In a recent blog, Jordan talked about “hustle culture” and how it affects our mental and physical wellbeing and quality of life. Hustle culture is a term used to refer to the “rise and grind” attitude of work, work, work. It is what Jordan calls the “the ethos of constantly working your butt off in the pursuit of some vague goal, no matter the cost”.
Hustle culture puts work on a pedestal that towers over everything else in our lives. It “glorifies nonstop labor, brute-force drive….as well as the publicity of that effort, by constantly talking and posting about how damn hard you’re working” and what you are sacrificing, even if what you are giving up is friendship, sanity or joy. It may look like resilience, but it is what Jordan calls “blind resilience”.
Hustle culture is underpinned by the assumption that it is always possible to break through and improve your situation, IF you are just motivated enough and work hard. Of course, in certain situations it is good to emphasize hard work and achieving your goals, but this should not consume your every waking moment or destroy the things which make your life worth living.
In fact, it is unhealthy to think that you can excel at everything all the time IF you are motivated enough. It doesn’t take mere motivation to be good at something or succeed at something.
Unfortunately, the purveyors of hustle culture tap into this desire to be “more than” that many of us have-the longing to have purpose and our fear of failure. They manipulate these feelings to sell us stuff that they promise will get us to where we want to be, IF we are motivated and work hard. Baked into this attitude is the assumption that “anyone who doesn’tdevote their life to rising and grinding is scared, lazy, defective, entitled and/or unworthy of success”. As Jordan points out, this is the unfortunately common idea that “work = good, work = success, work = the only way to live a fulfilling life”. It is a one-size-fits-all lie.
Hustle culture often leads to burnout, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, shame and many other issues that affect our mental and physical health and quality of life. Say, for example, you work really hard but what you are trying to achieve doesn’t work out. According to hustle culture, it is because you are unworthy of success, lazy, bad and so on. The fault lies in you, and you alone, which is an incredibly toxic mindset to have. Hustle culture sells people a lie, that if they do x then y will happen, and then places the blame on the individual when things don’t work out. They sell the destination, not the journey, and blame the individual for not achieving the impossible. It is about entrapment, not empowerment.
We need to remember that failure is part of life. Things often do not work out as planned, for a multiplicity of reasons, even if we have the best of intentions, are incredibly motivated and work really hard. Hustle culture sells the lie that this is not the case—it denies the nature of what it means to be human and to live in a world that is complex and multifaceted.
Work is an important part of life, yes, but it is not the only way to have a fulfilling life. The simple idea that more work is always better is a recipe for misery. There is a lot more to life than just working!
Most people who are high performers get meaning from their work, not the results of their work. For these people, it is not about the yachts, fancy cars or flying first class. It is about what they do—the journey, not the destination. They find meaning in their work, whereas hustle culture places emphasis on the destination and traffics in negative emotions to get there. Hustle culture wants you to feel like a failure so you keep trying to get ahead. It wants you to feel that if you don’t get these results, such as getting rich, driving a fancy car or flying first class, then you can’t be happy, which is simply not true.
If you think that you have to work, work, work and get rich to be happy, then that’s a good sign that you are listening to toxic hustle culture. Even if you magically got all the results of working hard tomorrow, you wouldn’t necessarily be content, because you are not focused on fulfillment, which is what truly adds meaning and purpose to life.
Work is about the journey, not just the destination. True creativity and learning often occurs in the moments when we are not just focusing on “work, work, work”—when we give ourselves time to let our minds wander.
Thankfully, there are ways we can quit toxic hustle culture and start living a more fulfilled life:
- Keep track of your thoughts. If your thoughts are focused on new opportunities or approaches, this is good. But if your thoughts are only focused on what you have not done or what you need to do to get “ahead” or achieve what someone else has achieved, you are letting hustle culture shape your thinking. Focus on how and what you are thinking about—don’t let hustle culture shape your mind and choices!
- Embrace, don’t suppress, uncomfortable emotions. Negative feelings like anxiety and grief do not mean you are a failure. These are feelings you can learn from. Hustle culture preys on negative emotions to manipulate and commodify you—don’t give it this power over your life! Learn to get comfortable with uncomfortable emotions like disappointment and anxiety, and explore them; these feelings are signals telling you about what is going on in your life.
- Don’t look for quick fixes. Working on yourself and finding fulfillment takes time. This will look different for different people, so don’t compare your journey to other people, and be wary of anyone who offers you a one-size-fits-all approach to success.
- Study your patterns. Are you actually making progress? Is your fulfillment going up? Or do you feel like you are going backwards? What patterns do you observe in your life? Has hustling and grinding actually gotten you anywhere? When you become aware of your patterns, you will have a better grip not only on where your life is going, but also where you WANT your life to go—that is, what direction your life takes and why.
- Create your own values. Don’t just let hustle culture dictate what you value and seek after. What do you actually want? How do you want your life to play out? What do you value? What principles underscore the way you live your life? Family first? Health first? When you know your own values and principles, you will be less likely to be swayed by hustle culture’s empty promises.
- Watch what you consume. What kind of things are you exposed to? Are you “addicted” to hustle culture content? What can you change? Can you listen to things that are more helpful and fulfilling? Our brains merge with our environments—what is shaping your brain and thinking? Are you consuming a lot of hustle culture, rise and grind content? How can you change this?
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