The Unhealthy Version of Hustle

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I'm Katelyn James Alsop, a photographer, educator and momma who believes any photographer can have a profitable AND purposeful business.


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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. :)


Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

Student Spotlight July 2021

Ah! It’s our FINAL STUDENT SPOTLIGHT!!! This July post has been a long time coming but it’s HERE and it’s LIVE and I want you to help me celebrate these amazing photographers who are making their dreams happen!!!


This six month update feels like it’s weirdly disproportionate compared to other monthly updates! Why is that? Well, last month I posted a couple of sets of images that were actually at the beginning of his sixth month and THEN we photographed multiple weddings, had several trips away from home for a few days and the dads were for several days!


Rhett’s Sixth Month


Hope + Jesse A Gillbrook Farms Wedding

Hope and Jesse are the sweetest couple. You can just feel it when you’re with them! You can see it when you watch them interact. You can hear it in the stories that their family members and best friends shared about them. They are truly soulmates and best friends. They have an undeniable love for one another and that is why even a rainy, misty wedding day could be incredibly vibrant, warm and joyful!!


Rhett’s Fifth Month

Rhett’s fifth month was full of fun. It’s crazy to me that I know I only take my big camera to about 10% of the things we do in a month and yet each month is SO full.


This beautiful wedding day took place in the rolling hills of West Virginia, just past the Virginia state line. Wild Goose Farm is a venue that I’ve never photographed before and let me tell you, it was a treat! We didn’t even have the sun join us for most of the day and yet we were able to capture beautiful portraits! Between the horses, old fences, stunning estate home, lily pad covered pond, old stone walls, rustic barn, open fields and a historic stone arch, I was in photographer heaven!


Brian + Shannon A Wild Goose Farm Wedding


Tim + Megan | Engaged Countryside Engagement Portraits | Harrisonburg

This session was just as sweet as it looks. We spent the evening with Megan and Tim in the country outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia. We were tucked away in the rolling hills in between beautiful fields and family farms. It reminded me all over again why I just love Virginia. We really have it all… beaches, mountains, history, and great schools! JMU, while it did play a role in Tim and Megan’s story, isn’t actually where it started!



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