Real Productivity in 3 Ways: Be a Hustler With a Cause
“Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another.” — Mark Manson
Hustle is a funny word. I have a love/hate relationship with it.
I love it because I finally get it — I understand the desire to work 12+ hour days on a project that has meaning for me. I’ve had those moments of forgetting to eat because I’m so enthralled with my work. It’s a great feeling.
I hate it however, because when hustle is used indiscriminately, and without caution, we can spend our whole lives hustling without a cause.
The word hustle can be used as both a noun and verb. Both forms are dominant in our culture these days, and it no longer signifies a person who uses unscrupulous or fraudulent methods to make money.
Now it is a symbol of an aggressively enterprising person, a go-getter.
(verb) Force someone to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specific direction
There’s a funny thing at play in our culture. The American economy was forged on rags to riches, on people starting with nothing, working hard and making the American Dream come true.
Our culture subsists on this theme, the one that believes good things and success comes to those who grind, and bad things and loss comes to those who are lazy.
One of my favorite “started from the bottom now we HERE” stories is Ash Ambirge, founder of The Middle Finger Project. She was dealt a bad hand, grew up with nothing, lost her parents, was living out of her car with $26 to her name.
With that $26 she founded a bad-mouthed, million-dollar online business, now drinks good wine, has a house in Costa Rica and gets to curse on her platform and people still give her money (gotta love the Internet).
We love stories like this, it lights a fire under our ass.
The American Dream story hustles us in a very specific direction: to work hard without question.
(noun) Busy movement and activity
This work ethic, the driving intensity to succeed at all costs, leads to another form of hustling.
The busy kind of hustle.
Somewhere along the line we forgot what we’re all hustling for.
Surely when the American Dream was foraged — the entrepreneurial dream — it wasn’t just for making a paycheck, two weeks paid vacation and break room snacks, right?
It must have been for making your dreams come true, for building something from scratch and making a living with it.
Perhaps that version of the American Dream is not everyone’s, but the fundamental point is that while the hustle-n-grind mentality of the American Dream persists, all that work no longer delivers the dream as it once did.
So now we’re just busy. We hustle, we grind, we work long hours, sometimes for ourselves, sometimes for other people, and yet we’re not really fulfilled or happy.
This hustle mentality has in turn glorified busy. We feel better about ourselves, like we’re being productive when we fill our days with errands and unnecessary busy-bodying. But are all the things we’re busy with getting us closer to the ultimate goal, to happiness?
For a long time I was always busy listening to podcasts, reading blog articles, working on new business ideas and taking courses on entrepreneurship.
I worked from 5am to 9am on my side hustle, then went to my full time job, then got home, made dinner, and continued absorbing information and spinning my wheels.
I was making myself busy trying to figure out what to do with my life, but wasn’t really getting anywhere. And yet the mantra prevailed: those who hustle hardest get the dream.
Without realizing, I had become a hustler without a cause.
The Definition of Insanity
“To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action” –Mark Manson
Busy, and hustling without a cause, can work.
For me, it worked to a certain level for a long time. I was making a living (from paycheck to paycheck), most of my jobs offered paid vacations and living in a ski town, I considered myself incredibly blessed just with that.
I was winning, in the sense that I could support myself, was more or less staying out of debt, and I got to live and work where people vacation.
But I was miserable. I kept trying to solve the problem of finding happiness in my career. I was hustling for the end goal — a different job, a new career, starting a business — without getting really clear on how I wanted my life to feel.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, then isn’t hustling for new goals, another promotion, a different job, or starting a business, actually insanity if we don’t end up happy?
The problem with doing all of those things is we think we’re doing something different. We think by getting that promotion, or maybe getting a new job, we’re trying something new and thus the results will finally deliver a different outcome in the form of fulfillment and happiness.
But most of us are incredibly disconnected from ourselves so while we might be doing something different on the outside (getting the promotion or new job), our inside it still the same: disconnected and lost.
This disconnection means that, in the end, we keep getting the same results, even with the promotion or new job.
“Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves” — Ryan Holiday
I’m very into dramatic changes to achieve results. I see a pattern of behavior not working, and understand that routines are difficult to break, so I opt for removing myself from my routines completely to jumpstart the creation of new ones.
Which is why I quit my job to live in the jungle in Costa Rica for 3 months to create the routines needed for me to be a successful writer.
It’s like the cold shower technique, but for your whole life.
