The modern myth of hustle culture is hurting early-stage entrepreneurs

Despite concerns regarding rising inflation, a possible recession and recent geopolitical events, it appears that a growing number of people in the UK are thinking about starting their own companies. According to a nationwide study conducted by Intuit QuickBooks in 2022, almost half (42%) of UK workers, amounting to nearly 3 million people, are interested in transitioning from employee to employer and becoming their own bosses. 

It seems that the pandemic and the rising cost of living have prompted people to consider this option and speed up their entrepreneurial plans. But probably the biggest contributing factor is represented by the business environment, which has changed a lot over the years. Starting a business today is easier and cheaper than it has ever been, and so the barriers to entry in most industries are relatively low. Thus, it makes sense that more and more people are now looking to take the entrepreneurial route. Unfortunately, many of them fall into the hustle culture trap as they’re chasing their dreams. 

Hustle culture is often seen as a default solution to common startup challenges 

Although the entrepreneurial landscape has become a lot more attractive lately, getting a business off the ground is not without its challenges, which is why many companies fail shortly after launching. Statistics reveal that approximately 20% of new businesses don’t make it past the one-year mark, and nearly 50% of startups fail within the first five years. The reasons vary from cash flow issues to lack of research and poor marketing. And so, many believe that the only solution to avoid failure and guarantee positive outcomes is to put in more effort, work longer hours and strive for perfection. As a result, they fail to see the specifics of their problems and don’t search for alternative ways to mitigate them. 

This approach is fuelled by the popularisation of the hustle culture in recent years, which has instilled the idea that success is directly proportional to the amount of effort one puts in. Most modern-day entrepreneurs are adepts of the hustle culture to the point it has turned into some sort of religion. Therefore, very few stop and ask themselves if hustle culture is really helping them reach their goals or if it’s causing more damage than good. 

It’s perfectly true that nothing can be achieved without hard work, commitment and professionalism. However, that differs greatly from the extreme lifestyle that hustle culture promotes, and there are strong reasons to believe that this strategy has the exact opposite effect than the one intended, acting as a deterrent to business success. 

A toxic lie that stands in the way of entrepreneurial success

Work hard, play hard has been the mantra of entrepreneurship for many years now. The problem is most entrepreneurs never get to the play hard part and get stuck in the work hard loop, like hamsters on a wheel. It should come as no surprise that the alternate names for hustle culture are grind culture and burnout culture. 

Entrepreneurs may believe that pushing themselves beyond their limits and working day in and day out without ever taking a break to breathe is something admirable and worthy of praise. The harsh reality is this is not a sustainable lifestyle, as it paves the path to exhaustion and burnout. Recent statistics show that 63% of business owners have suffered or are suffering from burnout, and entrepreneurs are generally at higher risk of being diagnosed with mental health issues associated with burnout. 

What business owners often fail to understand is that hustle culture comes from a place of fear and a need to control everything in order to avoid mistakes at all costs. It’s not a viable approach because it’s based on the fear of missing out (FOMO), and it doesn’t take into account the fact that companies have different requirements, and so do entrepreneurs. It minimises the importance of implementing smarter solutions that can help businesses streamline their operations, such as automating certain processes, delegating tasks, investing in business analyst training, or embracing digital transformation. Instead, it offers a one-size-fits-all solution for all business needs and challenges.

And most importantly, hustle culture completely phases out people’s need to rest and decompress. No one can function at full capacity 100% of the time. Sooner or later, one has to stop and reassess their priorities because poor health is not going to help one achieve their objectives. Entrepreneurs who put work above all else and are constantly tired or dealing with health issues are not able to run their startups properly. 

Being passionate about your work and doing your best to reach your goals is indeed commendable, but one should not forget that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. So it’s all about quality over quantity and finding the right balance, which comes in direct contradiction with hustle culture. 

Out with the hustle, in with work-life balance 

So, if hustle culture is not only ineffective but also extremely dangerous, what’s the alternative? A good work-life balance can provide the answer. Achieving proper work-life balance can help entrepreneurs lower their stress levels, improve concentration, and boost motivation, which can ultimately lead to better business outcomes. 

Efficiency in business comes from working smarter, not harder. That means budding entrepreneurs should focus on strategies that can help them achieve more with less effort, such as leveraging technology, training employees, delegating tasks, setting boundaries, avoiding multitasking, or investing in the right tools and equipment. 

We need to stop glamorising the idea that making work the primary focus in life while sacrificing other aspects like self-care and relaxation is the only way one can achieve success as an entrepreneur. Those who adhere to these principles are celebrated as winners and achievers. The truth is success looks different for everyone. Entrepreneurs need to figure out what success means for them instead of constantly comparing themselves to others or holding themselves up to unrealistic standards. 

Wrapping up

The damaging effects of the hustle culture have managed to fly under the radar for many years, but entrepreneurs are finally starting to question this approach and see the realities behind it. While working hard and being proactive are important for startup success, becoming a workaholic and putting hustling on a pedestal is not going to help. There are better and less risky ways to reach success as an entrepreneur, which is why the hustle culture myth needs to be busted once and for all. 

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