Nolia Roots Logo

How Hustle Culture Destroys Mission-Driven Entrepreneurship

Overhead view of writing in a journal.

We all have that incredibly hard-working friend who looks like they have it all. And what do we call them? A hustler.

In 2006, rapper Rick Ross became famous thanks to “Hustlin’,” a hit song about his tenacious pursuit of money and power. And many of us, mostly millennials and Gen Z, have jumped on this concept, working tirelessly and relentlessly, to get more. It’s become a way of life whether you’re freelancing, running a business, creating a side hustle, or working all night to please a boss. But how much does this hustle culture help you reach your goals vs. turn toxic and lead to burnout?

What is Hustle Culture?

Hustle culture, also known as burnout culture or grind culture, adapts a mentality that one must work all day every day to reach their professional goals. And even though it can cause immense mental and physical stress, positive depictions of “rise-and-grind culture” (especially on social media) quickly normalized working harder, faster, and longer.

It’s the idea that the harder you work, the more successful you’ll become, and the more successful you become, the more power you’ll have. But when does it become too much?

Even salaried employees—especially those in management, legal, and engineering roles— lots of times work over 45 hours a week full-time jobs. And according to a survey by GOBankingRates, 25 percent of Americans have a side gig in addition to their day job. Of those, 10 percent work a full 15 to 20 hours at their side gig. Why do they do it? Forty-six percent said they need a side hustle to pay for their basic expenses, 25 percent use a side gig to save for a specific goal, and 24 percent to pay off debts and loans.

This data makes it clear that many Americans still have to hustle out of necessity, but many more choose to adopt a hustle lifestyle—23 percent are taking on a side hustle as a hobby or for fun, 11 percent for more experience, and 10 percent to grow their professional network.The many prominent supporters of grind culture include business people who credit their hustle for their success such as Instagram influencers and motivational speakers like Tony Robbins. Then there’s Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, who asserts that the hustle-culture lifestyle is what made him a billionaire. After all, he’s famous for saying, “Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”

Even though the hustle culture certainly has contributed to many people’s success, it can quickly turn into a spirited entrepreneur’s demise if not balanced with humility and recreation.

CEO journalling business plan

Hustle Culture Invites Ego

Typically, ego gets a bad rap. But our ego isn’t our “evil” side. It’s an important tool humans have that consciously mediates between us and reality. It gives us an idea of how we fit into the world. In more common terms, it gives us our self-esteem; the motivation we need to feel like we belong so we keep showing up.

However, to make sure it doesn’t take over, your ego needs to be accompanied by a sense of demureness and community. Hustle culture excites the idea of pushing through even when people, things, or circumstances get in the way. But focusing on humility will ensure we stay balanced and open-minded. 

For example, many times, when we put resources, money, and our ego behind a mission and it starts to falter, hustle culture tells us to double down so we aren’t proved wrong (which, in turn, can hurt an ego). 

Hustle culture is the Instagram highlight reel. We see the Gary Vees and Steve Jobses of the world doing all the right things and making the right decisions for their businesses. It’s hard not to try to keep up with that perceived perfectionism. 

One of our core values at Nolia Roots is to Embrace Failure. Every week, we celebrate the EF (Embrace Failure) Awards — where the whole team admits their biggest failure of the week and the person with the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it)  failure gets a free cup of coffee.

When launching my business and building my team, I wanted to encourage embracing failure so that people wouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. Typically, when employees are afraid to mess up at work, they try to hide their mistakes. This is not helpful because 1) it means the mistake isn’t fixed quickly and 2) it perpetuates the idea that no one makes mistakes! If mistakes aren’t talked about openly (and especially from leadership) then it creates a competitive, hustler environment around ego and perfectionism. 

Don’t let your ego get in the way of embracing failure. Because being proven wrong only allows you to fail fast and move on to what is going to make you successful.

Hustle Culture Creates Tunnel Vision

When engaging in hustle culture, leaders and employees start to lose the big picture. Even though your initial motivation starts with the big picture, staying busy, staying late, and staying stressed are valued more than reaching actual goals or seeking potentially better opportunities.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, tunnel vision can keep you static and inhibit creativity. At all times you should be looking not just for other opportunities, but also potential threats. 

If you didn’t know, I’m also a Krav Maga instructor and it’s taught me a lot about business. One of the things I love about Krav Maga, compared to Muy Tai or Jiu-Jitsu, is to puts a heavy focus on dealing with multiple attackers. The most dangerous thing when dealing with an attack is the person or weapon you don’t know is there. Most attacks happen in groups or pairs because as you’re dealing with one person, the other attacker can come up behind you and take you by surprise.

It’s the same with life. If you’re so focused on what’s in front of you, you might miss some of the biggest opportunities and biggest threats of your career.

Hustle Culture Means You Live to Work

^^ yeah – not the other way around.

For some people, their work is their life. And that’s ok. But when you’re a business leader and you’re modeling being the first to arrive and the last to leave, it can set an unhealthy expectation for your team.

Look, no one is going to love your business as much as you do. That will always and forever be a fact. And expecting them to is only going to cause workplace toxicity, resentment, and burnout.

So when you plan Monday 8 am meetings, text on the weekends, and send nightly emails, it creates anxiety for both you and your employee.

“I think [hustle culture is] a toxic idea. We can work hard and be open to opportunities while also enjoying a quality of life. Answer a few emails from the golf cart, respond to a text while taking a rest on a hike, or don’t. Success doesn’t come from maximizing the time you work, it comes from maximizing the work during the time you are working.”

Seth Weaver,
Director Of Business Development at Ken Weaver Meats Inc.
Ken Weaver Meats Inc.

The way to get your team to feel passionate about your company isn’t to guilt them into working 60 hour weeks. It’s to create a strong why behind your business that gives everyone working towards that some purpose.

Need help finding your why to make brand ambassadors out of your staff? Click the button below to set up a free 45-minute call!

So for your and your team’s sake, take a break, enjoy your family, and don’t live to work. 

Hustle culture has taken over today’s entrepreneurial culture and it needs to stop. Entrepreneurship is about promoting inclusivity and innovation, boosting productivity, making our community a better place, and creating jobs. But this “rise and grind” culture inhibits creativity, creates resentment, and disempowers employees. It’s one thing to work hard, and it’s another thing to push everyone and everything out of the way to do so. 

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Nolia Roots can take your marketing to the next level. Read our Case Studies to see how we transformed our clients’ businesses with real results.

The Spot Magazine

Cork & Candles

Unlock All Case Studies