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Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?

By The New York Times

Never once at the start of my workweek — not in my morning coffee shop line, not in my crowded subway commute, not as I begin my bottomless inbox slog — have I paused, looked to the heavens and whispered: #ThankGodIt’sMondayRead full story

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  • For those of us who entered the workforce in the aftermath of the Financial Crisis, jobs were scarce. Even if you had a job, making a lot of money very quickly was not an option. So, instead, we pursued work that we loved; work that would pay us in passion, if not in dollars.

    Both the media and employees got wind of this new mission driven culture, and they subverted it to inspire (or, manipulate) our generation. Now, the economy has recovered, we are older, we are tired, we want to get paid more

    For those of us who entered the workforce in the aftermath of the Financial Crisis, jobs were scarce. Even if you had a job, making a lot of money very quickly was not an option. So, instead, we pursued work that we loved; work that would pay us in passion, if not in dollars.

    Both the media and employees got wind of this new mission driven culture, and they subverted it to inspire (or, manipulate) our generation. Now, the economy has recovered, we are older, we are tired, we want to get paid more, and a lot of people are pretending because it hurts too much not to.

    I truly want to love the work that I do, because otherwise I feel dead inside. So, yes, it’s counterproductive to pretend, but let’s not lose sight of the personal value of believing in what you do.

  • Productivity isn’t a virtue. It’s a means to an end. It’s only virtuous if the end is worthy.

    Don’t worship at the altar of hustle. Don’t boast about grit. Strive to be productive in generosity, creativity, and integrity.

  • What’s missing in this intriguing critique of a supposedly workaholic culture is some context: 11-hour days, 5 days a week (as one example cites) may be grueling by today’s privileged US standards; but through the lens of history & geography, long days and hard work have been required for not just success but survival.

    I’ve tried to remind my children that there are people in the world who would kill for the life they have — and that’s not a euphemism. To thrive in a globally competitive world requires

    What’s missing in this intriguing critique of a supposedly workaholic culture is some context: 11-hour days, 5 days a week (as one example cites) may be grueling by today’s privileged US standards; but through the lens of history & geography, long days and hard work have been required for not just success but survival.

    I’ve tried to remind my children that there are people in the world who would kill for the life they have — and that’s not a euphemism. To thrive in a globally competitive world requires intense effort. There are huge advantages in incumbency, and that can breed complacency, arrogance, and all the bad habits that go with them.

    I’m not convinced that hours-worked is always the best metric of effectiveness and impact, in work and in life. Burnout is real, stepping back for perspective is essential. What we work on and how we work is as important as how much we work. But stamina is also real: a critical, often under-appreciated factor in building a life of meaning, success and impact.

    So go ahead, make fun of those who hustle. If that hustle is simply in quest of a golden nest egg and long vacation or early retirement, I’ll laugh along with you. But if the hustle is in service of values and building a fully-layered life to be proud of, I’m not seeing the humor in it. Hard work, as a parent, a student, a citizen: I’d be happy for more of it in this world.

  • Something to read on Monday (rather than the weekend): an interesting look at the passion for conspicuous (over)work that seems to pervade the zeitgeist. The piece raises some good questions, and one can consider the difference between personal passion and real purpose, as well as true cost. There are a number of calls for broader perspectives on what success looks like, and I think there is a real need for more reflection, rather than more (and faster) action. Hemant Taneja has a piece in HBR that

    Something to read on Monday (rather than the weekend): an interesting look at the passion for conspicuous (over)work that seems to pervade the zeitgeist. The piece raises some good questions, and one can consider the difference between personal passion and real purpose, as well as true cost. There are a number of calls for broader perspectives on what success looks like, and I think there is a real need for more reflection, rather than more (and faster) action. Hemant Taneja has a piece in HBR that posits a set of questions (another pick, but linked here: https://hbr.org/2019/01/the-era-of-move-fast-and-break-things-is-over ). The opportunity is to be more thoughtful, and we have to enable more time to think, not just do.

  • I’m a reformed GenX hustler. It wasn’t sustainable in any aspect of my life, in particular when I had kids. One of the most impactful quotes I ever heard at that time of my life was “The trouble with the rat race is even if you win, you are still a rat.” That quote still resonates with me today when I slide too far in any direction.

  • "An entire generation was raised to expect that good grades and extracurricular overachievement would reward them with fulfilling jobs that feed their passions. Instead, they wound up with precarious, meaningless work and a mountain of student loan debt. And so posing as a rise-and-grinder, lusty for Monday mornings, starts to make sense as a defense mechanism."

  • A Gallup poll has measured employee engagement in the US workplace since 2000. The % of engaged workers (those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace) has steadily risen over the last decade to a record high of 34% as of June 2018. Those who are actively disengaged is at a record low of 13%.

