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I think it’s safe to say that I’m in a new season of work/life balance. Life looks a lot different these days. However, I can’t hide the fact that I hustled HARD in my 20’s…. really for all of my 20’s! I had the advantage of starting REALLY young and building my business before kids and before bigger responsibilities entered my life. I’m grateful for that…. but before some of you who are trying to build businesses WITH kids get frustrated… let me explain that my hustle didn’t happen without a cost.

This is how it happened.

I started my business and I LOVED it! The rush of building something that was quickly becoming successful was exhilarating!!! I worked hard and threw myself into YEARS of non-stop, beyond crazy work loads, and that became my normal.

Here and there I would feel little internal tugs that some things were slipping in other parts of my life, but I ignored them because when you’re the hustler, you can VERY easily excuse those little heart tugs by saying “Well, I don’t have time to work on that stuff because I HAVE to keep this business running and building momentum!!! It’s succeeding after all, right?! ”  

Yikes. (I’ll tell ya why that’s bad in a minute)….

So fast forward and now the wheels are slowly and subtly falling off in other areas of your life…. maybe for you it’s marriage, relationships, your faith, your relationship with your kids, self-care…. but because you’ve been neck-deep in work for so long, that “work” has scarily become your “happy place”. You can’t step back, slow down, and focus on the other parts of your life because the SAFEST place in your life is in your office…. that’s where you find your identity and that is where you feel most at home and most important and valuable…. so you stay there.

Insert the “victim” mentality phase….

This is when the wheels are long gone, and the rest of your family/friends are ready for a change, and when they ask you to change, you say “Well, WHO IS GOING TO RUN THIS? Who is going to do the hard work and keep this business afloat?! It’s all up to me! There is no escaping this!!!! You can’t expect ANYTHING of me because everything is already ALL ON ME!”. 

Oh heavens.

1. The victim mentality makes EVERYONE else around you feel like they contribute nothing.

2. You become completely unapproachable and

3. The unhealthy cycle just continues to swirl. It’s an entrepreneur’s nightmare, and I’ve lived through it…. and I’m still working on healing the parts of my life that were hurt during my hustle years.

So yea……. starting young and diving in head-first was great. It was smart….. but it’s not the only way. I could have built my business a tad slower and saved my family some heartache in the process. I would have protected myself and Michael from some bad patterns. I may or may not have gotten to where I am today…. but that would have been ok.

I truly believe God allows hard seasons of brokenness to happen in our lives in order to transform us. I believe that I hustled a little too hard and now I’m in a season where I can share my experience and hopefully save hundreds, maybe even thousands of small business owners from the pain of over-working.

Sure, my hustle has resulted in GREAT things financially, and we’re thankful for that… but it came at a cost. Also, I’m not saying that hustle is BAD. Unhealthy hustle is what is bad. When you start to feel those little internal tugs and have thoughts of “Is this too much? Am I neglecting other parts of my life?”….  stop and make changes. You can still be successful… and you can still build an incredible, thriving business…. but you don’t need to do it at the expense of other parts of your life that are way more important.

I’m thankful that we’re in a new season… but transformation is hard… and I know that there are a lot of people who would start down the road to change and feel how uncomfortable it is and just back away…. forever living in the pain of unresolved issues. I sadly think that the majority of people live this way. So if you’re not one to love confrontation, my hope is that my honesty about our journey will allow you to make changes in your life so that you don’t have to walk through a hard season of healing.

So what is the summary of this extremely personal post??

  • Things aren’t always as they seem….
  • People who have succeeded and have grown exponentially haven’t always had a smooth ride…
  • If you’re desperate to experience success and growth, you would be wise to only desire business success to the point at which your lifestyle can handle it.
  • Don’t sacrifice the health of the relationships in your life in order to keep pressing on… it’s not worth it long term.
  • If you’re trying to raise a family, and feed kids in the evenings (and morning, and snack time and afternoon), and you feel like they are keeping you from your dream… it could be God’s way of protecting you from unhealthy hustle.

The DANGER in all of this is that most big dreamers, hard workers, and goal seekers don’t realize how harmful their habits are UNTIL THE DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE. Michael and I NEVER thought something was wrong with our lifestyle and the way we did life and business simultaneously. We actually LOVED those busy years!!! We don’t regret the travel, and the big adventures, and the amazing opportunities!! We regret the way we handled stress…. I regret the way I let the business steal so much of my joy when I was in over my head… I regret falling into the hurtful cycle of unhealthy hustle! Everything that we’ve had to work through was hidden under layers of built up walls, and we’ve spent three years tearing them down.

