Founders, Hustle is BS

By Rob Kornblum | Culture

Aug 07

As a basketball coach, I look for players who are willing to do the little things, players who work hard and don’t whine. Players who hustle.

You hear about it constantly in entrepreneurship.


If you hustle, you’ll be ok.

If you don’t hustle continuously, you will fail.

There are dozens of “hustle” T shirts you can buy, like this one below.

Hustle T shirt

Gary Vee’s newsletter is called ‘Hustler’s Digest.’ Hell, there is even a HustleCon conference which attracts thousands of participants.

What do they even mean?

Urban dictionary defines ‘hustle’ as,

“Anythin you need to do to make money… be it sellin’ carsdrugs, ya body. If you makin’ money, you hustlin’.”

They all want you to feel like “If you aren’t cranking, burning both ends of the candle” then you aren’t going to make it as an entrepreneur. You aren’t hustling? You aren’t shit!

Most of this is utter BULLSHIT.

But I understand where a lot of this comes from…


Why some people suggest hustle

The first thing is to understand why some people think “hustle” is so important. Probably the biggest killer of startup companies and startup dreams is inaction. It is incredibly easy to get stuck, because there is so much you don’t know.

One of the things that separates ‘wantrepreneurs’ from ‘entrepreneurs’ is ACTION. Getting stuck is normal, but staying stuck is a killer. Staying stuck is THE killer.

You think you need to read another blog post, take another course, something, to learn it before you try it.

Here is the deal. You only learn while doing. You cannot learn to swim from reading a book. You have to get in the water.

So the hustle proponents are right about one thing. If you stop moving your arms and legs, you will drown.

The problem with the hustle crowd is that they want you to move, in any direction, all your body parts at the same time. That’s not swimming, it’s flailing, and all it will do is tire you out before you drown.


The “hustle” mantra produces a belief that you need to do it all. One of the biggest issues I see when I meet founders is a huge feeling of OVERWHELM.


What to do instead

So what’s your alternative? You’re committed to starting a company, or you have already started one, and you WANT to take serious, regular, committed action, but you don’t want to burn out.

The first thing is to plan out what direction you’re going and how quickly you need to get there. To use the swimming analogy, are you trying to cross a pool, a lake, or the English Channel.

The second thing you need to do is plan your actions.

You don’t need to do it all at once. If you’re an online entrepreneur, decide what social media channels you are going to use. Simplify. Pick one or two, not five.

It is way more important to do a few impactful things well than five things half-assed.

Back to the swimming analogy, you are going to pick a direction, pick a stroke and a start paddling.

One of the most successful entrepreneurs I have met, Lew Cirne, founder of software unicorn New Relic, describes it as “pedaling in the right gear.” You can pedal faster, but if you’re in the wrong gear, you aren’t going to go any faster.


Do Things That are Uncomfortable

To build a company, you need to wear many hats. You have to do or oversee sales, marketing, finance, product development, customer service, you name it.

Some of these things will come naturally, but some will feel really uncomfortable. You have to do them anyway. Especially sales. Sales is the function that seems to make entrepreneurs the most uncomfortable. But if you don’t sell, you don’t have a business.

Avoiding the “hustle” BS doesn’t mean sitting on your hands, or only doing what you like. You still have to get after it.


Keep Taking Action

The “hustle” proponents do have one thing right.

You must take regular action. When you’re tired, you need to find energy to push through.

But here is where the “hustlers” are wrong. Don’t take any action. Don’t take blind action. Take smart, measured, determined, regular action. If your blog post was a flop, you need to write another one. But look at your analytics and ask some editors what you need to improve.

The “hustle” crew would have you believe that Action = success. Don’t believe it.

Smart entrepreneurs know that planned, intelligent, persistent action is what will make you successful. So stop, sharpen your axe first, look at the tree, then start swinging. The tree WILL come down.

Dory swim

“You can do anything once you stop trying to do everything”- old saying


About the Author

Rob loves helping entrepreneurs and start-up founders boost their chance of success via simple growth strategies. He's a 25-year start-up veteran, serial entrepreneur, and former venture capitalist.

Leave a Comment:

(1) comment

Gari August 9, 2017

Hello Rob

The Lean Canvas has proven to be very efficacious in streamlining my start-up ideas to launch.

Demystifying the tyranny of the hustle was also a timely reminder.

As entrepreneurs it is essential that we develop poise & direction…a confident willpower to work smart i.e “work as hard as possible without sacrificing alertness”.

Will surely spread a good word about your blog.

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