If I told you that when I ditched hustle culture my business actually became more successful, would you believe me?
I know, I know. Sounds too good to be true – right?
I was once stuck in the grind of hustle culture thinking it was my only option. Fortunately, I found a better way to do things that led to even more success.
That’s why I ditched hustle culture for good and never looked back.
It wasn’t always this way. I absolutely lived the “hustle culture” life
Before having a kid, I worked way more than 40 hours a week, I commuted in multiple hours of traffic all across the bay every day, and I generally felt anxious and “behind” most of the time.
I thought this was the only way to have success. Turns out that hustle culture really wasn’t necessary in order to find success. At least not success as I defined it for myself.
So if you have dreams you want to lean into, this one is for you.
What is hustle culture?
Hustle culture is super common where I lived in Silicon Valley, and amongst entrepreneurs in general. In fact, in some circles, it’s an assumed part of “making it,” whether in corporate America, Silicon Valley, or as a solopreneur of any kind.
“Hustle culture” refers to the value within many pockets of our society of nearly constantly working, or prioritizing work over other values. Whether that looks like skipping meals, missing family time, or just generally focusing on work when you eat, sleep, and breathe.
Now at face value, that doesn’t sound good. And that’s because it’s not.
In many circles, the capacity to hustle like this is highly praised and valued. And based on what I’ve seen from my clients working in tech, hustle culture is often celebrated for the sake of hustling.
Like my clients feeling like they can’t leave the office at 5pm, even if they’ve already completed all of their allotted work tasks, because then they look like they’re not hustling.
I used to think that hustle culture was the only way to “make it”.
I used to hold the perspective that, even though hustling isn’t ideal from a self-care perspective, it is necessary if you want to be an entrepreneur of any sort.
Or even if you just want to barely “make it” – whether it be getting a doctorate degree, working at an agency job, or just about any option that hopefully someday gets you the paycheck you want in life.
I saw it as a necessary evil in life. So I hustled pretty hard.
Even when I started Private Practice Skills, I was doing it all on the side of my regular job. Most nights, I’d be up late at night developing content.
I eventually realized that “hustle culture” wasn’t acceptable anymore.
Once I had a kid, hustling just didn’t feel acceptable to me anymore. That’s why I ditched hustle culture altogether. I needed to be available to my daughter, not prioritize my work over her.
In my friend circles, a lot of my friends with partners will opt into a lifestyle where one partner hustles while the other is the primary caregiver to their child. The idea of being primary caregiver while generating a sizeable income (without hustling) just didn’t seem to really be a thing I saw modeled anywhere in my circles.
The realization was gradual…and took some time.
I can’t say that I had a moment when I decided to ditch hustle culture altogether, but in time, I found myself working less and less, prioritizing not only time with my family, but time for friends and hobbies.
Aka, time for me.
And the time I spent on my two businesses – my private practice and Private Practice Skills content – was focused on the aspects of those two businesses that were most aligned with my values and that were most joyful for me.
Anything that felt like “hustle” dropped from my weekly tasks.
All the stuff you’re “supposed to” do for a successful business became optional for me. Things like posting to Instagram, email marketing, blogging, networking, and beyond.
My default went from doing them at all costs, to only doing them if I felt like it. Instead, I started to just focus on what mattered most to me and let the rest go.
Ditching hustle culture actually made me more successful.
Yes – you read that right.
As a result of leaving all the hustling behind, I’ve become a much happier, present-focused person.
My life is highly interruptible in a way that aligns with my values – I can show up for a friend or family member on short notice if needed.
Time with my kids is joy-filled. I can lie on the couch in the middle of a workday for an hour and not feel guilty. I’m present to my daughters and husband without having a list of to-do items scrolling through the back of my mind.
Based on my initial thinking, this would assume that as my self-care increased, the success of my businesses would decrease. But honestly, regardless of what metric of success you use – whether it be income, sense of purpose, impact, audience size, productivity, or motivation – the success of my businesses has only grown.
But how does working less and becoming more successful make any sense?
Shouldn’t less time equal less work hours, less output, less income?
Here’s why I think ditching hustle culture has directly added to the success of my businesses:
- By saying “no” to hustle, I’m saying “yes” to only the things that deeply matter to me, or the tasks that align most with my core values.
- The few hours I spend on work every week are extremely meaningful and highly productive
- I’m doing tasks that bring me joy and align with my values.
- I’m emotionally available to my clients because I have so much margin to give from.
- I’m very present-focused and able to tap into the inner creative teacher to build content for Private Practice Skills.
- Work flows from my mind smoothly and I can enter a state of flow without effort.
Sometimes I’m surprised how much gets done in such a short amount of time!
And even though I’m skipping out on a bunch of stuff that could certainly help grow my business, hustling in order to make those things happen would only be to the detriment of my business.
I’d start to lose track of myself and the present moment, I’d find it more of a struggle to complete, and the quality of my output would decline.
Now, I’m not trying to claim that I’m anti-hustle culture.
I truly believe that some personality types thrive by leaning into this way of life.
But I’ve also learned that I’m not one of those people. And that’s okay. And it’s still possible to be successful without hustling.
An important distinction needs to be made here:
I don’t think I can write an article about why I ditched hustle culture without acknowledging the reality that being able to opt-out of hustling is a privilege. Sometimes life is in a state of survival mode, and the only way to make all ends meet is by hustling, at least for a season.
There’s a difference between hustling to make ends meet and hustling for the sake of hustling
I’m hoping to differentiate between hustling as an essential avenue to survive, versus opting into hustling for the sake of hustling, even if our life circumstances don’t require us to do so.
Working extra above and beyond what we need to live a full life is not the same thing as working extra hours in order to just make ends meet.
Husting and your Mental Health
If you’re interested in learning more about how hustle culture impacts mental health, I’ve linked a study published in Occupational Medicine, which found that increased work hours lead to higher rates of depression and anxiety and worse sleep.
But hopefully, that doesn’t come as a huge surprise.
Ultimately, I wanted to illustrate that there are many potential routes to success – not just one. If you want to hustle to get to your dreams, or if your current phase of life requires that you hustle in order to survive, more power to you. But it’s also possible to arrive at what success looks like for you – even a nice income and a sense of purpose from your work – without hustling.
I hope you found it helpful to read about why I ditched hustle culture.
Thinking about ditching hustle culture too?
If you’re a therapist that’s looking to scale your hours back without sacrificing income, I have a video for you. I’ll teach you how I make six figures as a part-time therapist. You can check it out here:
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well.