I had a nice chat with a friend few weeks ago — on how he felt overwhelmed seeing his circle of friends’ activities. They have day job plus few other side hustles; they posted motivational quotes from Gary Vaynerchuk on hustling on their IG Story — pushing him to work as hard — or even harder than those friends of his as if there’s this constant voice whenever he wants to slow down a bit: ‘don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done’.
It’s great, I think, to have this mentality. Being productive is good — but productivity differs from one person to another. This friend of mine eventually found himself in a position where he thinks he doesn’t hustle enough. Why is everyone already own a house or a small business while all I’m looking forward to once I’m finished my day job is what movie I’ll Netflix tonight. As if Netflix-ing after long hard day at work become something embarrassing because you actually rest. Now it’s not enough that we love our work, but we also need to dedicate our lives for the sake of working hard.
And it’s not just this one friend of mine. Over the last few years we have fallen victim to what is now being called “Hustle Culture.” By hustle culture, I mean the collective urge we currently seem to feel as a society to work harder, stronger, faster. To grind ourselves at our maximum capacity, every day, and accomplish our goals and dreams at an accelerated speed that matches the digital world we’ve built around ourselves. Everyday. Hustle culture does not sleep. Hustle culture does not Netflix. Hustle culture is waking up Saturday morning and making business plan instead of scrambled eggs.
Don’t get me wrong, working hard is important. My dad worked in military and my mom’s a teacher. There’s no such thing as slacking off in my family. They’ve been telling me to work hard. You have to work hard to get what you want. I first-hand witnessed the value of being persistent towards your dreams, never giving up, and constantly striving for a better life. We can’t sit around expecting for our circumstances to improve without putting in the work and effort.
With that being said, I have this one question. While a commitment to long hours of hard work to earn success has been widely celebrated, is this tendency turning toxic and hindering one’s potential and goals?
Toxic productivity, in my opinion, is when no matter how productive you might have been, there is always a feeling of guilt for not having done more. To me, this looks like developing unhealthy habits like skipping meals, not drinking enough water, and not sleeping enough. Anxiety attacks and breakdowns can also being added into that equation. I find the hustle culture is pervasive. It can drain you, emotionally and physically. Most importantly, disconnected you from reality. Another friend of mine become really cranky at work because she only slept four hours per day (doing her day job and side hustle at night) — and finally shut herself down to opinions and constructive feedbacks. This is toxic. It can drown you like that.
This fervent, cultish attitude toward work is undoubtedly aided by social media. After all, social media has a way of making us feel like we’re never doing enough or being good enough. People brag about their achievements and share their sentiments about how they achieved success on Facebook and Instagram. We note all of the applause and praise that this brings, and we begin to yearn for more of the same. We are continually bombarded with news about professional accomplishments and successful business projects on social media platforms.
We rarely hear on Instagram about failed companies, job rejections, unstable jobs, underemployment, or unemployment, and we rarely hear about the psychological effects of success stories. We are encouraged to curate a ‘perfect’ (culturally influenced) picture of ourselves on social media. This places a great deal of pressure on young people (and the not so young ones like myself) to meet unreasonable expectations.
So the next question would be this: How much of our work is genuinely productive, and how much of it is an addiction to being busy?
Celinne Da Costa on her Forbes article said that anything that doesn’t support your purpose will take a backseat until you know what you’re working on and why you’re working on it.
Being deliberate about my vision to inspire visionary leaders to tell stories that bind them profoundly to their audience, up-level their brand, and scale their business with effect has resulted in the most effective (and results-producing) work I’ve done.
Again, productivity looks different for each individual. Indeed that long hours and hard work are important, and even necessary, but too much focus on hustling creates an unsustainable culture of panic and desperation. Respect the fact that we all have hard-wired physical, mental, and emotional limits as humans. Strive to create an environment that not only recognizes and rewards hard work, but also values and rewards workers who take care of themselves and stick to fair boundaries.
We could (and should) still commit to working hard and occasionally putting in extra hours if we needed to, but we also needed to release the guilt that often plagued us when we needed to rest. Toni Carey on her SELF article said that,
I continuously repeated to myself that the art of self-care is simply reminding ourselves over and over again that life doesn’t need to be all or nothing.
and in the words of Rachel Wilkerson Miller on self-care, it’s about assessing how you feel, understanding what you need in that moment to feel better (or to not feel worse).
Maybe you’ve never actually reached the point of burnout yourself. In that case, stopping burnout before it can start is even more important than healing from its effects. I’m not suggesting that people should stop working hard; rather, we should be mindful of why we do it.
Giving up on aspirations and dreams is not the answer; rather, being thoughtful about how we pursue them should come first. We owe it to ourselves and our health to live a healthy lifestyle. We will put an end to this silent pandemic and leave the toxicity of this hustle culture behind us if we change our attitude of insufficiency to mindset of adequateness.
Previously Published on medium
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