Separating my self-worth from my hustle

I have always been a hard worker. I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb an overachiever. And although this is probably part of my genetic makeup, I learned my work ethic from watching my mom. She is an entrepreneur and she taught me how to take risks, create what I want, and pave my own path. I am incredibly grateful for her and what she’s taught me.

I am also a mom of a daughter. A nine year old girl named Ryan. Ryan came out the womb the same way I did. Self-regulated. Self-directed. On a schedule. I have to remind her to be the kid, not the parent. And as I’ve learned more about myself and more about becoming a better leader, I’ve realized that Ryan has been learning a lot of the same things I’ve learned from my mom: always doing. Not giving things a whole lot of space. Pushing through. Glazing over feelings. Never standing still. Always hustling.

Over the last few years, I have done a tremendous amount of work on myself as a person. Entrepreneurship has proven to be nearly as hard as being a parent, so I’ve tried a lot of things to learn self-compassion and balance.

I’ve been to a good amount of therapy.
I’ve spent the last 6 years of my life in hot yoga classes.
I learned how to meditate. First with Headspace, then self-guided, and now on Calm.
I’ve read Rising Strong, Love Warrior, Present Over Perfect, When Things Fall Apart, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down.
I’m in a leadership coaching group with Reboot.

All of these things have brought tremendous growth for me and have helped me learn so much about who I am as a person, the kind of leader I am, and what I really want to do in my life.

One of the biggest gifts I’ve received through all of this work is the lesson that my self-worth is not connected to my hustle. That I am Mack, great and wonderful and powerful Mack, no matter how much or how little I work. No matter how much or how little my business makes. No matter who we serve as clients. No matter where I get published. No matter where I speak in the world.

My value — as a human being — is unrelated to how hard I hustle, and the result of my work does not define my identity.

It took me a while to figure out that I needed to separate my self-worth and value as a person from my hustle, and I’m still practicing that one in every moment of every day. But I knew that I didn’t want Ryan to wait until she was 40 to experience the journey of learning this lesson.

So one night after dinner, I asked the kids, and my husband Jon, to write down a list of who they are. A list of characteristics that make up who they are as people. As real souls. As human beings. And no matter what happens: if you get good grades or don’t, if you get to be in the advanced math group at school or you don’t, if you score a goal at soccer or you don’t. None of that stuff changes who you are. None of that ‘doing’ is what makes up your worth as a human being.

So we each made a list. And I told the kids that this list is both a reminder and also a promise to yourself.

When you have a bad day because someone was mean to you at school, read your list and remember these things about yourself when you’re with that kid tomorrow. When you’re afraid that you won’t be good enough for the science fair, read your list and then sign up in the morning. And when you’re disappointed that something didn’t go as you would have liked, you can come back to your list and remember who you are. It’s a reminder of what you possess deep inside of you. It is your light and your only job is to shine it bright.

I explained to the kids that this list is also a pretty big promise that they’re making to themselves. If one of your characteristics is respectful and you talk while the teacher is talking, you’re breaking your promise. If you say you’re kind and I hear you yelling at your brother, you’re breaking your promise. If you say you’re honest and you lie to me about how many bites you took of your vegetables, you’re breaking your promise to yourself about who you really are. You’re not a bad person. You’re just not being a true reflection of who you are.

I hung these lists up in the kitchen where all of us can see them. Every now and again, I have to ask the kids to re-read their lists. We talk about hustle and what that means to them and their journey. And how they can watch me practice — and we can fall down together — because there will be lots of days where we won’t be this human. And that’s OK.

And now I know that this is who I am. And these are the promises I’ve made to myself. I kind of lost track of this many years back, but I have a grateful heart that I have been reminded that I don’t have to hustle to be enough anymore.