All Must Hustle

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how some people have the expectation that everyone should be building something, starting a business, or otherwise commodifying their own time and interest. People a lot smarter than me have talked about this, but I’m gonna make my own note anyway.

Pretending to love work

In 2019, when WeWork briefly seemed like it might take over the world, a great NYT piece discussed hustle culture in millenials and asked Why are young people pretending to love work? There are some interesting ideas from that article:

  • The concept of hustle has become weirdly ubiquitous, with people using social media to broadcast how much they love their jobs and how hard they work at them.
  • Workers are being swindled by bosses and the likes of Elon Musk, who profit off their enthusiastic self-abuse.
  • Perhaps there’s a quasi-spiritual element in it, with hustle becoming a kind of religion to fill that growing void.

I’m a little less interested in all this, because this isn’t a ton of what I’ve seen and experienced. What I’ve seen much more of is folks my age desperate to create either:

  1. Enough money to feel financially stable
  2. A job that they don’t absolutely despise

This usually means working to try and monetize a hobby or interest. This has become even more widespread with the pandemic. Sell your crafts! Learn to code! Anything you love can (and should) be turned into a second job!

Because it’s twitter, there was backlash. And, naturally, backlash to the backlash:

(In a turn a bit too good to be true, this final tweet comes from somebody with Hustle and Grind Co in their bio, a site selling merchandise related only to the good old H-word. As if a coffee cup will make you more productive. 🙄)

What if you did things just to do them?

This all leaves me feeling even more strongly how vital it is to sometimes do nothing, and to know irrelevant things. It seems that being constantly on a #hustle could only leave a person feeling not only burnt out, but hollowed out, too. This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t be passionate about their work or interested in a side hustle, but what’s the aim? One of my larger points about budgeting was the fact that accruing more money just to have more money is a one-way ride to never being happy, because there’s always more money to be accrued. The hustle should have an output somewhere that matters.

It’s worth noting how enticing the mindset is, though. Even writing this blog, I can’t help but occasionally think “can I turn this into a book at some pont?” As if my writing and thinking can only be valuable once I convince someone to pay for it. It’s a sad cycle to be stuck in, and I’m hopeful that this practice of digital gardening can in fact be a guard against falling into the hustle trap.


The NYT article in question about millenials pretending to love work.

Hard to think of anything bleaker than googling pandemic side hustle toxic and arriving at this Forbes article but here we are.

A nice article about hustle culture and mental health.

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