Forums Forums Main Forum Is “Toxic Hustle” a thing?

  • Is “Toxic Hustle” a thing?

    Posted by joshdahl on May 10, 2021 at 7:36 am

    Is “Toxic Hustle” a thing?

    This is a thing I have been thinking about lately.

    By “hustle”, I mean our impulse to “go go get it”. Whatever and however that means for you… You wouldn’t be HERE if you didn’t have SOME hustle.

    If you work shows and make comics and make stuff happen, you’ve gotta have SOME hustle going on. Of course, it’s different for everyone.

    So, when I say “toxic”, I don’t mean “bad” or “negative” or even “ineffective”.

    I mean the kind of systemic toxicity where the thing in question works SO WELL that it over whelms its original purpose.

    So, in this case I mean to ask… are we getting so accustomed to “hustle” that we start seeing it less as a survival tactic and start to see it as a virtue on its own.

    We get so proud of hustling hard that we stop asking why we are hustling so hard to begin with.

    For example.

    A comics creator starts tabling at their first few shows. They learn the basics but are getting ground up by the challenge of turning a profit. The cool artist alley veterans they admire say “That’s how the game goes, you gotta hustle harder” so they do.

    And they absolutely DO NEED TO LEARN TO HUSTLE HARDER to make it out there.

    And here’s where the toxicity can come in.

    It makes perfect sense to ask yourself “why is this so difficult?”

    And it is satisfying to get the answer “Because you don’t hustle hard enough”. That feels right because it’s something YOU can control! You can just DO MORE and GO HARDER.

    GO GO GO.

    That’s fantastic motivation and it feels great to resist adversity! It makes you feel strong and successful even when you fail… Because you get back up!

    Good for them!


    Once they LOCK-In on that answer (hustle harder) they stop asking that question (why is this so hard?) and any EXTERNAL causes go unaddressed.

    When we are ALL looking inward to find our solutions, we stop seeing external and systemic problems.

    Think of ALL OF THE OBSTACLES between you and a successful career in comics.

    Hustling will certainly get you moving TOWARD those obstacles… But is it the best way to REMOVE them?

    buddyscalera replied 1 year, 6 months ago 6 Members · 7 Replies
  • 7 Replies
  • jholder12

    May 10, 2021 at 7:36 pm
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    I would add that Toxic Hustle can affect your relationships with fellow creators. When you don’t see “perfection” in your efforts, you look at the success of others and wonder what they did. On con floors, it may even make you a presence no one wants to be around.

    Some of the best things to help with the hustle, while still maintaining the search for the winning edge, is understanding that comics is both an industry and a large community. And that your goals are both financial and communal. Your success is determined not just by how many units sold, and profits raised, but also who you get to work with, on what sorts of projects, and what they achieved in helping the community at-large. Even if it only seems like it created a great new book for one small con, that is worth so much more than dollar signs.

  • _

    May 10, 2021 at 8:05 pm
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    Yes, it can be, Even the Hustle has to be done with respect and ensuring you not stepping on toes or make people feel forced or hustled. There is a Way, that way is learned from mistakes as much as success but do it with values and ideals above and you will find your way.

  • mikedoestheart

    May 11, 2021 at 8:02 am
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    I think this is definitely a nuanced conversation, and one that should definitely be had. Hustling can become toxic when it comes to the detriment of those around you(including yourself).

    For a long time, I thought that working solo and just working HARDER would yield the results I wanted; it took until recently to understand that I’ll never breakthrough the plateau I’ve reached unless I build those relationships and learn from collaborations and opportunities like the ones here at CBS. My creative pursuits won’t benefit and i won’t be able to ‘sharpen the blade’ so to speak unless I get the feedback I need and continue to work on those obstacles — not just trying to output more and more. Output is great, no doubt about it… but quality vs quantity and all that jazz.

  • joshdahl

    May 12, 2021 at 9:23 pm
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    Great points all around.

    I think we’re describing two slightly different things which are “toxic hustle”.

