We’ve all heard that we should hustle. We read it on t-shirts, speakers shout it to us at conferences, and podcasts blare it in our ears.
But when is too much too much?
Carlos Hidalgo joined me for a recent episode of the #FlipMyFunnel podcast to share his life’s story from entrepreneur and TEDx speaker, to loneliness from everyone (including his family), to redefining success and writing The UnAmerican Dream.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- The difference between hard work and hustle
- Social loneliness
- Finding your identity in work rather than relationships
What happened that shook you out of ‘the hustle’?
Carlos: Right out of college, I started a non-profit, where I learned about telling stories and writing good content. Then I worked for several agencies learning production, technology, and understanding your customer. I was given a high tech portfolio, and I learned a ton. Then I moved from there to the client side and hopped around a little bit, most notably with McAfee, which is now part of Intel, then BMC software.
After BMC, I took the entrepreneurial plunge, and co-founded Annuitas, around 2005, where we started off as a lead management consultancy. I did that to be home more. As we started to grow, we really turned into a demand generation consultancy. Things really took off. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t, “plan it,” but we started adding employees, we starting adding brand-name clients, and we started gaining recognition in the industry.
I had a few people say, “Hey man, write a book on demand generation.” (That’s out there if you ever have insomnia I really recommend it. It’ll be a great cure.)
You asked what happened:
To be honest, my ego took over. I started to find my identity and my worth in my professional accomplishments rather than just recognizing, to quote Kelly Flanigan, “My worth is because I have a spark of the divine just like all of us do.”
Can you tell us more about losing your identity?
Carlos: As Annuitas went, so went myself and my ego. I loved people emailing me about my book. I loved people stopping me at a conference and asking me to sign my book. I loved people saying, “Hey, we want to fly you here to speak.”
At the same time, I also fell prey to the hustle and the grind. I put everything I had into my business. I worked long hours. I was never one to say no from going on the road. Since there’s only so many hours in a day, and so many days in a week, and so many weeks in a year, things had to be put on the back burner. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but I put my family and my marriage on the back burner.
I had a “dark night of the soul” moment where everything I thought I had been working for, everything I thought I wanted, it just fell apart. I realized: “I’m going to be estranged from my kids and be a divorced man.” That’s not what I want. I spent a lot of time, first of all, working on myself, so that I could give back the best of me to my family and to my marriage.
By God’s grace I was able to write The UnAmerican Dream, and write my journey, and the journey of some others. My wife has a chapter in the book, where she tells her side. I’m constantly amazed and extremely grateful to tell this story because I don’t think I’m unique in it at all, but I just felt it was a story that needed to be told.
Was loneliness a part of losing your identity?
Carlos: Oh I was very lonely. I have started using the term social loneliness because we hide behind our screens. We present our Facebook lives, which is about the 5% of mountaintop experiences we’re privileged to have as human beings. I’ve never seen anybody post on Facebook, “I woke up this morning. My wife and I had a really big argument. I was not too kind, neither was she. Stormed out the door, spilled coffee and it’s just been a really crappy day so far.” We don’t post that stuff. I’m not saying we should, but I think we have a societal issue in loneliness.
I was very lonely, and I know my wife was very lonely because I wasn’t there. I had put the business ahead of that relationship. That’s called neglect. She says, “In a word, it was lonely.” That’s why her chapter of my book is called A View From the Other Side.
I can say now my identity is not tied up in VisumCx. It’s not tied up in The UnAmerican Dream. It’s tied up in the fact that I really like who I am. I continue to work on who I am. I want to leave the world a little bit better than when I came into it.
Help us unpack the difference between hard work & hustle?
I’m not telling people not to work hard. There’s nobility in hard work. I’m a son of an immigrant who came from Cuba in 1960 who taught me about hard work. As a teenager, I started working when I was 13 years old and never stopped. I like hard work.
Where we start to see the toxic-ness of the hustle and what Alexis Ohanian calls, “Hustle porn,” is in how destructive it is. First of all, it’s destructive to ourselves. You’ve got guys out there like Grant Cardone saying, “Hey, 95 hours a week is what it’s going to take,” which is absurd. You got guys like Kevin O-Leary who are saying, “It’s 24/7, get over it and get used to it.” The list goes on. I mean I could list so many more guys who are promoting the hustle.
But the hustle takes a toll on us. Studies show that if you’re in the age bracket of 18 to 64, which is a great part of our population, you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. If you’re hustling and working 95 hours a week that doesn’t work. Sleep impacts our mental and our emotional health because we’re not thinking clearly.
That’s where the difference is. We should be working hard. All of us. Whoever’s listening to this podcast: Whatever your role, whatever your job, we should be diligent, we should be working hard. However, we owe it to ourselves and our relationships to realize when it’s time to stop, and invest in and cultivate those things that bring joy — that’s a part of our wholehearted lifestyle.
The hustle does not call for that. The hustle says, “Your career, your goal, your business is the end-all goal.” As human beings, we’re wired for relationship, we’re not wired to build businesses.
Carlos: I would say to take a real honest assessment. I was given a challenge when I was wrestling with leaving Annuitas to say, “Promise me today that you’ll do one thing to start to extract yourself from the hustle, because you know what you need to do. You just need the courage to do it.” I will always be tremendously grateful for Andrew Davis having his courage and bravery to say that to me, and taking that risk because it was a catalyst for me to take that first step.