You work 15 hour days. Your phone never leaves your sight for longer than a few minutes. You wake up in the middle of the night, solving problems in your head. You tell yourself you can’t afford to get sick. Weekends with the family get consumed by work email or the latest project. You can’t remember the last time you took a vacation and were present, really away from work. You tell yourself, you will rest when you achieve your goal. You tell yourself, your family deserves it, that your team depends on you. You grapple with the thought that if only you had more (fill in the blank: money, people, skills, team members) then you can take time off. The harder you work, the more your finish line seems to get pushed further and further away. 

We live in Hustle Culture. 

We praise long work hours. We glorify busyness. We look for happiness in materialistic possessions. 

You follow hashtags on social media: #sleepisforlosers, #riseandgrind, #grindneverstops #hustlehard. 

You read about it in the news. 

Gary Vaynerchuk exudes Hustle. The CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia, sends out the “Hustler’s Digest.” He calls hustle, “The most important word. Ever.” He says that working 9 to 6 is not enough. He says, “Hustle is the cure for those who complain.” According to Gary: “Hustle is really working, day in and day when no one is looking. It’s about what you did from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep.”

Gary says he’s from the former Soviet Union. Guess what? So am I. We didn’t hustle. Sure, we worked hard during the week. We had rich experiences and meaningful relationships. We had time to go out to dinner with friends, and we took lunches outside of the office. We had four weeks off in summertime to go to the Black Sea and recharge. We went skiing on weekends in the Rila Mountains. We had to way to check back in with the office.

We had a life. 

Gary’s inspiration for Hustle? “If you want bling-bling, If you want to buy the Jets, If you want to have fancy clothes, then you need to put in the work.” 

Sorry, Gary, I don’t want any of the above. I used to think I did. I had a 7-figure business. All it did is leave me with poor health, destroyed friendships, unhappy husband. I want to live a complete life. I want to be present. I want to be healthy. I want to be happy. Materialistic possessions do not define my success.

My success has wellbeing, joy, relationships, and experiences. I believe in a new way of living. I call it Unhustle. 

Marissa Mayer, the former president, and chief executive officer of Yahoo!, says you can work 130 hours a week—as long as you are strategic about when you sleep, shower, and go to the bathroom! 

When I had my award-winning digital marketing company Out&About Marketing, I lived this way. I was so consumed in meetings, emails, and projects that I barely had time to go to the bathroom. I suffered from chronic stomach aches that Western doctors diagnosed as IBS. To manage it, they prescribed Vicodin. I started seeking alternative help, which led me to an acupuncturist. His 1-hour appointments had me lying on the office table with an eye mask and needles sticking out of every part of my body. It is the only time in the day I got to just be and do nothing. Before he left the office, he will say to me: “Be mindful of your breathing.” I can still recall his soothing voice. I don’t know if the needles helped. I want to think so for all the money I spent. But the one hour of doing nothing and focusing on my breathing was pure therapy for me. I know some days I was itching to answer emails while on the acupuncture table. But the pain from the needles in my arms sent a clear signal to my body to give it a rest. To breathe. To let my mind rest. Twenty years later, I no longer have stomach pains.

I learned how to manage stress better. Except that this time, instead of going to see the acupuncturist, I focus on my breathing on my own. 

Elon Musk is known for sleeping on the factory floor during “production hell” and says working 80-90 hour weeks is normal.

Sorry Elon, that’s not normal. What’s normal is living a 360-degree life. Focusing all your energy on your company is not sustainable in the long run. 

By focusing on my wellbeing, I reconnected with my purpose. This is why I decided to pivot and start Unhustle. Instead of teaching people how to create a Facebook ad, I now inspire people to live a complete life. As any start-up entrepreneur, I’m fully aware that it takes time and effort to get a company off the ground. 

It’s my commitment not to Hustle to start Unhustle. 

I’m not alone. Aytekin Tank, CEO of JotForm writes about hustle culture and avoiding burnout regularly. Christopher Lochhead, an advisor to over 50 venture-backed startups, a venture capital limited partner and a former three-time Silicon Valley public company CMO, entrepreneur, and co-author of two bestsellers did a podcast on Fuck Hustle. Reddit’s founder says putting work above all else can be “toxic.”

Sure, I work hard during the day. But this time around, I do it smarter. I optimize my wellbeing. I get enough sleep. I establish my priorities. I take regular breaks. I exercise. I eat well. I go out in nature and let my mind wander. When I work, I’m fully present.

I’m in it for the long haul. Here are the results so far. My health is at 100%. My sleep is excellent. I have high energy throughout the day. I love what I do. The romance in my marriage is back. I live my dream life between Lake Tahoe and Baja, doing the things I’m passionate about. I see the spark in people’s eyes when they experience the difference in their lives with the Unhustle principles. And this is why I do what I do.

I live a meaningful, happy and healthy life. 

You can too. 

You can start by doing these things: 

1. Put your health first.

2. Exercise.

3. Focus on your sleep. 

4. Take time to breathe and meditate. 

5. Schedule time on your calendar for experiences, no matter how short. 

5. Connect with people in real life. 

7. Spend time in nature. 

8. Connect with your purpose. 

9. Know when to shut it down. 

10. Practice gratitude for what you already have. 

The cost of Hustle Culture is real. Hustle ends in chronic stress, poor health, broken marriages, dysfunctional families, burnout, and dissatisfaction. 

I saw it myself and continue to see it with the people I work with. It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Stop listening to the news. Stop scrolling through useless social media posts.

If you want to live a complete life, get grounded in your values, and connect with what’s important to you. The rest will follow.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. It’s your life to live.