How Stress Can And Can’t Help You With Your Side Hustle

The right stressors will help you immensely — if you let them.

A. Aud
7 min readNov 18, 2020


Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

In the name of having multiple income streams, I’ve spent the past few months starting up a side hustle. I’m not co-founding a big and ambitious startup. Instead, I’m working on a couple of personal projects at the same time. One is a small piece of software that I intend to sell. The other is monetizing my writing.

I originally, and naively, used to think that building a successful side hustle only involved blocking out some time to get cracking after my 9–5 work was done for the day. Boy, was I wrong — even if I didn’t encounter much in the way of practical problems, my own head has been getting in the way of doing productive work.

Nothing is at stake, so little gets done.

Working on side projects is my personal choice, and as a salaried worker, it won’t impact my ability to keep a roof over my head. In other words, I only have something to gain from my projects, but nothing to lose — except perhaps some self-respect — if I decide to drop them.

Nothing is at stake, and if I fail, no one ever even needs to know. That’s the first problem.

Moreover, assuming I continue painstakingly working on my projects over the next few months and years, that doesn’t mean I’m working in a time-effective way. The lack of any real deadlines is a real pain.

Sure, deadlines may be a cause for excessive stress for a lot of us, especially those of us who deal with them on a regular basis as corporate employees. But it turns out stress isn’t all bad — what’s more, there exists such a thing as an optimal level of stress, as defined by the Yerkes-Dodson curve.

What the curve says is that people, predictably, tend to fail when pressure is excessive — a scenario most common in the corporate world and in startups. That’s when burnout happens. Too much is expected of us, in too little time.

Similarly, performance is poor when pressure is not present at all. In that case, we are not incentivized to perform at all. Why do it now, when we could do it tomorrow? Why do it at all, when our livelihood doesn’t depend on it?