We all see on social media the people that tout the “hustle.” You’ve seen it. “Rise and grind,” we’re told. The intention behind these cliches is to inspire people around them to take action (or secretly to brag that they’re people of action, accomplishments).
But isn’t it really just an alternative to the glorification of being “busy” that we have also rejected? Our culture stopped considering running on four hours of sleep as a badge of honor, so how the hell is the “hustle” culture any different? Guys. It’s not.
That gig economy, baby
Being bombarded with the “inspiration” to “hustle” is giving rise to unnecessary stress. “I took an hour and a half off for lunch, I didn’t hustle, I need to hustle, I have to work until 10 tonight if I’m really someone who hustles,” many people think to themselves now.
Further, the rise of the gig economy (which we’ve written about in depth over the years) has people snagging endless “gigs” leading to a new culture of poorly trained workers that feel like they’re on top because they’re “hustling.”
A friend of mine recently Facebooked that she’s “On the hustle,” and bragged that not only is she an Uber driver, she takes gigs on Fiverr, sells Rodan+Fields, and so forth.
All I hear is that she’s banging her head against the wall with maximum effort and minimal return. No skills are being refined and tweaked when people feel like they have to pick up scraps in order to hustle, and very little money is coming their way. Every penny counts, but if you spend three pennies of effort to make one penny come to your bank account, it’s simply not worth it.
The problem is that my friend IS hustling. Hustling her little ass off. But it’s that “hustle harder” mentality (glorified with inspirational quotes on Instagram) that has people feeling like they come up short.
A peek behind the curtain
I’d like to officially reject the idea of “the hustle.” The intention behind the movement is good – work hard, then work harder. It’s much better than the alternative, but it’s time to be more honest about what “hustle” actually means.
I have a challenge for you. Next time you see someone on social media bragging about their hustle (because that’s what it’s become, a means to “play” successful online), consider if the hustle is real. Are they glorifying a fast buck, glorifying being busy, or desperate back patting? Don’t “like” it or chastise them, just move on. Don’t play into it.
You know who hustles?
- My grandma who wakes up early every day in Kenya to take care of orphans all day, sometimes being the only adult left behind when al-Shabaab storms the village (and the local workers flee), living on spotty electricity and food, all before retiring in a less-than-luxurious bed at night, exhausted but happy.
- My mechanic who hustles all day, obsessing over the quality of his work, who won’t even let me see my car until he’s pulled all of the protective linings out and he’s washed his hands and straightened his tucked-in shirt.
- My gal pal who wakes up with a newborn every day, yet juggles social media and recruiting, offering endless free help to people who can’t/don’t pay her to review their resume so they can get a job.
- My single dad when we were growing up – worked as a designer for a shitty boss (but didn’t quit because he had to feed us), skipped meals when there was only enough to feed us two kids, still sneaks out during lunch to go take lunch to (and eat with) his homeless buds up the street, still volunteers for the tasks at church no one else will do (like weed duty), always took side jobs he hated (illustrations for textbooks, art for the local paper), all for his family.
What real hustle looks like
And what do these people all have in common? They would all cringe at the idea of a selfie with glitter letters proclaiming they’re on the hustle. People that are focused on work, on advancing their life (and the lives of those around them) would be embarrassed to be lumped in with the Instagram selfie people that pat themselves on the back because today, they managed to shower, drive two people up the street for their Uber hustle, write a fake review on Yelp for their Fiverrr hustle, and sent out two aggressive sales emails to cousins to pressure them to buy their Rodan+Fields products in their trunk.
That’s not hustling, that’s what people are being told is hustling. It’s an unfortunate scrapping together of gigs that so many are being tricked into thinking is the only way to live, the only way to survive. The pressure is on to bring on more ways to hustle, and people are being screwed by the gig economy. It’s unfortunate.
And for that, I reject the glorification and glitterification of “hustle.”
This editorial was first published on July 5, 2016.
July 6, 2016 at 11:23 am
What you’re saying isn’t hustle. It’s failure. #failure isn’t a sexy hashtag.
Hustle is an aspirational statement. It says: I won’t be beaten. I won’t be put down. Even if it means that I’m forced to PM my facebook friends and sell them juice cleanses. That’s Hustle.
And sometimes the willingness to do anything, to try anything is an attribute. A virtue. However not learning…and chanting a mantra to make it better sucks.
July 6, 2016 at 1:55 pm
Time blocking. That’s my lifestyle. When I’m working I’m highly focused in that work. When I’m playing (riding my bike…and yes, I time block that, too) I’m focused on playing.
An associate of mine said to me years ago “Be where you are.” So put the phone down and get back to those emails and texts when you are working. Unless you are a brain surgeon or hold the key to the nuclear missiles, do you really need to be accessible 24/7?
Maybe “hustling” and looking busy make you look more important to your peers. But to me, and this is just me speaking, when I quit hustling and started ordering my life, my life got a whole lot better. And oh, by the way, my income shot through the roof as compared to where it had been.
July 7, 2016 at 4:58 am
It mostly sounds like you’re sour about hearing people doing good or happy about doing good. Hustling doesn’t need a direct definition, all that matters is that you’re either moving forward or you’re not.
July 11, 2016 at 11:45 am
I agree with you that what matters is whether or not you’re moving forward, and I agree with you that I’m sour, but not about people doing well, rather about people being screwed by the gig economy.
July 7, 2016 at 4:11 pm
I totally agree. I am so beginning to cringe at that word. A hustler back in the day was a con. I call it working your ass off and harder than the competition. I am knocking 100 doors a day and cold calling 100 people a day trying to break into a new territory. I call that #workingmymotherfuckinassofftoGetatonoflistingsandsellthemwhileprovidinggreatservicebeforethemarkettakesanothershitonmycareer
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