If this resonates with you…. let me know…. because I would love to know that this vulnerable post was meant for someone!! And if I’m not the only one who has experienced this cycle in business and in life, then we will have some more resources for you all coming in the next month or so. :)

xoxo, Katelyn
29 Comments Ask Anything, Blog, Personal
  1. Rhonda reply

    This hits home! I know I spend way too much time trying to build, and success is very slow. I am on the opposite end of the scale though retired teacher. Sometimes I regret the time aging parents and grands keep me from business. Then the guilt of even thinking those thoughts hit even harder! Love you Katelyn! Praying for you! Thank you!

  2. tiffany reply

    Thank you so much for your vulnerability for sharing, Katelyn (and Michael!) I’ve been in that “hustle hard” mode for 4 years, and the strain of neglecting the rest of life is definitely taking a toll. As another husband/wife team (and Christians!) my husband and I have loved following along your journey, and being your students (KJ All Access most recently!). Thank you for sharing your heart, and encouraging us!!!!

  3. Elizabeth reply

    Thank you for sharing this! It is so necessary and very relevant to my life. I needed to hear this.

  4. Makenzie reply

    YES. Yes, yes, and more YES.

  5. Stephanie reply

    Thank you sooooo much for this post! You have no idea how much I desperately needed this today :)

  6. Elizabeth reply

    Yesss!! I struggle so so much with this. I had to create boundaries, and commit to sticking to them. For example, I don’t bring my laptop home from work anymore bc I know I’ll be tempted to work at home. It’s definitely a struggle too bc I’m single and still going so it’s easy to say “once I’m in a relationship I’ll change…” but in reality I’ll just be setting myself for a tough road ahead. I love that you say there’s nothing wrong with hustle and wanting to be successful, but you definitely have to be mindful of the other areas it impacts.

  7. Marquette Mower reply

    This definitely resonates. I realized the hurt I was doing early last year and it was like a slap in the face. It is so much easier to hustle, but the best things in life usually aren’t the easiest. Motherhood, even 4 years into it, doesn’t feel natural to me and it is easier to hide in my business. But those days where stay in the boundaries I’ve set to keep myself from hiding in my business, those days end with such a sweet feeling and such sweet memories with the family. It’s hard, much harder than I really care to admit to myself because I feel so unnatural at motherhood, but it really is worth every bit of hard work to step back from business and to step into my family. This post is exactly what I needed today to help me realize that I’ve slipped back into hiding this week. It’s time to come back out. Thank you!

  8. Christin reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I have three boys (13, 11, 5) and that last line on the bullet points of God protecting me from the unhealthy pattern was such an encouraging reminder. I’m working on not escaping into my business and bad hustle and I’m so excited for the upcoming resources!

  9. Sara reply

    I REALLY appreciate you sharing this post. Every single person, no matter what, has highs and lows and times of struggle in their life. It’s just that the struggles vary from person to person. And it’s easy for someone to see someone else on the internet and think, “They have the perfect life! They’ve done everything perfectly. I wish I was like them and why aren’t I?” I think that’s almost the danger of the internet. Knowing that everyone, even very successful people like you (I call you the queen of photography in my house and am in three of your four courses!!) have times of struggle is so good of you to share because it’s so relatable. So thank you and I’m so glad things are better, especially for you and your family! I love how you wrote on your birthday post that having two little ones will be a new kind of hustle – YES!! As a mom of two I can tell you it’s a very wild ride and life changes constantly, month to month, because your babies change so much month to month. You will do great but it’s so, so good to go into any new experience or life transition knowing that there’s going to be peaks and valleys, always.

  10. Elaina reply

    Thamk you for sharing this. I am mid-hustle and wanting to spend more time with my 2 year old and husband but we went into debt to start this business that it is now a vicious circle. Hopefully I can slow down and see that it will be ok and if not maybe it was not meant to be.

  11. Colleen reply

    I didn’t start my business until my youngest (of 3) started school…and even then, I learned early on that I didn’t want to miss their soccer games or fun family activities when they were home on the weekend. It’s difficult to perhaps put “dreams” on hold…or if you’re a perfectionist like me, it might mean not going “full steam ahead” chasing ideal clients and going after the 6-figures…I heard all the younger photographers hustling like crazy and I felt left behind…at the same time, I wouldn’t trade the 12 years I spent at home without any other distraction other than play time, bath time, story time, etc…there was definitely a lifestyle decision financially too, but when you aren’t focused on everyone else’s “highlight reel”, you find contentment in choosing what is best for you & your family.

  12. Briar reply

    I am also a wedding, and portrait photographer as well as a full time teacher. I actually made a post about this last night. It is hard for me to slow down because unlike you, I am starting my business late in life. I just turned 40…. loved this blog!!!!

  13. Amruta Bakre reply

    I have an exact opposite problem, I don’t hustle enough, I put my family first. And let me tell you that’s terrible. Money and being financially independent is so imp, and yes it comes at a cost, like everything else! You are amazing, I want to be more like you, I want to be more driven.

