How Hustling Harms Your Brand

The working title for this piece was:

The Problem With Hustle Porn

Might raise a few eyebrows round the office.

Nat Eliason, Founder of content marketing company Growth Machine, explores the subject in a Medium article advocating less of itIt’s defined as:

“a masochistic obsession with pushing yourself harder, listening to people tell you to work harder, and broadcasting how hard you’re working”.

This is off the back of Elon Musk’s claim you need to work 80 to 100 hours a week if you want to change the world. A sound bite that makes news cycles every few months.

The hustle industry’s full of entrepreneurial dudes in hoodies making videos about why it’s brilliant they wake up earlier than you.

Because you can’t make money when you’re unconscious, guys.

Hustling’s diametrically opposed to quitting. “Don’t give up. Keep pushing. No days off” etcetera. Which would ordinarily be an alright mentality.

The problem’s when it becomes pornography: something to watch when you can’t get the real thing.

In this case, success.

hustling branson

Does Richard Branson watch Gary Vee videos?

Probably not. Eliason suggests successful people don’t need to:

“They’re making money, not LinkedIn posts”

How hard you work, while admirable, isn’t a reliable indicator of the value you add. Numbers on the board is. Among many other things. Although the sentiment endures:

Hustling doesn’t equal success

It’s not healthy. And it’s not something to pornographise.

In fact, there’s a growing movement dedicated to de-motivation: the antithesis of “the hustle”.

Hustling thrives on “inspiration”. And where pornography and inspiration meet, things can lead to more perverse attempts at branding.

hustling gary vee 1

While hustle porn’s carved out its niche and is largely confined to LinkedIn, inspiration porn’s all over social media. This is where mostly non-disabled people share videos of disabled people with the caption “You think YOU’RE having a bad day?” or similar.

What’s the implication here?

‘At least it’s not THIS bad’?

‘Be grateful you aren’t disabled’?

I’m sure the intention’s to celebrate the achievements of others. But if it’s making disabled people feel as though their lived experiences are good for the odd meme and that’s about it, it’s not working.

Please don’t take my word for it. I read an article in October of last year that stuck with me. Here’s an excerpt:

“In my world, with my body, to be an inspiration is not to inspire a person. It doesn’t motivate anyone to do anything. For me to be an inspiration is to make people glad they’re not me, to be used as a yardstick for their own lives and to condescend and pity about what it is they think my life, ability, and experiences to be”

I’d encourage you to read the whole thing.

Hustling. Inspiration.

Great by themselves. Or in responsible doses. But they can easily toxify. And when that happens, they end up doing more harm to your brand than good.

hustling gary vee 2

Push Yourself Harder

This leads to burnout. Rapidly.

Pushing yourself harder and harder constantly is unsustainable. 

We were raised by people who told us they worked 18 hour days, 6 days a week for 50 years, often with the same company, carrying the kids to school at the top of a mountain, serving a full roast dinner every night, and never once complaining.

It’s simply not true.

Work’s different now. Life in general was arguably less connected. Even going back five years. And the effects of balancing a million different things in your brain is something we’re only just beginning to understand.

Constantly hustling will piss off the people who care about you.

It’s boring. And you’ll suck at parties. 

And besides, anyone who’s truly committed to #crushingit knows how crucial rest is to staying on top of your game.

So hustling says to candidates you’re trying too hard. And to clients that you might be a liability. Or at least an ache to deal with.

hustling gary vee 3

Listen To People Tell You To Work Harder

I should qualify myself and say that hustling’s not all bad. When I left recruitment, I launched a small business and freelanced as a Copywriter before joining the big H full time. At which point, I was sustained almost exclusively on Gary Vee vids. So the benefits of nabbing tips off of entrepreneurial types isn’t lost on me.

And hustling’s something I’m guilty of from time to time.

Although I’d only be exaggerating slightly if I told you it’s a false economy. Propped up by bullshit merchants who want you to buy something from them. Either their time, products or services.

It’s a waste of time

There’s a quote that’s commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln which goes:

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe”

Hustlers love it because it confirms their decision to spend time honing their craft through drinking-in insight, rather than acting without foresight.

This is clever. But surely there’s only so much content you can absorb before you’re on repeats?

Personally, I’d recommend listening to people telling you to work smarter instead of harder. Or, in a nutshell, less. Here’s a quote from Tim Ferriss’ excellent 4 Hour Work Week, which everyone should own:

“Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.”

I’ve written about how much time I have for Ferriss before. And here he is calling out hustle culture 12 years ago. Legend.

hustling street

Broadcast How Hard You’re Working

Doing so communicates you either have a problem separating yourself from your work or that your work is poorly managed. This is an extremely bad look if you’re self employed.

That or you’re being disingenuous.

People are starting to get tired of this kind of branding. It’s increasingly becoming the butt of jokes. And if that’s not apparent in buying habits already, it will be soon.

Possibly the worst thing about broadcasting how hard you hustle is every post could be better repurposed to show the value you add.

The reason it harms your brand is because it actively takes away from what you do well.

How To Avoid The Harm Of The Hustle

Don’t broadcast how busy you are. And don’t reward people who do.

Don’t seek out digital inspiration when you could be experiencing it yourself.

And don’t waste time busying yourself with activities that can easily be streamlined.

Or outright omitted. Life, my friends, is far too short.

Believe it or not, there exist certain recruitment companies that don’t want you working 24/7. Take a look.