And when I say “cool”, what I mean is that it’s the thing marketers know people want (I mean, who doesn’t want to do LESS in today’s world?) and so they use it as a way to draw people into their programs:
Work less! Earn more! Easy peasy!
It’s the lure of unethical marketing.
The problem is that the promise of working less is either:
- a lie (look behind the scenes of their own business, and it’s far from “hustle-free’” in fact there are companies who talk the talk, but burn out their employees)
- something that is possible, but not until you’ve put in a good amount of hard work, yet the marketing makes it sound instantaneous. But I’m actually getting ahead of myself here.
We have to first define the word HUSTLE as a term for working harder, longer and more intensely for financial gain—and understand where it came from.
Here’s the long and short of it, and I’ll link in the comments to an excellent article about this, because I’m way simplifying:
The term hustle originated back in the 17th century but morphed into being synonymous with capitalism and productivity in the 1900’s. The term became associated with blackness and laziness around this same time. Black people in turn started to “hustle” against the system that was set up to ensure their failure, aka white supremacy.
The word was/is often used both pridefully in the Black community, and it has also been used to call Black people out for not having enough of it (hustle) to get ahead.
But the reality is that the Black community was never going to get ahead with hard work alone, because the system was SET UP so they don’t get ahead. This is still true (and not to say Black people don’t “get ahead,” I’m just saying the system is very much stacked against Black folks.)
At some point, as with many words from the Black community, white people started using hustle as a positive word for working hard to get what you want (maybe after it became popular with Black rappers) and as side hustles skyrocketed also became framed as a big opportunity in the last few years (even though the big corporations, like Uber are usually the winners here.)
Fast forward to today, the hustle, in some circles, definitely in white/spiritual/conscious coaching circles, is no longer the IT thing.
Now everything is “without the hustle.”
And on that base level, I’m in agreement. I’m as anti-hustle as they come.
But to truly unplug from the hustle? You have to go deeper than just saying so, flashing pics of you at the beach, or being more efficient (though of course working smarter and not harder plays into it).
Because ALL of us, black, brown, white, whatever, we’re ALL part of the system that requires hustle. Capitalism was literally built on slave labor and then cheap labor.
So to REALLY dismantle the hustle (and for everyone to have the privilege to stop hustling), you’ve got to dismantle racism.
And that is *not* what most of these spiritual/conscious/quantum coaches are doing. And hence why most people are still hustling, even if it looks on the outside like flowy grace and ease.
Look, I’m never going to tell you I have this all figured out.
I will say that since my nonprofit activism days (working for very low pay 12+ hours/day in the early days of it), I have integrated a lot of positive beliefs and practices and much more downtime into my life–as my business has grown. (Not SKYROCKETED, mind you, but grown–except for that weird 2020 year).
I currently work about 25-30 hours a week, have a non-negotiable 3-day weekend, and spend a lot of time with my kiddo, which is my priority.
And, I admittedly think about work more than I’d like to when I’m with her, and I want to work—and worry about work—even less.)
So I’m constantly on the edge of this…
Often, even when I’m not actually working intense hours, I still feel like I’m hustling.
And in the last few years, I’ve come to understand WHY.
The reason I haven’t gotten yet to this magical “hustle-free” place, is because it is so DEEPLY ingrained in me, in all of us who swim around in American culture, because it’s what toxic capitalism that’s rooted in racism NEEDS from us.
It’s woven into the very fabric of our society, and therefore into my first generation grandparents’ psyches, and my parents’ psyches, and my psyche… to work harder, better, produce more, be perfect, and have nothing ever be quite enough.
It is literally HOW OUR SYSTEM FUNCTIONS.
So it does make one wonder if it’s really possible to unplug from it, without taking down the whole system.
Like can we rewire our brains and bodies if the system around us doesn’t change?
I don’t know for sure… but since the system hasn’t YET been taken down, we HAVE to start dismantling it inside ourselves first… then in our families, our communities, our businesses, etc. and it ripples out…
→ The way we do this is first through choosing to create different habits, ones that are not rooted in extreme capitalism, patriarchy and racism.
For example: By intentionally adding in rest days, vacations, letting clients know that we will not be available during certain periods, using away messages, and setting an example of taking time for ourselves both on a regular basis, and also when shit comes up… like there’s a death in the family for example… taking the time you need to grieve.
When we do this, we normalize it, and make it feel ok for the people we come into contact with to do it too.
Another one we work on a LOT in my programs is letting go of perfection in favor of taking action.
Perfectionism is also a symptom of white supremacy, and directly feeds into the “hustle” because damn it takes a lot of time and energy to be “perfect.”
We’re also measuring ourselves up to an arbitrary idea of what perfect or “professional” even is…
The way it shows up for folks in Group Magic (where we launch a group program in under 10 weeks) is this BELIEF that before we put something out into the world, it has to be JUST RIGHT, all professional and polished and pretty with a nice branded everything.
But what happens when folks get stuck there is that the program never gets out into the world because folks are so busy being self-critical or scared they will be judged if it’s not absolutely perfect. They’re judging everyone else’s stuff too, of course (we all do it.)
So I try to model messiness and imperfection in my own business and leadership and make it feel ok for others to do the same.
What that means is that first, I need to let go of things needing to be perfect for ME.
Then I need to show up imperfectly in my life and own it as totally freaking normal and ok.
And then my clients get to see that actually my “imperfection” relaxes them, it shows them that they also don’t need to be so self critical or hold off on doing something until it’s “perfect,” and then they get to show up for their clients and their lives imperfectly, and those people feel more comfortable to be the normal humans they are, instead of “perfect” and it goes on and on.
(This is how we change the world.)
<3 And in fact, being messy actually allows for a lot more humanness, responsiveness, and emergent facilitation and creativity. <3
Perfect doesn’t leave much space for that.
So yes, if we go all in on this, if we uproot these devious, hidden, toxic ways we all (in the US anyway) simply SWIM IN, if we learn specific behaviors to counter the NORM, then yes, we can start to unravel white supremacy culture person by person, business, by business. (It’s uncomfortable, btw. But rewarding.)
We can take a stand for slowing down in the name of justice and equity.
One last piece, that distinction between hard work and hustle:
We are living, breathing creatures of the earth. We move with the cycles of day and night, summer and winter, youth and elderhood…
It is 100% natural to be in resting mode and then in active mode a few hours later. Action, big energy, and yes, hard work, is PART OF LIFE. And it takes this to run a successful business.
It needs to be punctuated with the other side of the cycle, just like in nature.
When you work hard, you need to refuel, and we’ve got that balance way off
That belief that we can just keep going, like robots or machines, that more is always better, the feeling that we’re racing against a system…
THAT is hustle. It’s a *mentality* or belief system we took on from the system that leads to over-work, burnout and a citizenry of consumers that have no time or energy to fight against the powers and systems that be.
*That’s really different from hard work balanced by rest.*
You CAN have ease and rest and success and all that… but contrary to popular coaching industry messaging, it doesn’t mean you don’t ever have to work hard for it.
How does hustle show up in your life? What is one small action you can take to start dismantling hustle culture and dismantling racism?