There’s way too much shame amongst business owners about the hustle, and it’s got to stop. We have far too much polarisation and not nearly enough reason in our attitude towards promotion, marketing and sales. Funnily enough, much of the shame about hustle is perpetuated by business coaches who are, in fact, hustling to those who feel shame about hustle, cynically attempting to help them justify their position.

At one end of the spectrum we have Gary Vaynerchuk, sharing the ‘real hustle’ view of himself, sleeping on an airport floor and, at the other end, those feeling their way through business, waiting for people to find them through the powers of their heart and soul intention.

Where’s the reasonable middle ground on hustle? Where sleeping on airport floors, having no life outside work, and documenting your every move through social media, is not something to be glamorised? But nor is hustle something shameful. Where’s the middle ground where hustle is something so routine and normal, it’s not even worth mentioning?

Working for yourself is a privilege

working for yourself is a privilegeAmid the stress, uncertainty and ‘always on’ anxiety of self-employment, let’s not forget that working for yourself is a privilege. Making money to support yourself and your loved ones through your own smarts and sweat is a privilege that not everybody can claim.

Further, in countries and societies around the globe, with no unemployment benefits, no public education or health system, there’s no shame in hustle because hustling is imperative to survival. If you want to eat, you hustle. If you don’t hustle, you don’t eat and neither do you family. And that’s something to actually feel shame about.

I didn’t study business and marketing at university. I did an apprenticeship in entrepreneurism while working in Vietnam as a tour leader in my early 20s.

I had a friend in the beautiful historic city of Hue, who had a glass cabinet of small goods, food and cigarettes. This was her shop front which she’d wheel out to the street every morning. We’d sit by her shop on tiny plastic stools on the pavement for hours at a time, shooting the breeze and chowing on the goods of every food vendor who walked past.

This woman had no shame of hustling. None of the Vietnamese I met showed any hint of shame to be hustling. In Vietnam, hustle is a non-negotiable part of making a living and a life.

Money, identity, and shame

I gave a workshop here in Sydney last month on money, women, power, identity and safety. It was a provocative, uncomfortable, frank, important conversation. Because money is both a massive influence on our lives, as well as taboo, this makes for a terrible combination.

I see so much shame around money, especially when people aren’t earning what they want to be in business. Some participants who join my Hustle & Heart program have been in business for 10 years or more and, when we talk, they’re oftentimes frustrated, resigned, and angry in equal measures.

With some probing, it’s sometimes transpires that they blame themselves – secretly, they fear that not making enough money in business means they’re not really that good.

This breaks my heart, because really? It’s not that simple. Being talented – even supremely talented – does not necessarily equate to making great money in business. And conversely, people with little talent and great skill at hustle are oftentimes hugely successful.

Hustle can be learnt, with a swag of skills including pitching, sales, social media marketing, sales copy writing, Public Relations and publicity.

But hustle is not just tactics, tools and skills. It’s an attitude, a perspective, a frame of mind. It’s the opposite of shame. It’s taking up space, asking for what you want, and feeling good about that.

I want to talk about money and shame because taboos need to be taken out of the closet and normalised if they are to lose their power.

What’s typical in business?

  • It’s not normal to earn $100,000 per annum when in business as a sole trader.
  • It’s completely normal to feel stressed in business because you’re overwhelmed and distractible, or needing to learn 2,438 new skills, or you’ve had some bastard client leave you a bad review about nothing on Google or Facebook, or you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and are flying blind without a plan.
  • It’s not normal to take regular long lunches with ‘#bossgirl besties’ and swan off to glamorous international conferences every year.
  • It’s very normal to shift money between your overdraft account, your trading account, your mortgage, and your business credit cards, while you wait for that huge invoice that’s three months in arrears to be paid.
  • It’s very normal work in your pyjamas from the dining room table.
  • It’s very normal to worry that your business doesn’t look like you want it to and, even though you know you need to be doing marketing and business development, you don’t put it out there into the wider world, because it’s never quite finished, and never perfect.

Shame is a useless emotion, and has no place in business.

It’s my wish that hustle becomes as normal and routine in your business as cleaning your teeth. It’s my wish that you enjoy it because it means more conversations with more people, more often.

It’s my wish that you learn how to better handle your ambitions and regulate your emotions in business, so you can continue to thrive for many years to come. It’s my wish that you feel both pride in your efforts and the money you earn as a result, as well as gratitude that you earn a crust working for yourself.

Ready to drop the shame and normalise hustle, without losing heart? Time for the Hustle & Heart program.