Hustle culture: a more sustainable #grind

I’m guilty as charged.

I was trapped in the hustle culture. I even aspired myself to wear more hats and add more on my plate.

I’ve been reading too many Instagram hustle porns, as Steven Bartlett would put it. I have unconsciously fell into the grinding trap. I worshipped it. I wanted every hour to be productive.

Until I realised I couldn’t do it anymore.

Hustle: what is it, and why is it so popular

I looked up the word “hustle” on oxford dictionary, and there’s one informal definition that stood out: “to act in an aggressive way or with a lot of energy”. I almost choked. In a nutshell, to hustle means to work constantly. In today’s concept, it means that we can push our limits and act like we have superpower to grind, work more, and ignore sleep. Rest means weak.

The hustle culture is particularly popular among millennials. We get stuck at work for 12 hours. We work during weekends. We want to tell the world we are capable of doing more.

What’s the catch?

It’s not industrialisation era anymore. Office work doesn’t involve much labour jobs. Why are we spending more than 9 hours per day frying our brains with meetings, emails and impressing others? Why do we ignore physical and mental health, relationships and rest time? Do we even realise the everyday trade-offs?

Worshipping productivity gurus: rest is for the weak

Ever come across the classic time management question: if you had extra 5 hours per day, what would you do?

I knew there was a problem when “I would probably get more sleep” never crossed my mind.

I have mentioned many times how I hate being employed. The only great thing about trading 5 days of work for 2 days of freedom was probably the fact that I valued my weekends. I made sure I didn’t work. When I started my YouTube channel in early 2018, I was working full time and I didn’t think I was hustling. It was just a hobby. I only filmed on the weekends. That time, my environment made it impossible to get any audio recording done during weekdays. I was exhausted enough after work anyway. When I traded 2 days of freedom for 5 days of slavery, I treasured my weekends. They were sacred. I enjoyed making videos that time, since music was my life and my form of self-expression. For sure, I had days when I didn’t feel like uploading videos. But generally it went great.

The toxic hustle culture is more prevalent in entrepreneurship.

It’s a self-made hell.

From preparation stage to finally launching a product, we #grind and we #hustle 24/7. It becomes our only goal. It keeps us up at night. It consumes us. We take the “never give up”, “never stop” quotes too literally. We feel guilty after saying yes to friend gatherings which you skipped for the past 6 months.

This isn’t healthy.

Maybe it’s not what you do, but your attitude.

My hustle hell started after I ditched my corporate job, now I think about it. I went back to full time studies, and I needed not to trade my weekends away. My schedule was completely up to me to decide. What happened then? I doubled down my video output. I spent days perfecting my essays and presentations. Mondays were no different than Saturday, so why not work more?

I went through a week of interrogating my thoughts, current processes and habits. Then I applied the 80/20 rule to cut back unproductive activities.

It was tough.

When you are grinding, you don’t think much. You know what needs to be done, and you don’t ask questions.

But then there’s a wall.

I realised the results don’t match up with my efforts. Well, it’s normal when you are just starting out, but it’s getting ridiculous. I had a gut feeling that it’s not the huge void before the first positive feedback loop kicks in.

Something’s wrong.

I didn’t respond to the echoes in the market (or lack thereof) quick enough. My hustle has become my comfort zone. My bubble. I stuck my head in. It was hard to accept that I wasn’t working smart. It’s blind grinding.

If we’re working on the right things that provide actual values to others and bring us joy, we won’t call them “work”. Maybe that’s what it’s all about. It’s our attitude that matters. We need not to sacrifice our mental health for “work”.

Pause, and see how far you've come

There’s a journal prompt about gratitude that I ask myself every day: “what are the 3 wonderful things that happened today?”. The good thing about this question is that it doesn’t necessarily involve others. If I spend the whole day at home catching up with assignments and script writing, my answer might look like “1. in charge of my own schedule 2. high quality production 3. balance of work and rest”. This question makes me pause, and think about the effort I made during the day. And I learn to appreciate myself more, no matter how “uneventful” my day seemed to be.

We burn out quickly if we don’t practise gratitude on a daily basis. The common hustle trap is to measure results against our ideal stage, and we put ourselves in a rat race. We are never good enough. We are not “there” yet, so we need to keep grinding. This mindset leaves us unsatisfied every day. What we should really do is to compare “now” to our past selves. We measure the effort, the small wins and the baby steps we take. We should trust that the process will get us “there”.

Happy grinding!

Embrace a new mindset when it comes to hustling. Work smarter, not harder. Enjoy the ride. Trust the process. Don’t sacrifice physical and mental health. We can all smell the flowers in this journey.