The Intolerance of Hustle

hustle culture

By Mark Schaefer

I am normally an even-keeled guy, but the mantra of “the hustle” that seems pervasive today is grating on me like a rake on rocks. And last week I snapped.

It’s not that I am against anybody working hard, or following an entrepreneurial dream. If that’s what you want, go for it.

I did.

But what upsets me is the attitude often associated with this culture suggesting that if you’re not hustling, you’re a lazy, excuse-making coward. It’s hustle-shaming.

There is a not-so-subtle judgment embedded in this attitude that smacks of bigotry. Does that seem harsh? Hear me out.

The hustle culture

I can withstand the naive hype associated with the hustle culture, but when I see a stream of advice like this on LinkedIn, I cringe:

“I often hear people say, ‘I can’t leave my job because of .. ‘ or ‘I can’t grow my business because of …’ Stop with the excuses because nobody cares. The only limitations are the ones that you set forth for yourself.”

That sort of advice drives me nuts. You know what? There are lots good reasons not to leave a job, and there are many limitations in life that are not self-imposed.

  • Maybe you need the health benefits for a child with a chronic disease.
  • Maybe you’re serving your country in the armed forces.
  • Maybe you have deep debts you need to pay off (from your last hustle?)

My point is, there are many legitimate limitations that may keep you from quitting a job, even if you want to. But that does not make you any less worthy as a person. It doesn’t mean you’re a coward or you’re making an excuse. Maybe it means you’re being responsible.

The Anti-hustle

nicole purvy

Nicole Purvy

Gratefully, there is a growing backlash against the “dark and empty” hustle culture and one of its leaders is Nicole Purvy, an entrepreneur, podcaster, and author of the new book The AntiHustle

“I absolutely loathe the word hustle,” she said. “If you look up hustle in the dictionary, it means ‘to swindle.’ I don’t want to be associated with that.”

“The hustle culture is focused on the amount of work and sacrifices you’re making to be successful. The number of hours you work seems to be the badge of honor with that culture. The only reason you have to hustle in the first place is because you don’t have a plan. You’re scrambling to make something work. You’re tripping over dollars to pick up pennies because you don’t have a path forward.

“I think a better way to work is taking advantage of patience, faith, skills, and opportunities to work toward a vision rather than haphazard hustle. You need to be rooted in a plan that is based on purpose. If you don’t have a plan, then you’re going to have to hustle because you don’t have any other choice. You’re going to work ten times harder than you have to … with less results.”

Nicole believes that successful entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily mean you need to quit your job. In fact, that might be the worst thing to do.

“Sometimes a job can position you very well for future success as an entrepreneur,” she said. “Working at a job can help you get the skills and education you need. You can build new contacts that may help you with financing down the road. Perhaps the customers you have on a job will become the customers at your own new company. Having a steady job can be an excellent bridge to going out on your own.”

The intolerance of hustle

I’m grateful for people like Nicole who are helping to turn the tide toward a more rationale and balanced view of entrepreneurial success. But there is another reason why the hustle culture is sick.

The definition of bigotry is “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”

In the chest-pounding hustle culture, there is an arrogant view against those who don’t quit college, abandon family responsibilities, and pursue the hustle 16 hours a day. In fact, if you don’t join the hustle and obsess over your work, you’re simply following self-imposed excuses … as my LinkedIn connection purported.

This whole hustle bravado is dismissive, close-minded, and yes … bigoted. There is an implied intolerance for those who have a different opinion from themselves. Those who don’t follow the Mantra of Vee are shamed.

Respecting diversity of choice

Not everybody is in a position in life to become an “insta-preneur.”  Not everybody has the opportunity, resources, temperament, or life skills to quit everything and start a business from scratch.

Depending on what you read, there are between five and 10 skills you need to become a successful entrepreneur. Very few people have that complete skillset. That’s the glory of human diversity. Everybody is amazing, but not everybody is built to be an amazing business leader in the start-up world.

Some people are destined to be teachers and nurses and engineers. Thank goodness. And just because they’re not turning their lives over to the hustle doesn’t mean they’re not wonderful and worthy. It doesn’t mean they’re “making excuses.”

So by implying that everybody should be like you and your fellow hustlers, you’re dismissing this diversity. You’re disrespecting a person’s decision to follow whatever fits for them in this time and place in their life. You’re exhibiting a narrow-mindedness, superiority, and an exclusive view of the world that frankly makes me sick.

And that’s why I snapped last week. I decided that putting up with this close-minded hustle advice isn’t exhibiting tolerance. It’s ignoring intolerance.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.


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