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Do the Hustle?

You can't do a damned thing on the Internet today without someone telling you they know the secret to success, and that secret is always invariably the same - "sign up to my course and learn how I do amazing things". And if you do sign up for that course, you'll hear variations of the same idea - "why shouldn't you commercialise what you're good at? Why does everyone else deserve success? It's easy! All it takes is hard work - once you start, you can never stop or you'll lose momentum! Real success comes from 16-hour work days! The only way to beat the competition is to work harder than them - never stop hustling."

I understand the message, and there are certain components I even like about it - I mean, why shouldn't you try to capitalise on something you are good at, and why don't you deserve success - these are great, energising, motivational ideas, and I support them 100% (it's why I'm a writer, and it's why I have this website).

And, of course, I understand the idea behind the hustle - honestly, success DOES take work. I don't know how many people I've watched try something new over the years, only for it to fizzle over time... Consistency and persistence absolutely IS key.

Quick example that I've talked about before. Back in 2018, I started a podcast with a friend of mine, all about the videogame "Warframe". When we started, I told my co-host that we needed to release an episode every week at the same time without fail. I did this because people are creatures of habit - they come to expect things from you, and when you provide what they expect, you reinforce that expectation, and the appreciation grows from there. For two years, we posted one episode every week, without fail, and we built a great little community. It worked!

But, given I had a full-time job on the side, which demanded more and more of my time as the years crawled by, the amount of work I was putting in versus the return on that effort was diminishing. Two years in, I began to suffer from burnout, but I didn't realise it at the time. Six months later, it was getting worse, and we cut back to two episodes per month. Another six months later, we recorded our final episode.

Did things get any better once we stopped? Yes and no... On the one hand, I got my Sundays back, and I had less stress in terms of making sure the podcast got done, but other things started to take up my time. Now, I spend MORE time writing than I did making my podcast, but I don't suffer from the same amount of burnout.

And why is that? Because it's not just about hustle. That's the wrong message to send. Yes, the work needs to be put in, and yes, it needs to be consistent, but most importantly - it takes time.

Too many people try to set up some kind of "side hustle" (a podcast, vodcast, website, whatever) knowing that work needs to be put in, but not understanding how much time needs to also be put in - often years. Sure, you can hit on a niche that nobody else is focusing on, and you could be lucky, or... you could do something plenty of others are already doing, and in these cases making a name for yourself takes time (and also requires you to do something different, to be clear - otherwise, why follow you when they already get the same elsewhere?). I've seen several people start something new (and in many cases, great), but give up after only five or ten attempts.

It's not just their expectations that are wrong - yes, they are expecting more than ten people to watch their video, and it's disheartening to see the same numbers every week - but it's also about the work versus the expectations. "Making one video takes me X amount of hours. For X amount of hours, I expect XX amount of viewers." It's this discrepancy that makes creators give up. There's too much focus on GIVING IT ALL upfront, and not enough on the build, at least, in my opinion.

When I started that podcast, we recorded on our phones for the first ten episodes, and it was shit. As our listener base began to grow (and at this stage, it was maybe only 100 or so), we began to work harder. We improved our technology. We released a second episode every week. We started a website. All of this added to our offer, and helped us grow... but eventually, we stagnated. We cut back to one episode per week and stopped posting on the website, and our listeners plateaued. The return on the work no longer matched, and it just became hard work.

It's true that hustle culture works for some - particularly those with a great idea, or those with a lot of time on their hands and not much responsibility, but for many of us, we don't have the time, and we need to keep our day jobs. The dream that we can build a side hustle that eventually becomes our day job has become bigger than the reality, and too many people are capitalising on this - "buy my course so I can tell you how to achieve success from your side hustle... because that's MY side hustle." I wonder how many of those people are actually succeeding, and how much of it is for show. I'd love some insight into how long some of these people do this for - there are some well known folks that have been doing this for years, but many of the others I've seen on Twitter and LinkedIn, etc.... many of them seem to be fly-by-night, disappearing months after they start.

The point I want to make after all this is: dream your dream. Try your hand at something new. Believe in yourself. But know that it takes time, and take it slowly. The more money and effort you put in upfront is, in my opinion at least, highly correlated with how quickly you give up.

All of that said, please go buy my books :)

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