    While I’m certainly not drawing a direct correlation between hustle culture and rising engagement, the national average does seem to be moving in the right direction

    A Gallup poll has measured employee engagement in the US workplace since 2000. The % of engaged workers (those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace) has steadily risen over the last decade to a record high of 34% as of June 2018. Those who are actively disengaged is at a record low of 13%.

    While I’m certainly not drawing a direct correlation between hustle culture and rising engagement, the national average does seem to be moving in the right direction, and this may not be quite the epidemic.

    Moreover, if all this productivity propaganda promulgated by the “aristocracy” *is* engaging workers and suddenly giving young people a work ethic due to some “fake it til you make it” psychology, I don’t have a problem with it. Just remember to think for yourselves and have healthy boundaries.

  • I don’t get how people can watch the tv they watch and look at the social media they look at if they are working as much as they say they are. I think self-reporting of hours worked is skewed and, as the article suggests, it’s more about pretending to be workaholics than actually being workaholics. The people I know who actually work themselves to exhaustion are nurses and teachers, and I’d say whether they complain about it or not but I never get to see them.

  • I love designing products.

    It takes a lot of un-fun work, but at the end of the day there’s no experience better than designing things.

    Consumption is unfulfilling, but necessary.

    Creating things is fulfilling.

  • This reminds me of when Wednesday Adams says, “I want to play Pocahontas in Gary’s vision”.

    Enthusiasm is a character trait, some people have it and some people do not have it. Embrace both. Forcing people is grim and exploitive.

  • The kind of “love to work,” “job as identity,” and “work to a higher cause” to the point of being completely life-eclipsing has been the standard culture in teaching for a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these company’s inspiration came from realizing how easily manipulated the teacher workforce is.

  • I had a pretty exciting career, all things considered, writing advertising when that was still a creative endeavor, not a clickable object, then developing and launching brands on a pretty high level. I’m now gleefully retired, and when I look back on my career, I remember the people I loved to work with, not the love of work. And now what I’m hustling for is the love of my daughter, who I lost to divorce when she was young, because I was trying so hard to love work instead of wrapping my arms around

    I had a pretty exciting career, all things considered, writing advertising when that was still a creative endeavor, not a clickable object, then developing and launching brands on a pretty high level. I’m now gleefully retired, and when I look back on my career, I remember the people I loved to work with, not the love of work. And now what I’m hustling for is the love of my daughter, who I lost to divorce when she was young, because I was trying so hard to love work instead of wrapping my arms around the love that was right in front of me.

    Hustle is a hustle, kids. Don’t fall for it. Live small, love big, enjoy every bite of life.

  • Being a poser looks great to management.

  • This generation of “young people” have only experienced a bull market. Valuations are near all-time highs, the labor market is tight, and the world is awash in capital. Let’s see how they handle a downturn akin to 2001 or 2008. It’s easy to love during good times; it’s more difficult to sustain the intensity of love during challenging times - especially professionally

  • @Bob - that’s simply not true. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that pre-industrial communities spent 3-4 hours maximum of their day doing what we might consider work (hunting, gathering, making, cooking, mending) and most of the rest was spent in social activities. David Graeber’s book on Bullshit Jobs and Noah Yuval Harari’s Sapiens both cover this in detail.

  • It’s possible to find the right balance between hustle and time off. You should hustle because you enjoy what you do, have personal pride and see a chance for progressing your career in it. But you should also be allowed to have time and energy to explore your non-work passions (exercise, reading, music, whatever it is) with equal hustle.

    I don’t think it’s myth that some people are lucky enough to do something they enjoy or are proud of or both; something they want to throw themselves into. I know

    It’s possible to find the right balance between hustle and time off. You should hustle because you enjoy what you do, have personal pride and see a chance for progressing your career in it. But you should also be allowed to have time and energy to explore your non-work passions (exercise, reading, music, whatever it is) with equal hustle.

    I don’t think it’s myth that some people are lucky enough to do something they enjoy or are proud of or both; something they want to throw themselves into. I know that’s out there. But even in that situation, you need balance over the long haul to feel fulfillment.

    It’s also true that a lot of the perpetuation of this ethos is driven by people at the top and some large percentage of their motive is to maintain their own success, but it’s also true they know the only way most of them get to “the top” is through hustle - no one is going to just hand those rewards to you.

    Also, so much of what we’re feeling is what Tom Friedman and others have predicted - global competition is ratcheting up minimum requirements.

  • I've always called this "hustle fetishism". It's what alienated me the most when I joined the workforce properly, and it's a philosophy I don't think I'll ever be able to accept. The idea that putting in more hours to "get ahead" and committing absolutely everything to your job is the way to achieve professional fulfilment frankly just creeps me out. (It probably doesn't help that I'm a European in the United States, a country which took the political economy of a colonizing, industrial Britain and

    I've always called this "hustle fetishism". It's what alienated me the most when I joined the workforce properly, and it's a philosophy I don't think I'll ever be able to accept. The idea that putting in more hours to "get ahead" and committing absolutely everything to your job is the way to achieve professional fulfilment frankly just creeps me out. (It probably doesn't help that I'm a European in the United States, a country which took the political economy of a colonizing, industrial Britain and sustained it though the technological revolution to produce... this.) If you work until it hurts, there are priorities that need to be reassessed. Chances are, you're not just unhappy, you're not even as productive as you could be.

