I find myself co-existing with a very driven crowd of young people today. This population that I speak of, is unlike anything I have ever heard of or experienced interacting with.
Nowadays, we have the teenage entrepreneurs; the hard-working, college-going adults; those who balance securing a perfect GPA with building a solid CV; the LinkedIn champions; and the future, “professional assets”.
What’s the common factor between them all? The will to keep going no matter what…
They will “grind” and “hustle” non-stop, until they are satisfied with the empire they have been able to build for themselves—through blood, sweat and tears.
I present to you, the toxic culture of “hustle”, ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between and beyond. The action of stopping has no value in it. Your worth is evaluated based on how much you have achieved, at the end of the day.
It is a culture built and sustained by overbearing parents, pushy teachers, competitive peers and I saved my personal favourite for the last—hustle culture influencers.
Hustle culture can also be understood as burnout culture, workaholism or toxic productivity). It is all about constantly working. Those who hustle attempt to devote as many hours as possible to work.
Outwardly, hustle culture seems like a high-energy, motivational movement that comes with expected rewards.
For most people, working long hours is typically associated with moving up the corporate ladder faster, making six-figures in the shortest amount of time possible, or earning passive income due to around-the-clock hard work.
But, working hard and for long does not come without its disadvantages. As much as devoting one’s life to the non-stop work might yield positive, financial results, it can be a burden, mentally. Additionally, it can also affect various areas of productivity and damage one’s work ethic.
Research has shown that increased stress levels lead to reduced professional productivity. To produce quality work, employees must achieve personal satisfaction and conscientiousness rather than simply increase their workload.
Data has also shown that there exists a positive association between well-being and productivity. So, by putting workers in a constant state of stress, hustle culture is actually, paradoxically, impairing productivity.
- It kills creativity: Studies show that people who work more than 50 hours a week eventually become less creative, as compared to those who work less than 50 hours.
- Glamorises workaholism: Social media is filled to the brim with posts and videos related to hustling. So many self made entrepreneurs like Tai Lopez or Grant Cordon prescribe the non-stop worklife. Basically, presenting it in the form of if more work is equal to success, then someone who works a lot is naturally successful.
- Makes you less productive: Multiple studies have shown that those who get more rest and time for recovery, end up being more productive. A great example of that is the four day work week experiment that was done in Iceland.Researchers in Iceland found that a four-day work week, without a pay cut, improved workers’ well-being and productivity. They noted that, “Worker well-being dramatically increased across a range of indicators, from perceived stress and burnout, to health and work-life balance.”
A major result of working the way the hustle demands is that it can lead to fatigue. I have seen it among a lot of my contemporaries.
I spoke to to Kyra Mittal*, a 20-year-old and the president of a social organisation. Mittal is a college-going student, and involved in various fellowships.
She talked about how she works for almost 15 hours a day. Three quarters of her day goes in studying, managing her organisation, and making sure that she is catching up with college.
“Burnout has become an everyday thing honestly. I feel tired constantly. Telling myself to miss even a day’s work is like asking myself to take vacation.”
She laughed and continued, “Vacations are not an option, because then I feel like I am lagging behind. For me, it’s even worse than losing sleep. So, I deal with it.”
Her laughter has a shade of remorse. I don’t blame her. The propagated pattern of success for most young adults is telling them that to stop is to be left behind.
If you want to go to an ivy league institution or work for the best corporations, your résumé needs to shout that you have done nothing but work in life.
But, is this the age to feel tired? While I do believe that working, finding a career path is important, it is more important to do it all in moderation.
Burnout, fatigue are big and scary terms to associate a growing adult with. It paints them to be near the beginning of the end. This needs to be reversed. A healthier work ethic needs to be followed by up and coming hard workers.
Regardless of prescribed notions, it is important that one finds their footing in lockstep with their mental capacity to cope.
In the everyday rush of work and life, people are forgetting to give themselves mental leeway. The mind has become accustomed to constantly working and therefore, giving oneself a break is no longer considered an option.
However, recovery and rest are so important in the process of working and being productive. Getting proper sleep, participating in recreational activities or exercising daily, are some prescribed ways of taking a break.
Rest is vital to ensure that our mental stress does not stop us from achieving our goals.
So many business gurus hence now talk about the importance of work-life balance. Gary Vaynerchuk is one such person. It is refreshing to see him shift from promoting the hustle.
He talks about how to improve one’s business in a paced way, while paying attention to one’s family, health, and getting enough sleep.
Change starts at the most basic levels. We need to firstly break the taboo that working hard and fast is the road to success. When parents start letting their children be and explore on their own, it already sets wheels of change in motion.
Teachers do not need to psych their students about the fact that the rat race is on, and that they are falling behind. As for the content on social media, I humbly request my fellow young people to look beyond the 40-hour work week.
There is no need to put up with intolerable work environments and patterns which don’t suit you.
We all want to be rich in three, easy steps. So many Instagram pages tell us how to do this, too. But, we need a fourth step, which is to go easy on yourself. No one built their empire in a day. You will not either, unless you win the lottery.
I am not someone who believes that happiness is more important than money… Not at all! A lot of times money is needed to facilitate our happiness. But, I do believe that professional success at the cost of your long term well-being is a con we shouldn’t fall for.
So, do work, but also rest. Aim for success, but don’t lose your sleep over it. You will reach the pinnacle only when you are not tired from climbing.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program.