Hustle Culture and Toxic Productivity


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hamyaw podcast title card cancel hustle culture and toxic productivity.

Ugh. I’m embarrassed to admit this — but “outwit, outplay, outlast” used to be the battle cry of my business strategy, dear reader…

Granted, I was a total nOOb back then, and in the early stages of my career without any real experience or hard-earned wisdom to go on.

So it makes sense that I told myself “If I just throw my entire mind, body, and soul after my goals, chances are I’ll get… uh… somewhere at least!”

Eyes on the Prize

I knew exactly what I wanted (success doing the work I enjoyed, accolades, money, the works.)

So I was gonna — wait for it — hustle my hiney off to get there. Every damn day.

I was gonna sweat. I was gonna bleed. I was gonna pour every ounce of my willpower into grinding 7 days a week until I could afford to work a little less.

And by god, I was gonna make it.

And if you wanna split hairs? It kinda worked for a while — and I was rewarded for it. After all, our culture is designed to admire and cheer on workaholics as determined, ambitious, and destined for greatness.

But when you spend too much time steeped in that juggernaut mentality? All that bravado, determination, and grit starts taking a toll.

Time to Pay the Piper

The anxiety sets in. Your back hurts all the time. You don’t sleep well anymore. All you think about is work. And you look down and realized you’ve gained 30 pounds out of nowhere because you had “no time” for the gym. (No? That one was just me? Ok.)

As my fellow internet natives would say: feelsbadman.jpg.

And this is why I fall at the feet of one amazing woman – who also happens to be A FAVORITE GUEST ON OUR INTERVIEW SERIES “#HAMYAW AND FRIENDS” – the legendary founder of Work Brighter herself, Ms. Brittany Berger (a.k.a. BBerg).

Rethinking Our Relationship to “The Grind”

BBerg and I got to chatting about our relationships to “the grind” about two years ago, and my view on hard work and hustle has been verrrry different ever since.

“I was always called ‘smart but lazy’ growing up,” she told me — a dubious distinction we both shared.

“But you know what? Now I embrace it. As a recovering workaholic who also has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, finding the most efficient way to do things can feel lazy… but what it really is is a way to take care of yourself while getting your work done.”

Mind. Blown.

BBerg Teach Us Her Ways? Heck Yeah!

So when she told us she wanted to come on the show to yell at Hustle Culture? Margo and I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Which reminds me: I’ve got some REAL nice news for ya today:

BBerg’s “Hustle Culture and Toxic Productivity” episode was so good, we turned it into a double feature. Click here to watch Part 1, and catch the glory of Part 2 right here. (Time stamps are below)

Wondering just how we’ll be yelling at hustle culture? Here’s how each of the episodes break down:

Catch Hustle Culture + Toxic Productivity, Part 1:

  • 1:20 – How BBerg defines “hustle culture” (we’re totally behind her on this one)
  • 2:39 – Wait — WHO worked themselves into the hospital multiple times?
  • 4:43 – Margo tells a story about the way we glamorize “sacrifice” and what sacrifice actually means… even if it makes you millions of dollars
  • 7:00 – BUT WHAT DOES THE PRODUCTIVITY SCIENCE SAY?
  • 8:48 – Let’s address the “lazy millennials” trope. Is there such thing as going TOO far on the self care route?
  • 10:59 – Where our level of obsession with “hustle” might come from (hellooooo #optimizedchildren of #helicopterparents)
  • 13:10 – Some sobering real talk from the CEO of Pepsi
  • 16:57 – Where our egos wreak havoc — a.k.a. Elon Musk, we have some advice for you… (go take a nap, bb)
  • 18:53 – How do we start shifting culture away from the constant hustle, and into valuing rest?
  • 20:37 – Why “Is this for now you? Or future you?” is the most important question you can ask yourself

Catch Hustle Culture and Toxic Productivity, Part 2:

  • 0:51 – Why the 10,000 hours ideal is a trap (and why you can’t just hit the “off” switch on your workaholism)
  • 3:35 – Did our shift from an industrial to a connection economy create this obsession with “hard work”, and being a “productive member of society”? DO you need to put in the hours and face time?
  • 4:44 – SUDDEN DON DRAPER REFERENCE
  • 5:14 – Brit’s super cool boundary around her emails that blew us away… and made us rethink our own. (Wait, is she thanking Tim Ferris? WHAT EPISODE IS THIS?!)
  • 7:00 – We play a new game “What Hustle Culture Phrase Would You Banish From The Earth”?
  • 8:45 – IS mindset everything?
  • 9:35 – The movement that makes Margo’s blood absolutely boil
  • 12:21 – The biggest points to take away from this whoooole conversation

And, as always… LAY IT ON ME, PEANUT GALLERY.

