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Remember What Matters

Eric Partaker


Have you ever had a moment that drastically altered the way you look at your life? Mine came in November 2010, when I was 35,000 feet in the air. 

Looking back, it’s clear that I ignored all of the warning signs. I was working 100 hour weeks building Chilango and playing hard on the weekends. This “grind” mentality was taking a toll on my health.

Although I started having heart palpitations and cramping, I kept going, attributing it to stress — keep pushing and get the work done, right? This was the vicious cycle I was stuck in. Even when doctors diagnosed me with high blood pressure, I kept going.

Fortunately, thanks to a doctor who just so happened to be on the flight, I survived my incident and am able to share it with you today. I can tell you that at that moment 35,000 feet up, I have never felt more alone. That was it. My five-year-old son would be without a father because I literally worked myself to death.

My Awakening

When I woke up in the hospital the next day, I (obviously) knew I needed to make a change. My doctor shot it to me straight when he said, “You’re cutting it way too close. You need to relax. You need to not just constantly be working. This work-hard, play-hard mentality is going to lead to you checking out of the world at too early of a time.”

After doing a bit of soul-searching, I found myself at a crossroad. I knew that I wanted to reach my full potential, but struggled to figure out how it was possible to do so with less output.

I committed to analyzing others who consistently performed at a high level. My new addiction became figuring out how to reach my peak performance without suffering another breakdown. I studied habit formation. I read hundreds of books, on everything from neuroscience and psychology to leadership. I received coaching certifications.

So, where did that lead me? I realized that the “full potential” I had been striving for previously was incredibly short-sighted. I was focusing too much on hustle, and not enough on growth. Unfortunately, this is a problem that plagues our society today.

False Narrative – Hustle and Grind

There’s no other way to cut it – today’s workforce suffers from stress and burnout unlike any before. Consider the fact that a recent Deloitte survey of 1,000 workers found:

  •  77% of respondents reported experiencing burnout at their current job
  • More than 50% indicated they’ve suffered from more than one episode of burnout
  • 91% stated that having an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration negatively impacts their quality of work.
  • 83% said that it also negatively impacted the quality of their personal relationships
  • 87% of those surveyed said that they have passion for their current job, but 64% said they are frequently stressed (Even passionate employees are subject to burnout).

The American Institute of Stress notes that 77% of people say that stress impacts their physical health, while 73% say it affects their mental health.  

This is perhaps due to the alarming phenomenon known as “Hustle Porn.” Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian defined this term, calling it the “fetishization of people overworking themselves.”

Ohanian told a 20,000-person audience at the 2018 Web Summit Conference, “This is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now. This idea that unless you are suffering, grinding working every hour of every day, you’re not working hard enough.”

Escaping the Grind Mentality

During my self-reflection, I realized that I was a victim of the “Hustle Porn” phenomenon. Simply put, hustle does not work. Below are the three takeaways I realized in my decade of post-heart attack self-discovery.

1) Growth v. Hustle  

I was previously under the impression that hustle was necessary for growth. However, I grew to realize that they are completely different. Consider the following:

Hustle = Stress Breakdown

Growth = Stress + Recovery

The common denominator between growth and hustle is stress. What sets them apart is the “recovery” aspect. Hustling is a means to an end. The hustle movement is all about stress and the belief that you can work and will yourself into growth. Unfortunately, it does not emphasize recovery. Without recovery, there can be no growth.

2) Emphasize Recovery  

To me, recovery means working efficiently and being in tune with yourself. Recovery is paying attention to your health. It’s making sure that you receive adequate sleep and that you eat a well-balanced diet. It’s making sure that you exercise. It’s also making time for yourself and those who you care about. Do you take vacation time? Do you make times for your friends and family? If you buy into the “Hustle Movement,” the answer is probably no.

3) Become the Best Version of Yourself   

If you want to grow and succeed, you need balance. A balance between your professional and personal relationships. A balance between “work and play.” You cannot have a “sound mind” without a “sound body” and vice versa. The key to growth is working with a purpose and with a designated goal in mind.

How Are You Going to Grow?

Growth is a flowing river. It constantly changes. We’ll talk more in the coming weeks about what you can do to grow as an individual. In the meantime, I challenge you to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re dedicating enough time to recovery. Otherwise, your constant hustle will eventually lead to a breakdown. Hopefully, you realize it before I did.

Eric has been named "CEO of the Year" at the 2019 Business Excellence Awards, one of the "Top 30 Entrepreneurs in the UK" by Startups Magazine, and among "Britain's 27 Most Disruptive Entrepreneurs" by The Telegraph.

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