Stop hustling and start building.

Stop hustling and start building.


9 min read

Disclaimer ⚠️

The last thing I ever want to do is to steal anybody's fire. If hustling is a term of endearment for you, if it gets you going in the morning when you get out of bed then, by all means, hustle away. In this article, I’ll expand on the subjective feelings and thoughts GaryVee style hustling conjures up in me in the hopes of offering an alternative approach that hopefully propels you in a steady, consistent, and productive direction. Which is really what I want for myself too. I’m giving my two cents on what I would prioritize when building and growing a career in tech. Not only making a fast buck.

What I mean by hustling 🙅

Recently I read a short list of “Hard truths” all Junior devs need to hear, which was put together by a friend of mine. It was item number five on the list that stuck with me hours after reading it.

5 - You don’t have to follow the trends. Follow what interests you. Like I said before, you need mental stamina in this field of work. Following your interests will keep you engaged and help avoid burnout

If you have a phone in your hand or spend any part of your day in front of a computer you know the struggles of having to fight against these shadowy algorithmic powers that are grabbing our attention and distracting you any time you have your guard down. It’s hard to handle at times because as technologists and professionals who make a living by staying up to date and informed of the state of the art of many technologies, we also have to deal with the consequences of information overload and it gets really hard to distinguish between what is relevant and might be of value to us and what can be ignored.

If we only had to deal with information, it wouldn’t be that bad. The fact is that most times, the information that reaches us in places like “tech-twitter” and “tech-youtube” is delivered by an influencer. And especially in the tech arena, there is a particular type of tech influencer that pushes a variation of the following list of ideas:

  • Do anything to get the job done!

  • Who needs sleep?

  • You haven’t heard of this BUZZWORD yet? Oh man, you are missing out!

  • Become a millionaire writing 4 lines of code, or no code at all!

These types of trends and money-obsessed ideas and approaches to growing your career in tech are bound to lead to hardship and frustration.

Of course, I hope it goes without saying that I don’t think that all tech influencers are like this, in all fairness, probably the majority are not. But “hustle culture” is pervasive nonetheless.

Here is a short list of tech influencers that I believe put the right message out in the world: Techworld with Nana, NetworkChuck, ThePrimeagen, FireShip, Kunal Kushwaha, and Adam Elmore, among many others.

The implicit fear that fuels the hustle culture 😨

I remember when I started out trying to transition into tech from a career in education in 2018. I started off by taking the advice of an older cousin of mine who had recommended taking the same road he went down. Which was to get Networking certified by sitting the CCNA (Routing and Switching) exam. So that is what I did, it took me a good few months to pass the 2 exam process and I found myself at a crossroads. I could go deeper into Networking or I could pivot and apply the little theory I knew to “newer” and more “up-and-coming” fields like cloud computing or DevOps.

Figure at a crossroads

It’s crazy when I think back now, but at the time I was shaking in my boots. I was convinced that there was a right and a wrong answer. I thought that if I was lucky I would make the right decision and be successful. I would end up getting a job and I’d start working my way up into interesting and lucrative positions. I was completely convinced that the alternative was “the wrong decision” that would lead me down a path to a dead-end job and by the time I’d realized it, it would have been too late. I would be too invested in the wrong path and therefore forever destined to a crappy career.

The reality was that I was suffering from a strong case of a scarcity mentality. I now realize that it would have made absolutely no difference. I would be equally as successful and employed in an interesting position even if I decided to go down the Network engineering route (if I put the effort in of course). Most areas in tech are growing and flourishing and are always in need of qualified and driven people. There was no way to lose, I now see that.

And that is the common denominator I see in hustle culture, the scarcity mentality. It’s driven by the subliminal message that is, unless you move fast now, you won’t be able to reach your objectives. Putting everything aside is the only way to make it big. And for me, that’s just not true.

There is no need to give in to the hype, you don’t have to be an early adopter or a trailblazer. Just choose something you like, be consistent with it, and build, it’s as simple as that.

