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Is Hustle Culture Making You Miserable? (How Do You Break Free)


We are growing up in a society where we are taught from a very young age that the Hustle Culture is the pathway to success. Sayings like “Go Hard or Go Home,” “Good Things Happen to Those Who Hustle,” and “Hustle Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Hustle” are all too common. 

This is amplified by social media and online influencers like Gary Vaynerchuck, who advises that “Without hustle, talent will only carry you so far.” And TV personalities like Ryan Seacrest offer this advice. “Mine’s a pretty simple strategy: there’s not a lot of talent here, but there’s a lot of hustle. I have to be in every place I can and be busy.” 

All around us, all we constantly hear is hustle, work harder, and the need to put in the hours. And, for many years, I bought into this culture, and in the short term, it brought me success. But, do you know what happened over time? My health, friendships, and relationships with family significantly suffered. I found myself depressed and burned out. 

This article is derived from an episode of the Passion Struck podcast with John R. Miles.

Don’t you think that there is more to life than constant grind? Don’t you get overwhelmed by this fast-moving world of self-help and competition in every walk of life? Are you feeling pressured by this community to always put in more work and take on more than you can possibly handle?

Does any of that resonate with you? You are not the only one who feels that way. Today, companies are filled with leaders selling the hustle culture, continuously targeting our weaknesses, and tapping into negative emotions.

This is a culture where leaders like Elon Musk are the poster boy. He has spoken on the record many times and often recommends an “80 sustained (working) hours a week, peaking at about 100 hours” mentality. Said another way, this is performative workaholism.

Now let’s explore what hustle culture is and whether this hustle culture is being kept alive by those who see hard work as a lifestyle choice and the only way to move ahead?

What is hustle culture?

Hustle culture is a highly toxic culture that believes that overworking is the only way to be successful and earn respect. It generally can be considered a fast-moving environment that encourages long working hours and a restless sense of striving to exceed expectations.

Many leaders brainwash us into thinking that “it-isn’t-enough.” If you aren’t working 24/7, then you are deemed to be a failure. 

This can lead to many dysfunctional behaviors resulting in fear of appearing incompetent to other executives. These may include a reduction in honest conversations, increased political game-playing, siloed thinking, a lack of employees taking ownership, and the toleration of destructive behaviors.

Consider the City University of New York report on Hustle Culture and the Implications for Our Workforce. It found that “Unknowingly, CEOs can establish a hustle culture within the organization from their insecurities as a leader. CEOs as well are subject to forms of covering, or in other terms, imposter syndrome, as a result of continuously proving their ability to lead despite prior accomplishments. 

This culture is fueled by greed, the feeling of wanting more by working more, even if it harms employees’ mental, physical, and spiritual health. A recent 2019 study examining the effect of long working hours and overtime on occupational health studied 243 published records over the 20 years from 1998 to 2018. It concluded that “employees working long hours were vulnerable to suffering from diverse types of occupational health problems.” The BBC reported that the World Health Organization found long working hours are killing 745,000 people a year.

If hustle culture makes one’s life miserable, why are so many people falling prey to it daily? What is it about hustle culture that people find so attractive that they buy into it? 

As Erich Fromm said, “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”

Why hustle culture makes you miserable          

The 2021 Finerty Report on hustle culture and the burnout generation found 83.8% of their survey respondents find working overtime normal, 69.6% work regularly on weekends. But most alarming, 60.8% of them feel guilt-ridden when they do not put in extra hours at work. 

A huge reason for the hustle culture rests on social media. It doesn’t take long to notice how social media glamorizes the hustle culture with all sorts of luxuries, from fine clothes to private jets. The people behind this do so to Brainwash you into wanting what they have; wealth, respect, power, and whatnot. 

Not the path that you have to take. Not the compromises you have to make. This Limits our brain’s capacity to understand reality and misleads us into fantasizing about the marketed reward. They succeed in doing so because they only show you what they want you to believe and not the negative impacts on your quality of life, relationships, and, most importantly, your health. 

Now, I don’t mean that wealth and luxury are not something to strive for but, there is a limit to everything. You have to see what path you are taking to achieve that. If it’s full of suffering, then it’s simply not worth it. 

It is a matter of common understanding that the journey brings more joy than what lies ahead, so you must choose it wisely. This is one reason why most victims of hustle culture give up on their dreams. Why? Because they burn out to the point that they become numb and hopeless.

