A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

“Hustle Porn” Is Making Us Sad and Suicidal


Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank” recently told CNBC’s “Make It”: “If I have to give one piece of advice to someone who’s thinking about starting a business, I tell them this: Forget about balance. You’re going to work 25 hours a day, seven days a week, forever. That’s what it takes to be successful.”

Excuse me while my eyes roll all the way to the back of my head!

Here’s the truth: I made my first million dollars at a very young age, from a bootstrapped company.

And the other part of the truth: That business absolutely killed my health.

Today, my husband John and I run a company that generates several million dollars a year in revenue. And we typically don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

We did work long hours when we started. But, especially once we had a beautiful daughter, we realized the long hours we were working wouldn’t be sustainable.

John and I made a conscious decision to hire people and sacrifice extra money in the short term, in order to not kill our health long-term.

I am a ruthless outsourcer. John, who came from the restaurant industry, was knowledgeable on how to hire and grow a team. Together, we “bought our freedom.” We had full understanding that we could work longer hours, hire fewer people, and make more money in the short term…and we chose not to do that.

Instead, we hired employees and trained them, then hired 2 top-notch folks to be our executive team and help us grow and scale the business.

The result? A business that makes several million dollars a year, that also provides for our employees and their families, without killing us.

We Also Gave Our Employees More Time Off

I am a big believer in a shorter work week making people more productive. To that extent, we used to have our managers do a 5-6 schedule (5 days a week one week, then 6 days a week the next week.) This is common in the restaurant industry, but I was not a fan of it. Neither were our two executives.

As soon as our numbers allowed, we made the switch and all managers now only work 5 days a week.

In addition, this year we gave our employees an additional week of vacation, which now applies every year. Happier employees means a healthier business.

“Hustle Porn” Is Directly Tied to the Puritan Work Ethic

The “hustle porn” mentality, which basically says “Never stop working!”, appears to be mostly an American craze. I believe it stems from the old Puritan work ethic. It’s the same mentality that causes people to shame others for hiring help, such as housekeepers.

It also is the source of people working through lunch–and feeling guilty for taking breaks or vacations. The average employee who receives paid vacation only took about half their vacation days (source.)

Why? According to the survey, fear is responsible: “They fear getting behind on their work (34%), believe no one else at their company can do the work while they’re out (30%), they are completely dedicated to their company (22%), and they feel they can never be disconnected (21%).”

This is unequivocally harmful to our happiness as a society. I think a direct link can, and should, be made between “hustle porn” and the skyrocketing use of anti-depressants. “The number of Americans who say they’ve taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014. One in every eight Americans over the age of 12 reported recent antidepressant use.”

One in every eight Americans! Is anyone saying that “hustling” will make us happier?

It gets worse. Here’s an article published yesterday. “The suicide rate among Americans of working age increased 34 percent from 2000 to 2016, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

In the image above, I drew a direct correlation between “hustle porn”, reading about your friends bragging on social media, straight through to increased anti-depressant use and even suicide. We’re spending more time hunched over our phones flipping through the social media “trophy case”, and less time on relaxing and taking a break.

“Hustle porn” and the glorification of overwork is making us both sad and suicidal.

What’s the Alternative?

I don’t want to just breathlessly drop statistics and not offer alternatives. Here are a few ways I’ve stopped myself from overworking while still building a successful business:

Every Sunday night, I set 4 main goals for my next week. I try to set the week up so I have 4 goals and 4 days to work on them. My fifth day of work can then be consumed by any emergency that might pop up, doctor’s appointments, etc.

Every day, I wake up and decide which of my 4 goals I’ll be working on today. That starts my day off strong and focused. For instance, one of my 4 goals this week is “Write and publish a blog post.” That’s what I’m doing today!

I check off 2 “annoyances” and 2-3 household tasks every single day. Yesterday I paid bills, sent clients invoices, and cleaned for 20 minutes. (The 20-minute cleaning is a life hack called a “time block”, where I spend only a certain amount of time on a task to avoid overwhelm.)

When my annoyances, big task for the day, and household chores are done, I STOP WORKING. That’s right! I sometimes do a day from 10AM-4PM. This also gives me incentive to stop procrastinating, because once I’m done for the day, I’m done! I do not push myself into additional work at that point unless I’m motivated. Instead, I go outside and play some Pokemon Go, watch a movie, or read a book–guilt-free!

I have an earlier post where I talk about how I use Trello to organize my tasks. You can see there how I set up and plan my week.

Time and time again, when creatives (writers and software developers in particular) are surveyed, we say we can’t do more than 4-5 hours of creative work in a day. The rest of our time is spent on boring and mundane tasks–many of which I would recommend outsourcing if you run your own business.

Or, if mowing the lawn makes you happy–do that yourself and outsource other items. I’ve learned how to cook and enjoy cooking, so I outsource cleaning and mowing the lawn, but I buy groceries and cook frequently.

If there’s one thing I would love for you to take away from this, it’s that it’s completely possible to build a 7-figure-plus business without killing yourself. It’s OK to hire people (as you have the money to do so.) There probably will be a time at the beginning of your business where you’re working long hours. But it most certainly does not have to be “forever”, no matter what Kevin O’Leary says.

“Hustle porn” does not make any of us happier people. Be OK with being happier instead of being a hustler.



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After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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