The Truth About the Hustle Culture

Are we hustlin’ for the right reasons? Or are we pushing ourselves to the point of breaking down?

“Hard work pays off." “No pain, no gain.” “You can have fun when you're successful.”

How often do you hear these phrases repeated mindlessly as encouragement when you’re feeling exhausted? I'm sure most of us have heard it at least once or twice in our lifetimes, whether it was from a family member or a friend. 

Although it's true that these can serve as motivation for millennials and Gen Zs alike to continuously work towards their goals, haven’t we heard that too much of a good thing is actually bad? 

And that’s where the real problem lies: Modern hustle culture is extremely misleading.

What Is the Hustle Culture?

In today’s standard, hustle culture can be defined as the state of overworking to the point where it becomes a lifestyle. There’s not a day in your life where you're not exerting yourself to your utmost capabilities — having no time for personal life. 

According to the dictionary, the word hustle stands for energetic action. So when did a word so innocent become a harmful culture and lifestyle?

Over the years, overworking has been modernised into what we know today as hustle culture by various self-help books you see on the shelves of bookstores, social media, and even through famous entrepreneurs.

The Truth About the Hustle Culture

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, tweeted, “Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week,” and also mentioned that, “You need to work about 80 hours to sustain, peaking at 100 hours.” 

Many young people heed to various books, social media platforms, and entrepreneurs as inspiration when chasing their own success. As a society which ambitiously works towards their goal, it’s no surprise to see people falling victim to the hustle culture where there’s no fine line between over-working and success.

How Is Hustle Culture Harmful?

As the idea of achieving success becomes prominent in society’s mindset and more and more people are falling victim to the idea of the hustle culture, you may ask yourself, “What’s so wrong about overworking to reach your goals?”

Well, here are some harmful side effects to the way you try to achieve them.

1. Hard Work ≠ Success

Yes, you heard it here first! Hard work doesn't necessarily equate to your success. There are many factors that contribute to a person’s success — not only how hard you work on a daily basis. 

Imagine Elon Musk working 40 hours a week while you work three separate part time jobs for 60 hours a week.

No matter how hard you’re working in this case, you’ll never be able to reach the point of overwhelming success, due to the work environment. The truth is, you could be exerting all your energy every day on the wrong things, the wrong way, or even the wrong time.

Not only is this harmful to your body as a source of exhaustion and stress, you create an unhealthy mindset for yourself as well. 

The Truth About the Hustle Culture

Don’t get me wrong though. Working hard is an essential part of your growth but hustling, just for the sake of hustling, won’t get you anywhere.

2. Encourages Quantity > Quality Mindset

I've always been the type of person to take minimal breaks, registering for different events, finding something — anything — to work on every single day to stay productive. 

Being busy feels so right.

When I do take a day break, I tend to feel restless, as though I'm wasting my life away and proceed to switch my laptop back on just to get something — anything — done.

At the time, I believed that all these steps were essential if I wanted to chase and achieve my dreams. But looking back, I ask myself, were some of the things I did really contributing to my overall productivity or was it just an excuse to stay and look busy?

The hustle culture encourages you to create an imbalance in your life — where work becomes your life and the other things you’re doing start to lack purpose. It encourages you to prioritise quantity over the quality of your work until you forget what it was you’re actually chasing.

3. Leads to Breakdowns

Whether it be mentally or physically, the hustle culture is going to take a toll on your body. With the pressure of abiding to the hustling laws, we often create or set unhealthy habits to sustain our working environment. 

You start consuming caffeine at midnight in order to complete your assignment, joining late night study sessions on Discord to focus better, losing out on sleep on a daily basis, skipping meals, and anything else that your body requires to function at 100%. You lose interest in the hobbies you found comfort in, having no time for self-care, and lack the time for socialisation. 

This is the reality of an over-glorified hustle culture.

Only when you look at it from a microscopic view, will you realise that the things we’ve been normalising is also the reason we experience exhaustion and burnouts.

The Truth About the Hustle Culture

Steps To Overcoming Hustle Culture

The hustle culture should have never been focused solely on the amount of work people do, where it’s believed that their value only comes from relentless work. There needs to be a balance between work and play, but how do you create that balance?

1. Scheduling & Slowing Down

The very first step to rerouting and overcoming the unhealthy culture of hustling is carefully planning your days of the week

Schedule your days effectively, adding in the necessary breaks in between work hours and including rest days for the week. Most people think that completing everything in your task list such as assignments, to-dos, and even your degree, early will give you more time in the end. 

But by simply giving yourself time to slow down (time that you definitely have!) and carefully planning out your goals, you’ll allow more productivity to flow and prevent a burnout.

2. Focusing On Personal Goals

It's easy to get lost in all the hustling, not knowing when to give yourself time to pursue your personal goals. When you continue the path of over-working or hustling, you never know when to get back to your hobbies and risk eliminating them from your life. And how many of us have refused to meet the people in our life, simply because we claimed to have no time on our hands? I definitely have! 

You need to be able to set time aside for your own self-care, not losing touch of your hobbies, and to catch up with friends and family. Find the things you enjoy doing, the things that have no relation to work or school and indulge in them once in a while.

Think of it as your recharging port to do better in your life — whether studies or career.

3. Stop Glorifying the Hustle Culture — It’s Easier Than It Seems!

Sometimes, we’ve got to take a pause and ask ourselves, are we hustlin’ for the right reasons?

Oftentimes our hustling and overworking hard work may be wired to the short-term praises that we gain from our friends, lecturers, colleagues — who may not exactly know what’s going on behind closed doors. That’s why it’s important to step back, evaluate, and not over-glorify the hustle culture. Instead, look inwards and reevaluate what you’re doing.

Avoid having too much on your plate and abide by only your working hours. Don’t be guilty for taking a break when you need one, because we're only human. It’s important to remind yourself — and those around you, to stop glamorising the hustle culture to the point of exhaustion, and be there for others when they’re experiencing a burnout.

We often think that stopping or even slowing down the hustle culture is going to turn our lives upside down. After all, how are we to achieve our goals and reach success without hustling?

At the end of the day, the key is to create a clear line between productivity and over-working, balancing both your personal life and work.

And although this may be easier said than done, especially when choices can be limited in the employment world, you need to be able to gradually set boundaries for yourself to avoid falling victim to an endless working cycle.

The Truth About the Hustle Culture

Even though a culture as big and impactful as hustle culture will be hard to stop, small actions that you take can slowly help the cause because there’s more to life than the idea of hustling.

Afrina Arfa is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in Business (Hons) Finance and Economics at Taylor's University. She is currently an active member of Taylor’s Orientation Leaders and Taylor’s ETC Magazine Club.