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The Sad Truth About Hustle Culture

Let’s admit it: society puts a premium on hard work. Since time immemorial, people have been taught that working long hours leads to moving up the corporate ladder faster. Society has ingrained in our system that you can succeed in life and achieve anything you want, as long as you work hard enough. For decades, the commitment to long hours of hard work and toiling has been celebrated.

Hustle Culture 101.

There have been one too many ways that people are encouraged to keep going, whatever it may take. At one point in our lives, we’ve all heard of these phrases.

“Hard work pays off.”

“No pain, no gain.” 

“Work harder than you think you did yesterday.”

 “Work hard to have a good result.”

“Nothing worth having comes easy.”

But should you?

There’s no question that working hard is important. Oftentimes, it’s a major ingredient in achieving success. But does this mean that the grind should never stop? Is there really a need to glorify work?

Remember: everything that is excessive can be harmful or dangerous. And this rings true to work. Have you ever worked too much to the point that you barely get enough sleep — or worse, you got sick?

Is this you on most nights?

For the past few years, digitalization has rapidly grown. And with this growth, people have exerted more and more effort in their daily work schedule in a bid to accomplish their goals and targets at a speed that matches the digital world that they’ve created around themselves.

In today’s vocabulary, we call that the “hustle culture”. The grind never stops. It’s all about constant work.

What Exactly Is Hustle Culture?

Hustle culture means constant working. Those who hustle attempt to devote as many hours as possible to work and work alone. It’s a lifestyle with virtually no time outside work.

Should it be, though?

In the world of hustle, the more you work, the more you are celebrated, the more you are idolized.

If there’s one known person who glorifies the hustle, it must be Elon Musk. Sometime in 2018, his tweet became viral when he said: “There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”

At one point, the Tesla and SpaceX founder also noted how many hours an individual needs to work a week to change the world. He said: “You need to work about 80 hours to sustain, peaking at 100 hours.” 

Multiple, actually…

And if there’s a place that can easily become a poster ad for hustle culture, it’s gotta be Silicon Valley. It’s the place where work is arguably at the center of everyone’s universe.

And millennials are caught up in this lifestyle, too. A 2020 survey from the Manpower group found that three out of four millennials worked for more than 40 hours a week.

In a nutshell, work becomes life in the hustle culture. 

Work = life

This lifestyle teaches people that the grind – or overworking – is the primary, if not the only way to earn respect. If you’re not putting every possible second of the day into something productive, then you have zero chances to become successful. The more you do, the more valuable you become.

And because of this, hustle culture is synonymous with workaholism, toxic productivity and even burnout culture.

How Social Media Fuels Hustle Culture

For sure, there have been times that you see your friends on Facebook or Instagram boasting about their success in the workplace and in life in general. You see them flaunt their achievements and you get to notice all the praise and applause their posts generate. Sometimes, your feed gets flooded with achievements and successful business ventures from your friends.

You’ve seen the posts.

Subconsciously, this will make you feel that you are not doing enough, or worse, you are not good enough. That’s why you start to yearn for those achievements and successes that you see on your feed.

And of course, nobody wants to see a job rejection or a failed business on social media. This space encourages users to curate a perfect image of themselves. And for that curation to happen, people tend to overwork and do everything that it takes just to live up to unrealistic standards. Social media, whether we like it or not, encourages people to compare their lives to the seeming perfection of the lives of others.

Some people…

On Instagram, hustlers like to show off their hustle lifestyle and they often accompany it with the hashtags #hustle, #riseandgrind, and even the bizarre hashtag #TGIM (that stands for Thank God It’s Monday).

It’s a way for people to help boost their self-image so they can command respect and to show the world that they are purposeful, successful, and highly-motivated.

To be fair, there is nothing wrong with promoting motivation and success, but it should not be at the expense of one’s physical and mental health.

The Ills of Hustle Culture

The idea of achieving success has become more and more prominent in today’s society. That’s why it’s no wonder that more people are now falling victim to the pitfalls of hustle culture.

