"Hustle" Culture and Saying No
Written September 2017
There is a push back on startup culture in this NY Times opinion piece, which claims startups use the word "hustle" to yield more work hours at low costs. The article, while raises valid concerns about mental health, doesn't paint the whole picture.
I left a career oriented towards the UN and government because I wanted join a culture where my results matched my ambition. When I put in 12 hour days, it depleted my social life, but I saw results. My inputs yielded exponential outputs and I was rewarded mentally and financially, and thrilled by the speed we were growing at!
It bothers me when people feel entitled to having it all. In French they say, "You cannot have butter and the money from the butter." What I learned and accepted during this breakneck period of growth was that everything comes at a cost. You just gotta choose it. Startup culture asks a lot of its employees but the reward is that you sow what you reap.Unlike the UN where many seeds get lost in bureaucracy. I would tell my teammates that to work in a startup you become a pillar, not a brick in the wall. That means you have more pressure to stand as tall as the others around you.
Undoubtedly, creating a culture of long hours for optics and not productivity, should be avoided. It was something that took place in the back of mind when my young hustler boss would work late hours and email even later. I felt a slight pressure to stand as tall. But the pressure was only slight. The real pressure was from my own ambition surging me forward.
What I do believe should be taught to the younger generations is how to say no. That can mean 'no' to yourself for answering a non-urgent 1am email or no to your boss if a task interferes with your weekly sport night. This can be scary for optics with a younger boss, and that's valid. The key is to communicate in advance and set some boundaries. After burning out of my first job, I learned to set boundaries moving forward. Of course, if there is a startup fire you will be available, and it's important to assure your boss that you can be counted on. In startups the speed means that there will be weekly fires. That being said, the most important 'no' you can learn to say is no to a job opportunity. The reality is that even if the company mission is stellar, the company culture may not be a pace you are comfortable with - meaning too slow or too fast.