To hustle or not to hustle?


I recently listened to an episode of Design Life FM podcast. The topic of the episode was the hustle mindset. At the beginning of the show, the two hosts raised a question of what hustling means to different people. The answers that were given evoked so many thoughts in me that I felt like I needed to share my own answer as well. You see, hustling is a word I’m all too familiar with.

It all began when I moved to the Netherlands and started studying fashion and branding. Having dreamt about studying in that particular school, learning the ins and outs of branding, I was ready and willing to devote myself to it 100%. Yes – I was there to hustle! We were taught to live and breathe fashion, to always be on the lookout for inspiration and bust our asses off for great, creative results. Our teachers wanted us to succeed and expected only the best from us. My to-do lists were quite impressive, and I didn’t miss any opportunity to make use of my time. The early morning commutes were spent studying or polishing homework from the night before, and the same continued on my way back home. Weekends weren’t days off; they were simply extensions of the working week. The ambitious bubble me and my fellow students lived in nourished the hustle mindset; our communal hunger for learning and becoming better and better encouraged each and every one of us to keep pushing ourselves further. We were what you could call serial hustlers. Someone had written “no rest for the obsessed” on the wall of the school’s bathroom. 

After a while, keeping myself oh so busy started giving me a feeling of accomplishment. Writing to-do lists and scheduling my days wasn’t a way to work smarter or balance my days better – it was something I did simply because it made me feel accomplished and somehow important. The longer the lists, the cooler I felt, hustlin’ and all! At that point things weren’t so great anymore. I started noticing that the harder I tried and the more I pushed, the more I also struggled. Creative ideas didn’t come to me anymore; I needed to force and squeeze them out of my mind. It was patently clear that I really needed a break…and yet, it was hard to let go of the urge to hustle for the sake of hustling.

Hustling can mean different things to different people. Whereas some see it as a positive force and a creative gear they can switch on and off, to me the definition is much like Femke’s definition of it on the Design Life FM podcast: “working obsessively, striving to achieve something by putting everything else aside”. It is far too common in the creative field to lift the 24/7 hustlers on a pedestal as passionate strivers, making it seem like devoting yourself fully to work is the only way to get anywhere. That gives me the shivers. Being dedicated is great, but devoting your entire life solely to whatever it is you are passionate about isn’t going to do you any favours in the long run.

Today my way of working is very different from the dark times of excessive hustling. Of course, I might occasionally work long hours, but that’s no longer the norm. If you see me pulling an all-nighter, it’s not because I am prioritising a deadline over my sleep or spare time – it’s because I am simply too enthusiastic to pause.

All in all, obsessive hustling for the sake of hustling isn’t really that cool. How about declaring ourselves independent from the workaholism praising world and working within our own limits instead?

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