I was hanging out with relatives over Christmas and the topic of leisure time came up. Some of them went on about how they were too busy for TV and movies and even friends. Those were indulgences that got in the way of work.
I get it. That was me once upon a time. I was convinced that time not working was time wasted. I was wrong, misguided, and a sucker for the whole hustle porn ethos.
And while hustle porn has porn in the name, it’s not a sexual term. It’s basically the fetishizing of people in tech who overwork. Their lives are all about work and nothing else. That’s not exciting or interesting. And it’s damn sure not something to aspire to.
But people eat it up on social media. The Instagram pictures of early cars to the airport, long days in meetings and on phone calls and speaking engagements, and then red eyes back home in time to rinse and repeat.
It took me a while to understand that. Back in the late ’90s when I was getting into affiliate marketing, I was hungry to make a name for myself, learn everything I could, and put in whatever time and effort it took to achieve it.
Early on I didn’t brag about it or tout it to anybody. I just worked like crazy. Back then I was living in New Jersey and commuting three hours round trip to New York City each day to my first affiliate marketing job at Medsite.com.
At the same time, I was working on my first affiliate site, Velocity NYC, which was a guide to things to do in NYC with affiliate links to related books on Amazon. I was also working on a site called BabyLounge where I created online birth announcements with a few paid options, plus I monetized those pages with affiliate links. An extension of the baby theme that I also promoted from the site was a baby naming software I private labeled and sold through ClickBank.
There were a bunch of other affiliate sites then, and they were all hand-coded in HTML.
A friend who was a ticket broker asked me to create a website for him, and I ran that for years, too. It was frequently updated with new events and it had a bunch of satellite sites for things like the first George W. Bush Presidential Inauguration. In addition to the web work, I was running PPC for him with constant adjustments.
All of the stuff outside of my 12-hour workdays also had to fit in after my Saturday and Sunday morning job as the sports editor for NJ.com (the web version of the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper). I would do that each weekend day from 6 AM to around 10 AM.
By 2000 I was running the affiliate program for ClubMom.com and I was also writing weekly columns for ClickZ.com, and occasionally for other publications on affiliate marketing. That got me noticed by Que Publishing, who offered me a book deal (Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants). The catch was that I had a few months to write hundreds of pages. I got it done.
But around that time I noticed cracks in my non-stop work life. It was a Sunday and I had enough. I felt miserable and overwhelmed and dissatisfied. I guess it wasn’t a full-blown nervous breakdown, but it was a breakdown. Or maybe an anxiety attack.
This would happen again from time to time as we started up Affiliate Summit while working a full-time job, managing other affiliate programs on the side, running affiliate sites, and doing a good amount of consulting on affiliate marketing.
We didn’t make any money on Affiliate Summit for the first 18 months or so, and I worked full-time as an outsourced affiliate manager for a bunch of companies for the first five years of Affiliate Summit to make ends meet.
Have a look at this cringey hustle porn video I made in those days titled “Day in the Life of an Affiliate Marketer” – I made this without a hint of irony. I was proud and impressed with myself.
I barely slept, I didn’t take vacations, I didn’t really do much of anything but work. I had no balance. I didn’t find that balance until moving to Austin in 2010. It was the best decision ever to relocate and embrace downtime, the outdoors, vacations, fun, and more sleep.
And a lot fewer hours of work daily. The result – I didn’t have any drop in productivity. I was so busy being busy that I didn’t have time for anything else all that time. But that busy was a mirage, a waste, and a lie. It can lead to ruin and burnout.
Replace rise and grind with rise and shine and you’ll be doing yourself a big favor.