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Productivity 101: Hustle Culture

Rise, grind, rinse, and repeat

Woman sitting frustrated at a computer at night.
Another happy coach ready to work into the night!

The Life Coach Hustle

5:00 AM - 9:00 AM: Rise & Grind

5:00 AM: Wake up and immediately engage in a meditation session while the coffee brews.

5:30 AM: Power through a high-intensity workout while listening to the latest coaching podcasts.

6:30 AM: Cold shower followed by a quick, nutrient-packed breakfast.

7:00 AM: Dive into morning emails, social media updates, and client scheduling.

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM: Morning Hustle

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM: Networking and Nourishment

2:00 PM - 6:00 PM: Afternoon Grind

6:00 PM - 10:00 PM: Evening Execution

10:00 PM - 2:00 AM: Real Working Hours

Sounds sustainable and fun, right? What you've always dreamed about becoming and doing every day as an entrepreneur?

This amazing and soul grinding lifestyle is nothing new; the BBC finds that the groundwork for ‘Hustle Culture’ was laid by the entrepreneurial boom of the 1990s and early 2000s. This wasn’t the start of hustle culture, but in days past, it was tied more into what people called a workaholic mindset. In the 1990s and 2000s, however, came the rise of technological enterprises. And it’s in Silicon Valley that a “rise and grind” lifestyle pushed forward. But while similar lifestyles existed in the 90s, 70s, and more, social media -through apps such as LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram-is what gave birth to modern hustle culture. 

But hey! If hustle culture increases productivity, shouldn’t we all grab our caffeine and grind harder? The answer to that is going to be nuanced and situational. Join CLCI Live as Jen Long (ACC), Anthony Lopez (MCPC), Jerome LeDuff (MCPC), Lisa Finck (PCC), Brooke Adair Walters (ACC), Misha Safran (PCC), and Samuel Gozo (ACC) discuss whether we should avoid or embrace hustle culture as coaches.

What Is Hustle Culture?

Hustle culture pushes for constant action: go, go, go. Make more money and be more productive. There are always opportunities to build up your business and taking breaks means opportunity loss on time. It’s not so much Finding Nemo’s Dory’s comforting “just keep swimming” and more of a sometimes overpowering demand to “never stop swimming”.

The hustle-culture narrative promotes the idea that there's always more to strive for: more money to make, a bigger title or promotion to secure and a higher ceiling to smash. -Megan Carnegie

While some do compare hustle culture to the promotion of a workaholic lifestyle in the past (and that alone says quite a bit about what to expect from it), there’s often a contrast in how these are presented. Workaholics make work their life. They stay at their office longer, arrive early, move away from social lives outside their company, they pick up extra shifts and overtime, etc. It’s a loyalty to whatever company they are employed by, not just a devotion to focusing on work and productivity over all else.

In contrast, hustle culture tends to promote self independence, the successful entrepreneur and influencer, above and beyond more traditional corporate lifestyle. In fact, this culture can sometimes shame those who work 9 to 5’s- or, at the least, ask these people why they don’t have a ‘side hustle’. 

Because often, it isn’t enough to be grinding towards the top in one job. Someone worthy will have more than one hustle going on and they will balance these jobs without letting the cracks show on social media. 

So what is a side hustle? Forbes explains side hustles as a part-time job, freelance gig, or business that is done in someone’s free time. Most often, it’s in addition to a full-time job. Side hustles aren’t a new concept. They could be as simple as dog walking, babysitting, house sitting, and similar side jobs that have been done by everyday people for decades. Forbes gives a great list of examples for side hustles as well as what red flags to look out for when deciding on one for yourself- because, like with anything, there is a good and bad side to side hustles.

One final aspect to acknowledge is that these side hustles are sometimes necessary. Whether it's inflation, stagnating wages, lost job, or family emergency, sometimes you have to take on another gig or work longer hours than is ideal because it is a matter of survival. In this exploration, we hope to help you figure out when it is necessary and when it gets out of hand.

The Ugly Sides of Hustle Culture

A frowning man holding a picture of him smiling
Don't let that frown fool you, he's actually happy and letting the world know!

Hustle culture exists primarily through social media. Here, shining influencers and brilliant coaches can show off perfect new vacation homes, seemingly flawless lives, and idealized early mornings spent working away- attributing everything to how much of a hustler they are. Through social media, it’s not so much simply being a workaholic. It’s boasting about overworking. The consequences can be others jumping into making start-ups that they can’t afford or falling for scams, because social media has painted this overwhelming picture that success is inevitable if you just hustle enough. For those that it doesn’t inspire into the life of a hustler, there can be consequences on mental and physical health, especially for workers and employees from marginalized groups and backgrounds. Psychiatrist Lea Lis, who documents working with women harmed by the narrative of hustle culture, argues that “Hustle culture is a dangerous phenomenon with unrealistic expectations.”

