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Is Hustle Enough?

Laura MacPherson February 15, 2018

You can’t spend more than 15 minutes in group of startup founders before hearing an ode to “the hustle.” And if you follow people in the startup scene, you’ll find a plethora of posts in your social media feeds saying the same thing. We worship the hustle. Hard work is the religion of Silicon Valley. Gary Vaynerchuk has recommended working 18 hours a day. But is hustle enough? Is it even smart to focus so much on hustling?

In a culture where everyone is praising the extreme work ethic that the hustle has come to define, it can be difficult to question its effectiveness. But there are people doing it. Jason Fried, co-founder of Basecamp, has taken a strong stance against workaholism. He makes a good point: “It’s never about working more hours than someone else. It’s about the decisions you make. How you spend your time, what you do and don’t do.”

Your Roadmap is Your Path to Success

What is success? Success means different things to different people, but ultimately it’s about two things: destination and values. Destination is where you’re going. Values are how you get there. Once you define what success is to you, you have a roadmap. And no matter how many hours you choose to work, what moves the needle of success is how well you follow your roadmap.

It’s easy to go off road. It almost seems like the bus (hat tip to Jim Collins) autopilots itself down the exit ramp, onto a dirt road of more distracted hours at the computer. This is why burnout is a real problem in startups. Googling “founder burnout” will turn up nearly half a million results. Founders have to take control of the bus and follow the roadmap.

This is not to say that hard work isn’t important. If you spend your time scrolling through Facebook and watching Netflix, you won’t reach your destination or make any kind of difference along the way. But we need to reconsider what we’re focusing on.

Let’s get practical. Here are three principles to help you go beyond the hustle.

1. Design Your Roadmap

Without a well-defined roadmap, you don’t have a place to begin. You’ll need clear images of both your destination (where you want to take your startup) and your values (the way you want to travel on the journey).

Every startup will morph as it’s growing—that’s simply the nature of the startup. But it’s helpful to paint a picture of what you envision your company looking like in a year, in three years, in five years, etc. These pictures will absolutely change, and you’ll need to revisit them regularly. But without a concrete way of seeing where you’re going, you may not end up where you wanted to.

How you want to travel on your journey could also be described as your startup’s culture. What’s important to you? What drives you? What traits do you admire? What companies or other founders do you want to emulate? What will you want people to say about you when you’re gone? Having a set of values to guide you when you’re in the daily grind will help to keep you on track.

2. Share Your Roadmap With People You Trust

When you’re going against the grain, it can be challenging to stay the course. Having people you trust remind you why you created your roadmap in the first place and encourage you to stick with it is empowering.

You may want to schedule regular phone calls to chat with these people for intentional accountability and help. The periodic reminders can keep you from going off the rails.

3. Take Time to Recharge

Although scientists have been working on a way to allow humans to function with no sleep for up to seven days, and theoretically people can survive on fast food, the reality is that brain function depends on taking care of your body. Sleep, nutrition, and exercise are all still essential to clear thinking. You can get creative on how you fit these must-haves into your schedule, but it’s smart to prioritize them if you want to be at peak performance.

Let’s go beyond the hustle and change the culture of our startups — our roadmaps are the only thing that can guide us to success.

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