Running To Stand Still

The car rushed past me, swerving back into my lane to get ahead and hurry along to her destination. I can’t blame her, from what I could tell she was a high school student who might have been running late (as I was) and wanted to get to school as quickly as she could.

The problem was that she sped through a school zone, surely drawing a lot of attention to herself as she drove at least twice as fast as everyone else on the road with her. After that, no matter how much effort she placed into navigating and weaving through traffic, slamming on the gas at the first sight of open road, she still ended up stopped directly in front of me at every red light we came across all the way up to her destination.

All her effort, all of her hustling, all of her rushing, and ultimately all she had to show was being just slightly in front of me.

I actually found the situation funny enough that I figured I’d take a picture of each time we got to a light next to each other, but really all it helped me realize was just how many lights there are in the two mile stretch of road we shared.

We live in a Hustle society. There’s a lot of activity and noise and rushing around, and it’s highly praised when somebody shows a lot of Hustle in their everyday lives. Working until you burn out is considered some strange level of success, even though we came close to getting better at the onset of the pandemic. We stayed home, people evaluated their priorities, trimmed the fat of their lives by not focusing so much on the unnecessary stuff, and then we immediately jumped straight back into the world of Crypto trading, of making the most of your productivity, and the Hustle.

Before I draw the ire of everyone who has ever donned the title of “Life Coach” and they rise up to call me lazy, I should state this disclaimer: I love an appropriate hustle. The use of “hustle” as a positive term related to how hard somebody is working seems to come from its usage in sports situations. In a competitive situation, the ability to hustle is praised because it’s directly related to how much effort a player is exerting.

I love the way the sport of soccer evaluates hustle, because it measured as something called Work Rate. Work Rate is the “extent to which a player contributes to running and chasing in a match while not in possession of the ball”. In other words, when the spotlight isn’t on them, how much effort are they putting forth into making their team successful? I love that.

We sports people talk about “hustle” players a lot as those players who are typically exerting extra effort for the team benefit. Also we tend to praise a player’s “hustle” when he’s not very talented but bless him, he’s trying. But the point is that’s where the use of “hustle” as a positive term comes from. In the real world, the word is derived from a Dutch term that means to shake or toss something. That’s why to “hustle” somebody is to scam somebody out of their money. Not exactly the same as putting in a lot of effort.

Then came this Hustle Culture, seeming originating from Rick Ross’ claim that everyday, he was hustlin’ and you know what? I believe that he is. I mean, Wingstop ain’t no joke.

But our hustle culture is self-glorifying. It has nothing to do with the Work Rate that betters the team when you’re not getting the glory, it has everything to do with speeding through a school zone and weaving in and out of traffic recklessly in order to get marginally ahead of somebody else. It’s a relentless pursuit of money and power, totally self-serving things. For anyone who isn’t a successful rapper or a really great Life Coach who makes a living telling people they should be putting in more effort, the Hustle is a ton of effort for a tiny reward so that you can feel like you’re doing better and doing more than people around you. Hustle is a competitive term, which causes us to view life as a competition against the people we see every day. Our lives are reduced to nothing more than a fight to feel like we’re doing better than them.

At its core, Hustling is nothing more than self-gratifying through trying very very hard. I have to admit that I’ve done it myself so much over the years, always feeling the pressure to create another video essay or funny live stream or a blog post or a podcast or anything at all. For the longest time I always felt like I was wasting my time if I wasn’t producing more, doing more, putting forth more effort. I had totally forgotten that life is for living.

I don’t find myself in that mentality as much anymore. Sure, I still strive for a good Work Rate, but I see Work Rate as the extra effort to benefit where I work, where I live, my family and home life. I think that’s very important, but it’s just as (if not more) important to remember that eventually, the competition ends. A soccer player doesn’t need to put forth a massive Work Rate after the match, he simply needs to shake hands, thank the fans, and go to the locker room with his teammates.

For me, that’s looked like leaving work and spending more time in the backyard with the dogs or on the couch with a basketball game on TV and less time worrying about whether I was doing enough. What’s the point of fighting so hard to get a marginal leg up if I’m not left with any time to enjoy what my work has generated?

Forget the Hustle. It’s okay to let the competitive spirit stay between the lines on the field, just as it’s okay to drive the speed limit, even if you’re running a bit late. It’s okay to write a blog post that isn’t super polished because there’s no reason to feel pressured into perfection on an unnecessary task. It’s okay to end that blog post poorly because you don’t have a perfect summation.

It’s okay!


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