Hustle culture can definitely benefit people, just not you. It certainly benefits the influencers and exploitative business models who draw people into their specific sphere of hustling. Just like toxic self-help culture, some high standing people manage to make fortunes by first pushing the narrative of hustling onto people and then graciously showing their audiences the secrets to success with video courses, conferences, books, and more…all behind, of course, a paywall (comment if you would like these blogs to be behind a paywall!). Chances are that the only parties involved that will earn anything of note are those selling all these promises of financial freedom. 

Likewise, someone who has decided they want to hustle hard has to be careful which ‘hustle’ they pick. Hustle culture has a pressuring narrative that only those who are pushing forward constantly are really trying to get their dream life, and that, by not persisting hard enough, they’re at fault for whatever financial or family hardship they might have. It’s a guilt-tripping and sometimes even victim blaming mentality. And scams can take advantage of that pressure by disguising themselves as legitimate for those desperate to get them or their family to a better life. Even outside outright scams, there are business models that have benefited greatly from the environment hustle culture has made. Consider Forbes, which promotes picking up a side hustle, but still warns against certain popular self-named hustles such as Multilevel Marketing companies except in narrow circumstances. Scams, influencers, and exploitative business models take advantage of the people they promise success to and shame for not ‘hustling’ ‘hard enough’. 

Lea Lis also describes a similar phenomenon called “mommy guilt”: where parents burn themselves out trying to be as productive and enterprising as possible with job opportunities, and then feel guilty about being burned out at all. “Hustle culture demands you persist, regardless of if you have already hit your point of exhaustion,” Lis reports. There are many anecdotes of people approached by “business opportunities” by others who show off how good they feel “hustling”, and who then shame those who turn down their gracious opportunity offer. 

Here’s a bottom line when it comes to this uglier side of hustle culture: We are all human. We need sleep, we need leisure, we need something to look forward to other than work. Those few hours of ‘lost opportunities’ are far more important, and no one should feel guilty about sleeping. Despite what the narrative spread by hustle culture might say, you’re not:

  • a bad mother for not wanting to have a costly, harmful hustle to do from home, no matter if it might be advertised as a way to spend time with the kids

  • a bad father for having a 9 to 5 job rather than being a Silicon Valley style entrepreneur who is his ‘own boss’

  • doing your life wrong if you are twenty and don’t own an expensive car and a million dollar home, even if a famous influencer says any twenty-year-old who’s ‘sigma’ enough would be able to afford it through their self-made hustles

Rather, don’t be afraid to slow down, hit the reset button, and focus on what it really is you are working towards.

When Hustle Culture Works

Does hustle culture have any good narratives? Actually, yes. Most of which will come down to the individual and how they come to define that culture. 

The mindset discourages procrastination and being proactive. And while it’s crucial to not mistake necessary downtime for laziness, it is hard to be productive if you aren’t doing anything that can be productive. 

It also encourages people to try out different types of work that they may have feared they weren’t ‘good’ enough for. It can inspire someone who has dreamed of starting a business but not tried because the culture up until that time said they needed to stick to a traditional employment model only. 

And through the idea of ‘side hustles’, this culture puts a positive light on exploring side options. They might be a small job that you have had a passion for doing, a hobby turned into paying work, etc. In the future, this side hustle could end up becoming a new full-time job that is more rewarding than someone’s original work. 

As well, hustle culture promotes the same mentality found it life coaching: Being an active participant in your own life. If only more of our clients could just sit down and work to achieve their goals with the same determination. But if you've had clients who are workaholics, you know that it's not all roses, sunshine, and dollar-bills.

Ultimately, the question of embracing or avoiding hustle culture is a little misleading. It implies that one must choose to do one or the other. But some aspects of the hustle culture mindset can be taken while others are rejected.

This is the idea that ties both life coaching and hustle culture together:

That you can be the person with the most authority over your life and its success.

Whether you do it through hustling many side gigs, opening your own coaching business, or just keeping to your current employment, the idea is that you are the one choosing what you want most. Develop ideas, continuously introspect, try new things, define your dream- not the things you’re told to do. Define what your success will look like- not the exclusive definition of success declared by someone else.


Thank you,

Jen Long (ACC), Anthony Lopez (MCPC), Jerome LeDuff (MCPC), Lisa Finck (PCC), Brooke Adair Walters (ACC), Misha Safran (PCC), and Samuel Gozo (ACC)!

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