Hustle is the Opposite of Heart

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It was the first weekend in April.  I had just completed the sale of a local technology business to a new owner.  I sat there at my kitchen island and just stared at my tv in a daze.  I was exhausted and emotionally spent.  It was becoming very clear to me that I was failing at working part-time at the law firm.  My workload this year increased significantly.  It seemed that when one deal closed another deal (or two or three) was right there waiting for me.  Trying to balance my time between the legal work and running kOMpose became nearly impossible.  I didn’t sleep.  Showers became a luxury (yes- I brushed my teeth!).  I was living on a steady intake of Diet Coke and Quest bars.  My head hurt and my stomach was a mess.   The emotional and physical stress that I was under to “do it all” was taking a toll on me. The plan that I had so carefully crafted for making everything “work” in my life, wasn’t working at all.  My life was spinning out of control.  You can only work at this crazy pace for so long before something breaks down.  It is a lesson that I learned the hard way once before.  As a young partner eager to prove her worth in the firm, I worked long hours and took on multiple assignments in order to climb up the partnership ranks.  But at 37, everything changed.  I got cancer.  It was a huge wake-up call for me.  The cancer was my body’s way of telling me that I needed to slow down and take care of myself.  But nine years later, I found myself pushing my body and mind to the brink again.

I have always been a hustler. I started working when I was 12 years old and worked my way through college and law school.  And as a kid, those skills served me very well.  I graduated at the top of my high school class, went off to college and graduated from law school.  But somewhere along the way, my good, clean Midwestern work ethic had morphed into something else.  Something that was hurting me, no longer helping me.  I knew something had to change. But I was at a loss about how to do it. I was stuck.

I got up from the kitchen island and started packing for a trip to San Diego.  I grabbed a few books to read.  One of the books was “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist.  In the book, Shauna offers an honest and genuine account of what led her to leave behind a life of busyness and frantic living to rediscovering the person she was meant to be simply by being present.  She invites her readers to consider the landscape of their own lives and what it may look like to leave behind the pressure to be “perfect” for a more serene and simple existence.  The book was exactly what I needed.  The Universe had answered my prayers!!!  Woo hoo!

At an early age we often develop a narrative around our identity and who we are.  It becomes our “story” and that story plays out over and over throughout different aspects of our life.  I often call my story a “spiritual assignment”.  One of the stories that I would tell myself when I was little was that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t the prettiest girl in school, the smartest kid in our grade or the most athletic player on my basketball team.  It didn’t really matter what the category was, in my mind I was always less than someone else.  But I learned that if you work hard enough, you can overcome a lack of God-given talents.  And when you are competent, responsible and hard-working- people like having you around.   Hard work became my invitation to the ball.

My belief that I wasn’t special or good enough drove me to develop this insane work ethic that I can no longer sustain.  Early in my legal career, I was afraid that the partners would figure out that I wasn’t smart enough to do the job and I would be fired.  My fear drove me to work harder than everyone else so I wouldn’t be exposed as a fraud.  And guess what?  My strategy worked.  I worked long hours at the firm and was elected to the partnership many years ago.  Despite becoming an equity partner in my firm, that nagging voice in my head continued to tell me that I wasn’t smart enough to be there.  I continued to overcompensate for my limiting belief by volunteering for more projects and taking on responsibilities within the firm.  And at the beginning of this year, when all of the projects came in at the same time, things came to a head and it pushed me to a breaking point.

What I have realized is drive at work was driven from a place of fear, not from love.  Fear is sneaky.  Actions that look innocent on the surface can sometimes be the result of our unconscious fears.  The metaphysical text A Course in Miracles teaches us that we are acting from a place of fear or a place of love. But we can’t act from both.  In my case, I was afraid I wasn’t smart enough to be a lawyer so my fear drove me to work really hard so I would receive validation from others that I was in fact smart enough to be a lawyer.  But it was a vicious cycle.  I had to keep performing in order to get the approval that I needed.  It was just a matter of time until things fell apart.

I am learning to let go of my fear of not being good enough.  Rather than using work to hide my fears, I am trying to be more present and vulnerable and create deeper connection and meaning in my life.  Every day I am making a conscious choice to show up as the genuine version of myself- fears and all.  It is easier when I am working my spiritual practice. When I am grounded in faith and trust the Universe has my back, all is well.  It is when I get busy and fall out of my practice that life doesn’t go as smoothly.  I am constantly shifting my fear-based mindset back to love.  The more I do it, the easier it becomes.

Hustle is the opposite of heart.  And for those of you who don’t know me, I am all heart.  It is the best part of me.  And it is the best part of you too.