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against rise and grind

2023.09.09

One thing about me is that I am severely allergic to so-called hustle culture [1]. I detest it. I hate it. It disgusts me. That ethos perfectly captures everything that I think is wrong with the modern world. Nothing makes me more ashamed than when someone assumes that I wake up at 5am to "hustle". It's precisely the opposite, I do this so I have plenty of time to do nothing before I have to get to work. But that's a rant for another time.

Basically, I hate doing anything right when I get up in the morning. I prefer to give myself plenty of time to wake up and get ready. However, I guess I am not immune to the propraganda and pervasive idea that the best and most effective, most high-achieving people, wake up and hit the ground running.

Out of necesseity, I run in the evenings on weekdays, but on the weekends I'm free to choose the time. This usually ends up being mid-morning or noon, after I've had some time to sit around, ponder life, call my parents, have coffee, and clean my apartment. Today though, I woke up early, and decided to run with scarely more preparation than a glass of water. Why? Because I felt like I should, because if I did then maybe I would be a more accomplished and discliplined person I guess.

It went terribly. I felt half asleep, and didn't have enough energy to push, focus on my form, or notice my pace. I kept having to rewing my audiobook because I wasn't realliy comprehending the words. I only made it a paltry 3 miles before walking. Mission failed.

I suppose it's not all that surprising. There's that saying that goes something like "failing to prepare is preparing to fail". There were plenty of other runners out, who looked much better than me, so they much be used to this or more motivated by the rise and grind mindset than I was. Regardless, in a way I'm glad I did this experiment, so that I can rest assured that I am not a morning exerciser.

Reflecting on my disdain of hustle culture in general, I think what I hate about it the most is the focus on the concept of the work, rather than the work itself. It's about how you can be "tough enough" to get through the challenge of the work, by focusing on some external finish line or goal you will achieve from gritting your teeth for long enough. For people such as myself where the challenge itself is the "good part", this notion is offensive. In the words of Seth Godin, I believe in merely doing the work. He expands on this phrase, contrasting it to the hustle-culture esque "just do it" by saying:

Just do it implies “What the Hell? It doesn’t matter.” That’s not a good way forward, because it pushes you to be a hack who’s not responsible for your own work. The alternative is to replace the word “just” with the word “merely.” Merely do the work--that the time you are spending narrating yourself doing the work, the time you’re spending catastrophizing the work is not helping anything... I was willing things to work out, and I was spending a lot of time dramatizing all of the perfect problems that I was confronting. Then I was able to shift to merely doing the work without the narrative and without the drama.[2]

That's the crux of the issue. Hustle culture, at the core, is a dramatization, a glorification, of suffering. And it's a suffering that doesn't have to exist at all. Maybe if you stopped spending so much energy willing yourself forward, you would have more energy to merely do the work. And maybe then, you might realize you actually enjoy it.