I’d love to hear what YOU think.

Do you love hustle culture? Hate it? Has it worked for you? And are you doing anything to push back against the “work all the time or you won’t succeed” norm in your corner of the universe?

Hit us up in the YouTube comments, hit reply to this email, or tap me on Twitter @hcweiss to share what’s on your mind.

Enjoy!

And then maybe go take a nap or something. You work too hard. <3

Write on,

H

P.S.

Holy crap that was a LOT of links in one post, huh?

Here’s a quick recap:

Watch Part 1 of BBerg’s HAMYAW episode on YouTube here.

Watch Part 2 on YouTube.

Episode Transcript

Hey no hate on paleness. First thing every single family member said to me at my bridal shower this weekend was “Wow you’re so pale. Look at your little white body.” And I was like “Thank you for calling it little”. 

[upbeat music]

Welcome back guys for another episode of HAMYAW  and today we have a very, very special guest with us, actually the first guest ever on HAMYAW, so I hope she feels extremely special. It is none other than the legendary founder of Work Writer, Miss Brittany Berger. How’re you doing?

I am so awesome. Thank you so much for having me as the first guest.

Oh my God. You are so welcome. We would not have missed having you on here. We are so excited to welcome you to the show. And as you know, this is a safe space for yelling, screaming and all things bashing.

Well, not necessarily, we try to be kind to people.

But my first question to you Brittany is what do you want to yell about on today’s episode?

Hustle culture and toxic productivity.

Yes, lay it on me girl.

How are we defining hustle culture?

Like oh, for me, I define hustle culture of having a really narrow pursuit of success, work, and productivity. I like to look at productivity now as just like doing what you need to do in a good way. So you can like productively cook, you can productively exercise, like productivity isn’t just like a thing you do at the office to make money.

We just are so focused on our offices and making money that that’s kind of the only thing we apply it to we get really just focused on getting the most done and more and more and more at work. And as little as possible in every other area of your life.

This was so interesting to me, Brittany, because I remember feeling so alone in this like hyper stress about productivity, feeling like I was working myself to the bone while everyone else was doing fine. And it was easy for them. And I was like struggling privately thinking, Oh my God, just “Am I not built for this? Am I not cut out for this?”

Like look at all these people being like, no sleep, all this stuff. I’m like, but I I tried, and I’m very ill. And I need sleep now. And I wrote a blog post about it. And I think it was something called like, “my deep misinterpretation of mental toughness”. 

Yes

Too many words. And I wrote that post. And I remember having a swarm of replies come in, I think it was in the copywriter club and one from you. Where you were like, look, this is so much of a problem. I’ve worked myself, and I forgive me if this is not your story, but I worked myself into the hospital twice when I was working 

Yeah, 

Into the emergency room. And I was like, Oh my God. 

And it’s more than twice by now. I’m like, I’d love to say that like after I messaged you, I had it all fixed. But no, it’s happened again, since then. Yes, that is my story. I was working so hard that I would literally be in the waiting room of the emergency room, I would be hooked up to IVs.

And I would be blogging. And I would think that it was good. And it was productive. Because like I was doing pomodoros I was doing time blocks. And I was sticking to those time blocks even though I was in the hospital. Isn’t that productive?

Yeah. And then there’s this link, I think as well for this concentrated entrepreneurship, to prove yourself, especially as a woman, to prove yourself and be constantly, you know, wanting to be five steps ahead and wanting to be keeping up with the boys even if there are no boys around. And I think that is so interesting that we tie so much of our value to our productivity.

And the only thing related to productivity is how much money we’re making and how much work we’re doing. And I think it was so interesting that you raised that point, like you can work out productively, you can rest productively, you can stare off into space productively, and I think that’s just a game changer.

Changing that mindset.

Growing up like people used to always say that I was lazy. And obviously that became like a big thing that feeds into all of this as well. Because now I realize, oh, I have chronic fatigue syndrome. So that was just an undiagnosed illness.

But then somewhere along the way, I became a workaholic. And I started only looking at that in terms of like the work side of things. And the craziest thing about working myself into the hospital and stuff like that, especially with being an entrepreneur is that at the time, I was a side-hustler, and I really had no need to even like have this business at all.

And really, I had my whole family, I even had my co workers, like I wasn’t even like asking for time off like they were like basically forcing it on me. And basically the whole business came out of time that I should have been spent recovering.

