In modern times, hustle has become the air we breathe. In pursuit of our goals, we’re sold the mentality that we should be going hard at all times. Don’t let up, or you’re going to fall behind the pack. Trying to make our way in an increasingly crowded and competitive job market, logically this starts to make a whole lot of sense. As Deep Work author Cal Newport puts it, companies are now hiring "superstars" instead of local talent. The remote work revolution has made it so you can hire cream of the crop from around the world instead of the local commuter.  This gives added pressure to constantly be tinkering our LinkedIn pages, adding new skills, or putting in a few extra hours to get noticed.  As a result, this has given way to hustle culture, which can be defined as "the mentality that one must work all day every day in pursuit of their professional goals." Hustle has turned it into a mantra, as evidenced by the #hustle hashtag taking over social media platforms.  The term appears in 29 million Instagram posts and has garnered over 10.5 billion views on TikTok. Influencers have been quick to capitalize on this, flooding our feeds with content they claim will help us hustle successfully, make a fortune, and/or move up the corporate ladder. While hard work is a virtue, there is something distinctly different about hustle culture in that is slowly killing us. Maybe not in a literal sense, but most definitely on a spiritual and emotional level. Buzzfeed’s Anne Helen Petersen once mused that she felt bad for trading work for leisure time: "I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time...things that should’ve felt good (leisure, not working) felt bad because I felt guilty for not working." Hustle culture teaches us that work is everything. You must maximize the 1440 minutes in a day, or you'll fall behind. In the New York Times, researcher Aidan Harper outlined the psychological effect of this  stating  “[Seeing work as everything] creates the assumption that the only value we have as human beings is our productivity capability — our ability to work, rather than our humanity.” How is hustle culture psychologically molding us? By our estimation, hustle culture has hustled us, primarily by selling us on these five myths:
    • Hustle is good, slow is bad
    • Hustling is productive
    • Hustling is meaningful
    • Hustling has no side effects 
    • All hustle is the same
 There’s bits of truth in each of these claims, but that’s exactly what makes hustle culture so seductive, as it slowly chips away at our souls. Let’s unpack each myth together. 



Most marathon runners train by going intentionally slower than they would for a short sprint. It's about regulating your pace so you have energy for the long haul. Somehow, with work we’ve become convinced that we must take the opposite approach. It’s assumed that all hustling is good, and going slow is bad, so we sprint with a furious pace.  Why?  Because not hustling is often associated with laziness.  "Successful" people are constantly touting their extreme work habits, claiming that output is directly tied to hourly input.  Tesla and Twitter boss Elon Musk once said that "no one ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” And former Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer controversially explained how she worked 130 hours a week, saying it was possible if you "if you're strategic about when you sleep, when you shower, and how often you go to the bathroom."   She even worked from the hospital after her twins were born. Just to make sure she was getting some extra tasks done. Hustle culture often tells us to make a move for the sake of making a move. But what if this mentality is actually holding us back? Consider the old quality over quantity argument. We marvel at wines for the aging that refines their flavor. We commend a Christopher Nolan film that's been in the works for years as opposed to a haphazardly thrown together Hollywood B movie.  Quality is inherently tied to our focus (and therefore slowness), and it is literally impossible to maintain that deep focus if we're constantly hustling. Hustling often involves multitasking, and cognitive studies have even shown that multitasking can affect the brain's gray matter volume, which deals with decision making and memory.   It doesn't often feel like a win to take a deep breath, think, process, or stay put, but that intentional slowing down can prevent us from doing unnecessary work or effort in the first place.  But history has proven that it is usually the projects that experience overnight success that crash and burn. Slow is not bad, in fact, slow can be strategic and intentional, leading to sustainability in the long-term. It can actually help us achieve our goals. Newport advocated for “slow productivity” in a recent New Yorker article, writing "the central goal of Slow Productivity is to keep an individual worker’s volume at a sustainable level. A natural fear is that by reducing the amount of work each employee tackles at any given time, it might reduce the total amount of work an organization is able to complete, making it less competitive. This fear is unfounded. As argued, when an individual's work volume increases, so does the accompanying overhead and stress, reducing both the time remaining to actually execute the tasks and the quality of the results." If the classic Tortoise & The Hare children's story teaches us anything, it's not just that the tortoise wins the race, it's that he finishes the race.



