7 Reasons ‘Entrepreneurial Hustle’ Is a Hoax

7 Reasons ‘Entrepreneurial Hustle’ Is a Hoax

By Christopher Lochhead, host of the “Follow Your Different” podcast
4-minute read

Reasons ‘Entrepreneurial Hustle’ Is a Hoax

In short:

  • Entrepreneurs worldwide are familiar with the “hustle” mentality: If you work harder, you’ll be more successful.

  • Christopher Lochhead, veteran CMO and bestselling author, argues this mentality is harmful to business and personal financial success and even mental health.

  • Instead, he advocates a well-rounded approach to life that dovetails work and wellbeing.


“Hustle, hustle, hustle.” This is arguably the most pervasive piece of business advice you hear today.

That advice is wrong. Here’s why:


1. Hustle is a “duh.”

Success requires working hard. Duh. Telling people they are going to have to work hard to be a success is like telling people who want to lose weight they are going to have to eat healthfully. We all read when Malcolm Gladwell told us it takes 10,000 hours to master something

Everyone already knows it. Success takes hard work.

Sure, there are folks who come from wealth and perhaps don’t need to work for a living, and some people win the lottery. But the vast majority of people who achieve any kind of success had to earn it.


2. Hamsters hustle.

Some aspiring business leaders tend to confuse activity and results. Consider this: Hamsters hustle in their wheels, and they never get anywhere.

The seminal question, then, is, “Does the work I do produce meaningful results that create value, or am I spinning my wheel?”


3. Horizontal income is just as valuable as vertical income.

My friend Pat Hiban makes the distinction between horizontal and vertical income in his podcast. This is something most of us didn’t learn in school. 

Vertical income is money you have to do something for. Sell car; make commission. Punch clock; collect paycheck. The vast majority of us get trained in this. We trade labor for pay. The hustle-pushers subscribe to this paradigm, and they think the pathway to success is more work.

Horizontal income, meanwhile, is money you make from investments. You make one smart investment, and it pays you over and over again. I like to say it’s horizontal because you can get paid lying down! On my podcast, Hiban makes the argument that true financial freedom comes when you can pay your living expenses with horizontal income. 

The hustle-pushers often forget to mention that smart investments--aka horizontal income--can get you out of the “hard work” rat race.


4. Success is not about doing better. It’s about doing different.

In the movie “There’s Something About Mary,” there is a scene in which Ben Stiller’s character picks up a hitchhiker  played by comedian Harland Williams. 

Williams plays a would-be entrepreneur who enthusiastically pitches his captive audience a can’t-miss business idea: a “7-Minute Abs” video that he is convinced will outsell the popular “8-Minute Abs” workout. A no-brainer, right? Right?

A skeptical Stiller responds with, “That’s good --unless, of course, somebody comes up with ‘6-Minute Abs.’ Then you’re in trouble, huh?” 

At this point, the hitchhiker and would-be entrepreneur starts squirming in the passenger’s seat.

Most people and businesses have a “7-Minute Abs” strategy. They think they can win by playing a comparison game, competing with existing brands to create a product that is just a little bit better. Thus, the hustle hucksters tell you that you just need to compete harder. Win at all costs. Do what your competition won’t to win the business, deal or job.

The most successful people, however, differentiate themselves. They proactively position themselves in a niche of the existing market which they know they can dominate. They don’t compete in any traditional sense. Rather, they become known for a niche they can own.


5. Burnout is costly.

In a recent Gallup survey, 44 percent of full-time employees reported feeling burned out “sometimes,” and 23 percent reported feeling burned out “very often or always.” Employee burnout costs U.S. corporations up to $190 billion annually in healthcare spending, according to the Harvard Business Review.

If that’s not proof that hustle isn’t working for our health--nor our businesses’ bottom lines--then I don’t know what is. 


6. Entrepreneurship is linked to mental illness.

In a recent TechCrunch post, VC Jake Chapman pointed out that entrepreneurs are twice as likely to suffer from depression, have a psychiatric hospitalization or have suicidal thoughts.

Given this reality, telling entrepreneurial folks to “hustle” seems downright reckless, as it could send a harmful message about absorbing yourself further with your work.


7. Workaholics are not heroes.

In Japan, they have a word for people who die from over work: karōshi. Many of us are far from that fate. However, you can’t help but feel unnerved that more than half of American office workers say they check their work email immediately after waking up, and 48 percent consider themselves workaholics. What’s more, those workers use only about half of their vacation time on average. Only 23 percent of employees take off all of the time they’ve earned, and nearly 10 percent take no paid time off at all, according to Glassdoor.

When did overworking become a badge of honor?

We’ve become a live-to-work society. We’ve gotten life backward. How often do you hear, “I’ll relax when I retire”? I have to admit, I used to fall into this trap all the time. And what did I learn? When you’re working 60–80 hours a week and 51.5 weeks a year, you cannot be good at your job. Period. You’re fried. And you’re probably not exercising enough. And you’re probably not eating well. And there is no way you can be caring for the people and relationships you value.

🌱 The bottom line

I’m just sayin’, enough “hustle, hustle, hustle.” It’s time to start thinking about how to design businesses, careers and lives that work. Let’s build 360-degree lives with the right cocktail mix of work, relationships, experiences and wellbeing.

Christopher Lochhead is a “Top 30”-rated podcaster, #1 Amazon bestselling author of “Niche Down” and “Play Bigger” and a former Silicon Valley public company CMO who has advised over 50 venture-backed technology startups.

🌱 For more reality checks from Grow Wire, subscribe to our email newsletter.