Regardless of the fact that I hated my job, it was incredibly cushy, and the steady salary made it too comfortable for me to fully commit to changing my life and starting a business.
So I quit, intentionally throwing myself into a sink or swim situation (with plenty of foresight and planning, you shouldn’t leap without looking, duh).
But my un-hustling came before then, when I realized I needed to apply the same dramatic change to my mindset. All the busy work I was doing wasn’t working. So I decided to stop it all together.
If I was spinning my wheels coming up with a million new business ideas and careers, and still wasn’t achieving the results I wanted, year after year, clearly something in my problem solving routine was broken.
So I decided to stop trying to do anything new, stopped trying to hustle for my dreams and instead got really clear with myself. I reframed my mind from hustle mode into dilly-dally mode.
(verb) waste time through aimless wandering
It’s an antonym to the word hustle. And in action, it forces us to get really clear with ourselves and our intuition. It gets us back into alignment with ourselves.
- I stopped listening to podcasts and reading articles with my free time and instead I just sat with myself and did things that made my life feel good. Like dedicating 1 hour every day to creativity, no matter what and in any form my inspiration took.
- I un-busied myself with the intention of getting bored and forcing myself to think about my life, who I am, and how I want to feel every day.
- I stayed off social media (the ultimate distraction tool) and only busied myself with things that added value and happiness to my life (an important distinction).
Ultimately being in “dilly-dally mode” allowed me to get to the root of what I really wanted. This intentional quieting, slowing down, and “unproductivity” brought me to my most productive and successful self yet.
I’m doing meaningful, soul-satisfying work every day, I’m helping people in their lives (thanks for reading, it means so much), and I’m finally able to think big and work on dream projects with the clarity of purpose and self-alignment.
I’m a hustler with a cause.
I challenge you to work through the next three steps to see if you’re a hustler with a cause, or if you’re just hustling — the difference between the two means a life of mediocre busyness, or a life of fulfillment, joy and purpose.
1. Look at your daily life
Where are you being busy for the sake of it, and where is your busyness adding value and happiness to your life, or serving your higher purpose?
If you can’t discern between these two things, you need to stop doing anything that is not immediately necessary and then work to make these distinctions.
2. Are You Using Social Media to Numb Yourself?
To me busy is a synonym for distraction. We use busy in the same way we use alcohol, food and drugs to numb ourselves. Often times it’s easier to zone out on social media than it is to do the work that would radically change our lives.
If you’re spending most your free time on social media, you need to be asking yourself what you’re using social media to avoid. We like to convince ourselves that we use social media and information platforms (like podcasts and blogs) to inspire and learn. But unless you’re using it wisely and productively, it turns into the same argument severely addicted creatives use to justify alcohol and drug abuse — for inspiration.
3. Change Your Perception of Productivity
We’ve convinced ourselves that if we’re not working nonstop, we’re losing. But there is a massive difference between doing meaningless work to feign productivity, verse being massively efficient with our time.
Years ago I had a coworker that would work 12+ hour days but would spend most of her time talking on the phone, gabbing to coworkers and wasting time. She was always “swamped” with work, and would complain about it endlessly.
She got plenty of kudos from management for working over 40 hours a week, whereas I would be massively productive with my time while on the clock, and would complete my tasks in significantly less hours. I would often come up short on my 40 hours per week resulting in reprimands from management for not working as hard.
At the end of the day you find yourself feeling exhausted and depleted and yet nothing was really accomplished on your to-do list, you need to seriously look at your inefficiencies and where “busy-work” and distractions are interfering with the real work.
Conclusion: The Point is Deeper Connection to Self
“We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems” — George Carlin
Dilly-dallying puts us into direct connection with ourselves. From there we can get clear on what we should be hustling for vs. what’s just keeping us spinning our wheels, hustling without a cause.
If you keep getting promotions, new jobs, or attaining new goals that never seem to satisfy your deepest self, you need to switch from hustle mode, to dilly-dally mode to get clear on how you want your life to feel.
Hustling is only productive when you’re working towards the right goal for you. You can’t know what that right goal is unless you get quiet with yourself, and get back into alignment.
Everything else is just busy work, and that’s certainly not what this life is meant for.
Make massive change in your life by figuring out how you want it to FEEL every day. I created a 10 minute audio exercise to plug you into your authentic self, so you can start living the life you want today 👇