*originally published May 6, 2016
Please stop telling me to hustle.
You mean well. I really believe you do. You want me to achieve all that I dream of and be the very best version of myself. I am grateful for that. But I think we may disagree about what “the best” is. I want to be successful. A little extra money wouldn’t hurt and I have never turned down praise from someone. And let’s be honest…I REALLY like winning, so being the best and most favored is a place I rather enjoy. Sure, I could probably be more productive. I could produce more. But is more production really what’s best for me as a human being? Sometimes I wish for more hours in the day and time management skills that make others bask at all I accomplish in one day. What is the cost of “hustling”? For every choice we make, we’ve said no to something else. More Instagram followers would be awesome, but really I want to create and write and have time to be real friends with people. More than busyness, I want roots dug deep in the ground. I want margin. Slow days where I talk to the old man picking out bananas next to me or conversations with the barista in my small town coffee shop. Most days I choose to drive 5 minutes farther on the way home from work to take the scenic route by the county airport. It may not be the most productive thing to do, but my day feels rich and full. I don’t want to spend all day hustling. I would prefer to use it living.
And if I may be frank, the “hustle culture” which saturates the internet and our American dream society just may be driving us all mad. Everywhere we turn there is a call to do more. The internet is full of “inspiring” quotes such as “good things come to those who hustle” and “busy is the new happy”. The growing, collective voice of hustle started out meaning to work hard, but now it just feels like getting my face ground in the mud. There’s a competitive connotation to hustle, right? It reminds me of sports. “Hustle,” yells the coach. Run faster. Compete harder. Be better. But I’m not really sure who we’re competing against anymore? Other people? Myself? Neither are people I want to compete against. We all need more grace and tenderness than that.
One of hustle’s side effects is busyness. The more I watch my culture, the less I think we need busy and the more I think we all need a nap and a hug. I remember telling my boss (a senior pastor) that very thing several years ago. We had a good laugh about telling a congregation of 400 people to take a Sunday afternoon nap and then invite your friends over for dinner. But doesn’t that sound like a great day? Slow, simple, full. It sounds like abundance to me. Sure, our goals and work matter. The Lord made us workers, but we aren’t workers for work’s sake. At least not when Christ is King of our lives.
I have a question for those of you who champion hustle. What guarantees do you have? You seem to believe that if one works harder and faster, then success (defined as money, fame, power, accomplishment) is certain. But are you sure hustle promises payoff? I’m not so sure it isn’t a lie. I don’t think hustling secures our desired outcome. Certainly we should work well and diligently on the things in front of us regardless of the eventual outcome. Work is good for us. But we fool ourselves into thinking that the working hard part ensures the paying off part. We would do well to remember that the process of work may be the best part.
So instead of hustling, I propose we be intentional. Not just about work, but our lives as a whole. We can work hard when it is time for work while making room for relationships, service, and rest.
Join the anti-hustle movement with the art print. (it's printable...so you can have it now!)