The Cult of Hustle

“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:


The World Belongs to Those Who Hustle

How to Hustle Your Way to Your Dream Job in 4 Steps

How To Hustle Your Way To Becoming A Successful Entrepreneur




“Harsh but true ... Keep going,  no one cares !!! #hustle #hustler”



Well.... We'll see...


Keep Up That Hustle, Girl ||


Moving Mountains Motivation: Rise and Grind

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 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.


9 thoughts on “The Cult of Hustle”

  1. Omg great post and great topic! Hustling shouldn’t be glorified so much to be honest. That’s why work culture has gotten a bit severe or bad. Everyone’s trying to get ahead of the game and everyone is expected to hustle. Employers expect people to be on call after hours, they expect people to work more than they are paid with the promise of getting what they deserve in the future when a lot of times people are really just being taken advantage of. The company is what reaps the rewards while preying on people’s dreams (to be dark and cynical about it, anyway).
    I remember when I was younger, one of my goals was to work or study so hard someday that my nose bleeds. It’s strange, right? But in a lot of Korean dramas I watched, that’s what would happen, and it looked glorious to me. Because they would be like, “Oh wow, look how hard this person worked! It’s amazing!” so I was like, “I want to do that and be impressive!” Thankfully it never got that far.
    But look at the terrible, terrible work culture of Asia. So many people are pressured so hard to hustle. They’re expected to work ridiculous after-work hours. The suicide rate is preoposterous. Hustling is a bad concept that’s been doing more harm than good lately because it’s gone to extremes. A healthy look at working hard rather than overworking yourself to death should be explored… because working hard and getting ahead are good but at what cost? Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, exactly! When I was teaching in Korea I saw the evidence of that culture in many of the students, and though our school tried not to have that kind of mindset, it was so pervasive in the culture it was difficult to go against it. Growing up I also was a firm believer in hard work and effort being superior, so I totally understand you! It seems silly but it’s really not when you look at how glorified overworking is in many Asian and American workplaces.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I appreciate that the school you taught at tried not to have that kind of mindset, though! I think things are slowly changing over there, so hopefully that kind of crazy work environment will slowly go away… Yeah they really glorify it! I just want that montage in my life like in Legally Blonde where I’m working hard and makin’ waves xD haha I think that degree is okay

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There are words that become so overused that I learn to hate them. Hahahaha. Hustle is one of them. Hustle and heart have become synonymous, and that alliteration sounds good too. But you are right. If you aren’t succeeding, you aren’t hustling enough is a very dangerous treadmill to get on. It’s a well-meaning one, as you mentioned, but it’s returning to that all mighty worship of the dollar, which I get, I like money as well, but not burnout. I also like my good health. Good article, Audra!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my god. I just started a new job at a really big firm and.. I’m sick of hustling. I totally relate to everything you say in this article. Hustling has become the new norm and it’s so incredibly toxic and unhealthy. There are times at work I just want to drop everything and open a b&b in Ireland or something. Life is too short to hustle so goddamn hard.

    Thanks for highlighting this subject. Great post and so relevant in this day and age.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Firstly, congrats on the job! But yes, the hustling…it’s not even really a norm, I feel like, to actually do it, but just to say it and believe in it. Hard work is still as rare a commodity as it ever was, but now we have people who are huge proponents of this idea. Most of the time though I find people don’t live that way – the whole 5am to midnight constant work thing.


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