Why I Won’t ‘Hustle Hard’
By Janice Quirt
Photo © SergioL/Twenty20
Mar 15, 2022
I’ve got nothing against the side hustle.
Supporting passion projects, becoming entrepreneurs and following dreams are all wonderful pursuits.
I’m also not against working diligently.
But I won’t "hustle hard."
In the Trenches
I’ve been there.
I’ve had jobs where the work was never-ending, and the bar was set extremely high.
I learned so much from those times in my life, and they also framed how I want to live my life now, as a parent, and how I hope to coach my kids.
Back then I wanted so, so much.
I wanted to be the best at work, the most amazing parent and a wonderful partner, friend, family member and neighbour — with nary an off-day or misstep.
"I didn’t want to work hard, play hard."
But then I realized that, because I was also the primary parent to two wonderful young humans, I had to draw the line.
I couldn’t push the way I did before kids, because too many people were counting on me.
I didn’t see the point of climbing to the top of the corporate ladder if I missed all the special moments in my kids’ lives along the way, or was miserable doing so.
I didn’t want to work hard, play hard.
I wanted to find a balance that worked for me.
My Catalyst for the Anti-Hustle
There have been a few moments in my work life that are crystal clear reminders to me of how and why I need to continually strive for balance.
I remember being stuck in an airport on my way home from a business trip.
Sick with strep throat.
Our flight had been delayed for eight hours.
"I don’t believe in burnout as a badge of honour."
My oldest kiddo was waiting patiently for me at home, but I would miss storytime. Again. If it had been a one-off, I could have managed. But that was my life those days.
I knew I couldn’t go on like that.
More importantly, I didn’t want to.
So I switched to a role that was more family friendly. That was the right move for me.
I don’t believe in burnout as a badge of honour. I look at it as career mismanagement.
The Lure of Greener Pastures
I’ve also followed a side hustle or two, hoping that I could parent, earn a living and find fulfilment all at the same time.
Many people tout the benefits of doing so to both make money and transition into a dream career.
Not to burst any bubbles, but there is huge potential for exhaustion and burnout even with dream jobs in the making.
It’s called a side hustle because it’s done in addition to something major, whether a full-time job as a parent or outside the home, or both. And that is draining.
Those hours spent on a side hustle don’t just magically appear. They exist at the cost of something, usually sleep or self-care. I’ve learned that the hard way.
The other thing about side hustles is that they are often passion projects or “dream jobs.” That can be fabulous — it’s good to work on something you (mostly) enjoy doing.
I’ve had a few dream jobs, from yoga teacher to freelance writer on everything from spas to toys, and I loved these experiences. But it is still work, effort and hours, and those can be exhausting.
You can burn out from jobs “doing what you love” in addition to more mundane roles, and there’s often no safety net with self-employment. That doesn’t mean don’t try — it means go into these plans with your eyes wide open. And remember, nothing stifles creativity quite like having to produce in order to eat. I’ve come to the realization that I don’t need to monetize every interest. A hobby can stay a hobby, without turning it into a hustle.
Are Kids Pushed to Hustle Hard?
Our kids are keen to have interesting jobs.
They certainly don’t want to be bored.
But no one wants them to burn out, either. And with the career paths many hope to follow, there’s a good chance they’ll do just that.
Consider the many kids, tweens and teens who hope to be influencers. There’s significant work behind growing a following like that, from developing a social media content calendar to getting sponsors and merchandise deals.
"It’s worthwhile to have a goal and to work hard, but a reality check wouldn’t hurt, either."
Fashion designer wannabes? That’s more than a full-time job spanning production, PR, learning the business and finding a niche.
How about an artist/photographer/writer? Better be working on a stellar portfolio in a variety of different styles — and it would help if you could have already had a show or been published by the time post-secondary applications are due.
This worship of work hit home for me while watching the Netflix docuseries Cheer. The show follows the daily grind of a cheerleading team, but the young adults’ responsibilities extend beyond going to class and practice — sponsorship deals, photo shoots, social media posts and community events all add to stress and jam-packed schedules that would make anyone drop.
It’s worthwhile to have a goal and to work hard, but a reality check wouldn’t hurt, either.
Easy to Get Sucked In
It’s easy to get sucked into the cycle, because society still rewards overwork.
For every great post about work-life balance, there are three about how people grew their side hustles into empires.
Read those examples, and you’ll notice that there is a common refrain of extremely hard work and long hours, especially in the beginning of the entrepreneurial ascent.
And yet, we love those stories and think nothing of what such a sacrifice would mean to our lives and families. We eat them up and want to follow. Do we think we’ll magically be happy if we give everything we’ve got — and more — in service of commerce?
I think it’s time to look for our own past moments of clarity and see how we most want to spend our lives.
Scan for catalysts in our lives that pointed in the direction of where we wanted or didn’t want to go. Analyze how it feels to add one more thing to your plate — or take something off.
Then, let’s think about that for the kids. How hard do they really have to hustle right now? Meeting deadlines and producing meaningful work is certainly important. But do they still love their hobbies, or have these activities become work?
By asking for a portfolio, have we whisked away the passion from life? Are we teaching that burnout isn’t acceptable, or are we still secretly pleased by such a “great work ethic”?
I won’t hustle hard. But I will enjoy my life. And I hope my kids do too.
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