For the past few years, “successful” people on the Internet have told you THREE conflicting myths about success. Today, we’re going to unmask those three myths and tell you the truth about work and rest, so you can know how to sacrifice to win without losing it all.
1. The Hustle Myth
* This myth is usually told by people to themselves at the beginning of an exciting new business adventure. It’s the one we told ourselves the most.
Work around the clock. Work all the time. Hustle. Huuustle. HUSTLE! Push yourself to the brink. Drive yourself to the edge. Your body can take it. Your friends won’t mind. Your family will understand. They’ll always be there. Plus, you don’t need sleep anyways. You’ll sleep when you’re dead!
2. The Rest Myth
You have time. Sit back. Relax. Cozy up with a cup of coffee. Dream. Let the wind blow in your face. There’s no rush. You don’t need to run, run, run. Your business will always be there. Put everything else and everyone else first all the time. All those successful people who hustled hard for years could’ve accomplished what they did (maybe even more!) with half the work if they just would’ve worked “smarter” and not “harder.” p.s. Make sure to rest. A lot.
* This myth is usually told by people who are already successful, and either a) they have temporary amnesia and momentarily forgot what it took for them to be successful in the first place, b) they’re scared of new people to have to compete with, or c) they want to protect you from getting hurt by the things that hurt them on their way to success.
3. The Balance Myth
Everything in moderation! Dedicate an equal amount of time to everything important in your world and it’ll all harmonize together in a beautiful life symphony of success in all areas. If you work one day, spend one day with your family. Take the weekends totally off (that’s what they’re for) and leave early on Fridays. After all, too much of anything isn’t a good thing. The more variety you have in your life in terms of hobbies, interests and social interactions, the more well-rounded and, therefore, more successful you’ll be!
* This myth is usually told by people to others when they’re still searching for their purpose and passion for their profession and life. Balance is a safe answer when you don’t have clear direction to go.
Wanna know the truth? These myths are ONLY myths in isolation. Because you actually need all three! Not in equal balance, but in correct proportions at the right time.
Let’s start with hustle.
This is the area we’ve always struggled the most and probably always will because we’re hustlers by nature. We’re both high-achievers. We loved getting good grades in school. We loved competing for championships in sports. We get a literal high from being excellent at whatever it is we’re doing. It makes us feel good. And it’s not just in business. It permeates every aspect of our life. It’s why we had a thoughtfully organized coupon binder that we diligently kept and used for YEARS. We wanted the best possible price on a can of soup or a gallon of milk. It was a game. We’re just built this way. We even wanted to be excellent at grocery shopping.
Specifically, on the business side, this means that we spent almost our entire marriage hustling. Hard. To the point of sleep deprivation and exhaustion. We revved the engine on red for too long, up hill, down hill, no hill, you name it –– without ever really letting our foot off the accelerator so it could coast –– and the engine almost exploded.
Hustlers (like us) will try to hide it, to conceal it, because just like any addiction, it’s a) not always something we see in ourselves even though people see it in us, b) when we finally do see it in ourselves, it’s embarrassing that everyone else saw it and thought it for so long, so we double down and try to bury it deeper, and c) even when we see it and want to change it, by that time, we don’t know where to start because it’s become a way of life.
But trust us, there are physical, psychological, spiritual and relational consequences for hustling and doing almost nothing else. We’ve been there, done that and have the t-shirt (and scars to prove it). In a phrase: like a drug, it works for a while, but it’s not sustainable. It’s oftentimes well-intentioned. We work hard because we believe (and know) that what we do matters, makes a difference and changes lives. But if we combust down the road and collapse from exhaustion and burn out on the altar of helping people, then we’ve actually helped less people than we could’ve if we’d found a way to have a forty year career instead.
Resting too much of the time doesn’t work either.
Building a business is hard. work. It requires some hustle and sacrifice over an extended period of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither are profitable businesses. We see a lot of photographers and creative entrepreneurs these days who tell us that they’re “frustrated” because they’ve been working at their dream for six months and it’s just not happening. That’s right about the time we find out that they’re clocking hours in their business on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Eight hours a week (out of the 168 hours we all have, so 5%) just isn’t going to get you the results you desire. Especially not fast!
We have a friend who’s a VERY successful financial advisor. He has a nice office with big, executive-looking, cherry-colored wooden desk. He wears custom-made suits and (probably) Italian leather shoes. He has at least one secretary (if not two). He’s very successful –– and a good, good man. Our favorite story he ever told was from his early days of financial planning, before he had any clients. He went house-to-house on foot in the Arizona summer heat knocking on strangers’ doors trying to convince them to invest money with him. Most of the time, they didn’t open. If they did, he recalled, they’d let him get a few words out before the said, “No, thanks,” and slammed it in his face.
The best part of the story? When he leaned back in his leather chair, crossed one leg over the other so you could see his perfectly polished shoes, smiled, and said, “I wore through two pairs of shoes that summer.”
Was he frustrated when people didn’t open the door? Yes. Was he discouraged when they said no faster than he could say hello? YES. Would it have been easy for him to believe the lie that hustle didn’t matter. That it was luck. And that he’d be better off resting, relaxing, and just letting the world come to him from now on?
