What's better for indie hackers and why: Hustling or building slow-and-steady? Why?
I don't see these two as conflicting ideas. You can hustle in a slow and steady fashion. Someone who hustles by pacing evenly can win the marathon. Similarly, someone can hustle and sprint through the 100 meter dash. Different approaches to different applications.
Instead, I interpret see the slow and steady approach as the antithesis to "move fast and break things," which I don't think has panned out well for us. Facebook is often regarded as the pioneer in this, and I'm not sure anyone can make a case for Facebook and their approach having been a net positive for humanity. Quite the opposite, actually.
I don't think anyone can say for sure what's better for indie hackers. I'm not completely against moving fast and breaking things, as long as the things you're breaking don't have a widely detrimental impact to society. As a perfectionist myself, I've forced myself to "break" something I'm building just to combat that perfectionism and learn to say it's "good enough."
With that said, it's also important to recognize that details often do matter, and they can oftentimes make the difference. Your polished product that contains no typos could be the delta that makes a customer choose your product over a competitor's. I've been on both sides of this.
If you're a hustler, is there an end in sight when you can slow down or do you want to do this forever?
As of this writing, there's no end in sight. I love building stuff. For years now, I've recognized that my ambition's constantly at war with my complacence. And it's a struggle, because on the one hand, it's rare to have that sort of drive. I could easily do my work at a 9-5, go home, and binge TV shows and movies. But I can't.
On the other hand, as I've gotten older, I've become somewhat envious of those who can disconnect and aren't in a rush to do things on top of other responsibilities. Those who are able to do nothing. They're finding happiness and enjoyment in other things that I haven't found. They're living more balanced. To each their own.
It seems to me that oftentimes they're also healthier, because they're not constantly stressing about all the different projects and opportunities and running through endless to-do lists. While I've gotten better at it, I'm still not where I wanna be in terms of prioritizing diet and physical health, for example. And I don't want it to be too late to do that, because we'll end up paying for it later on.
The way I see it, I'll still be building for years to come—purely because I enjoy it. But I'm also gonna have to coach myself harder and be more strict in prioritizing health, social activities, and other aspects of my life.
If you're a hustler, how do you do it? And how do you stay consistent without burning out?
I do burn out—far more than I'd like to admit. One of the nice things about having many projects in flight is that when one is waning on me, I can jump to another one. Sometimes I'll encounter a bigger/more challenging task that requires more time and effort in one project, so I'll procrastinate on it by doing smaller tasks on a different one that still need to be done. That way, I don't lose my work flow, and I get energized from having taken care of some other things that needed to be done too.
Another thing—and this'll sound silly—is I'll try to change up minor things about my workspace. Whether physical or digital, some minor changes can be fun and energizing.
Here's an example: I've figured out that mechanical keyboards make me more productive for some reason. I don't know why. I'm not an expert on mechanical keyboards or anything, but for some reason, I love the audial and haptic feedback that mechanical keyboards provide. So I have two mechanical keyboards—blue cap and brown cap. They feel and sound differently. When the battery of the keyboard that I'm using runs out, I swap it for the other one.
And in cases where I'm just on my laptop's keyboard and I don't get the clicky haptic feedback that magically also seems to increase my words per minute and reduce my typing errors, I use a desktop app that mimicks different mechanical keyboard sounds. It sounds goofy, I know, but for some reason it works for me.
Find what works for you.
If you are *not* a hustler, do you ever feel like you're moving too slowly?
As I've gotten older, I've started to fluctuate between moving fast and moving slowly. Experimenting with this has been really interesting, and my friends (none of them indie hackers) have actually noticed a difference. I've also noticed the quality of my work in different situations as I think about building calmly and taking after "calm" companies. Being fully remote and async helps a lot with this. (Plus, it improves your thinking, because it forces you to organize your thoughts when you're writing everything down.)
For example: I live in Chicago. I hate the cold. I need sun and warmth in my life. I actually really enjoy hoodie weather, but I've gotten less patient about needing to wear endless layers and deal with the inconveniences of snow, ice, cold, etc.
Because of this, I've gotten better about maximizing summertime Chi. This summer, I've made a conscious effort to move "slower" and consciously ignore my endless to-do lists in an effort to enjoy Chicago in the summer (especially because it's so short-lived). And you know what? I don't regret it.
Do I wish I had written more of the 200+ blog post ideas that are on my backlog? Sure. Do I wish I had crossed off some stuff that I set out to achieve? Of course. But I don't regret hanging out with friends, playing sports, trying new things, riding my Kaabo Wolf scooter by the lake, etc. I know how easy it is for me to turn into a hermit in the winter, so yes, while I've felt that sometimes I've moved slower than I typically like, I don't regret it because prioritizing life things outside of indie hacking has been beneficial in other ways.
If you are *not* a hustler, how do you get enough done?
