If you are a hard-working hustler, you may find yourself hustling in the wrong direction.
“The trouble with men today is that they simply don’t think.”
This quote, from the Nobel Prize-winning Dr. Albert Schweitzer, really resonates with me. After all, it’s easy to distract ourselves from pain, boredom, or important questions. With mobile phones and tablets, we can stay connected 24/7 and consume information non-stop. The scary part is that the late great Dr. Schweitzer passed away in 1965, long before the personal computer and iPhone were invented. If the truth of this quote was evident in 1965, I wonder what the good Doctor would say about us now.
I’m as guilty as anyone. When I’m having trouble solving a problem, I find myself checking email again, subconsciously hoping that a distraction will pop up that prevents me from getting any real work done. Or I’ll open Facebook, and scroll mindlessly through the newsfeed. There are tons of tools and techniques that can help avoid this sort of behavior, all beyond the scope of this article.
Similarly, having a “hustle, hustle, go, go, move forward” mentality can be dangerous. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that work ethic separates great from good. Some of my greatest personal achievements can be credited to pure hard work and grit. But the assumption the people who are touting the “hustle” mentality often fail to mention is that you have to be doing something worthwhile, or on your best path to success. While my greatest accomplishments can be credited to hard work and determination, my biggest blunders and time-wasting episodes were the result of a strategic mistake. These screw-ups and failures I’m referring to were not a result of poor execution, but failure to choose the best strategic path from the beginning.
For example, when I launched full speed into the development (and marketing) phase of a software program geared toward Personal Trainers, I failed to realize that there was already a very low-cost, non-industry specific application that was popular with my target market. Apparently I didn’t do a good job of vetting the competition. This is an obvious blunder, but the same types of mistakes in strategy and prioritization can creep into everyday life. If you aren’t careful, you may find yourself executing on tasks and “hustling” like a mad man while ignoring your highest priority goals.
I’m not saying hustle is a bad word. What I’m advocating is spending at least as much time and energy on strategy as you do on “hustling.” When I reflect on the time and money wasted on terrible ideas or secondary priorities, I realize that there is no referee tallying up my “hustle points.” The hustle only has value if it breeds results — a fact so obvious that it gets forgotten.
The best way to ensure you are on the right path, and that your actions line up with your priorities, is to regularly zoom out. Other than an extended trip into the wilderness with no access to the internet, the best method I’ve tried is the Daily Priority Review.
If you are a hustler, you probably love To-Do Lists. Instead of launching into your list of tasks first thing each morning, review an attached Priority List first. The Priority List should be comprised of the top five most important things in your life, ranked from one to five in order of importance. Go as broad and obvious as you like. You’ll need to periodically reconstruct your list over time as priorities shift, and will find that you get better at articulating actionable priorities that align with your core values the more you do it. Try jotting your priorities down on a note card, and keep it next to (or attached to) the medium you use for task management (this works whether you use a digital device or good ol’ fashioned Sticky Notes.)
The point is to force yourself to become cognizant of the values, goals, and aspects of life that are most important to you and ensure that your daily “To-Do” list falls in line. I’ll stop there and leave the rest up to interpretation, because only you know what daily reminders will keep you focused on what is important. Otherwise, you are at risk for falling prey to the “hustle” mentality and hustling in exactly the wrong direction.