    One is the internalized value of “Work hard and then WORK HARDER!”. When you think that working harder is the solution to every problem, you stop examining causes and contributing factors. When you got even MORE toxic, you start thinking of actually addressing or solving problems as antithetical to “hustle”.

    And there’s the physical manifestation of this, which we SEE when we picture “hustle”. It seems like what we are basically talking about here is in-person sales, marketing, and networking at events. In this case, the hustler is not getting the results they expected. Instead of actually unpacking their behaviors and their results, toxic hustle answers with “go HARDER”.

    And that doesn’t work so they GO EVEN HARDER.

    So, let’s think about solving things.

    Are you aware of times when your hustle has gone toxic?

    Are you willing to take a hard look and risk discovering that your CURRENT HUSTLE might be toxic?

    What does this toxicity look like for YOU?

    And, what thought strategies do you have to get through it?

  • jojabarker

    May 13, 2021 at 10:51 am
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    It does seem that there’s multiple, nuanced facets to this concept of “Toxic Hustle.”

    External and internal.

    Boundaries and defining what success means to oneself.

    Being okay with the choices we make to invest in career vs self-care investment.

    I’m reading (the COMPLETE) Too Much Coffee Man and there’s an introduction from Shannon Wheeler sharing how much he dedicated HIMSELF to the project.

    “I don’t necessarily remember drawing a certain cartoon, but I do remember what was happening in my life at the time. Happy. Sad. Heartbroken. In love. Drunk. Hung over. On deadline and unenthusiastic, inspired and exuberant…I cartooned through it all. And I sacrificed to meet deadlines. I put comics before relationships, health (mental and physical), and wealth. Is it worth it? Probably not. I barely hold on without the added burden of crippling addition. The work it takes maintaining my marginal life makes the thought of adding an addiction or two unimaginable. But who knows. The amount of stuff I don’t know could fill a bucket with a hole in it. The only thing I do know for sure is never doubt yourself…except maybe sometimes.” ~Shannon Wheeler, January 2017 (Introduction, pg 8 [from] “TMCM: Omnibus Plus”)

    It’s excerpts like this I lean on whenever I’m faced with uncertainties as presented here in this discussion.

    …and it may be true that I’m digressing from what’s being questioned, but as the excerpt says I have to ask myself, “Do I want to make those type of sacrifices?”

    Something was addressed about “taking a hard look at oneself” i.e. taking stock a.k.a. an inventory of what’s working and what’s not, and what is worth the work.

    And all I can do is end with another excerpt, “The working artist will not tolerate trouble in [their] life because [they] know trouble prevents [them] from doing [their] work. The working artist banishes from [their] world all sources of trouble. [They] harness the urge for trouble and transform it in [their] work.” ~Steven Pressfield (Resistance and Trouble, pg 24 [from] “The War of Art”)

  • jojabarker

    May 13, 2021 at 11:07 am
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    Now, for a more direct answer(s).

    Am I aware when my “hustle” has gone “toxic” — not always on my own, so I must ask those I trust to help me take an objective look.

    Am I willing to look at what’s not working, again not always because it’s scary…like, y’all mean what’s become familiar (comfortable, EVEN) has to change — no matter if I’m self-destructing?!

    My “toxicity” is not as much a look but how it comes out in the treatment of those around me — family first, then friends, then colleagues, etc. so then it’s especially important for me to nip-it-in-the-bud before the weed(s) evolve into Audrey 2!

    Thought strategies — well, I’m learning the only time I should think is when a confidant is available to be my guide through the Inferno…and once that’s cleared, I return to doing what feels right, what my Spidey-senses say should be the next right thing.

    I don’t know. I haven’t hustled more than what I thought to be hustling.

    In the end, I just live forwards and understand backwards.

  • buddyscalera

    May 16, 2021 at 8:44 am
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    Great topic, @josh-dahl

    Yes, I think “hustle” can be a very toxic thing. There are people who work in comics who are constantly “hustling.”

    At first, it can be very impressive. Then, after a while, some of these people make everything about themselves. They start to believe their own hype.

    It happens. It’s not pretty.