Putting the "hustler" label aside, I'll say this: wanting to be increasingly productive has inevitably resulted in me being really good at using my keyboard to move around my computer. The less you can use your mouse the better. Find little shortcuts like these, and you'll do more than someone else can in the same amount of time.
Whether you fill up your newly-saved time with more work or you use it to take a break is up to you, but at least you have the option.
Finding little workflow hacks here and there will go a long way. Being in advisory for years, I can't tell you how many resources are wasted and how many could be saved with a few minor tips and tricks. Most of which are pretty low effort, too. I'm not even referring to automating or anything like that.
Realistically, most people probably do a little bit of both. What is your mix? When do you go easy vs when do you hustle? And how does that look in practice (you day-to-day)?
This is answered already, but I'll add something else: I've started to recognize more often that when I'm not productive, I should indulge in "slacking off." If I'm out of rhythm, and I try to get myself in rhythm, but I don't find success, then I'm gonna go the other way and do something else.
Once the marginal utility of doing that other activity has decreased, I'll try something else, or try to get into a rhythm. Rinse and repeat.
Many days I just have be honest with myself and realize that I didn't sleep well, or I'm really hungry and I need to eat immediately (rather than continue to put it off), etc.
I'm far from perfect in how I manage all this, but being conscious of it is the first step. After that, I'm in a constant state of testing.
Do you think hustle culture has had a positive impact on the indie hacking space (and the world) or a negative impact?
If you asked me this years ago, I would've said positive. I would've defended hustle culture through and through. I was a huge Gary Vaynerchuk fan. I subscribed all of those hustle culture concepts. I even wrote an open letter to Gary that I never actually published (because I fell victim to perfectionism and impostor syndrome). I was committed to the concept of "closing your eyes until you're 30."
Now, I realize it's all bullshit. Yeah, you gotta work hard. But that's only part of the equation. There are so many variables that go into building something successful. So many that you don't even realize. And you know what? I vastly underestimated the concept of luck. Because let's be honest—luck plays a helluva a lot more of a role than we like to admit.
The thing about hustle culture and why it appeals to us is that it's simple. The principles are easy to grasp, and when they're delivered by a "rockstar" entrepreneur that's really good at self-promotion and marketing, it's incredibly easy to fall victim to the hustle culture. I know, because that was me years ago.
I followed all the hustle culture rules. I took the advice. I closed my eyes and worked my ass off. I ignored my physical and mental health. I turned down social invites so that I could hustle while everyone else was out having a good time. I neglected the people that were closest to me. And you know what that resulted in? The worst mental and physical health of my life, fractured friendships, severe depression, and ultimately losing the one person that I never thought I could lose—my girlfriend, best friend, and then-life partner that I knew for half my life.
If you're reading this, and you're super pro-hustle culture, cool. Maybe you haven't found any downsides to it. Maybe you're in the honeymoon stage of it still. I hope you feel that way for a long time and find success with it. That used to be me, and I too thought that it would never come to an end. I thought it was the right way to approach things.
I was wrong.
I also hope you're not lying to yourself. I know I wasn't. But at some point, I realized that we can't see our own blind spots. I just hope you don't need to go through severe events like I did in order to see those blind spots and what hustle culture actually resulted in.
What would you tell indie hackers who are just starting out, regarding how much to work and why? What advice would you give them?
Experiment—a lot. Prioritize. Determine what you're willing to sacrifice. Figure out if you're willing to live with the consequences of your decisions.
Be moral. Operate ethically. Don't follow in the steps of Big Tech. Don't "move fast and break things" in that context. Don't "ask for forgiveness instead of permission" when it comes to large consequential things.
It takes a longass time to undo those decisions. Just look at how broken our digital lives are today:
- The enshittification of the internet is here. It sucks—for everyone.
- Companies don't respect our privacy. We need to go to extreme lengths just to protect a basic human right.
- Cars are the worst privacy invaders.
- You don't think privacy matters? Okay, let's check back in when you're prosecuted by innocent association or when your insurance discriminates against you and charges triple the premiums of already ridiculous prices because of a preexisting condition—or denies coverage altogether.
- We no longer have a choice in things. It's either iOS or Android. Either Apple Maps or Google Maps.
- Only Big Tech can compete (with Big Tech). No one else even has a chance to compete.
- Monopolies and duopolies rule now.
- Vendor lock-in is at an all-time high. Try breaking out of Apple's ecosystem. It's possible, but it's not something anyone wants to spend time on. (I know, because I did it last year.)
- Nothing is interoperable. View tweets? Get a Twitter account. Share a post on Facebook? Be bound to Facebook's terms of service. Instagram? Owned by Facebook, but different proprietary formats. Open protocol for messaging? Nah, proprietary iMessage protocol.
Whatever you do, please don't make the internet (and by default, our lives) worse. Much appreciated.