I remember I was at an event in the city, where a person was giving a talk on his several billion dollar exit of his company. He was not that much older than me at the time. And I remember sitting there where he was talking about the sacrifice required to do something great. And it was funny, he was talking to a roomful of women, and it was just him.

And he was like, using words like dedication, commitment, loyalty, sacrifice. And all I could hear was you’re a shitty son, you’re really bad friend, it sounds like you had some sort of eating disorder, it sounds like you weren’t sleeping and might have actually been delusional. And they’re like, all of these signs of real mental health breakdowns that were the way he was talking about it, it was like, we’re gonna reward this. And this is the bar. 

And I have a lot of problems with this, personally, from a mental health standpoint, and then also systemically it rewards sacrifice at all costs in a way that is unattainable if you have any sort of non-privilege. Like really, 

Yes, 

It just, it’s insane. 

Yeah, 

I mean, what it is suggesting is the norm and then you hear the hustle bros, talking about how like, no, it’s a meritocracy, you just got to put in the hours. Just got to put in the time and I’m like, you don’t have a kid, you’re white, you’re this, you’re that like, I don’t want to I don’t want to touch this with a 10 foot pole for all of the things that are wrong with the way you’re talking about success right now.

But here we are, you have the numbers, like he now has a VC firm. He’s, he’s a, he’s not a bad person, like a fine person. I think that what he was representative of something really bigger. That’s the problem.

Yeah. And I just think that so many people just aren’t self aware enough to like really see the world that they’re living in. And that’s where a lot of it comes in. Like, do you remember that time that there is a back and forth on either social media or like I think it might have actually been like articles between Elon Musk and Arianna Huffington about how much she slept? Was the world that we live in?

This simulation is glitching. Just because someone call admin Ariana Huffington. Yeah, the sleep revolution, there is an entire hit book about the fact people should sleep more.

That’s mayhem, of all of it, though. Because if you go to the productivity science, this is why I love if you guys haven’t heard of cave day, you should look them up. Oh, yeah. They are an awesome company that is teaching people how to work. But the whole point is that we have engineered our work culture to actually be anti productivity, like open workspaces, constant interruptions.

When I hear the phrase hustle culture, my head goes to: Don’t sleep. Brag about how fat you’ve gotten, but not in the not in a good way. Just be like, God, I can’t believe how much weight I’ve gained or I’m so exhausted. Look at the circles around my eyes are like all the things that you get to say like the like, you get the status of like, Oh, God, I haven’t been to my kids in two weeks. 

Yes. 

Gotten me a fuckin award. Like, what? I look at someone and I’m like, I’m sorry, sweetheart, do you want to nap? Should I give you a hug? Like me for that kind of stuff. But here’s the double edged sword of it. The rational part of my brain is like, oh my god, that is bananas.

And then the irrational side of my brain at 9pm is like, oh my god, I haven’t finished all the things I need to do more things. I’m not hustling hard enough. What should I do? And then Gary Vee shows up and yells at me in my head.

My favorite blog post you have about that. I like to call them like the productivity devil and the self care angel on my shoulder. But 

Yes, 

But the self care Angel goes to bed early because she’s good. She’s got her sleep hygiene in check. And so then the devil is just there saying work harder than she did. She’s gone to bed at night.

So here’s part of my problem with this is that there are two sides of this conversation when it comes to hustle. Because I think there’s a very real criticism and conversation to be had about going too far on the self care route. Like, I think that’s why you hear things like people are like, Oh, entitled, millennials, they need so much coddling.

We all met those people who are like, I’m gonna go live in Bali for four months. And I’m gonna go be a yoga instructor and I’m going to go on the cleanse, I’m going to do the, you know, lifestyle hacker du jour thing. And then basically, they’re fucking around for a year and a half, and they go back and get a job at IBM. And they’re not helping the cause here, like…

But I feel like people have always done that, like people have always fucked around in their 20s. And then they get older and they forget, they don’t want to recognize that or whatever. And so they turn it into a generational thing.

Well, that’s true. Yeah, that’s 100% true, but I’m saying like, we all have this friend, right? Like the person who’s like, why isn’t my business where it should be? But also, I’m going at 3pm. I’m done with my workday. Like, okay, well, that actually is a problem because when you are an entrepreneur, you do have to put in a lot of hours. That is true.

Now, if you’re the person going and being like, I only want to work four hours a day, then do that. But recognize that that probably is not going to make you a million dollars a year, that’s going to make you 75 a year, that’s totally fine. 

Yeah, that’s the place I’m in.

