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Why do we glorify the culture of “hustling”?

Here are some things I’ve done as a startup CEO:

  • I’ve snuck past security guards for important meetings
  • I’ve borrowed badges to get into conferences
  • I’ve pestered people a dozen times until they engage with me
  • And I’ve done these things a lot, for years.

In our entrepreneurial culture right now these things sound like bragging. But for me, they were stressful, costly, tangential to my real work, and only safe for me to do because I’m a white man with a sport coat. I think these are kinda *bad* things to do, but when you write them down on a tech blog they look cool. What is up with that?

Riley in his unnatural habitat

There’s this mythology of the founder who went through impossible hustle to succeed. In inspirational talks given to new entrepreneurs, we seem to hear more about the odds through which our heroes persevered than the accomplishments they actually achieved. We hear so many stories that sometimes it makes it seem like the hustle is actually the point.

Personally, I don’t value the hustle itself. I’m trying to be happy by helping people.

I’d love to get rich, but I’m not going to do it by burning out the people on my team. I’d love to get a billion users, but I’m not going to do it by missing my marriage. This is a scary thing to say because people will think I’m not committed to my business.

We can all hustle when we need to, and for some of us the hustle is the best part. But for any other introverted CEOs out there, I hope this message can make it a little easier to protect your team from this ideology. Good work is good work even if you weren’t desperate when you did it.

Riley Eynon-Lynch is Co-Founder and CEO of Pear Deck, which recently raised $4 million to help students interact better with teachers in the classroom. Pear Deck was one of two peer-selected companies in Village Capital’s EdTech 2015 program.

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