I grew up immersed in hustle culture. As a girl, I watched my Dad scarf his food and rush out the door, leaving us at the table. Mom explained, “Sabrina, your Dad never ate a relaxed meal as a family. They always ate on the go, usually out of the concession stand: popcorn, hot dogs and soda pop.”
In my Dad’s childhood, everything revolved around the family businesses. My grandpa, “Slim” Starling, owned a service station. To sell more gasoline, he put a big screen on the roof of his filling station and gave purchasers of five gallons of gas a free ticket to the show. Cars came in droves. Gas sales boomed!
There was work to do. Now, not only are they in the service station business, but they are in the drive-in movie theater business. It was tough to find good help. The family ran the businesses. Everyone worked, even my father, a child at the time. The businesses, as successful as they were, took over their lives.
Related: Health Is Wealth: How to Move Away From Hustle Culture
Growing up, I saw my Dad always on the go, never taking a break. Work always came first, and there was always more to do. This mentality was harmful. In graduate school, I juggled teaching, a practicum, a full courseload and writing my dissertation. My mind buzzed with what I needed to do. I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. I turned down my friends’ invitations because there was always work to do.
In my 30’s, I was a hot mess of anxiety. I signed up for a yoga class and learned there were spaces between breaths. I realized it’s possible to pause in life. To this point, I have filled the pauses, rushing through the breaths and life because there is work to do.
When pregnant with my first daughter, I was determined to get a handle on this. I quit my job to start my coaching business and control my time. You likely are picking up on the flaw in my thinking. Simultaneously having a baby and starting a business made it challenging to manage my time.
A few months after my daughter is born, I rocked her to sleep in a dark room with just enough light from the moon shining through the window for me to read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Like most of us, I realized I was doing it all wrong. Hard work does not lead to success as an entrepreneur. Grinding it out grinds us up.
When I met Michael Gerber a few years later, I asked the question I carried with me, “I coach business owners and help them have a better life. Yet, I am doing it all. How do I build a team and a repeatable business model?” He replied, “My dear, I own a coaching company, and I have never coached a day in my life!”
That answer ticked me off. He told me nothing — Yet, he told me everything. He is telling me to think differently about my role. If I continue doing my work, I will get a similar result. Not only do I have to think differently, but I also have to show up differently. My very being had to shift.
I started asking myself a different question: “What’s possible?” and I became clear on what I wanted — a business to support my life. I wanted to work no more than 25 hours weekly to be present with my family. That’s one of the best decisions I ever made.
Related: Hustle Culture Is Killing Your Greatness
Limits force innovation. A 25-hour workweek over the last 18 years forced me to be effective, not busy. I paid attention to what worked and did more of it. I focus on my $ 10,000-an-hour activities daily and let the rest go. My business continued to grow; I cared for my health and was present with my family.
I have made mistakes, experienced setbacks and learned from the school of hard knocks. I’ve also been privileged to coach thousands of entrepreneurs. We start with the question: “What are your wins and successes?” I’ve tracked the answers, focusing on what works to get the best results — a profitable business and a good quality of life at the same time.
I study successful entrepreneurs, collecting data from over 400 with our Better Business, Better Life Assessment. Clear patterns distinguish successful entrepreneurs with profitable businesses and a high quality of life from those burning out. The majority, 9 out of ten entrepreneurs, are burning out. One out of 10 is not burning out. I am excited to share what we are doing differently in future articles.
I’m on a mission to disrupt hustle culture in entrepreneurship. Hustle culture reinforces the notion that you must sacrifice your life to have a successful business. Hustle culture would make us believe that’s just how it is.
Related: Why Hustle Culture Might Be Toxic to Your Business
I believe in a different possibility for entrepreneurship. I believe work supports life, not the other way around. You don’t have to sacrifice your health, well-being and important relationships for the sake of the business. I invite you to declare that your business will support your life. You will be better for it, and so will your business.
I did not let my clients know I worked 25 hours per week for years. They were working 60 or more hours per week. I feared they would judge me for not having a “real” business. When a team member said, “Dr. Sabrina, not only do you have a real business, you have a really cool business,” I knew it was time to share what’s possible.
Limits force innovation. Limits force you to put systems in place and train your team. You can leave work at 5, or earlier, each day. You can turn off your phone in the evenings. You can take weekends off. You can exercise. You can be fully present with your family. You will be better for it, and so will your business.
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