The Hustle. It’s permeating our culture right now. Working hard, staying busy, pushing yourself to the limits, all in the pursuit of success.
The hustle started as a good thing.
And in a way, it still is. But I have become more and more concerned about the impact of hustling on our overall wellbeing. So let’s review the history of the hustle culture a bit, and explore why it is becoming increasingly problematic.
The hustle culture is a hallmark of the millennial era. Millennials have had a rough time of it. I’m an older millennial, and when I was coming of age, I was still starry eyed and deeply influenced by the generation that preceded me. There was this idea of following a predetermined path – get the degree, get the job, climb the ladder.
But then the world changed.
And the millennial era found themselves entering adulthood in the middle of it. Many were in massive debt from degrees from expensive colleges that held less and less meaning in the workforce. Job opportunities were evolving rapidly as technology set the world on fire. Social media completely transformed the way we network. And with all of that, came the ability to dream BIGGER, grow faster, reach higher.
The hustle was born out of that dream.
And the taste of freedom was so delicious, people were willing to put everything on the line for it.
This is becoming even more pervasive with women, as women entrepreneurs are breaking free from corporate stigma with a confident rebuttal of, “Well, if you are going to pay me less, I’ll just become my own damn CEO.” This is seriously BADASS. And that’s why I feel conflicted saying what I’m going to say next.
But I’m going to say it anyway.
The hustle is eroding at our wellbeing, personally and collectively.
Let’s say you want to start a business. You’ll immediately find podcasts, books, blogs, and endless FB lives telling you that the struggle is part of the game, that working hard pays off, and that in order to stay visible you have to show up 500% and give it your all, all of the time.
And with enough enthusiasm and gusto, you can do that. You can persevere. You can keep the dream alive and you can find the energy to keep pushing. For a while.
But for many of us, that clock runs out eventually.
And that’s when we burn the eff out.
(If you are experiencing burnout, check out this post on burnout recovery so you can get back on track).
There are some people who actually don’t experience burnout from the hustle alone. But because a select few get high on the hustle, doesn’t mean it’s going to be everyone’s creative drug of choice. For a lot of us, it’s more toxic than it is exhilarating. And the issue is, since we are painting broad strokes, everyone starts to feel the pressure of “needing” to go full speed on all cylinders, even when it doesn’t fit you, your business model, of the way you want to live your life.
It’s the only way. That’s the story we are being told.
In a future post, I’m going to dive more into the alternative to the hustle: flow.
But for now, I just want to say: the hustle is an option. But it’s not the only option. You can hustle sometimes, never, or all the time. But it’s a choice. You can succeed with it and you can succeed without it. But you cannot succeed when you are completely burned out.
We can’t build a fire when all that is left is a pile of ash.
Read more on hustle and the millennial dilemma of obsessive striving in this post on Thrive Global.
What do you think about hustle mentality? How can we remain empowered without becoming overwhelmed?