A conversation about what it means to hustle and what it means to be successful. And Brittany, you said that in the beginning, which I think is really, really smart, which is like, we have to define our own metrics for success, like, totally fine. If you want to work 20 hours a week, like, God bless. You, do you, but like, don’t complain, then that you don’t have a private jet. 

Exactly.

Yeah. It’s the, I think it’s the complaining too. It’s sort of like, why am I not doing well, like I have these boundaries and all this stuff? It’s like, okay, well, these unfortunately, like, the fewer boundaries you have, the slower you grow in some respects. I don’t think that’s exclusively but I know when we talked about the boundaries episode, we were having these conversations about having no boundaries, as we were building and did in some respects, like, that was a reason for some of our momentum.

I don’t think it’s necessary by any means. I think, I don’t think it’s necessarily required to build momentum in your business. And I don’t think newbies should have zero boundaries, like we did. 

But it is interesting. Our generation I think this is specifically a problem because we are the result of like, what the helicopter parents generation, but I was reading this article about how parents are now optimize their children. It’s not now like giving us a chance to be creative, giving us a chance to like test out different sports.

It’s like, okay, Johnny, like you’re in preschool. So it’s time to get you on the soccer field. So you can get a scholarship to go somewhere for college because you can’t afford it. And it is that optimization and the nature of schoolwork has changed. And what’s required to get into college has changed.

And I remember this house, these hustle conversations these like comparative these pride, comments about work, overworking happening in college, where we’d sit around outside the library, smoking our cigarettes being like, oh, man, I gotta be in the library until 2am. I didn’t sleep last night, like I have a final and six essays. 

And then the other person’s like, Well, I haven’t slept for three days, and I’ve been high as fuck on Adderall. It’s interesting where it started because we’re told we’re this lazy generation, but I feel like we are more obsessed with work and productivity than any generation prior and earning power.

Because, you know, wages have stagnated, while even though the stock market is doing great. So we feel like we have to work five times as hard to get ahead to have a life our parents had because it was way easier to buy a house in the 90s. You know, it’s just an interesting time.

Yeah, I think that it all really comes down to like, again, that self awareness, the self awareness helps you see whether you’re only working 20 hours a week and expecting to earn a million dollars. And also like the definition of success thing with, which is what I was gonna say about Elon Musk.

He says that, like it’s necessary for him to get four hours of sleep per night and sleep on the couch in his office or whatever the hell he does. But that’s because his definition of success not only includes like whatever success that he is defined for all of his companies, but it also includes him being like the public face of it all.

And like the thought leader, and like it has so much to do with his ego that like would any of his companies really fail if he delegated like a little bit more to other people in this company? I feel like a lot of his mindset is like the same ego stuff. solopreneurs face, except he’s not solopreneur.

But I love what you’re saying about self-awareness. I think the other side of that coin is also honesty in our conversations about this. I remember when India Nuri I think that’s how you say her name, the CEO of Pepsi came out and was like, everyone says like, oh my god, it’s amazing.

She has it all. She’s like the CEO, and she’s a mom. And she does all these things. She’s like, I missed every soccer game. And she started talking about the realities of being CEO of Pepsi, while raising young girls. And like the contradictions in what she came to represent versus the reality that she was living.

And I really appreciate that, like, I appreciate when women come up to me, and they’re like, this is how much I actually make, this is how much I actually see my children, how much I do. 

This is how much my husband does and like having these honest conversations about how we derive wealth in this country, how companies are born. Like there’s a lot of women I know, I’m in it, we’re all at different stages on this phone call, but like phone call on the Zoom, but I’m at that stage where we have one kid, and you start to hear more about parent entrepreneurs.

And a lot of women have said like, physically, it’s not possible for me to work in the ways that my husband can work and so we’ve worked out a way that he has more income potential than me.

So I’m doing more childcare and then the the gender pay gap begins, but also for what it means for your business is it literally has to stagnate or you work yourself stupid trying to overcome all of these stereotypes.

Like we were saying about lazy or not working hard enough not hustling hard enough. And it’s like, no, you literally just like shat a watermelon out of your vag.

Like seriously. 

Yeah, that thing that you want to chill like, you have stitches. 

Exactly. I mean, I haven’t done that. But I have had a lot of, I have had a lot of health stuff go on and it really made me, it was part of why I had to shift my mindset around what productivity is and so something that I say all the time now is, rest is work. Recovery is work. Like, there are jobs that need to be done if you’re gonna go do magic, and there’s no way around it.

