The term hustle culture has taken off on social media in the past few years. Like the 'rise and grind' movements of yesteryear, hustle culture is an environment or workspace focused on productivity, ambition, and success whether this be a professional goal, a personal goal, or even just a goal as simple as making more money. Sounds good right? After all, hard work always gets rewarded. This is the ideology that hustle culture and the people it idolizes - Elon Musk, and Thomas Edison, among others - seem to embody. However, if the goal is productivity, and one is motivated to go at it for hours, days, and weeks, tirelessly, then the human putting in that time and effort gets lost; they get reduced to a machine part, whose only job is to work more and make more money. Hustle culture dehumanizes people into cogs, competitors, and obstacles to overcome while making money its only goal.
The main driving ideology behind hustle culture is that there is always something more to strive for and that this 'more' will come to those who work hard enough for it. This 'more' does not always have to be money, it can also be a job promotion, a title, a pay raise, or anything. The common denominator among all of these is the idea that the person needs to work for whatever they want. But this work comes at a cost; to one's personal life, social life, and mental health, among many other things.
The greatest sham of this entire toxic culture is that the workers are told that sacrificing their mental health, their social life, and their personal life is good for them. Workers are overloaded by their managers, contacted outside of working hours, and pile on additional work at the very last minute. Those who comply with these inhumane, unlawful demands are given peanuts as rewards, with the promise of a bigger reward in the future that may or may not come true, while those who do not comply are penalized. This narrative is peddled by higher-ups in companies to create 'the ideal worker'; people who are addicted to their jobs and always on the beck-and-call of their managers.
These ideal workers always choose their job over everything else in their life. Their identity as a worker is paramount, taking precedence over any other aspect of their life.
There is a reason why those who peddle this narrative always talk about success stories; people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Thomas Edison. This is to lead people to believe that they too can succeed in their jobs. After all, these are all people who got where they are through nothing but sheer hard work. But how true is this? Each of these cases involved an immense amount of luck and pre-existing capital to build off. Musk came from an already wealthy family (one that made its money from owning inhumane emerald mines in South Africa), he went to prestigious universities and made money by investing the capital that he already had, not through hard work of his own. Almost none of the companies in which he is a key figure (PayPal, Tesla, Twitter/X) were founded by him. Jobs too, was born into a fairly wealthy family and spent a lot of his early life travelling the world. Thomas Edison used to be seen as a key figure of invention, someone who failed multiple times before succeeding. However, facts have been revealed that show how he was a ruthless opportunist, plagiariser, and someone who often stole ideas and inventions to his name.
These narratives of success are promoted because they are more likely to believe the lie that through sheer hard work people can achieve a similar status. They ignore the number of failed stories, those who tried the same formula but it did not work out for them. There was an immense amount of luck and pre-existing money put behind these people to make them as successful as they are now, which is often left out of these stories. This is simply because nobody wants to acknowledge the fact that sheer hard work and a 'rise and grind' attitude are not the keys to success. Several social and societal factors contribute to it. If the truth of these narratives comes out and becomes more widely accepted, then people would become disillusioned with the hyper-capitalist work ideals of companies that aim to dehumanize people into becoming ideal workers.
Interestingly, this same narrative when applied to creative professions like writing, filmmaking, and art in general, is met with disdain in society. We are told stories of these 'geniuses' and 'inventors' and the countless times they failed before becoming 'successful' through sheer hard work, but we are never told the story of say, Quentin Tarantino, Vincent Van Gogh, or Eminem. Each of these are artists who lived incredibly tough lives, did not come from rich backgrounds, and actually honed their art and skills to get to where they are. The reason for this is simple: art does not make money in the capitalist setting. There is no direct profit to be worked for. Artists work for art's sake, not profit.
This article is not to shame those who find comfort in a corporate culture or those who have spent their lives working. Nor is this to decry those who like the high-pressure work environment. This is simply speaking to those who find themselves alienated from society because they either cannot or do not take part in this culture. This is simply asking the reader to reconsider their idols, and their ideas of success, and maybe take a break now and then. Your work does not define you. People are three-dimensional beings. Profit is not the only goal of life. Corporations would have you work for them and make more money for them. Isn't time you did something for yourself?