Stop the hustle? This flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom tells us to work harder, and harder, and through that hard work, we will be successful. Even worse, conventional wisdom tells us that those that aren’t successful didn’t work hard enough.
But how many hard working people do you see working for low wages? Some of the most draining and difficult jobs I’ve ever had paid me just the minimum wage. However, I’ve never worked harder than I did then and the experience taught me a very valuable lesson.
It’s not enough to hustle for the sake of the hustle. It’s time to stop romanticizing the hustle and change our approach.
Here’s my hustle story
My first job was a summer job in a nursing home. At 14 years old, and with a week’s worth of ‘training’, I was responsible for transporting, feeding, and caring for elderly residents. I was ill-prepared for the day-to-day drudgery of the position. As a shy teenager, no one there really ‘got’ me. The nurse was extremely curt and unfriendly and the aides were brash and hostile. Either, I wasn’t doing enough or wasn’t doing it fast enough. And I was only paid $4.75 an hour!
Each day, I saw the staff complain about their jobs and disregard the dignity of the patients. The residents were miserable as well. Spending beautiful summer days in a smelly hospital environment wasn’t something that I was prepared for. I worked hard, but the harder I worked, the extrinsic results were the same. Same paycheck, same treatment.
However, internally, I knew that I was working towards partial financial independance. I would have my own money to purchase what I wanted and valued what I’ve purchased through the fruits of my own labor. That alone was enough for me to endure the nursing home everyday.
I worked every summer for the next four years, and the environments were similar. I received my minimum wage paycheck (after hours of waiting in line) every 2 weeks. And I saved the majority of what I’ve earned. It felt good, but I was exhausted and fed up with my working environment.
I learned there was a better way
I worked in another low-paying job, while in college, for about 2 years. The contrast between school and work was striking! At school, I was surrounded by individuals who wanted more and dreamed big. Their tone was different, their posture was different, and they were generally pleasant to be around. They motivated me.
At work, many of the individuals were curt, profane, pessimistic, sarcastic and sometimes mean. I say ‘individuals’ because there were many great people who I’m still friends with to this day. However, the overall environment was toxic. I was paid very little, worked long hours, and was overly stressed out. I was getting paid, but in that environment the only way to get paid more more was to work more hours! Everyone at that job wanted more hours, but I wanted something else.
I realized something! I learned that it’s okay to want something else and that it was okay not to define your present situation as your ‘normal’ reality. We get to choose our normal.
I got to choose my normal.
I was so empowered by that. I was underpaid, overworked, and wholly unimpressed by my environment. I stepped out of my comfort zone and ramped up my efforts to get the job that I wanted.
Although I was laid off from my dream internship, I had a taste of what I wanted and I refused to go back to my former job just for a paycheck.
I understand that sometimes we have to work at places that are undesirable, and that we have bills to pay. Although we have to do whatever it takes to survive, The work that I did was a simple means to an end. We have to understand that the situation doesn’t have to be permanent and doesn’t have to be our new normal.
Do I fondly reminisce on the terrible jobs I’ve had in the past? No. But I’m glad I’ve happy to have gotten to where I am now. It was only when I decided what I really wanted that I was able to take the most efficient route to get there.
A new way of thinking
I think that we sabotage ourselves when we follow the conventional methods of ‘working your way to the top’ and ‘earning your dues’. There is no extra credit at the finish line for running slower with more effort.
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