Coffee Talk with Vanessa Michelle | Hustle Smarter, Not Harder

by Vanessa Michelle

“The ‘hustle’ can be peaceful.” – An anonymous, thoughtful body piercer

Apparently the first cup of coffee didn’t have the boost I needed. So after a long internal debate, I’m moving on to a much stronger brew. Nervous Dog Cafe never disappoints me (insert smiley emoji).  

It’s my off day from the part-time gig and now the ‘hustle’ really begins. I have a list of creatives to meet, conference calls, design ideas to pitch and the inevitable family calls to make. My off days are actually ‘on’ days, and they are full of creative visions and emotional curveballs.

Even though my days are crazy, I’m really thankful to finally fill my days with the things I love to do. About two years ago, all I wanted was more control over my life. I quit my job and went nomadic. Since leaving my 9 to 5, my main goal was to network with other really cool creatives, which is why my instagram (@vmichellectlk) is filled with them. From writers, musicians, photographers, poets, to even beekeepers, I have a really cool network of people.

| Quick ‘Hustle’ Tip: Networking is vital to success as an entrepreneur. Be intentional about seeking and committing to a specific group of people. Your network of people should hold similar values. Placing yourself around individuals that have already accomplished your goals or are heading in that direction is beneficial in multiple ways, the biggest being accountability and community.

Within my network, ‘hustle’ is king. Seriously, it’s the new greeting for almost every creative entrepreneur I meet. The word has officially transcended generations — that’s right, even Gen X-ers are starting to use ‘hustle’ to describe their day to day.

Do you think ‘hustle’ is an empowering word? I think the emotional energy behind this word stems from the entrepreneurial culture that’s been booming over the past few years. The spirit of entrepreneurship is extremely contagious, and even if you’re not an entrepreneur, the relentless attitude of ‘getting sh** done’ is thick.

But because of this spirit, I think we’ve validated and almost praised tiredness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into one of my creative friends and they’re really sick from the daily ‘hustle.’ This phenomenon is troublesome, but I have also compromised my health for the ‘hustle.’ Why? For validation, maybe? That’s something to think about.

After a few more sips of my full-bodied coffee, I start to wonder more about this idea of ‘hustle.’ What does this ‘hustle’ life really mean? If you Youtube this phenomenon, get ready for an anxiety attack, because overly excited entrepreneurs are going to encourage you to work more, sleep less, and conquer the market. Many motivational speakers talk about the ‘hustle’ like it’s a race and there’s a deadline that we have to meet.

This sense of urgency has influenced so many creatives I know, and as a result, a lot of us are tired. I’d even argue that the exhaustion has more to do with the mental energy we spend just thinking about ‘hustling’ than the actual work we put into the ‘hustle.’ In all honesty, I’ve been a victim of exhausted enthusiasm, meaning the mental commitment and excitement is really the thing making me tired. Sometimes I have late nights where all I want to do is work. The byproduct of this behavior can be extremely deceiving because sometimes I produce really good work. But other times I produce mediocre work due to tiredness and fatigue.

I can’t deny that the fast ‘hustle’ life on Youtube seems appealing. The meeting-to-meeting, city-to-city life, different clothes and creatives everywhere — it all looks great. Even as a Youtuber, having a day full of meetings looks better on video. But is it really worth it?

So here’s the interesting part I discovered through a creative friend of mine: Our hustle can be as calm and as peaceful as we want.

I immediately felt a sense of relief after my friend said this to me. For so long my ‘hustle’ came with unhealthy sacrifices. For years I’ve paid a hefty price to ‘hustle.’ That price varies from person to person, but for me, it included mental health, my physical health and my relationships. I sacrificed so much to be ‘successful.’ The irony is that my reward for success was everything I was compromising: time, health and family.

In 2017, I made a declaration to never do that again! I know now that my ‘hustle’ can be just as intentional and exciting as before, but I can do it without compromising everything that means anything to me. The real ‘hustle’ is working smart and being intentional during the right time. ‘Hustle’ isn’t an excuse to neglect family, put off doctor’s appointments or skip out on happy hour. There’s no reward for neglecting health or relationships.

When I became a full-time entrepreneur, I realized very quickly that praising the struggle of entrepreneurship almost became a competition amongst entrepreneurs. It wasn’t until last year that this idea of ‘hustle’ and struggle started to collide. It collided to the point that I realized that I don’t have to struggle as an entrepreneur and I don’t have to neglect everything around me to be a ‘hustler.’ It’s freeing to think of myself as a peaceful ‘hustler.’ This new understanding has been liberating and now it’s something that I love to talk about.  My hustle is peaceful, calm and ever-flowing, just like my mind, my health and my spirit. YES!

I want to encourage my creative friends to revamp their ‘hustle’ to fit a more healthy lifestyle. This article was really important for me to write. I want to dedicate this to all the creative ‘hustlers’ out there that feel as though they aren’t compromising enough, they’re sleeping too much, they’re laughing and not working hard enough, or the worst, that they’re wasting time. Your hustle has already been validated. You are already great. Take your time. Everything that is happening is for your higher good. Every point of your day is your ‘hustle’ and you can be as peaceful as you desire. It’s okay to enjoy the small things in life. We deserve that. You deserve it. I’m giving you permission to eat your oatmeal just a little slower, sip your coffee with gratitude and enjoy your conversations just a little more.

Appreciate the small moments. You’ll be so much happier. And when it’s time to ignite your ‘hustle,’ be intentional, be focused, and be grateful. You’ve created a moment that means something very special. Celebrate these moments and cherish them. Happy hustling, my friends!

Vanessa Michelle is a full-time Youtuber who has created a platform for creatives everywhere!  Her journey to journalism started at the University of Akron, where she was an on-air personality and TV-Host for WZIP-FM and ZTV Akron. Vanessa has been featured in local publications as ‘The Oprah of Youtube’ and one of Akron’s most unique entrepreneurs.