Especially as creatives, we need that space. Like yeah, you just need time to work out problems you need time to, like recover so you can come back and be energized. And this is actually so funny because Margo and I were talking last week were like, maybe it was the week before last, I had wisdom teeth surgery, as you probably saw all over social media because I made great content out of it.

One of my cheeks was just like, like, it was super swollen. And I was, it was the Wednesday after and my cheek was still swollen, but it was more like [gestures]. So I was like, should we still film? I think we should still, and Margo was like, we’re not fucking filming, recover.

It really put into perspective how much of my job requires talking, whether it’s interviewing clients, whether it’s filming HAMYAW, whether it’s talking to Margo on Voxer.

So it really put it into perspective, like I have to learn to rest and to value that because my first thought was like, How can I get back to work? How can I get back to work soonest?

I went back to podcast four days later. Four days later! 

So much even crazier. Should we do an episode on self care?

Yeah, like back in my like, just like I like I like to divide my life up into like my work smarter days and then my work brighter days, but like back in my work smarter days, I would go have like minor surgeries in the morning and then go to work in the afternoon and tell people I just had a doctor’s appointment not even tell them.

Oh my god, you didn’t even get the hustle credit.

Like, people were concerned about me. And so like I knew that they would send me home and then I wouldn’t get to brag because I wouldn’t be working. 

So strong. 

Really like this way I could then say on a HAMYAWl interview years later. I’m still doing it.

Brag, even though we know it’s wrong. I think this is so interesting with you mentioning Elon Musk and how it’s like I need to be on the office couch. I need to be sitting for hours tonight. I need to be sending out to get me $20 million fines because I’m high on Ambien. 

Yeah, I…

The company would be better off if you could walk away a little bit. 

It would be fine, homie. Just take a nap. But I think this is also an ego thing. And this is where solopreneur start to suffer, especially when we start hiring teams is because it’s that same story.

Well, if you want something done, right, you’ve got to do it yourself. No one can do it the way I can. I’ve got to do it. Give it to me. I’ll handle it like…

Guilty, guilty, guilty. And it’s taken me a lot. Like I have a little team. I have a social gal, I have a VA, they’re both wonderful. Shout out to Haley and Taylor. And I also have a designer who I can reach out to for support and stuff.

And it’s just really been such an exercise being like, take it, I’m not going to give any comments or I’m not going to follow up and I’m not going to freak out. Just send it to me. And then I will give you feedback.

I’ve had to train myself to do that. So it’s been a big exercise having to do that. And that’s an ego thing, just like the bragging about how hard you’re hustling is an ego thing. And I think we forget.

Yeah. And I think that part of me just didn’t really see that until I shifted my priorities from like, oh, like, I’m out here every day to be an entrepreneur to like, “Oh, I’m out here every day to like, be the most Bberg I can be.” And that sounds really corny, but like shifting my version of success to one that’s like, has very little to do with my business these days.

Yeah. What are some things we can do to start shifting culture? Because like, what, so I’ll give what I’ve been trying to do

Wait, hair.

Looks so good though. 

I worked really hard on it, everyone. The thing that I’ve been trying to do is bragging about the right things. So I’ll take a moment and be like, I slept eight hours. You know, yeah, I slept in today. You know, like, I don’t mean it in like a I guess I could sound like you’re rubbing it in way. But I do think that we are okay, let me say differently. I get excited for my peers, when they tell me things like that. 

Yeah

They are like, I’ve just landed this big deal. I just slept, I went to the gym. I’m taking the rest of the day off, or like things like I’m celebrating this big win. I celebrate with them. And I think that if we want to shift the culture, we cannot judge our friends for their lack of hustle when they share those things with us.

Exactly. Yeah, I love that. 

And I think another thing too, is when I have friends who are like, Well, I’m just working so hard. I’ve got this and that and I took on another job. I’m actually practicing like, hey, remember to prioritize rest? 

Yeah. 

Those things as well. 

Yeah. I always like checking in like, Oh, is that what you needed? Or like, oh, like what you know or not, not like in those words, but like, like, oh, what made you do that? In a very non judgmental way. But like trying to dig into like, why? And then you know, I feel like I am the friend who tells people like, are you doing this for yourself or for other people? And stuff like that. I feel like I am that friend. But 

That is one of the biggest points that we should take home for people. 

Yeah

Because I do think when we talk about overwork, like one of the things that used to frustrate me is when people would be like, You shouldn’t work weekends, but I was writing a lot on weekends. And it brought me joy. Like I Marie Kondoed my life, and I was like, I actually do want to spend the next four hours in front of my computer writing because that makes me happy.

