught up in hustling culture if you’re noticing the following: 

  • Overemphasis on Work: hustling culture places a disproportionate emphasis on work, often leading to the neglect of personal life, health, and relationships. If you work more than 40 hours a week consistently, and catch yourself thinking about the business even in your “off” time instead of being present, you’re hustling.
  • Unsustainable Work Practices: hustling culture is only possible with work habits that are unsustainable, leading to burnout, chronic stress, and health issues. If you’re skipping breakfast, burning the candle at both ends and not getting 8 hours of sleep, not taking the time to work-out, flying across time zones multiple times a month, or doing anything that you cannot see yourself doing for the next 3-5 years, you’re hustling.
  • Always on: if you cannot comfortably take time away from your phone and feel the pressure to rapidly respond to every email, phone call, text message, and social media comment, you’re hustling. 
  • Sacrificing your personal life: if you aren’t taking the time to develop genuine friendships, invest energy into your marriage, or be truly present with your children, you’re hustling.
  • Glorifying hardship: if you have a strong narrative around the importance of grinding, hustling, and enduring hardships to achieve your goals, or you find yourself glorifying the extreme challenges you’ve overcome, you’re hustling. 
  • Short-Term Gains Over Long-Term Stability: if you’re focused only on immediate results, often at the expense of long-term sustainability and growth, you’re hustling.
  • Unrealistic Goals and Pressure: if you’ve set goals that are unattainably high, and feel excessive pressure to achieve them, or if not hitting your goals leads to a sense of worthlessness or failure, you’re hustling. 
  • Anxiety: if you feel anxious about how much is on your plate and whether you’re doing enough, you’ve been hustling for a while.
  • Self-Worth Tied Solely to Success: if your self-worth is heavily tied to your business’ achievements, leading to a fragile sense of self that fluctuates with external successes and failures, you’re hustling.

If you resonate with these signs of hustling culture, it’s time to examine how you’re running your business and life and make some essential changes to overcome hustling culture so that you can experience fulfilling success as an entrepreneur.

Related Post: How To Do A Life Audit | Ultimate Guide 2024

7 shifts to overcome hustling culture & reignite healthy achievement

Here are 7 things you can do immediately to overcome hustling culture and get back to a healthy sense of achievement as a high performing entrepreneur.

When you pull yourself out of the day to day of your business and take a look at the big picture of your life, are you genuinely happy with how you are spending your days? 

Hustling Culture

When you’re stuck inside hustling culture, you don’t take the time to pull your head out of the weeds and evaluate whether you’re genuinely fulfilled by your life and business. In order to overcome hustling culture and reignite healthy achievement, you must redefine success (click here to read exactly how to do that) and build your life and business in alignment with your values

The irony in the fact that we sacrifice our happiness in order to be more productive and successful is that research has proven that we’re actually more successful when we START with happiness

So rather than assuming that you’ll feel happy when you’re more productive, consider the fact that you’ll be substantially more productive when you prioritize your happiness and fulfillment first.

This can look like getting back into your hobbies & scheduling them on the calendar, taking time to enjoy a relaxing morning routine, and taking time off work to unplug or travel.

Many of my high achieving business coaching clients feel the need to work until they stop feeling anxious about not working. If this sounds like you, the first thing you need to do is shift your definition of productivity. 

Related Post: Top 6 Productivity Tips from CEOs That Are Crushing It

But productivity actually has a different definition… According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, productivity is a simple ratio of output vs input.

Based on this definition, you become more productive when you achieve the same result in LESS time, not when you work more hours. 

Unfortunately, this can be hard to come to terms with, especially if you came from the corporate world and used to get paid by how many hours your butt was in the office chair. 

But in entrepreneurship, this narrative not only doesn’t apply… it’s actually damaging! 

So, instead of worrying about how much you’re working and using that as a measure of your success, re-evaluate what you’re actually working on and shift your definition of productivity to mean achieving the right things in LESS time worked, not more.

Too often, you set goals from the wrong place: a place of ego, of worrying whether we’re successful enough, of trying to prove something to someone (or maybe to ourselves). If your goals are creating a sense of pressure and anxiety, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

It’s time to reflect on what it is you truly want (not what you’ve been conditioned to believe you want) and set your financial and business goals from a place of purpose, not ego.

Being intentional with the goals you set for yourself and your business allows you to take action from a place of excitement and fulfillment, and yields a very different result than when you’re working toward something because you feel you ‘should.’

A key issue with hustling culture is that it never rests. High achievers are so used to setting and achieving goals that they don’t pause to celebrate their successes. This leads to a never-ending cycle of working toward the next big thing without actually enjoying the win!

We usually set goals because it will give us something we don’t currently have. For example, I had a client who wanted to hit a multi-million dollar business goal so that he could purchase a super-yacht and spend time sailing across oceans. The goal was supposed to create a level of freedom to do the thing he loves, but instead, the goal kept turning into another bigger and bigger goal and he never followed through on his promise to himself. 

This happens because we believe we’ll be happier after we achieve the next goal, and never stop to actually experience happiness in the present moment.

If you’re ready to overcome hustling culture, it’s time to actually celebrate your wins in between goals – whether that’s the super-yacht, or an evening spent at the bookshop with your favorite latte.

For many entrepreneurs, the line between work and life is blurry, especially if you work from home. It’s easy to wake up in the morning, check your emails, and dive right in, or to continue working well past dinner time as you try to wrap up “just one more thing.” 

Ana McRae

Setting strong boundaries can look like putting a cap on the number of hours you work in a row (ie. 3-4), time blocking specific non work activities into your calendar (like a lunchtime hike, a 2pm nap, a 4pm workout), or committing to not checking emails after 5pm.

Overcoming hustling culture requires trusting that you can have boundaries with your business and still succeed.

hustling culture

Discipline is different from hustle. Consistency is different from overworking.

Hustle culture is just a pendulum that swung too far, perpetuated by capitalism. It devalues your life as a human, and measures your worth by the number of production hours you put out.

Whether you’re an early stage entrepreneur or an established one, you will make just as much, if not more, progress in your thinking and decisions, when you’re out for a walk, talking to a friend over coffee, meditating, journaling, or getting a good night’s sleep and waking up with the answer. Overworking is not the solution to your anxiety and fear.

Subscribing to hustle culture means allowing your business to take over your life, rather than building a business that supports a life you love.

Over time, this impacts your physical and mental health, it isolates you from your most important relationships, and it causes burn-out. 

The hustling culture is not only unsustainable, it is entirely unnecessary.

Rather than filling your days with endless to-do lists to make yourself feel productive and bury the uncertainty you’re afraid of, choose to set meaningful goals, establish clear priorities, and celebrate the progress you are making. 

Anti-hustle culture isn’t anti-work… It’s about intentionally working in a way that’s sustainable over the long term. 

70% of my business coaching clients come to me on the edge of burnout, exhausted by their business, and looking for a more sustainable way to scale.

If you’re ready to escape the relentless grind of entrepreneurship, book a discovery call to explore how I can support you in scaling your business with ease.

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