Hustling: A Prerequisite for (Startup) Success; or Maybe Just BS?

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

“Cargo Cult Science

“The (Hustle) Talk”

Whether you’re new to startups or being in this space forever I bet you had “the (hustle) talk”.

As matter of fact, is not really a talk…is more like a lecture if I may say so.

Which pretty much goes something like this:

If you’re not hustling, you’re losing

Yep, is short, sweet, and to the point.

And sort of binary I may add!  

Either you do it, or you’re destined to fail.

But what does hustle really mean?

Well according to our friend Adam Pittenger, a ‘believer’:

Hustle is saying no to happy hour to prepare a pitch deck. Hustle is waking up early on a Saturday to write a new company blog post. Hustle is quitting Clash of Clans because it took more than 5 minutes of your day. Hustle is skipping dinner and a movie because that $50 is two months of your team’s Github plan.”

Or said differently, is the notion that unless you absolutely devote your whole life to your thing & burn both ends of the candle you won’t make it as an entrepreneur.

So, today’s question?

It couldn’t be more straightforward…

Is hustling a core ingredient to a startup’s success; or maybe just BS?

Ok, let’s jump straight into this.

The Case For Hustling

So, why many think hustling is a prerequisite for (startup) success?

4 words…

No Pain, No Gain!

Not surprised, right?

After all, we have all trained to believe that nothing good in life comes easy…

But if we get back to Adam’s definition & read between the lines… (ok, this might be a stretch as it’s pretty obvious) you’ll see that he is not just talking about hard work.

That’s right – other than that, he indirectly touches another key premise behind the concept of hustling.

Which is of course the idea that you have to be willing to do things that others won’t…

Because, if you think about it working hard is so intrinsic in most societies (especially in the Western world) that it makes it almost ‘business as usual’ for the majority of people.

But a true hustler not only works hard but also goes above and beyond ‘the call of duty’ (aka as going all in, big time) and do what others won’t even dare to think…

Think that is hard?

No problem – Michael Arrington has an advice for you:

“Work hard. Cry less. And realize you’re part of history.”

Yep, in an article of his on this topic suggests to new entrepreneurs to…

… get used to the idea of working crazy hours, crying less and quitting all the whining because startups are hard and there is no other way.

Or at least that’s the claim!

So, what do you think; time to explore the other side of this story?

Good, let’s do it!

Thinking of Hustling? STOP!

Kind of counter-intuitive, right?

I know – nonetheless, quite a lot of insiders think that the ‘culture of hustling’ promotes a path to nowhere.

As they say, the idea that if you’re not hustling, you’re losing, is a lie.

Why I hear you ask?

3 reasons to get you started:

Reason #1: Hustling ≠ Being Productive

And the reasoning behind this statement is that the hustle mantra produces a belief that you have to do it all.

Yes, everything!

But what’s wrong with that?

You guessed it – lack of focus, strategic thinking and delegation.

And surprise, surprise a common by-product of this attitude is poor productivity.

Which as might imagine at this sensitive level of a fledgling business it can very well be a startup killer.

Reason #2: It’s a fast-track to burnout

The assumption here is that working crazy hours comes at a hefty cost.

As the proponents of this line of thinking suggest hustlers’ have to come to terms with their body’s biological limitations and stop pretending they’re robots.

Because otherwise will find themselves sooner than later not just being overworked but also stressed, overwhelmed and inevitably irreversibly burn-out.

And considering that turning an idea into a viable, cash-producing business can be a long game you simply can’t afford putting yourself in this situation.

So, the advice from our hustling opponents couldn’t be more straightforward:

Stop trying to sprint a marathon, ditch unhealthy working habits and abide by the human biological needs…

Reason #3: It exacerbates new entrepreneurs’ hero syndrome

And last but not the least comes the hero syndrome.

Not familiar with this term?

Here is a neat definition:

Hero syndrome is an unconscious need to be needed, appreciated or valued that disguises itself as a good thing, but threatens to make you bitter and to overextend you.”

But how is that related to today’s topic?

It’s simple – hustling is a form of a virtuous signalling deployed by new entrepreneurs to fulfil their own hero syndrome (and make them feel good about themselves).

Just think about this…

How many times you’ve listened to other entrepreneurs humblebrag about NOT what they have achieved but instead how many hours they put in on a daily basis?

As I guessed…

But you know what; hustling is not just a ‘humble-brugging exercise’.

People actually do that because they also believe in what I call the input-output theory.

Which as the name implies is the idea that the more hours you put in the better results you’ll get in return.

And needless to say that goes hand in hand with what scientists call the busyness disease (for how busyness became the ultimate status symbol have a look at this post).


So, with all that said what’s my take on this?

Well, even though I am a firm believer in the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy I do believe most hustling preachers are…

… serial virtuous signallers (and a good chunk of them committed BSers if I may say so) that preach an aggressive form of hustling that does more harm than good (for the very reasons listed above).

Yes my friends, the idea that you have to put “17 hour work days” to make it, in my opinion, is by all standards just ridiculous.

And I say this as a person that I did my fair share of sacrifices so far…

But to answer today’s question; is (this form of aggressive) hustling a prerequisite for startup success; or maybe just BS; I would probably say the latter!

Because in my opinion startups win with focus and not by doing (or trying to do) more…

Plus, ‘the input-output productivity theory’ according to many (me included) is more a myth than reality.

And with that my friends comes the end of this post.

I hope to see you soon.




If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my kindle book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

 “Figure out how to “kick your own ass; Right now, someone out there is trying to figure out how to be better than you at what you do. The best way to beat them is to put yourself in their shoes and figure out how to beat yourself”

-Mark Cuban

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