This leads us to the second myth, one that primarily applies to knowledge workers. The Oxford Dictionary defines productivity as "the state or quality of producing something."  Which goes to say, we've come to measure society in the 21st century as constantly churning out something. We think that we’ll actually get more done if we hustle. And while this is partially true, the amount of hours put in doesn't automatically equal production or quality.  A study from Stanford professor John Pencavel found that "output at 70 hours differs little from output at 56 hours." Translation: those 14 extra hours simply aren't productive. In the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, author John Mark Comer agrees. "It’s been proven by study after study: there is zero correlation between hurry and productivity. In fact, once you work a certain number of hours in a week, your productivity plummets. Wanna know what the number is? Fifty hours. Ironic: that’s about a six-day workweek," he found.  Comer goes on to detail times throughout history when various countries or movements tried to do away with the rhythm of a seven day work week (with at least one rest day) for the sake of productivity. In France, the 10 day workweek was a disaster. The economy tanked, suicides increased, and productivity flatlined. Think about it like filling up your car's gas tank at the pump. You fill it until you hear a click, and once that happens, you can't fill it up more even if you wanted to.  Your car has a fixed amount that it can take per fill-up. We're no different. Once we pass a certain threshold, we hit a plateau. Yes, we could push past that threshold, but it will be at diminishing returns. At peak productivity, maybe we could’ve written a banger of a blog in 2 hours. But at diminishing levels, that might now be 10 hours. Adam Grant, a professor at UPenn's famed Wharton School of Business, says that strategy is more important than hustling or time spent. Grant is the top-rated professor at Wharton and has published several bestselling books, but it isn't because he stays up until 3 a.m. Grant has a methodical approach called "batching," in which he designates specific times for specific tasks. He spends most of his time teaching during the fall semester, then turns his focus to research and writing in the spring and summer.  His formula is Time Spent x Intensity of Focus. If your focus is high, then the time spent doesn't have to be long.  Newport reiterates this idea in Deep Work, finding that the very best undergraduate students studied less than those in the group below them in the GPA rankings. The distinction? Concentration.  "The best students understood the role intensity plays in productivity and therefore went out of their way to maximize their concentration – radically reducing the time required to prepare for tests or write papers, without diminishing the quality of their results," he said.  Of course, it's important to emphasize the nuance of how this applies to "knowledge workers" vs. those in more blue collar jobs. Knowledge workers are those whose main skill involves using their knowledge expertise, such as programmers, doctors, architects, or engineers. Their work is often online or requires extensive periods of ideation or thought.  However, if you work at an Amazon warehouse making $26 an hour, odds are you want to take on more hours. More hours = more pay, and your paycheck is completely dependent on time spent, not creative or cognitive output.  The ability to hustle as a white collar worker is a privilege. But for some people, they don't have a choice because they have a family to feed. That raises the question: why are people who don't need to hustle doing it in the first place?


"How are you doing?" "Oh, just so busy.""Yeah, I hear you. I'm probably just going to be at the coffee shop 'til midnight cranking out some designs. Our company is just doing sooo much." Does some version of this conversation sound familiar?  Busyness has gone from an annoying burden to a status symbol, and people have adopted the idea that being busy means you're really important.  The more your life is filled up, the more your life is worth. In a 2015 HuffPost article, "The Myth of Busyness," author Stuart Whatley describes how discussing how busy we are has become a way to flex: "Casually humblebragging about how busy we are has become a conversational banality akin to talking about the weather, but our collective obsession with time pressure is part of a cycle of credulity: popular press accounts about widespread busyness lead more people to report that they’re busy, which creates further media coverage of the same." We give answers like this because hustle and busyness have become intertwined with meaning. We want others to know what we are doing with our lives.  But hustling for hustle’s sake is futile. If our goal in life is self-glorification and status, it is an empty existence that holds no redemptive power in the world.  Not to mention that in a previous blog, we discussed the dangers of putting your identity in your work. Like beauty, career is a crappy barometer of self-worth.  You are always tied to your performance, and your performance will never feel like it’s enough. This becomes an easy recipe for burnout and we end up paying for that through many other areas in our lives.



How exactly do we pay for hustle culture? Most prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines come with a long list of potential side effects. We can evaluate for ourselves whether or not taking them is worth the risk of further complications.  But the metaphorical bottle of hustle is commonly seen as side-effect-free. Let's imagine that hustle had a warning label and fine print. What would some of the side effects be?

