#7: Hustle culture
Addiction to being busy =/= fulfilling productivity.
Hi, I’m Erifili Gounari, and this is issue #7 of The Digital Native. This newsletter is aimed at driven, curious and inspired Gen Zers, interested in mindset, entrepreneurship, business, marketing, and more!
Some people will tell you social media is inherently toxic, while others will say that its facilitation of human connection makes it inherently positive. I stand somewhere towards the latter end of the spectrum, but there is one big problem that social media has largely fuelled in the past few years, which is hustle culture.
What is hustle culture? 💭
Originating mainly from the world of Millennials, “hustle culture” is the internet version of workaholism, the glorification of being busy and productive 24/7 and the depiction of such a lifestyle as the only way to be successful. For Gen Z especially, being exposed to such a culture for years through social media has led to an internalised mindset of self worth defined by productivity, an extremely toxic thought pattern that can often be hard to recognise but that the large majority of people have faced in one way or another.
In a world equipped with the tools to be working all the time, moving quickly and being constantly on the go, it is almost normalised now that for someone to be truly successful, they must be spending all of their ‘free’ time working towards something.
This is a way of thinking, a philosophy, and a way of life that has been widely adopted by individuals and businesses alike. When it comes to hustle culture, the harder you work, the more celebrated you are. It doesn't matter whether you skip meals, sleep, or other fundamental activities. Taking rest days is frowned upon, and your brain is conditioned to be busy at all times, producing idea after idea. Of course, being confronted with this description of hustle culture makes it obvious how toxic of a phenomenon it is. But unfortunately, the problem is that most people don’t realise when they’re functioning like that, until it’s already become a clear problem.
Both in the corporate and the startup world alike, hustle culture is widespread and normalised. Companies like Google provide food, doctors, nail and hair salons, gyms, and every single thing an employee could ever need all within the company, thus creating a culture that understandably encourages people to stay at work more, leaving little room for other things. In entrepreneurship, things are not so different. Almost every typically successful entrepreneur you’ll see on social media will be posting about “hustling” and working 24/7, waking up at 5 am to get more things done before the rest of the world even begins, and only rarely will you see these people taking breaks, or showing they do. Portraying constant productivity is glorified and normalised, and unfortunately it is rare to see entrepreneurial and business role models speaking about the quality, instead of the quantity, of work.
Why are we rushing? ⏳
One of the reasons why hustle culture catches on so easily through social media is because it exposes us to people who are insanely productive, achieving milestone after milestone, fast. As we tend to subconsciously equate productivity with success, and quantity of work with quality of work, it’s natural to feel stressed and rushed, as if in your teenage years or early 20s you are for some reason running out of time to achieve something. This whole type of content produced by huge influencers like Gary Vee, whose reach on social media is wide and powerful, leads to especially young people feeling like ambition and hard work should be a lifestyle, rather than a means to a fulfilling end.
Instead of slowing down when you inevitably burn out, it’s important to learn to balance productivity with being present. For people who work a lot, the sensation of feeling stressed when you take breaks or resting is not an unfamiliar one. We rarely decide to slow down to check in with ourselves and evaluate what we are working towards, how fulfilled it’s making us feel, and whether there’s actually any benefit in going as fast as we may be pressuring ourselves to go.
Working from home or living at work? 🏡
Right now, the spread of working from home is bringing entrepreneurs and those who work in corporate positions closer together, as so many across industries and occupations are joining this world that was previously associated with entrepreneurship, that sees founders working at all hours of the day and night, the boundaries of work and life more blurred than ever. Personally, I consider remote work to be one of the most beneficial situations you could have professionally, simply because it gives you freedom in terms of time and location. If you’re lucky, you can define when and where you’ll work, which of course also has its challenges.
Those who have the ability to work from home can easily find themselves practically living at work, as it becomes so easy to accidentally slip into an “always working” mode. A recent Forbes article explained this well, in relation to how the Covid pandemic has made so many people lose sight of when they’re working and when they aren’t:
When the first of lockdowns hit last year, many managers scrambled and stressed over how to ensure their staff was actually working while at home. As it turned out, the opposite problem arose more often than not. With workspaces at home, it has become easy to always be working. That becomes exhausting and isn’t sustainable, so it’s important to remind workers frequently to step away to refuel and recharge.
This includes encouraging employees to take time off, even if they don’t have a planned vacation.
Indeed, when you’re working from home it becomes easier than ever to just keep working simply because you can, always striving to achieve the next milestone while forgetting to slow down when needed. In a recent interview with Steven Bartlett, Grace Beverley, the 24 year old entrepreneur, founder and CEO of two multi-million dollar fitness businesses (TALA + Shreddy), spoke about how she came to realise she was working too much without even honouring the reasons why she thought she was working. Like most people, Beverley said she thought she had been working towards greater personal freedom, but found herself getting a wake-up call when her friend asked her to watch a movie during a weekend and she had to refuse due to work - her friend simply asked What is the point of working 80 hours a week if you’re not even able to watch a movie with a friend on a Saturday night?!
I found that interesting because it simply captures how easy it is to remind ourselves what we are really working towards when we find ourselves ‘hustling’ and trying to be productive during every waking moment. For something that many of us do to achieve a level of personal freedom, thinking that a certain amount of work will grant us the ability to spend more time with loved ones, to travel more, be creative and express ourselves outside of work, it is incredibly easy to get stuck within a never-ending race. Hustle culture has led to so many people feeling guilty if they spend a weekend with friends or watch a movie on a Saturday night, because they are not being productive, and that is not normal. It is so important to be able to filter through what we see on social media, and to learn to be present through things like meditating or writing, so that we can recognise the moment when these beliefs enter our mindset and thus prevent them from controlling the way we live and work.
Since we’re on the topic of productivity, this week’s bookmark is a tool that I love using when I am actually trying to make the most out of the hours I’m dedicating to work. It has been around for a while, but I somehow only just discovered it. It is brain.fm, a website where you can play music specifically selected to help you focus. I tried it a couple of weeks ago while doing university work and I managed to research, plan and write a 3,000 word essay in one afternoon, so consider me very happy. 🥳
Thanks for reading this issue of The Digital Native! I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. Feel free to comment any thoughts below or email me! ☺️
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