The Hustle Myth: the Truth About Working Smarter, Not Harder

In the word of entrepreneurs and business owners, you’ll hear two different mentalities being preached: 1) the value of hustling, and 2) “work smarter not harder” (here, “Smarties”). Both claim to be the answer to success, but they go about it in two completely different ways. While Hustlers say that constant drive and outworking the next person is the golden ticket, Smarties will tell you those people are wearing themselves out and instead you should focus on working more efficiently so you can get the same results or better with less effort.

Of course, both of these mentalities have validity to them, because they’re meant for different things. Your personality and definition of success determine which one will speak to you more. For those who are business owners because they want success and flexibility, the Smartie sentiment appeals. For those who want to make as much money or generate as much business as possible, the Hustler life seems to make more sense.

But eventually, Hustlers get really tired of working hard with little return, and Smarties find that they’re not always able to do the work necessary for their “smart working” to actually manifest into anything tangible. The reality is that neither one works without the other, a truth that online educators and influencers often forget to mention, especially when their community largely consists of those who could conceivably become their competitors. So what should you do instead?

Why “work smarter not harder” isn’t the answer

Let’s be honest: most of us who choose to be business owners aren’t natural Hustlers. Some are, but the majority of us chose it because we like being the boss and having the flexibility to do what we want to do when we want to do it. So when we get all excited about “work smarter not harder,” we often forget that the verb in that sentence is still WORK. It takes a lot of effort, especially at the beginning, to get a business set up with operating systems, marketing and customer service that will run itself efficiently. And it takes ongoing maintenance, too. Inevitably, business owners that take this too much to heart end up outsourcing everything and trying to game the system, which rarely works.

The truth is that most people out there saying “work smarter not harder” are actually working really hard; they’re just using principles of efficiency and automation to make it so that they can scale and take on even more work.

Why hustling isn’t the answer

On the flip side, hustling isn’t the be all and end all of success as a business owner. Keeping your head down and working really hard is an incredible ability that many business owners lack, but it can lead to burnout, and focusing on doing as much work as possible probably means you’re not providing as much value as you could to each individual client. Plus, it makes it really difficult to scale if you’re constantly working IN your business and not ON your business.

Those successful people who tell you to “hustle, hustle, hustle?” They’re probably implementing really intelligent systems and automations so that they can scale up and take time out when they need or want to. In reality, most people preaching the hustle game are actually working at being more efficient and hoping that you’re too busy with your nose to the grindstone to surpass them. And most people preaching “work smarter not harder” are the ones working really hard and hoping your desire for an easy way will make it so they can have the edge on you. This isn’t always done intentionally or maliciously, but it’s important to remember that most successful people aren’t focusing on one of these mentalities in isolation.

The verb in the sentence “work smarter not harder” is still “WORK.”

So what do you do?

Like most things in life, it’s a balance. “Work smarter not harder” is about scaling, while hustling is about putting yourself out there and going the extra mile for your clients. If you focus on value and serving as many people as possible as well as possible, that involves both hard work AND smart work. Remember why you became a business owner, and then work on developing your work ethic so that your business can appropriately support those goals.


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