Addictive Qualities (Workaholism)

One of the biggest byproducts of hustling is workaholism, or an addiction to work. Per the APA, it's "the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly." Think of it like any other obsession. When that new Netflix show drops on Friday, the first thing you do is park yourself by the TV. At the end of each episode, you continually find yourself saying "just one more," until you've finished the whole season. One of the most dire forms of workaholism is Japanese karoshi culture, an extreme version of hustle. Karoshi literally means "death by overwork," which sounds impossible until you consider the implications of stress on our bodies. For instance, the World Health Organization study we cited earlier showed that an excess amount of working hours is tied to lethal health issues like heart disease or stroke. Karoshi culture was famously exemplified in the tragic story of Kamei Shuji, a budding financial superstar in 1980s Japan who frequently put in 90 hour workweeks. Shuji died of a stress-related heart attack at only 26 years old. Sadly, we haven't learned from Shuji's mistakes. Cases of karoshi rose from 49 in 1997 to 187 in 2011, says the International Labor Organization. The thing is, Kamei Shuji probably didn't start out at such a breakneck pace. But once he got a taste of success, he decided to push the envelope a little bit further. Then further. Then a little bit more. Until 90 hours just became the norm. Hustle culture can eat at us like a bug infestation. Termites are small and you often can't see their effects from the interior. But a tree infested with them will slowly rot from the inside out until it can't support itself anymore. Similarly, the little things add up. Like with eating unhealthy or not working out, you don't become obese overnight. The seemingly little, insignificant choices are what push us into an unsustainable rhythm. If you've ever seen photos of a U.S. president before and after taking office, the physical and mental toll of such a high stress position is evident on their faces. Their hair has grayed. Deep wrinkles are etched into their foreheads, and bags sit under their eyes. Sure, some of it is due to normal aging, but a vast majority of the shift comes from the intense workload.

Health Issues

As with Kamei Shuji, stress places a huge burden on our heart health. But potential health effects don't stop there. On a neurological level, our brains release cortisol (the "fight or flight hormone) when we're stressed. Think of it like an alarm system. For certain situations, this is a good thing. If a bear was charging at you and you had no issue with it, something would be massively wrong. However, when we're constantly inducing this response, it floods our system with more cortisol. This can lead to anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, and lack of sleep. Mental health-wise, depression can come from the constant lack of feeling like you've done enough or are enough. A study from the NIH found that burnout was often associated with depressive symptoms: "Burnout was found to be a significant predictor of depressive symptoms among 2,555 dentists in a follow-up study lasting three years and a mediator between job strain and depressive symptoms."

Relationship Strain

Even if you don't develop serious health issues, the pace of hustle will inevitably affect your mood and thus create tension with those around you, be it coworkers, close friends, or your spouse. In 1945, world famous preacher and evangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth, welcomed their first daughter, Virginia. Though shortly after her birth, Graham had to leave on a long ministry trip. He often traveled around the world for his mission, missing out on some of his daughter's childhood. In one instance, Ruth brought Virginia to surprise Graham at a ministry event, and Graham stared cluelessly, not recognizing his own daughter. Graham expressed regret and remorse for letting work get in the way of what mattered most. Sadly, this is all too common of a story in our society. Ultimately we only have a finite amount of effort and energy throughout a day, and if misallocated, it can easily be channeled completely into our hustle or work efforts. Maybe it's not as extreme as traveling around the world and not recognizing your children, but it could look like coming home exhausted and barely acknowledging your spouse. It could look like leaving your close friend's text message on "read" because you have "way more important" emails to answer. Some fall into the trap of thinking that if they just get a little more, they'll have more time and flexibility to spend with others. It's similar to people saying they'll be more charitable once they get more money, rather than building the habit of being generous with what they have. A 2021 article from The Guardian found that long hours spent working is keeping more people lonely and single. The article cited a study saying that over 2.4 million British adults are lonely, but have little time to find relationships. As we mentioned in our blog about burnout, many offices are structuring themselves to keep you there nonstop. They provide on-campus housing, pet care, laundry services, every meal or item you'd need, and even have gyms or rec centers you can use. As much as hustle might feel like an autonomous pursuit, we're being heavily influenced by companies who want us to work more. Hustle culture takes a massive toll on your overall health, but perhaps most overlooked is what it's doing to our personal relationships. 