Why building is better 🧩

Of course, each individual has to decide what success means to them. If you want to make 1 Million dollars in 6 months starting from scratch, then maybe what I’m going to recommend isn’t going to serve you well. But if you want to grow an ambitious, lucrative, and exciting career just focus on building. Once you understand that you aren’t really under a super strict time constraint, you can give yourself permission to build bit by bit, not all at once. Because at the end of the day, there are no shortcuts to being anything worth being. If I were you I found focus on these things:

Build a project 🏗️

There is a difference between learning something and preparing to learn something. If you are planning on working on a project written in Python but decide to dedicate a couple of weeks to going through a Python basics course. As important and useful as that may be, try not to mix the two activities in your mind. You are not learning Python, because unless you apply what you learn in a matter of days you will lose the ability to do what you learned theoretically. I’m not advocating for not doing basic or refresher courses, just get them done quickly so the real formative process can start.

There is no end of projects you can build, check out some of these resources:

Build up your skills 🤹

Opportunities to learn firsthand are all around us, it has never been so easy to learn. But just because resources, tools, and untold access to any kind of subject matter are at our fingertips, doesn’t mean that we magically learn by osmosis. When trying to pick up a skill try to search and embrace friction.

By friction, I mean encountering difficulties. For example, ChatGPT is here, it will never not be here again. It is absolutely amazing of course, but it is undeniable that it removes friction, almost all friction when bootstrapping a web app or debugging an issue in a language you are unfamiliar with, for example.

What I try to be mindful of myself, is not to get AI to only do things for me, but for AI to explain things when I can’t find the answer, and fully try to understand the explanation. And if I don’t get it, ask it to explain the same concept in a different way. Maybe in a future article, I’ll explore the implications of ChatGPT and what it will mean to the actual definition of being a developer in the coming years.

But if learning the ins and out’s of a programming language is still something you want to do, don’t just copy and paste the output ChatGPT spits out but aim to use it as another tool to grow your skill set.

Regardless of the skill, friction isn’t only the difficulty of the task itself, friction could be a deadline, an arbitrary constraint, or a rule. I remember a great conversation I had with a co-worker and friend of mine at an airport in Marrakech. I told him that I was struggling to make videos, I had a bunch of ideas but I struggled to get any of them off the ground, and he gave me some great advice. He told me to add a hard constraint on the first video to get started. For example, the first video could only be recorded from inside my house. Suddenly, a world of options was no longer available to me and I had fewer distractions, and the videos started rolling.

A great source of friction is feedback. It might be hard at times, especially when you put a lot of effort into something for somebody to come along and just rip it to pieces. But feedback from qualified and thoughtful people is pure gold, it’s the friction you need to grow and improve. That’s why I hope you readers will reach out to me and rip this article to pieces too.

Build a following 👍

I’m slightly torn on what to call this section because the end-all-be-all is not an actual following itself. The following is the natural consequence of consistent sharing. That’s the real objective. When you build something, pick up a new skill, or achieve a quantifiable milestone, get up onto the tallest ladder you can find and shout it. By ladder I mean, Twitter, Hashnode, Medium, YouTube, TikTok, Discord, etc. Even if you are speaking to nobody at first, keep on doing it. You will end up reaching people, people will give you valuable feedback and encouragement. The encouragement should not be undervalued because the building is not easy, it takes grit and determination, and the more encouragement you get the better.

Some great resources to improve writing skills:

Some resources to improve video skills:

Conclusion ℹ️

Anything lasting and worth achieving simply takes time and dedication, if that is a dose of reality too hard to swallow hopefully you can find solace in the fact that there is no single right answer, it doesn’t matter which career you choose in tech, nor the tech stack. You will find enjoyment, success, recognition, and the paycheck that comes along with it if you consistently build one step at a time. This gradual cycle of growth is probably something that will never end, try to find satisfaction in that.

Realize that if you are constantly chasing the next trend or next project to make it big with, you might be lucky once or twice but you will be chasing your tail a large part of the time (just ask any NFT investor) and there really is no need to put yourself through that kind of stress, unless it’s adrenaline you are after.

Build one day at a time, try to have fun with it, and stay the course. That’s what has worked for me at least.

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