Hustle Hard. Stay Sane.


In high school I had one class with Japheth Light, Marine Science. Japheth took the class because he’d aced every other science class our school offered. I took the class because I barely understood any science class our school offered. Japheth and I had in school together for quite some time and it was widely known he was way smarter than the rest of us. Point proven in Marine Science.

I’m a read-every-word-in-the-textbook, take-every-note girl.
Japheth doodled.

I did pretty well in the class.
Japheth did much better.

Years after graduating – Japheth valedictorian, me the muddy middle – I know this to be true, some people are naturally bright, others of us have to work $%#@&^%$#@ing hard.

Undoubtedly, gifted people put in the hours; every virtuoso has to practice and study. But we know them. The talented people with all the capacity as world class thinkers and abnormally huge brains.

The answers magically pop in their heads.

Their lives move at brilliant speed.
Their feet are on the desk and chairs leaned back.
Every conversation is straight out of an Aaron Sorkin script.

They best us in wit and wiles.

If this describes you, respectfully, stop reading. I’m glad you are here. Please come back another time and teach me how to speak like C.J Cregg.

The rest of us remain. Those who are never the smartest in the room.

We’ve watched the midnight oil burn and the sun rise.

We’ve had dirty hair, unshaven legs (or faces) and skipped showers.
Every class attended.
No practice missed.
Nothing – nothing – has ever come naturally.

But nothing has ever been taken for granted.

College, as it often does for everyone who chooses to go that route, stretched me a million ways. In those years my wheels were spinning twice as hard as anyone else. I worked, worked, worked, and worked some more. Over time a hustle developed that pushed me to the edge and sadly over a few times. That hustle has been both benign and malignant. It has served me well and poorly.

After years of stress, anxiety, manic and frantic, I’ve learned this – hard workers do not have to drive themselves mad. It is possible to bust our tails and be decent, healthy people. We can hustle hard and stay sane.

I’ve crashed and burned more times that I can count, but each time little pieces of how to work smarter and be healthier became clear. These bits have helped along the way. Maybe they can help you too.

Nothing is wrong – Just because you have to work a little harder, study a little longer, put in a few extra hours, does not make you a misshapen human. You are not dumb. Your brain is not broken. Do not get down on yourself.

Do a motive checkWHY are you working hard? What is driving you? If we are not careful, motives can be tinged with pride and will perhaps lead us to some pretty shady places. Proving ourselves is a terrible reason to work hard. It’s the stuff of revenge movie plots, and will send a person around the bend quickly.  If we are building the house with a bunch of pride and selfishness, a good strong wind will level us. Check for foundation cracks often.

Know when to stop – Learn how you work and what is a good pace for you. Take the time to learn just how much you have to push yourself, then stop just short of your limit. Know when to declare you’ve done all you can do for the day. Turn off the lights, close the book/computer/phone. Be okay with stopping for a while.

Drink water, eat green things, move your body, go to bed – Man cannot live on Red Bull and Little Debbies. You want to be in this for a good long run of years, right? Take care of yourself. Live to work hard another day.

There are no Jones’– You are not keeping up with anyone. Resist the urge to compare yourself with others. If you are chasing down someone else, you are in the wrong race.

Intentionally rest – Take a break. Make up your mind NOT to work for a day or two. The world will not stop spinning if we take some time to rest. If you don’t take a day off, YOU will be the only thing that stops spinning. Go have fun. Take a nap. Eat some ice cream. Do anything but the work at hand.

These are the months of transition – graduation from high school or college, first jobs or internships – and these late-teen, early-adult experiences do a lot to usher us into how we approach work. This is the time marked by deep end job assignments, professors and bosses who require the world, needling, and trying and failing and succeeding. Work ethic ground zero.

For those of you just dipping your toes into this great adventure, develop a hustle, but nurture it too. If you have been busting it for a while, sanity is just a few brave choices away. Choose a life of faith, humility, determination, endurance, of someone living for something other than themselves.

So work on, my friends. Hustle hard to honor the work in front of you, your employers, future employers, God and all he has given you. But please take care. All the people who love you want you around for a really long time. We want you to live long enough to not only to see you do beautiful things, but to enjoy them too.

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