How Hustle Culture Can Hurt Your Career


You are not a machine, so why should you work like a machine? It turns out that more and more people are starting to agree with this, which is why they are turning their backs on the hustle culture.

If you’re unfamiliar with the hustle culture movement, you might be thinking of the old-school definition, which is still sometimes associated with shady ethics or the use of obnoxiously pushy sales tactics. But nowadays, hustling is all about putting work above all else – an endless hunt for another client or a promotion. Think long hours at your computer, midnight energy drinks, and texting back from busy colleagues 24/7. Theoretically, your scamming activities should put you at the top of the corporate food chain. But hustling has a cost.

As so many have discovered during the pandemic, being a scammer comes with a huge personal price. Writer and businesswoman Julie Ball notes in Forbes that the only thing you can expect at the “finish line” of unrest is a case of severe burnout. In a interview for the New York TimesBasecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson calls the hustle culture “dark and exploitative.”

Yet the Time The article says that while some people are realizing that the hustle and bustle can hurt, many young workers are still driven by the shiny allure of being known as hustlers. Staying “on” all day and all night gives them bragging rights and makes them feel a kinship with some of today’s most notorious hustlers, like Elon Musk and Gary Vaynerchuk.

If you’re torn between “doing the job” or taking a more balanced approach to your work and personal life, you deserve to have all the facts. Although the temporary scam may be a way to raise more money in the short term, its destination is not true professional success. In fact, hustling can derail your career and your long-term satisfaction for several key reasons that you may not have considered.

1. The Hustle culture positions your production as your value.

When you’re a scammer, your checklist becomes your self-esteem barometer. This means that if you can’t do everything, you’re somehow less worthy than if you push yourself to achieve only some of your lofty goals.

What’s wrong with living by your job duties? It’s a surefire way to lose sight of what really matters. Value cannot be measured in quantities alone, especially if you are a knowledge worker. Spending hours persuading a multi-million dollar client to retain your services can be critical to your business. However, all that time with a company may seem like a pittance to a boss with a hustler mentality if you’re expected to land multiple big-ticket deals while ticking off a daily list of deadline-sensitive responsibilities.

Also, if you are constantly running on a treadmill that does not have a “stop” button, sooner or later you will face burnout. Harvard Business Review Research recalls that among professional workers, 7% admit to being victims of burnout. Maybe that number seems negligible, but it skyrockets when you dig deeper by industries. For employees in the financial sector, burnout rates have reached a shocking 85%. If you’re not careful, your top personal brand attribute according to those who know you can be “stressed out.”

Your brain and body were not built to handle the physical and psychological stressors of continuous jostling. It’s time to stop gamifying your daily tasks into an adrenaline rush quest every time you complete a mission. There are other, more holistic ways to measure your value.

2. Hustle culture sets unrealistic expectations.

Often we read inspiring stories of leaders who defied the odds and challenged the status quo. Here’s the thing, though: we can get carried away thinking that the only way to echo their success is to do what they did: four times.

Consider The Adobe Story about Rani Mani, the company’s employee advocacy manager, who made a drastic transition to a different field. Mani says he’s “most alive and at his best when I’m challenged and doing things that make me gasp” and believing that “discomfort was a growth in wolves’ clothes”.

Although Mani’s story is captivating and motivating, it shouldn’t become your daily mantra. It’s just not realistic to go 100 miles per hour for weeks, months, or years. Too often, we get caught up in the exciting moments that define the careers of people we respect. And we think the only way to emulate their accomplishments is to hustle.

The next time you’re tempted to keep up by sleeping under your desk, dodging lunch, or putting your personal needs on hold, take a step back. Yes, it may be necessary and prudent to work overtime from time to time. Still, it’s not worth it when a stretch of growth starts to tear you apart.

3. Culture Hustle scatters you.

Have you ever felt like the clock and calendar were working against you? Does it seem like you’re constantly sleep-seeking just to do another article or write another email? If you feel like you’re not really working if your heart isn’t beating fast, you’re probably spreading yourself too thin. And we all know what happens when we place our trust in a thin layer of ice.

Let’s say you’ve been a scammer for a while. Maybe instead of fishing for the C-suite, you managed a slew of side gigs just to keep up with inflation. The conundrum is that each new side gig takes away the time you can devote to all of your gigs. Eventually, your production and reputation will start to suffer because you can’t excel at everything. A fundamental concept of effective personal branding is that you need to identify your superpowers – the specific things you do better than anyone else – and select the opportunities that allow you to shine in those areas. Saying yes to all side offers ends up blurring your personal brand and leading to you doing a poor job, which unfortunately makes the word “poor” one of your brand traits.

As someone who works in the demanding technology and software industry, Chris Cardinal, head of Synapse Studios, knows the siren song of the scam. Certainly, technology is full of stories of scammers. Yet he gives no credence to the idea that “more is more”. Instead, it takes a much more hands-on approach to work and what can be done in a given time frame. “When it comes to working on complex challenges, the productivity you can really get in a day is limited,” says Cardinal. “Beyond diminishing marginal returns, you’re actually damaging the ability to be productive in the future by sacrificing sleep and interpersonal relationships and so on, and so even though you may see high returns in the short term, the turnover of your team and its sanity are paying the price. ”

We’ve all felt the rush that comes from hustling from time to time. It’s a rush that is palpable, but it should be kept to a minimum. Let go of the false belief that you have to hustle to succeed, land promotions, or earn kudos from the top brass. First, be prepared to say “no”. It’s a vocabulary word that quickly shuts down the hustle culture. Second, learn to delegate to give yourself leeway. After all, you might find yourself promoted to the C-suite, instilling a culture of happiness at work as the ultimate definition of career success.

William Arruda is keynote speaker, co-founder of CareerBlast.TV and creator of 360Reach personal brand feedback survey that lets you get the real scoop on your professional reputation from those who know you.


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