    • Katelyn James reply

      Very true… the opposite end of the spectrum is hard as well. I know other business owners who struggle with this. They love the idea of running their own business but if someone isn’t MAKING them do something, it doesn’t get done! It’s hard for sure!!!

  14. Robin reply

    Thank you for your honesty…

  15. Lori reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Feeling like i’m this midst of the over-working and hustle of things right now and trying to step aside and schedule the priorities(work, schedules, etc) in my life so I am able to focus on my family and my well being. We all need to give ourselves a little grace and breath. Thank you!!

  16. Christina Wheless reply

    Sitting at my desk in my classroom, crying because this is my current state right now. 101%. Feeling empty and drained. I have “hustled” hard for so long, that now it feels like I am failing in everything that I do.

  17. Cristin reply

    Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve been raising babies for the last 18 years, and I feel like all I’ve done is sacrifice for my family. There’s a huge part of me that longs for a thriving photography business, and I question how much of that dream is even realistic. There’s such a fine line, isn’t there? It’s comforting to see someone who’s reached your level of success share the same struggles.

  18. Alisha Cornett reply

    Oooh man!! “If you’re desperate to experience success and growth, you would be wise to only desire business success to the point at which your lifestyle can handle it“ this one hit the nail on the head for me! I started my tiny business in 2012 and just now have I really wanted it to GROW and to serve my clients really well. But in between those years of started and now I’ve brought two sweet baby girls into this world, kept my full time job, and tried to keep my marriage in a healthy place as well! It’s a balancing act for sure!!
    Our women’s group at church just started a Bible Study by Kelly Minter-No Other Gods, and I’m really struggling with what motivates me and drives me to keep doing all of this. I definitely have a lot of praying and soul searching to do this year to make sure my dreams of success don’t interfere with my time with and focus on God.
    So thankful that I came across your education courses last summer! Thanks for all you do, Katelyn! xo

  19. Ellen reply

    THANK YOU!!!! You have no idea how much I needed to read this. I’m a little slow but the Lord is persistent and this is a message that is coming at me from ALL sides right now!

  20. Ashwin724 reply

    Really this is an Excellent blog it will help me out thank you so much for sharing it.

  21. Renee Weyant reply

    Wow, how true! Great post.

  22. Mandy B reply

    Such good advice!

  23. mangafox reply

    This definitely resonates. I realized the hurt I was doing early last year and it was like a slap in the face. It is so much easier to hustle, but the best things in life usually aren’t the easiest. Motherhood, even 4 years into it, doesn’t feel natural to me and it is easier to hide in my business. But those days where stay in the boundaries I’ve set to keep myself from hiding in my business, those days end with such a sweet feeling and such sweet memories with the family. It’s hard, much harder than I really care to admit to myself because I feel so unnatural at motherhood, but it really is worth every bit of hard work to step back from business and to step into my family. This post is exactly what I needed today to help me realize that I’ve slipped back into hiding this week. It’s time to come back out. Thank you!

  24. Peyton Neal reply

    Katelyn, thank you so much for this! I’m a sophomore in college and just over a year into my business! I find it extremely difficult on the business side to manage things because I never knew I’d be where I am so somedays, I feel like I am drowning. I know you understand learning how to manage this and being a full-time involved college student all at once. This has been so helpful for me. I’m “an everything” photographer at the moment as the part of my hustle in trying to learn and grow my business. Couples and weddings are my heart! Thank you so much for this! Transferring to university in the fall in a new town, I want to take my business with me which carries new challenges itself so this post is everything!! Thank you SO much!

  25. Brendan – Photo MBA reply

    Ugh. I’ve definitely been there, too! I highly recommend reading High Performance Habits. It was extremely helpful for me in defining why I felt like I was drowning, despite being “successful” but so many external metrics.

  26. Yosmaira Ochoa reply

    I really needed to hear this today, Katelyn thank you for always being so transparent and loving towards others! I have been feeling lost and depressed lately since I decided to focus a little more on my almost Kindergartner. I have hope that things will turn out even better then I could even imagine them to be!

  27. Amy Brown reply

    Oh my heavens yes. I am a newbie to photography. Literally waking up at 6am thinking about studying photography, and learning how to make it a successful business for so many reasons. I deal with learning the balance with ministry. How much of myself can I give to others at the expense of my family before my family is hurt? Already today I felt the battle raging as I wanted to finish a video on posing, yet the kiddos are running up the halls, playing with the bathroom sink, and yelling at each other (just one of those days). Where/what are my priorities and what is the expense of following a dream? Asking myself that today. Great blog!

  28. Eliana Toorkey reply

    I would like to bookmark the page so I can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job prayer times.Thanks!
    http://www.onedollarwebhostings.com/ is one of the best hosting packages where you can also get a free domain name for your business startup.

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