Lastly, it’s crucial to distinguish hustle done for status, power, or greed, and hustle done out of necessity and survival. We can't look at hustle culture as if it's all the same. Hustle for me is not hustle for you. For some low-income families and groups, hustle isn't glamorous. It's something they wish they could avoid, and would if it wasn't tied to their survival. "Everyone is hustling, but everyone cannot hustle the same," wrote Tracie McMillan Cottom in a recent Time Magazine piece Socioeconomic status, race, and circumstances must be considered before painting broad brushstrokes about what hustle is for everyone. Some people fight tooth and nail to survive, and the hustle they participate in is risky, taxing, and minimally rewarding.  "The problem is, hustling still isn't a choice for people who aren't at the top. There's a world of difference between staying late at the office to score a promotion and peeing in a bottle to keep your job at an Amazon warehouse," said Isabella Rosario in a recent NPR feature. In the current economy, many people can't afford NOT to hustle. They drive Uber or Lyft not to funnel extra cash into their investment portfolio, but to pay rent. They work 12-hour days not because they want "Rise n' Grind" on their coffee mugs, but because they have to provide for their families.  In any case, interaction with hustle is personal. Here's Cottom: "What hustling looks like depends on who you are. To hustle, if you are working class, is to piece together multiple jobs. If you are middle class or upper class, it is discussed as “multiple revenue streams.” But the goal is the same: pull together a patchwork of income in order to get ahead." The lockdown phase of the pandemic exemplified this. While some could afford to take a de facto vacation or break from work (or at least work remotely from the comfort and safety of their couch), others had to show up for their normal grocery store, postal service, fast food, or hospital jobs. Before stimulus bills and relief packages went out, many workers spent months toiling to make sure everyone else could eat, sleep, and wipe their butts with toilet paper.  This is why we can't flat out say hustle is bad or hustle is good, because it's not a moral issue. Rather, this blog is a call to re-evaluate our lives and examine if the pace we are running at is leading to our decline.


As we mentioned from the top, hard work is a virtue. But this is not the same thing as hustle culture, in the sense that hustle slowly chips away at our soul. There is a happy medium that prioritizes both efficient productivity and your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.  To achieve this balance, hustle must be put in its proper place. Here are some practical ways for doing that.

Develop self-awareness

The first step is recognizing and understanding where certain narratives in your life come from. How you view yourself and what you prioritize will likely dictate which of these myths you might get sucked into.  Maybe you've experienced failure in your life, and therefore counter by seeking to be a productivity machine obsessed with getting more and more results.  Maybe you slowed down or slacked off and were called "lazy." Maybe your indifference cost you a job opportunity that took a bite out of your self-esteem.  Or perhaps you've been lured in by some of these hustle influencers and seek to emulate their way of life and attain their level of "success."  Self-awareness is critical. We often do things without considering why we're really doing them. Hustle is especially toxic when it’s being done from an unhealthy place.  Whether it's journaling, taking a walk, or processing with a friend, take moments to reflect on your pace, your schedule, and if you're falling into any habits that have become self-destructive.

Consider the pace of Jesus

To some, this might seem like a strange figure to insert in the conversation about hustle, but it’s worth examining Jesus because he was the ultimate embodiment of balance, health and intentionality. If you look at his way of life, you won't detect a trace of hustle or hurry. He was never in a rush. Remember, this was someone who had only three and a half years to complete his public ministry, yet became the most influential figure in human history.  He had his priorities in place. Jesus knew what his mission was, and it wasn't rooted in self-seeking glorification. He was frequently tempted with wealth, status, and fame, yet never swayed from his mission to seek and save the hurting.  Described as "relaxed" and "a non-anxious presence", Jesus knew when it was time to work and when it was time to rest. Most importantly, he was always present and attune to the person in front of him.  Simultaneously, hard work was considered a virtue to Jesus. You could even say that Jesus harnessed his hustle. And to follow him is to learn how to hold this tension and embody balance in our lives.  One might think that the rhythms of Jesus were merely due to living in a certain time and place in history. But the reality is his principles and practices can be experienced universally by anyone today.  This will look different for different people, based on career, circumstances and socioeconomic status.  Our schedule may be more full than others, and we may not be able to change the amount of hours we are working. But we can find pockets of time in our schedule to practice rhythms of pause, rest and refreshment. Even if it’s ten minutes a day. Jesus was well-acquainted with the Sabbath, an intentional day set aside for rest. Today, we’ve completely lost this concept.  That's 24 hours of productivity you're wasting. While it may sound impractical from the outside, many see Sabbath as the reset button that keeps them going in the first place.  As John Mark Comer details in his book, Sabbath was alive and well in American society as recently as the 1960s. He recalls his father's shock at 7-Eleven becoming the first store in the area to be open seven days a week. And now the advent of the digital age has only increased the capability to be working all the time.  While it may also seem counterintuitive to a businesses' bottom line to not be open seven days a week, several companies have proven otherwise.  B&H Photo in New York, founded by Hasidic Jews, is closed on Saturday for Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest). They don't even accept online orders on Saturday. Still, B&H is one of the most popular photo equipment retailers in Manhattan. Chick-Fil-A has shown similar success even being famously closed on Sunday. A recent Business Insider article found that "despite being open for 14% fewer days a year than competitors, Chick-fil-A is dominating the fast-food industry. The chain's same-store sales grew by 16.7% in 2018, according to Nation's Restaurant News data."  Moments of pause are critical to sustainability for the long haul. As Andrew Sullivan put it in a New York Times Magazine article "The Sabbath—the Jewish institution co-opted by Christianity—was ... a moment of calm to reflect on our lives under the light of eternity. It helped define much of Western public life once a week for centuries—only to dissipate, with scarcely a passing regret, into the commercial cacophony of the past couple of decades. It reflected a now-battered belief that a sustained spiritual life is simply unfeasible for most mortals without these refuges from noise and work to buffer us and remind us who we really are." If you're not ready for a full 24 hour period to intentionally go off the map, consider the following strategies to prevent burnout and cultivate a sustainable rhythm in your life.

