Turning Hustle & Self-development Into an Identity: Don’t

I write a lot in these essays about hustle, and don’t get me wrong: I think hustle is important. You’ve got a limited amount of time on this Earth. If you want to live a fulfilled life, become the best person you can be, accomplish great things, etc., hustle is half the battle. There is no getting around the axiomatic fact that in order to do lots of stuff, you’ve got to take lots of action.

Something I’ve been reflecting on the last few days, though, is the point when “hustle” becomes an identity — when “hustle” becomes something you push yourself to do, a concept you think about a lot, a label you actively give yourself. First of all, I don’t know how effective turning “hustle” into an identity is. If you do an Instagram search for #hustle, you mostly see people hiding their misery through a smile. (You can tell they are miserable if you look at the skin around their eyes and at their pupils.) But secondly, and I’m just going to be blunt with this: turning “hustle” into an identity is just sort of weird.

Stripped of all ideology, what does “hustle” mean? Someone who “hustles” is someone who takes lots of action every day. Oftentimes to the point of being very tired.

Like, how is that impressive? Your flex is “I do lots of stuff”? People build a whole ideology thinking that “hustle” is profound; all “hustle” is is just doing lots of stuff.

But look, I get the impulse. The reason I’ve written so much about hustle these last six months in particular is because in the last six months I have had deep revelations that I want to do big things with my life and that I want to live the best life I can possibly live. But I realized that the rate at which I was taking action would not get me to where I wanted to be. So I needed to push myself to get used to being OK with being tired and taking way more action. And I needed to realize that all that extra effort and tiredness was worth it to me.

So the concept of “hustle” was profound to me at the time. Six months into trying to get myself to do more stuff every day, I realize: it wasn’t that big of a deal to begin with. My entire journey seemed profound to me as an experience, sure, but ultimately all I did was just get myself to do more stuff and become OK with being tired. I look back, and there’s a deep part of me that reflects and thinks, honestly, “lol.”

I think taking too seriously labels around self-development, in general, is sort of silly, to be honest. If you deeply identify with the concept of “self-love,” I totally respect your journey, and I hope you do find a way to love yourself more, but also: being proud of “self-love” is really just saying, I like that I like myself a lot. That’s all it is. Like, it really won’t be that big of a deal on the other side of your journey. Eventually you’ll be like, wow I like myself a lot? Cool story, bro. (At least hopefully.)

Same applies to basically any other self-development concept. Identify proudly with the label “fit”? Big whoop, you consistently eat properly and exercise. Identify proudly with the label “empath”? Cool story bro, you’re attuned to how others feel.

Like, I’m really not trying to diminish people’s identities and journeys. Those labels are valid, and sometimes they are necessary for people to cope. The *experience* of going through a self-development journey is profound.

But here’s another deep truth: a lot of people who take seriously labels like “hustle” and “self-love” and “fit” and “empath,” etc., are secretly very, very miserable deep down.

The point of self-development should be to eventually — if you can get there — not need self-development. To just be happy. And natural. And good.

You got into self-development to better yourself, and hopefully you will have eventually become better. Hopefully, you will eventually need self-development less.

Have self-awareness. Don’t become the person who posts an IG photo with #hustle but who looks dead in the eyes. At least: I get that it may be necessary.

There’s a saying: the only way out is through.

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