Back to Articles“Hustle” and business? “Hustle.” The term gets thrown around a lot in the business world, but where does hustle fit into YOUR business? Some entrepreneurs will tell you that hustling means working longer and harder than your competitors. These entrepreneurs brag about working long hours, pulling all-nighters and never having any time to relax. …I am NOT one of those entrepreneurs. If the only way to be successful is to work more hours, well… that sucks. I don’t know about you, but that’s not why I got into this business. I didn’t start my business to work more. In fact, I built my business so that I’d have more time for the things that matter to me, like spending time with my family. What about you? Are you for hustle or against hustle? Actually, hold that thought. It’s not an either/or decision. We’ll come back to this in a second. In my experience, there are TWO concepts of success. Concept #1 is that hustle = success. Concept #2 is that priorities = success. I believe in Concept #2. In business, you and I have the ability to design our business around our priorities, and this ability increases depending on what stage our business is in. The Survival Stage When we first start our business, we’re doing whatever we can to make a buck. This is what I call the “survival” stage. When I first started my business, I’d been with my girlfriend Amy (who is now my wife… thank GOD!) for a long time, and people would often ask me why I hadn’t asked her to marry me yet. The truth is, I hadn’t asked her yet because of where my business was at that time. Because, honestly, I was okay with surviving off of peanut butter and jam sandwiches but I wanted more for my family. As new entrepreneurs we all start in the survival stage. In this stage, you are closer to the first concept of hustle because your resources are limited so you need to do a lot of the work yourself. You should think about your priorities during this stage, but you might need to make some sacrifices when you’re first getting started. “I was okay with surviving off of peanut butter and jam sandwiches but I wanted more for my family.” The Success Stage The second stage of entrepreneurship is when you start making enough money to cover your living and business expenses. We can call this the “success” stage (financially speaking, anyways). In this middle stage of success, that’s when you and I have a really important decision to make. The success stage is when we can start basing our business decisions around our priorities, so it’s important that we get clear on what our priorities are. The Significance Stage As you gain more success in your business, you become busier. It’s also at this stage that you are working towards the third stage of your entrepreneurial journey, which I call “significance”. The significance stage is when you realize your goal for starting your business in the first place, in terms of the life you want to live and the impact you want to have in the world. It’s getting clear on your priorities that allows you to transition from success to significance, because the significance stage is the embodiment of the priorities you set for yourself when you first started. Here’s a personal example: It’s a story that I’ve told before, the story of the night I decided to sell my business. I was away for the weekend with my family, staying in this cabin in the middle of nowhere. It was pouring down rain and I woke up at 2 in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. I couldn’t go outside because it was pouring rain. I couldn’t turn a light on because I didn’t want to wake anybody up. So I just laid there in the darkness with my thoughts, and I started thinking about two books I’d recently read. One was Essentialism by Greg McKeown and the other was The One Thing by Gary Keller, and both books really force you to think about what’s important in business and in life. At the time I was wrestling with coming to terms with what is most important to me. Because the more success you experience, the more opportunities will come your way, and the more opportunities that arise, the more distractions will keep you away from things that matter. And it’s not just about putting in more hours to fight your way through the distractions. It’s about getting clear on your priorities and designing your business around those things so that you can eliminate the distractions altogether. So I remember laying there and wondering, “how do I make decisions in my business? How do I decide what to say yes to? What to say no to?” Here’s what it came down for me: 1) Eliminating Bad Stress We’ve all experienced bad stress, the stuff that keeps you up at night, that makes you anxious and fills you with self doubt and fear of what might happen. Bad stress sucks and i want to do everything I can to eliminate bad stress. 2) Impact My wife and I have a charity where we build schools in Kenya. That’s a big part of our life. But we also want to have an impact on our family, friends, and community. When evaluating a decision, I ask myself: “Will this allow me to add value for my colleagues or community? Will this be a positive experience for my family?” When the answer to either of those questions is yes, I know that it’s probably a good decision. 3) Profitability I’m spoiled because I’ve always been involved with selling software or information products, which both have huge profit margins. I’ve been tempted to join ventures in other markets, but the fact is software and information products interest me, I have years of experience with them and they offer great profitability, so that’s what I stick with. As I laid there in the cabin and worked through my priorities, I finally felt good about myself because I knew how they would apply to some big decisions I had to make. When my wife woke up I turned to her and said, “Amy, I think I’m going to sell WishList,” which was my software company at the time. WishList was our sole source of revenue, so this was a big deal, but I was confident that I could find profitability in a new venture that would be more aligned with my priorities. Ultimately, that was the first step that ended up helping me make some major changes in my life and career that I’m now grateful for. And it’s nothing against WishList or the product or the team, because they’re all amazing, but I just knew in my heart that WishList wasn’t the vehicle that would allow me to have the impact I wanted to have. How this relates to the discussion about hustle: Once you get clear on your priorities, you can take a step back and start being intentional while designing your business and your life, so it’s not just about hustle. It’s about hustling for the things that matter and eliminating the things that don’t. I like spending time with my family, so working long hours just isn’t an option. It works against my priorities and gives me stress. That’s why I don’t travel very often. That’s why I dedicate my time to working on tasks that utilize my core skills and expertise, and I find other talented people to help with the tasks that don’t. That’s why I have restrictions on the amount of time I spend coaching and consulting, and I honour those restrictions even if more work is available. It’s why I limit the number of promotions I do per year and the amount of time I spend selling. And that’s not always easy because saying no to speaking and coaching engagements, saying no to promotions, that’s a lot of potential revenue that you are saying “no” to. But what that does is it motivates me to work much harder on the things that I do agree to, and that’s really where hustle comes into the equation for me. To summarize: Define what your priorities are and base your life and business around them, and when it comes time to do the work that you KNOW is important because you’ve chosen for yourself… HUSTLE! It’s that simple. What about you? Why do you do what you do? If you can’t answer that easily, you need to think carefully about it. Let me know in the comments what your priorities are and what hustle means to you.