Digital Sabbath

Comer also advocates for turning off your phone for 24 hours, in a sort of "digital sabbath." You might clutch your phone tighter after reading that, as the idea of being unreachable for a whole day might sound downright scary. But imagine not being interrupted every five minutes.  Imagine a day without the incessant ding of notifications on your smartphone. The time spent checking our phone easily adds up, and Newport estimates that in an eight hour workday, most people only end up working four due to the amount of "shallow work" like checking email or taking phone calls.  Think of, then, the possibilities for meaningful connection, rest, creativity, and delight in a completely distraction-free 24 hours. While this might be uncomfortable initially, especially during the first few times of practicing this, time and time again you hear stories of people saying this was one of the best decisions they ever made.

Mental Restoration

Newport offers an alternative to the Digital Sabbath.  He says: "don't take breaks from distraction. Instead, take breaks from focus." This may seem counterintuitive, but switching constantly from a state of concentration and a state of distraction isn't sustainable.  Realistically, he argues, we can only spend an hour or two in an extremely focused state. Use your mental energy wisely, and recharge by not focusing too hard on a cognitively demanding task.  He cites a study about Attention Restoration Theory, which says that spending time in nature can help improve your concentration.  Being in an environment that doesn't require intense concentration, like nature, actually curb attention fatigue. Going for a walk in-between demanding tasks may seem like it's taking away from precious time, when really it's helping you to be better for the next task.

Time Limits

Setting a hard stop on your day will actually help you to be more attentive the next day. It's okay if non-urgent things don't get finished, so long as you have an action plan as to when you'll complete them later on. Don't try to suppress your to-do's with distraction - strategize on how to accomplish them sustainably. Attacking them in high quality bursts may be more effective than "grinding it out."  "Your capacity for deep work in a given day is limited. If you're careful about your schedule, you should hit your daily deep work capacity during your workday. It follows, therefore, that by evening, you're beyond the point where you can continue to effectively work deeply. Any work you do fit into the night, therefore, won't be the type of high-value activities that really advance your career; your efforts will instead be confined to low-value shallow tasks (executed at a slow, low-energy pace" Newport says.


You may remember this tactic when we talked about the balanced, efficient productivity of Wharton professor Adam Grant. Batching is the "simple habit of performing like-minded tasks together instead of bouncing from one task to the next," per a LinkedIn article by executive coach Achim Nowak.  Batching your work time, your answering email / texts time, and your social media time helps curb distraction and promotes deep work. Despite what you've been told, your brain can't really multitask that well – at least not super effectively.  When you give sharp focus to one task but set a timer on it, you'll feel both a sense of accomplishment and will work smarter, not harder.

Know Your Why

Before getting sucked into something that's going to take a considerable amount of your time, know why you're getting yourself into it, and outline practically, mentally, and emotionally it'll take to get this goal.  Dreaming is great, but a dream done out of greed, comparison, or status-chasing will likely leave you feeling hollow. We're not saying your dream has to be curing cancer, but really sit down and take time to evaluate the purpose. As Dream Big author Bob Goff put it: "Know what you want, why you want it, and what you're going to do about it."  Not every pursuit is a good one. Doing your own thing for the sake of doing your own thing can be a dead-end. This might mean wasting precious time and energy doing something that doesn’t matter. Or it might mean that your endeavor did not end up accomplishing what you thought it would. As we close, implementing these strategies may be relatively easy or somewhat difficult depending on your situation. Weaning off the bent towards hyperproductivity is a gradual learning process. You'll be going against the grain of society and many of your friends or coworkers. However, protecting yourself against hustle culture might just extend your life, preserve your relationships, and remind you that you matter – regardless of what you do.  For more, click here to visit our Rest Hub.


Your work-life balance is unique, so you deserve to be uniquely served. We want to send you email content that hits different and these fields help us do that.

*Your data is covered through our privacy policy.