He bought a second pair of shoes.
Honestly, we’ve never been the “rest” people, because we’re the recovering workaholic people. But the giving up too soon, the quitting after your first pair of shoes thinking it was (or should be) enough, is a lie. Success won’t come to you. It’ll come through the holes in the bottoms of your shoes. Both pairs.
Balance Doesn’t Mean Equal
The last lie is “balance,” and here’s why it doesn’t work: because of our definition. Most people (like us) believed balance to be equal amounts at the same time. You put two pounds on one side of the scale, and two pounds on the other, and they’re balanced. So, the logic goes, if I spend X hours on my business today, then I should spend X hours with my spouse or children tomorrow. The problem is that’s not how balance works in the real world when it comes to work, sleep, exercise, nutrition, or time with your spouse, children, family or friends.
It’s not about giving equal portions of yourself to all things. It’s about giving the right portions of yourself to the right things based on what they need.
Take a car, for example. If your gasoline tank holds 20 gallons, you know that it runs best and longest when it’s filled with 20 gallons. But that’s not true of the radiator fluid. Or the transmission fluid. They need less. The car doesn’t run best when the fluids are all equal. It runs best when the fluids are proportional to their needs.
So goes your life and business.
An hour at the gym three times per week might be the perfect amount of time you need to be physically fit and feeling good. An hour with your kids three times per week might not be enough. And three hours per week on your business wouldn’t allow it to get off the ground much less grow.
Also, sometimes balance looks a little different from week to week. If you have a triple-header wedding weekend this week, there’s no WAY you’re going to have any “balance” in those three days. It’s about survival. But if you take that Monday and the next weekend off completely, maybe that’s balance for you.
Now that we’ve identified the three lies we’e been told about work and rest, let’s talk about the TRUTH of how to sacrifice to win without losing it all:
1. All three myths are false when they stand alone.
2. All three myths become true when they work together.
For a long time in our life, we were all about the hustle, and now that we’re a little older and (a little) wiser, we recognize that hustle doesn’t always mean successful. There’s a ton of science that proves, for example, that people who don’t get a good night’s rest actually function up to 20% less effectively during the work day. So by sleeping a few hours less every night of the week for the sake of hustle, we actually lost a few hours of productivity during the day. In hindsight, sleep would’ve been more fun than crazed tired eyes and partially functioning brains.
The other thing we’ve learned, is that a good balance between hustle and rest can look like saying “no” to junk food habits (like TV) so you can say “yes” to something that’s higher on your priority list. According to Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours, most of the time, when people say, “I don’t have time for __________” what they really mean is: __________ isn’t my priority. We have A LOT more time than we think to give A LOT to the things that matter without sacrificing any of them to each other. Did you know that you can sleep eight hours every night, work a 40-hour week and STILL have 72 hours left over (an average of TEN HOURS per day) to do the things that matter?
What we’ve found, is that the perfect blend between work and rest (for us) is a combination of two things.
1) A daily schedule and routine
We try to get the right proportions of work, rest, exercise, spiritual growth, hobbies and interests, and time with our spouse, family and friends. Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like. We wake up at 7:00 a.m. and get ready, read the Bible and a business book until 8:15 a.m. We have breakfast together, talk about our books and plan our day from 8:15 – 9:00 a.m. From 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. we work. From 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. we get ready, go to the gym, come home, clean up and eat. From 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. we either spend time with a family member or friend OR do something else that’s productive for our home/life OR do something that’s fun and relaxing together, like play a board game Settlers of Catan is our current (and maybe forever) favorite. From 9:00 – 11:00 p.m. we wind down, get ready for bed, watch something together and make sure we’re asleep by 11.
2) One day every week, we sabbath.
Before our pastor preached this mind-blowing and eye-opening sermon about the “day of rest,” we thought we were supposed to take one day off every week to ONLY 100% focus on our faith. Which we never did. Because that would last a few hours (max) before we’d start to get antsy. But, as he explained, taking a weekly sabbath isn’t just focus on God. It’s to rest from work. Not all work, though. Just the work that produces income. So, for us, that means no emails. No shooting. No writing curriculum. What it can mean is housework. Or errands. Because working with our hands around the house is restful work for our tired minds at the end of the week. Plus, if working six days and resting one is good enough for God, then it should be good enough for us; and we believe, that six days with God will go farther than seven days without God.
Since we’ve implemented both of these steps, we’ve been amazed at how hard we’ve been able to hustle, how much rest we’ve been able to get, and how much balance we feel in every area of our life.
So, our simple (but not easy) challenge for you is this:
1. Make a daily schedule that budgets your time like you’d budget your money. When you have to write it down on paper, on purpose, like Dave Ramsey says, it’s easy to see what your priorities are; because your personal financial budget, just like your daily schedule, isn’t just numbers. It’s a statement of values.
2. Take one day off per week to rest from the work that brings you income. It doesn’t have to be the same day every week. But it needs to be one full day.
3. When you mess up either of these (and you will, just like we all do), don’t quit. Just start again. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being intentional.
Let us know how it goes! And, as always, we’re cheering for you!