Yeah, people viewed that as like, No, you’re workaholic and like, no, no, that’s not what it looks like. And so you do have to have that self awareness like you were talking about of like, Am I doing this for me? Or am I doing this because I feel like I need to keep up with the like onslaught of crap. And only you know the difference.

But like, you do need to know that about yourself, you need to know what’s motivating you, if you’re doing something because you feel like you need to keep up with the Joneses that you don’t like, or if you’re doing something because it’s actually something that fuels you and actually something that moves the needle forward in your business that

Yeah. nother question I like asking is like is this for now you are future you? Because I feel like like I personally have so little self control. Normally. I am normally all about current me and not future me. And I feel like that’s a good way of knowing like oh, is this is this Netflix binge actually what I need right now or am I just avoiding the email waiting for me in my inbox right now?

And it’s like, oh, will I actually feel more rested after this, like hour of TV or will I not? Like, what do I actually need right now? 

I love it. I love that. And I think also just remembering to check in on whether or not you’re taking something on because you feel like you’re in competition with yourself.

Like, oh, I could do this. Like I did this once upon a time I could probably do it again. Or like I haven’t felt really stressed out in a while like I haven’t worked a weekend. So you know what, fuck it, you know, let’s do it.

I think that is, you know, constantly competing with yourself and your peers and feeling like you’re always checking in about whether you’re doing enough. And I think sometimes you need to figure out what enough is for you. And then cut it off.

Yeah, I love that. Yeah, that’s actually something that I when I was thinking about this talk beforehand, I like wanted to bring up and I forgot so I’m glad you did. Um,

We would love to hear from you guys. So please continue this conversation in the comments below. I am Margo Aaron. 

And I’m Hillary Weiss. 

And I’m Britney Berger. 

This has been HAMYAW. If you like us, please, just below subscribe to our channel and share it with your friends and we will see you in two weeks. 

Go take a nap! 

Bye guys.

Part 2

Y’all ready? Margot Your hair looks like a glorious 70s femme fatale Bond girl and I’m just living for it.

You guys. It’s cuz I’m wearing pajamas, like

I love it!

Living! 

[upbeat music]

Welcome back guys for another episode of HAMYAW. And today, we are actually doing part two of our conversation with the amazing Brittany Berger on hustle culture. So I know you guys watched part one, and we’re so excited to dig into this piece today. So let’s get right back into it.

And so you can’t just like work constantly, until you’re an expert, and then take the time to relax. Even though a lot of people have done that, I think it’s really, a lot of it is a survivorship bias thing. For every person who hustled their way to whatever the version of the top is for them. There were probably five others that were trying the same thing as them and burned out and gave up. 

Yeah,

Half the class like, 

Yeah, it’s like you’re not their kids, you’re not their spouse. 

Yeah, 

You don’t know what their internal life is. And if they actually have satisfaction and fulfillment, or even the money that they think that they were chasing? 

Yeah, absolutely. And you also can’t with the 10,000 hours, you can’t just shut off those habits. And I think that’s where what Margo and I were talking about when we did the boundaries episode, as well. And what we’re talking about so much now is it’s like, okay, I’m just gonna work as hard as I possibly can now to build up that momentum and do the thing. And then the thing happens, and you’re just like,

“Okay, where’s the next mountain?” Like, Let’s climb! And it just starts being the cycle of a constant sort of reach, reach, reach, and strive, strive, strive, which fries us, but because that’s what we’re taught, thanks to the myth of the American dream in life and life in a capitalist society. 

That was the most important piece of our worth, as human beings, like it was important for us to be a productive member of society. If 

Yeah, doing stuff and making money making things supporting our families, of course, is part of the equation.

But it was basically like, if you are not working, who are you? Are you even a person? Do you even really exist? Are you ever going to be worth anything? And what does worth mean, and all that stuff? So I think it’s, I think it’s, we’ve created a lovely little trap for ourselves. And hustle culture is a symptom of the larger problem. 

Yeah. And I really had to grapple with it when I really started getting sick. And all of my chronic illness kind of came to a head, because I didn’t even really quit my day job to start a business. I, when I did it, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be going into my business full time or going on to disability.

And so I really had to grapple with that phrase “productive member of society”, because I had no idea if I was ever going to be one. And that’s when I really realized how much of my identity I put into being a productive member of society. 

And everything. I was even at a friend’s wedding shower over like two weeks ago, and they were telling their friends about how like, oh, yeah, like she was the hard worker. And I was like, god dammit, I was.

But now I know, I’m really having fun too.

Like, they used to always make fun of like, when we would be hanging out watching TV in college, I would also be blogging on my lap. That was like the early days of my blogging, and they go like, but you did.

