“As we’ll see, as well-intentioned and glamorous as the Religion of Hustle is, it often backfires on people. Because the truth is that most types of work (especially work that will make you some money in 2017) does not produce linear returns, it produces diminishing returns.” – Mark Manson
The cult of hustle is a relatively new phenomenon, and like most new(ish) trends in self-improvement and business, it’s got a good heart.
I scoured the internet to find the best examples of hustle, and here’s what I found:
As you can see, the whole idea is that the harder you work, the more you can accomplish. Well…duh. That’s not rocket science. The idea goes back to America’s industrial and Protestant history when colonists and later immigrants worked harder to get ahead. The American dream is all about working hard to make a life for yourself (classically; I don’t know what it’s morphed into now – to have the most Insta-worthy life?).
But the cult of hustle takes this basic, good idea and turns hard work into clout. Hustle becomes a badge of superiority, and it does so in some very unhealthy ways.
The majority of those articles above relate one thing to hustle above all others – pain. Suffering. Sacrifice. If you’re not struggling, rising bleary-eyed at 5am with only four hours of sleep and sweating through whatever your vision is, you’re not doing “it” right, whatever “it” is for you.
Unfortunately, the bad advice is often mixed in so well with the good that we tend to swallow the concoction whole. There is merit in hard work. If you stay in your comfort zone you won’t change and grow. If you don’t make changes things will stay the same. Those are all true. But the idea that daily sacrifice day in and day out will guarantee success is flawed. The problem is, we only hear the success stories. “I hustled my way to success and here’s how” and anyone who followed the advice and didn’t earn six figures in six months knows they just aren’t hustling enough.
The most disturbing part to me is how many inane quotes on the internet glorify the lack of sleep as a symbol of passion and drive.
Here are two articles on sleep and productivity, one from the Washington Times and one from Sleep.org. Unfortunately for hustlers, scientific studies have shown that losing sleep makes people less productive, so much so that Kelly McGonigal says they’re often as muddled as someone who is drunk (The Willpower Instinct).
From students in college pulling all-nighters before exams to hustlers working 4am-midnight, lack of sleep is only going to hurt your chances.
So why is the cult of hustle so prevalent? Well, there are a few reasons.
First, hustle = success is a very simple formula. Work hard, earn loads. It’s attractive because while it’s not necessarily easy, it is simple, and it seems to take all the guesswork and question of innate talent out of the picture. Follow these steps and make money. (Sounds like a get rich quick scheme to me, no matter how much pain is involved.)
Second, it’s independent. Most hustle quotes also involved things like “being ahead of the pack,” quips about leading the wolves, and other ideas that standing alone at the front is glorious. Very American. Independence, owning your own business, not being attached, making your own schedule (4am-12am, so awesome!); it all flouts the idea of community and support, and re-asserts the idea that you can do everything on your own, not a great virtue in today’s disconnected and aching world. (The goal of a mature person should not be independence – the highest form of maturity is interdependence, according to Stephen R. Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. See a great article here.)
And third, it’s a status symbol. Being a hustler is a generally applauded notion, again, going back to America’s roots of the virtue of hard work. The Protestants held a very firm notion that hard work, discipline, and frugality led to a good (moral) life (Wikipedia). Too bad we’ve got the hard work and discipline down without the frugality since most of the point of hustle seems to be to be able to own the fanciest cars bought with your hard-earned dollars.
Regardless of its roots, hustle means being able to lord yourself over your lazy colleagues who waste their lives working 9-5 and aren’t also side-hustling, writing books and content, working on starting their own business or in any other way not wearing themselves to the bone. Hustle is a moral thing. Hustle is good. Hustle is virtuous. Rest is becoming sin. Contentment is becoming complacency (read the dictionary on that one).
It’s a dangerous trap to fall into. And it’s very easy now that the cult of hustle has spread so rapidly and so quickly. But it’s just a trend, the age-old hard-work ethic wrapped up in fancy memes and productivity hacks.
It doesn’t guarantee a good life.