Hustle culture thrives in negativity

One of the tricks of people selling hustle culture is to make us think that they are nothing without the hustle. It is that hustle that makes them successful people. Instead of encouraging people to pursue their passion through self-confidence, habits, and ambition, they target your negative emotions. 

They exploit your fear and greed and all the negativity they can find to buy into their vague ideas. First, they make you think that you are full of problems and then offer you solutions to that.” buy our course.” “Subscribe now and be a better version of yourself.” If you ask me, this is utter bullshit. If something makes you compare yourself to others or makes you angry and envious, it’s just not suitable for you. I believe that you must have a positive approach all the time.

Hustle culture is no skills, just hack

Hustle culture promotes tricks and hacks to achieve something instead of acquiring skills and knowledge for that purpose. Whether it is your boss or social media, those behind it get you into thinking that if you just drag on the hours and have someone else do the actual job to get away with it, but the hard fact is it is useless. 

In the end, the time you wasted plotting schemes and finding shortcuts was futile. You were to be utilizing that time to sharpen your skills and get something productive out of it. Tricks and shortcuts can never give you that sense of accomplishment that doing something the fairway can.

The Hustle Culture creates an illusion of more time, more yield

Hustle culture functions on the theory of equivalent exchange. Meaning the more hours you put into work, the more will be the yield. Therefore, through grinding and hustling only, will you find success. You can think of this that the ratio of output to input is 1:1. 

And many studies indicate the fallacy in this thinking because success isn’t relevant to the time you put into work. The simple fact is long hours backfire for companies and the people they employ. These studies further find that you can lose sight of the bigger picture if you work too hard. In a 2015 Harvard Business Review article by Sarah Green Carmichael, researchers suggest that we have a greater tendency to get lost in the weeds as we burn out.

john r miles quote on hustle culture and comparing it to lifestyle

I believe that 8 hours of solid and sincere work efficiency produces more yield than 16 hours of half-hearted work. If you are working efficiently, then you don’t have to work a lot. In fact, Stanford University’s John Pencavel found that “productivity per hour declines sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week. After 55 hours, productivity drops so much that putting in any more hours would be pointless.”

The list goes on. The harmful effects of hustle culture, if counted, are unimaginable.

But what can we do to escape this? Can we even escape this, or are we just to accept it as a necessary evil?

Can a person be successful if they aren’t a part of hustle culture?

The answer is – YES.

Success isn’t just monetary or materialistic. There are different kinds of success. The key is to live a balanced life. Like for me, a life full of happiness and satisfaction is a success.

How to break free from hustle culture?

Now, let us talk about how to escape the clutches of hustle culture. You first need to pause and denormalize. This starts by conducting an audit of the toxic people you interact with and the activities you are doing habitually. You can do this by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the current causes of my stress, unbalance, or dissatisfaction? 
  2. How are they affecting how I perform and engage with my job? 
  3. Are these factors impacting my personal life? 
  4. Am I prioritizing correctly? 
  5. What am I sacrificing by working so hard? 
  6. What is getting affected by it? 

It’s funny when they call hustle culture a lifestyle. I mean, let’s be honest here. I don’t see any life in it. Do you? It provides you with the most lifeless lifestyle.

Once you’re self-aware of your current situation, you must examine how that situation makes you feel. Am I energized, fulfilled, satisfied? Or do I feel indifference, sadness, and fatigue?  

You have to evaluate yourself. Ask yourself, “Do I feel like what I am living is more of a robotic life? Am I stuck in an endless loop of grind?” These questions will help determine where you stand.

Increasing your awareness of the situation provides you the toolbox to put things into perspective and determine how your priorities need to be adjusted:

  • What’s the most valuable thing to you in your life?
  • How do you want to spend your days?
  • Is what you are working for worth it?
  • What brings positivity and joy into your life?
  • What is that thing that you consider your lasting success?

You have to answer all these questions because no one can know you better than you know yourself. Once you are finished answering all these questions, you will recognize that life has more meaning than just grind.

But now, you must take continual action. You must create a cycle of continuous re-evaluation and self-improvement action stacking. Start making small incremental changes daily that you can build upon. Break the current cycle you are in. This is especially true if you are under the influence of an overpowering culture of long work hours. It’s not difficult to glide back into “business as usual.”

The Passion Struck podcast is helping men and women learn how to go from being passion struck to becoming passion STRUCK and unstoppable. Listen to the Passion Struck Podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts online. For more information, if you are in a toxic relationship, click here

Check out my latest article on 7 ways to create mental strength.



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