And I was like, yeah, but I had such a miserable few years that like, imagine where I would be, if I’d worked a little bit less hard back then and didn’t have to take like, basically two years off. For all the rest that I had missed out on.

So often, the moments where we’re seen as killing it are the moments we’re having the hardest time. Yeah, because we’re juggling a million things

Then, culturally, we went from an industrial age to a connection economy. I don’t feel like our work habits have shifted, like we’re still working as if it’s an industrial age. And when I hear people, I have a lot of friends in more like traditional corporate organizations, and they’ll say things to me, like, “Oh, we got to put in the hours, you got to put in the face time.”

And I’m like, that doesn’t make any fucking sense. So your boss happens to see your face. What about getting actual work done? And I was a victim of this too, when I worked in corporate, I would always be like, Oh, no, they need to see me, they need to hear. 

And that made sense when you would go home and there was literally no way to do work. And I remember talking about this with my parents as it pertained to spending quality time with my daughter, because I was feeling constantly like we weren’t having quality time.

And you’re being interrupted. And everybody wanted to FaceTime and my parents are like, it’s so interesting the demands on your time, that didn’t happen when we had you because we didn’t have smartphones. So when we were home with you, we weren’t doing work because we physically couldn’t. 

And my parents were entrepreneurs, by the way, and they were really successful entrepreneurs. So like, they’re sitting there being like, we know for a fact you don’t have to put yourself into illness because we didn’t do it.

But it was also not the norm then, like it was a big deal to take a call after hours because it was so hard to find that person and like to call them. Iit’s like those episodes of Mad Men when they’re finding Don Draper like the calling the bars. 

Yeah, I was like, oh god, that’s so much work. How many bars did you call and like how many did you have to go to? But think about that today, it’s a matter of two seconds that you’re constantly interrupting someone, and that’s considered, okay.

That’s considered the norm. And it’s actually a disadvantage to your career if you don’t respond, allegedly. And what I love that Brittany has done that the audience doesn’t know is that she set really, really beautiful boundaries about how you’re allowed to reach her.

So even in this episode, Brooke was really strict about when she checked her email. And I thought that was so good, but like, we were jealous, like, there’d be days that, like, she didn’t respond. And she was like, yeah, we’re like, oh, right, right.

Okay.

And you also accept the consequences, though, like we eventually got it scheduled. Was it imminent? Was it an emergency? No. You know, like, I think that that is a muscle, you have to start building. And I’m really, I mean, like, kudos to you for enduring that.

Thank you. And this is where I will thank one person who I think is pretty hustle culture-y but Tim Ferriss, because I know that like The Four Hour Workweek talks a lot about this exact thing.

About how workplaces like aren’t really built for our modern habits. And so while he makes suggestions that are very hustle culture-y like, I know that like his PS that he suggests in the book is like, I only check email once a week, don’t expect to hear back, don’t bother me.

And it kind of makes like the recipient feel guilty. I don’t want that. But I do love the mindset of being less in your email.

So I have a PS that’s just like, hey, I’m not in my inbox much. But I do want to hear from you. And I can’t wait to get back to you just be patient for that. 

Yeah

Yeah. And it’s where we’re in an era of now now now. And this is actually why I had to delete Facebook and Facebook Messenger from my phone was there were constantly people like in my Facebook Messenger tagging me.

They’re all constant notifications. And it’s the same with you know, most social platforms. But Facebook is starting to get to a point where it’s really really suffocated. Where it was basically like, someone didn’t reach me by email, they would hit my Facebook Messenger.

Like, hey, I’m trying to reach you. I’m like, I know. Oh, my God. Please leave me alone. I can’t breathe. 

But I want to play a little game before we sign off. Is that okay with you, ladies? 

Yeah. 

Yeah. 

I want to hear which hustle culture phrase you would like to banish from the earth? What would you not care if you never fucking heard again, and never uttered and was erased from the washes of social media history? I think I know which one I would do. 

I think that is a great question.

Oh, my God, I really have to think. 

Gut check. I’ll start. I think for me, it’s fuckin “hashtag team no sleep”. That drives me insane. And I’ll tell you why.

First of all, it was started, I believe, as a party hashtag where people were at the clubs late, which like, once upon a time, I was able to do that. It was a very brief time.

But two, I think people celebrating the fact that they are not sleeping and working constantly, Arianna Huffington. I almost said Ariana Grande.

Another icon…

Oh, why not? Two minutes. I remember she was giving an interview about her book, The Sleep Revolution, and she was basically talking about how people would walk in and be like, well, I just worked all night on that presentation, and I just got no sleep.

