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Hustle is hell. Don't live in hell.

“Hustle,” they said. Who? Every entrepreneurial inspiration sensation on the Internet.

Joe Schmo tells you to hustle or get left behind by the ones who are hustling. Hustle or the world will trample you under its dirty foot. Be the one who tramples, not the one who is trampled. Endure the all-nighters. Traverse your waking hours at maximum warp. NEVER slow down, and you will find your happy little entrepreneurial existence.

Hustle, hustle, HUSTLE! Bow to the infallibility of the Great Hustle, blessed be he!

I bowed to the Great Hustle.

My desire to learn about the world grew stronger in the years after college. I had a fascination with gaining knowledge and pushing myself beyond limitations. All this hustle I was reading about seemed like a wonderful idea: Squeeze your mind and slay your body for a short time to reap the long-term freedom.

Three years ago, I bought into the idea of hustle to get where I wanted to go.

I hustled to a career as a cinematographer, and I did it through daily training and practice, free labor, innumerable sleepless nights, and spending every dime I had on a cinema camera, Mole-Richardson lights, a wealth of grip gear, etc.

I hustled to turn my declining health around, running hard (snubbing the shinsplints and the bad knees) until I felt like collapsing, and indeed, I sometimes did on the couch.

I hustled to become a writer, and I did it through my daily Storygram short stories, editing a new photo and writing a new short story based on it every night for over six months, even when I’d been on a 16-hour film shoot and didn’t get home until the post-midnight hours.

Behold my last three years of hustle, hustle, HUSTLE!

Now, behold what you don’t see on social media…

  • Hustle gave me anxiety attacks – a wave of stress so thick that you hyperventilate and double over in the shower.
  • Hustle gave me impatience – I cannot write a novel with the speed of a Storygram, which makes it difficult to write anything at all.
  • Hustle gave me discontentment – Never satisfied. Always agitated. Reaching for what I don’t have.

Hustle made me a stressed-out, self-absorbed punk.

In March 2015 my parents, my sister and nephew, and Amy and myself all loaded up our cars and spent a week in Disney World. It was the most relaxed I’d felt in years. I had spent so long worrying about getting from A points to B points, working non-stop, that I’d nearly forgotten what it was like to just have fun without the next task hanging out in the back of my mind.

On our last night in Disney World, I had one of the worst anxiety attacks of my life. It freaked out Amy and angered me, but I knew why it had happened:

Returning home meant returning to Hustle, and I was frightened of it. I had tasted a sweet fruit and realized my regular diet was sour. I wondered if there was a way to compromise.

In the months that followed, I made rules about work, developed stricter routines, enjoyed leisurely strolls, and began having inexpensive mini-adventures around Tennessee with my wife. And the transformation has been nothing short of miraculous.

Standing up to Hustle.

In recent months I’ve had to slow down my running, which is the opposite of what’s supposed to happen when you run 13-15 miles per week… Basically, I can’t breathe. My chest cramps into a knot, and even when I am not running, I’ll be talking to someone and stop mid-sentence because my air is gone, and I feel like I need a minute to get it back. I’ve always sung in the shower every morning, but now, I find myself singing less because well… the activity requires oxygen.

Amy thinks I’ve developed mild asthma that is worsening. Maybe so. You might argue that it’s air pollution or a bad year for pollen. But I believe I know the culprit. And maybe it’s just a little chicken/egg versus egg/chicken, but I believe the years of stress that I could feel in my torso, leading to shortness of breath, leading to anxiety attacks, have left me with an ailment that I’m praying is impermanent.

I’ve had to slow down my running, even with my glorious shoes, given to me by Mizuno. I’ve had to learn to enjoy the journey of my route, not the speed with which I can reach the end.

Slowing down gives me 30+ minutes of monotonous motion to reflect on my life. And I’ve discovered other areas where the journey is more enjoyable than the destination.

The idea of REST.

Bowing to the rules set forth by the Great Hustle, blessed be he, I spent years responding to every text and email with the utmost immediacy. I worked evenings, I laughed in the face of weekends, I pulled all-nighters, and I proudly touted work over relaxation.

Now, I’ve learned the value of rest.

People have found me unavailable in the evenings and sparsely responsive on the weekends. I’ve become unwilling to work through sleep and without a meal break at appropriate times. Why? Because no one has the right to murder me slowly through poor health decisions, not even me. It breaks my heart to see so many of my entrepreneur and filmmaker buddies willing to allow clients to enslave their time and their health. We’re on the brink of an epidemic.

I stop working in the evening around 6pm and have dinner with my wife. If I don’t have a film shoot on weekends (sometimes that’s just the nature of the job), Amy and I enjoy our Saturdays together by visiting places we’ve never been or by doing housework. But on Sundays, I do not work. Period. Amy and I go to church on Sunday mornings, we eat lunch, and we do whatever sounds relaxing. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I read. Sometimes we visit family. But work that we dread doing is off limits.

Hustle thinks this structure is a BAD idea. Hustle demands that I run on a treadmill with a computer attached to it, type with one hand, answer a cell phone with the other, and utilize the bobbing-for-apples technique to scoop food into my mouth between sentences. Then, it demands that I feel guilty for stepping off the treadmill for a few short hours of sleep. Hustle has no regard for this thing called a “weekend.” Hustle wants indentured servitude, self-imposed slavery.

The power of REST.

When I rest, I am more productive when it is time to work.

Rest prepares me for work. I work more effectively when I am rested. Because I have set morning and evening routines, those work hours in the middle are far more fruitful than they ever were before my transformation to a sane, balanced individual.

Put simply, I’m blazing fast at my work because rest allows me to think clearly and stay focused. Conversely, Hustle transformed me into a sluggard – a result of perpetual exhaustion and a portrait of irony.

The big secret.

I have a big, fat, juicy secret that only my wife knows. Many people say to me, “I’ve seen online that you’ve been real busy” or “I know you’re a busy guy” or “Thank you so much for your valuable time!”

The truth, the honest truth, is: I am not busy. I am BALANCED.

You may think I’m busy. I have multiple long days every month where I’m the Director of Photography on a film set. I completed 200 Storygram short stories, totaling around 75,000 words, and compiled them into two volumes. I’m working on a novel. I’m pursuing two business ventures that I intend to make my life’s work. I’m partnering on a feature-length film. I spend lots of time with my wife. She and I go on many adventures together, and we take vacations. And a few weekends ago, I cleaned out my garage and practiced parking our cars in it, managing to solve the jigsaw puzzle that is the 21st Century’s advertised “two car” space.

I am not busy. I am balanced. I have learned to manage time, not chase it. The tide of stress is ebbing. Anxiety is receding. I had fallen victim to the lie of Hustle, but I have broken free of its snare. A few months of balancing hard work and rest have allowed me to accomplish more actual work than I ever dreamed possible. I now have a clear focus on the direction of my life, and I’m only 31 years young.

Give all of this a try. It takes courage to stand up to Hustle. I’m cheering for you.

Here’s a relaxing cup of coffee, an hour-long lunch break, and a weekend trip to The Great Smoky Mountains raised to the next 31 years. Bring it on… at a steady pace.

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