On love as an antidote to hustle culture


Words by Madeleine Dore

Despite its proliferation on Instagram and the frequency by which it is used by people doing incredible, bold and difficult things, to date I haven’t quite embraced the word hustle.

I was curious as to why it didn’t sit well, why I couldn’t casually swing it into conversation, despite being someone who pursues multiple ‘side hustles’ and has to ‘hustle’ as a freelance writer.

So I looked up the definition of hustle to find out what I found so grating about the word.

As a noun, hustle describes a state of great activity, a liveliness, an energy. With this frame, I can see the appeal ­– we need momentum for our ideas, we need liveliness and energy to start and sustain a project.

But as a verb, it means to push roughly, to shove. And that’s why I find it difficult to embrace hustle culture – it feels like a pressure to shove your busyness badge of honour in the face of others. It implies that the only way to get noticed it shove ourselves or our work to the front of a ceaseless queue.  

When I shared this observation on Instagram recently, there was a collective sigh of relief in the comments:

“There is no thriving in the hustle; it’s only a road to burnout.”

“I find it counterproductive to imagination.”

“The hustle is unsustainable.”

So what’s the alternative for those who want to explore something on the side without succumbing tothe hustle?

For me, the solution is to connect to what I want to do out of love, not out of a perceived ‘should’. All of my side projects and creative ideas have stemmed from a curiosity and fondness for something, not out of a push or neediness or jostle. In fact, the times I try to force are the times it often falls flat.

Creativity starts in a place of curiosity and is inextricably linked to knowing who you are and knowing what you love ­– or at least being curious about discovering it.  

Because it’s so personal, creative ideas and projects need space and softness to flourish, for the simple reason that often the blocks to doing creative work – procrastination, self-doubt, overwhelm and fear ­– can’t be shoved. Pushing procrastination, for many people, only exacerbates it. Push, and push, and push, and you wear yourself out. There is no where to go, nothing to explore, no time for reflection. Keep grinding something and it becomes worn. This logic extends to human beings, too.

Softness, quiet encouragement, and space are so important for creativity – and it all starts with applying or uncovering a love for our ideas, our projects, and even our fears.

Reframing our side hustles as labours of love helps us bring a curious dedication, an openness, an expanse, and room to enjoy the process.  

Allowing ourselves time to reflect, stop and break not only helps sustain our work over a long period, but it also helps us see when something might no longer be for us. Just as when a relationship or romantic love fades, space can help rekindle or it can help show us when it’s time to let go.

Loosening the grip, be it on a project, an idea, a relationship, an expectation, can be the very thing that helps open it up – and shape our lives.  

In the words of Buddha, “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”  

There is no less intensity or passion in softness. We do not need to hustle, push, or grind. We can hold things gently and let go. We can love instead of shove.


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Madeleine Dore