Picture this: A cramped academic office filled with tall stacks of papers and research journals.
And there I am, hunched over my desk, drenched in the artificial glow of my computer screen, nursing a neglected coffee that had grown cold in the hustle to get one more paragraph down on the page.
At the time, I was a young professor immersed in the academic grind. I believed that this relentless exertion was my only route to tenure and making my mark.
Fast-forward a few years: Tenure achieved at record speed, a myriad of articles under my belt, and a dawning realization that hit me. I could have achieved the same with half the stress, half the publications, and infinitely more joy.
I fell for the narrative that romanticizes struggle and that assumes only grueling work can produce worthy results.
Nature doesn’t buy into this hustle culture. Water, for example, follows the “easy” path of least resistance—yet shapes mountains and carves valleys in the process. Migratory birds don’t needlessly exhaust themselves by flapping against the wind. Instead, they align with it. They harness the power of tailwinds whenever possible and use them to travel thousands of miles.
Why should we be any different? Yes, some hardships in life are unavoidable, but why fly against the wind and add needless friction to your life?
Busyness isn’t importance. And turmoil isn’t progress.
Your expectations shape your reality. If you set the GPS of your mind to “Struggle City,” that’s where you’ll end up—even when there’s a far more scenic and relaxed route to your goal.
Opting out of hustle culture isn’t easy. I’m still a work-in-progress. When I find myself heading back toward Struggle City, here are a few questions that I ask to get back on course:
- What would it look like if your current challenge were easy? Close your eyes. Imagine peeling away the layers of needless complexity. What would you eliminate? Who could help you? What tools could make this easier?
- In what ways are you complicit in creating the conditions that are causing you overwhelm? What habits and beliefs keep steering you back to Struggle City? Could you accomplish as much, if not more, without contorting yourself into a pretzel of anxiety and stress?
- What would change if you replaced the expectation “This will suck” with “This will be a delight”? (Here’s one thought starter: Don’t call it a to-do list. When I hear “to-do list,” I want to run as far and fast as possible. Call it a playlist or a design list—a title that will delight you and pull you in.).
In the end, you have a choice.
You can continue to glorify unnecessary struggle, viewing life as a series of uphill battles and always flapping against the wind.
Or you can mimic nature’s wisdom and find your tailwinds and paths of least resistance. It’s not about avoiding challenges, but about smartly using the forces that can help propel you forward.
Trade the grind for the flow, and watch your life transform.
P.S. ChatGPT is the strongest tailwind I’ve found in recent memory. It’s my secret ingredient for transforming effort to ease and saving 10 hours every week.
That’s why I created The AI Advantage, an online course that demystifies ChatGPT and empowers you to be at the forefront of the AI creative revolution.
The course closes promptly TONIGHT at midnight ET, Cinderella style.
Miss this chance and you’ll be waiting until the next celestial alignment—in other words, next year—before it opens again. At that time, the price tag will also go up by at least 50%.
Your future less-stressed self will thank you.