As we have mentioned, everything should just be in moderation. Anything that is in excess can be harmful. Here are some of the sad realities and ills of the hustle culture.

Hard Work Does Not Always Equate to Success

Sorry to burst your bubble! There are a variety of factors that contribute to success. Sometimes, it’s the skill the person has. They may not be working very hard, but they do work very smart. This is the ugly truth for the hustlers: they could be exerting all their time and energy on the wrong things or the wrong way.

Saul is right.

Again, working hard is important, but if you work hard just for the sake of hustling, that you want to project a successful life, then you may have to rethink what you’re doing.

The Hustle Takes a Toll On Health, and Worse: It Kills

Because of the constant pressure to live up to standards — and the unending quest to be successful — hustlers may see themselves in a state of burnout. Hustling is simply exhausting!

Burnout, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. Research has shown that burnout leads to increased stress levels and this ultimately leads to reduced professional productivity. Ironic, isn’t it? 

This gif burns us out, tbh.

Just picture yourself at midnight when you’re trying to beat a deadline: you start consuming heaps of caffeine to the point of palpitations. And during lunch breaks, you decide to skip meals because you have some work to finish. Your sleeping pattern also gets disrupted.

Also, say hello to stress and anxiety. You may be receiving a good paycheck, but at what cost? Is the compensation you’re getting worth all the labor, stress, and anxiety that come with it?

You heard it here, folks.

If you don’t have time for even a breather, much less for work-life balance, then in the long run, you might just be putting your life at risk. 

Just look at the case of a 31-year-old journalist in Japan who died because of work.

Miwa Sado literally overworked herself to death. It was found that she suffered from heart failure after registering a whopping 159 hours of overtime in a month.

Hustle Culture Is Not Productive At All

When you’re doing too many things at once, it may look good for others. This may give them the perception that you are busy and very productive. But in reality, what do you actually accomplish?

Enough said.

Hustle culture is also anchored on the idea of quantity over quality. It promotes accomplishing as many tasks as possible,with little to zero regard to the quality of the work you’re doing. And of course, this is not productive. Since the hustle encourages you to prioritize the amount or number of work you have to finish, you tend to forget the things you’re actually chasing.

How To Overcome Hustle Culture

It’s always best to have a balance in everything you do. Relentless work is not good, remember that.

But how do you create that balance between work and rest, play, or leisure?

First, it pays to be self-aware. Untangling yourself from the toxicity of the hustle lifestyle is awareness. Knowing that you are already overworking or on the verge of overworking can be helpful. It will serve as the foundation for the changes you have to make.

If this is what work does to you, it’s time to take a break.

Next, it’s good to list down the things that matter or those that are legitimately important to you. If you have a clear vision about your short and long-term profession and personal goals, then you’re good to go. It will now be easier for you to navigate through the day as you get to weed out the things that do not align with your list of priorities.

In relation to this, it’s also good to schedule the things that are mandatory to be finished. Come up with a day-to-day task list of up to three priorities. This will allow you to focus on the work with ample time and not working at a warp speed. In turn, your mind won’t go into overdrive. This will result in increased productivity and efficiency, minus the added stress.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

Next, just slow down. You have to have some me-time when you don’t think about work. Set time aside for your own self-care. Do not let go of the hobbies you once enjoyed. Meet up with friends and family. Go on a nature walk or a weekend out-of-town trip. Rest. Your body and mind deserve that much-needed break. Rest as hard as you work. Remember, self-care is not a commodity nor a luxury. It’s as important as work. Without that break, chances are, you will fall into burnout.


Finally, it pays to reward yourself now rather than later. Hustle culture touches on the idea that if you work hard and make sacrifices now, it will pay off in the long run. But what if you won’t enjoy the fruits of your labor because, let’s say you got sick or you’re mentally or physically drained, or worse, you’ll end up dead because of overworking? How can you enjoy your hard-earned money when your work has sent you six feet under the ground? 

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