Sustainable side hustles and avoiding burnout

John Cook
John Cook
Aug 25, 2019 · 6 min read

“It is vain to do with more what can be done with less” — William of occam (originator of Occam’s razor)

So around August 2018 I started Educated & Broke on medium because I thought it would be an interesting social experiment to publish and monitor my journey of paying off $170,000 of student loan debt (FYI as of 8/24/19 I only have $127K left!). Something interesting happened, the articles I published started getting traction! I noticed that 20% of my articles really drove 80% of the overall site traction..check it out below.

I started cranking out content that resonated with me and aligned to interests of potential readers and even had success appearing on medium’s frontpage! #winning

Then something happened..I got burned out. This passive side hustle I pursued in the spirit of fun and collaboration started turning into “work”. I already have a ton of work…at work. I already spend most of my waking hours working. The last thing I wanted to do was add more work to my already minimal personal life!

I stopped publishing articles (and really stopped pursuing all forms of non-essential digital connectivity) in the pursuit of a simpler and more enjoyable personal life. I started reading..alot. I have no television so over the past 12 months or so i’ve averaged around to 2 to 3 books per month. Most of the books i’ve read are in the non-fiction arena the mostly focus around productivity, personal improvement, nutrition and investing. A select recommendation can be found below:

  1. Personal productivity

Gary Keller — “The One Thing”
Tim Ferris — “The 4-hour work-week”

2. Being the best version of your self

David Goggins — “Can’t hurt me”
Cal Newport — “Digital Minimalism”

3. Nutrition

T. Collin Campbell — “The China Study”
Rick Roll — “Finding Ultra”

4. Investing
Burton Malkiel — “A Random Walk down Wallstreet”
Christopher H. Browne — “The Little Book of Value Investing”
John Bogle — “ The Little Book of Common Sense Investing”

The common factor across all aspects of your life

What i’ve noticed in reading about people who have achieved success physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually is that they all follow a simple set of processes and rules (a “framework”) and stick to it with relentless focus.

  1. Gary Keller believes that 20% of our work produces 80% of outcome and only focuses on that 20% everyday
  2. Tim Ferris relentless automates as much of his life as possible to focus only on high-value activities that align to his life goals
  3. David Goggins has an intense physical schedule that he follows without failure which transformed him from a 325-pound fat man to a Navy Seal and NY Times best seller
  4. Cal Newport has realized that the technologies which bring us “value” through connectivity and collaboration are actually ineffective time wasters and has created a system which eliminates all but the absolute necessary technologies in his life
  5. Malkiel has provided a quantitative point of view on the financial markets which proves that passive investing in broad-market market-weighted index funds beats 92% of all actively traded mutual funds
  6. Browne advocates an incredibly simple of the philosophy of investing by “identifying good companies at cheap prices” supported with a set of two financial metrics which serve as the basis for all investment decision making
  7. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Investments and godfather of index investing advocates for a simplified portfolio of 1 total market domestic index fund, 1 total market bond fund, and 1 total market international fund. The beauty of this simplicity is that it outperforms 90% of all active mutual funds

Notice the genius in their brilliance? It’s simple! The point of view offered across nutrition, personal finance, health and wealth isn’t about following the latest trend, exercising 4x a day, shorting 3x leveraged reversed weekly option contracts, or eating low fat, all fat, low carb, high protein or whatever the latest trend dictates. Their path to greatness was paved by a core set of beliefs and actions, repeated every day independent of what the masses dictate.

Sustaining your side hustle and telling Gary Vee to pound sand

Bringing this back to my social experiment dubbed “Educated & Broke”, I definitely let the noise get to me. Once I started realizing momentum with my posts my mind immediately went to Gary Vee 10x life mode with 1 million followers in 100 days. I watched what other people did with their blogs and attempted to copy, insanity pursued:

  1. I made a twitter account and followed Gary’s Advice to spend 1 hour a day responding to tweets and engaging in ‘digital micro conservations’

This drove me insane. I hate twitter. I hate the concept of micro conversations. They’re a stream of never-ending low-value interactions void of thought and merit. It lacks the critical thinking and interpersonal communication skills we experience in face to face conversations.

2. I made an instagram account and posted 3x per day while engaging in a never-ending stream of ‘like-for-like’ comments

I think this was probably the peak of my insanity. The notion of leaving likes and emoticons on other individuals/trendsetters pics to drive organic growth made me want to throw my phone out of the window. I was spending time trying to engage people I didn’t know to know…give me a like bro!

3. I made a wordpress account and tried to drive 2-way cross traffic from medium and my wordpress account

Let me start by saying, my major is computer science, I get tech and love it…but..setting up a wordpress is a pain in the neck. CUSTOMIZING your wordpress to have the look you want will make you pull your hair out. The trifecta? Try tracking your posts across wordpress, medium, etc then making sure you’ve posted it on twitter, facebook, instagram and spent an hour on each platform “driving growth by engaging in organic conversations”. It was a nightmare. At its peak, I had an excel sheet with 9 columns that tracked whether or not I posted an article on a platform X while documenting the time I spent to make sure I hit the Gary Vee 3x per day rule.

About 60 days into the madness i’ve just documented I told myself “there is no f*cking way I want to spend my free time doing this. This was supposed to be fun and it has now turned into work”. After taking a digital sabbatical I took a quote from one of my favorite authors Gary Keller and asked myself :

“What’s the one thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

I like writing, I like sharing my point of view and curating data-driven research articles about things that matter to me. I hate twitter and instagram..It really drives me crazy, sorry not sorry. The desire to configure a WordPress ranks at the bottom of my to-do list. I’ve deleted my instagram and twitter. Re-routed to the Educated and Broke medium publication. I am back and ready to do the one thing that I actually enjoy doing: writing.

If you’re still with me after reading this article, take time to reflect and ask what 20% of your LIFE produces 80% of your happiness? Why not pursue it? If technology is driving you nuts, take a tech detox. If you’re always feeling tired or mentally drained, maybe it’s time to examine your nutrition or work-life balance?

Don’t burn out on work or your side hustle. Work is like a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The “other balls” of your life — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. Thanks for reading.

To health,

San Francisco August 2019

This story is published in Educated & Broke — a publication dedicated to helping you fight student loan and consumer debt by providing real-life, practical advice.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.

Educated and Broke

Eliminate student loans, escape the debt trap and create wealth

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store