And she would look at them and say like, if you haven’t slept, you’re basically coming into work drunk. Why are you bragging to me about coming into work drunk? And I was like, Miss Grande. How could you?

But it’s true. I think it’s such an interesting reframe.

And I think bragging about something that is has a huge negative impact on your health is fucked up.

Finding a reason to celebrate it, giving it a reason to fuel your ego. And I mean other people admiring it with a little up hand emojis! No more team no sleep. That’s what I’d strike from the earth.

Alright, I’m scrolling through Instagram.

That’s what I just did!

To see what I’ve written about.

I should have told you guys about this prompt before.

Okay, I think I have mine now. “Mindset is everything.” Mindste may be everything if that was the only thing ever holding you down, but most of us face some sort of systematic oppression and so this comes back to the inherent privilege and politicalness of productivity and hustle culture.

You know what no mindset isn’t everything. Health is real. Systematic oppression is real. And the main people that say mindset is everything are straight, white Christian dudes who really just, I don’t know, they just had it out easy to begin with. So in their case, mindset is everything.

But as the guy from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt says, “Your experiences are not universal”. 

Mm hmm. 

That character is so great. John [indistinct] 

Love it. Okay.

I don’t know what to call this, like as a phrase, but the whole anti-intellectual movement really makes my blood boil. There are very, very real problems with education that we should talk about and that we should work to fix.

But I think being like, “Going to college is stupid and for chumps, and like if you really want to learn what it means to hustle, like you got to be in the streets.” Or you got to like, I don’t know, whatever.

The streets.

We are.

What intersection can I find? Yeah.

I will not be there. But it’s good to know so I can avoid it. Anyway, go on Margo.

My dad used to say something to me because he was someone who kind of had that self-made mantra, but he never discounted education, like he always was the person every time I’d complain and be like, what would I, what am I going to do with this?

And he would look at me and he’d be like, find the application. He’s like, there’s no reason not to learn, but it’s up to you to find the answers that are going to teach you the application. That’s what you have to learn.

And so I always went into it with that mindset and I didn’t realize other people didn’t. And so I get really mad when people like, what am I gonna do with this information? I’m always like, find an application!

Yeah, it’s education helps you figure out how to solve problems. And I think it’s not for everybody, actually, a part of me wishes sometimes that there had been almost like a trade school for advertising so I could have gone straight into copywriting.

But at the same time, if I didn’t have my background in public relations, anthropology, and English Lit, it would not have given me the leg up on the copywriting that I currently have.

So I’m pro University, I’m anti people taking on hundreds of thousands in student loans, for things that they’re not going to do but I totally agree. I think it’s the anti intellectualism that like just starts selling sneakers man, or like, you know, start being a, become this bro kind of bro or that kind of bro or start investing.

Like there are so many different outlets for people to take alternative paths. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that college is not helpful, and that getting an actual degree in something is actually going to harm you in some way.

Exactly. And I think that there’s such a big difference between being like anti corrupt educational institutions, because I know that like that’s been in a lot in the news a lot this year. And people are like using it as proof to say like, oh, look, you don’t need to go to college. College is a scam like, No, it’s not the world is a scam and college is just a part of the world.

Today scams you!

Just like it’s 2019, the world is a grip. 

Yeah. On that note, a very revelatory episode of HAMYAW. 

No, it’s been a pleasure to have you, I think this is an ongoing conversation. And like we are all doing the most that we possibly can to combat the negative and toxic workplace culture of hustle, guilt and hustle productivity and this obsession with output and not necessarily the process that gets you there.

And so this conversation can help move the needle forward in helping people. Like, don’t make yourself sick. Don’t abandon your family.

Don’t think mental health is a side issue that you can worry about later. Don’t think that your health is something that you can think about later or that your relationships are or the people you care about. 

We would love to hear from you guys. So please continue this conversation in the comments below. Brittany, where can people find you?

You can find me on my website home at workbrighter.co And on the socials. I am personally @thatbberg pretty much everywhere and then Work Brighter is on Instagram as @workbrighter. 

I love talking to Britt on Twitter. She’s super active.

We tweet a lot. 

Come come bother her on Twitter with us guys. It’s a blast.

I’m already there. Let’s continue the conversation both on Twitter and in the comments below. You guys. We want to hear your reactions. We want to hear your thoughts. We want to hear what you’re doing to break toxic workplace hustle culture. Please join us in this revolution.

I’m Margo Aaron. 

And I’m Hillary Weiss. She is 

Brittany Berger. 

Yes!

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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