  • Hard work is only noble if the end is noble. The problem with the Rat Race is, even if you win, you're still a rat. Hard work is not virtuous. It's a means to an end. Productively is only noble if the end is worthy. The great thing about being ambitious today is there's no shortage of mountains. So choose the ones you climb carefully. Examine the peak before you embark.

  • The suggestion that “workaholism” is filling the void where traditional religions used to be is something I hadn’t considered before. Even here in the article comments you can see anecdotal evidence of how people defend workaholism like it is some all-providing god. And the cultural undertow of the Protestant work ethic does seem to explain why it’s so acute in the US compared to other places. Very interesting read

  • Interesting take on what I agree is a challenge for Western culture, but it seems more reasonable to me to see this trend as more symptomatic of what Stephen covey described as the move from Character ethic to Personally ethic, rather than a conspiracy of the wealthy tech elite to reinvent pre-unionized labor practices

  • I am old so I am not pretending.

  • I think this is a nuanced topic worthy of a broader discussion. The author pokes fun at the "Hustle Culture", but it is a competitive world, employee engagement is up significantly over the last 20 years, choosing to have a positive mindset about work is actually a good thing, and in the end, what we consider long work hours in these types of jobs would hardly qualify as "grueling" throughout most of history.

    Also, would love to see a mirror article looking at the TV-obsessed culture of America

    I think this is a nuanced topic worthy of a broader discussion. The author pokes fun at the "Hustle Culture", but it is a competitive world, employee engagement is up significantly over the last 20 years, choosing to have a positive mindset about work is actually a good thing, and in the end, what we consider long work hours in these types of jobs would hardly qualify as "grueling" throughout most of history.

    Also, would love to see a mirror article looking at the TV-obsessed culture of America, where the average watch time is over 5 hours of TV per day, and weigh which is the greater issue to be addressing.

  • There's a point where one's career becomes obsession. That's the Rubicon. We should all be passionate about our careers. But our biggest passions should lie elsewhere. Like personal growth and family. When we forsake these for careers- is when we someday wake up and wonder: is this all?

  • The grim result of decades of carelessness is that eventually a generation will be left behind. Its both depressing and inspirational to see millennials working nonstop at the merest glimmer of hope. I wish they would get more credit, instead the media uses millenials as a punching bag.

  • Big distinction between the person who lauds their job and is vocal about it, and the person who just refuses to verbalize the fact that they’re disgruntled. Sometimes the latter gets lumped into the ‘I love it here’ category and that’s just not fair.

  • Creating moments of reflection to catch yourself when you inevitably push too hard and neglect other parts of your life is key to try to achieve some kind of balance. Something as simple as a bike ride, a run or a walk in the park can do wonders.

  • I approach most aspects of my life as some kind of work. There is the “job”, the four-days-a-week, 10 hours a day, truly mundane thing I do to pay my bills. After that, I get a lot done around the house, babysit a couple of great nieces, bowl in a couple of leagues, read and work on puzzles to try and keep my mind sharp, and write poems, plays, and screenplays in my spare time. The majority of the “work” I enjoy doing is done free of charge, but I do it because I love what I do, I enjoy being busy

    I approach most aspects of my life as some kind of work. There is the “job”, the four-days-a-week, 10 hours a day, truly mundane thing I do to pay my bills. After that, I get a lot done around the house, babysit a couple of great nieces, bowl in a couple of leagues, read and work on puzzles to try and keep my mind sharp, and write poems, plays, and screenplays in my spare time. The majority of the “work” I enjoy doing is done free of charge, but I do it because I love what I do, I enjoy being busy, and there is a great satisfaction at the end of the day that it was time well spent. When you give the best of yourself every day, you make the most of the gift of today.

  • Nobody pretends to love work because they want to. We've been taught & learned to love what you do, and doing what you love is staying positive. No matter what, most people will look at trying something new most positively. In trying something new, keeping positivity in mind, whether or not were truly keeping positive the lack of change in the workplace & looking for work keeps us hoping. A shame positivity is pretend, killing yourself with kindness; first impressions are the worst. Who are you trying

    Nobody pretends to love work because they want to. We've been taught & learned to love what you do, and doing what you love is staying positive. No matter what, most people will look at trying something new most positively. In trying something new, keeping positivity in mind, whether or not were truly keeping positive the lack of change in the workplace & looking for work keeps us hoping. A shame positivity is pretend, killing yourself with kindness; first impressions are the worst. Who are you trying to impress, who's next, who's interviewing who? Then try & try again change will be the only positivity. Change isn't always good, but trying to stay positive is don't complain, could be worse.

  • I have to admit, there were times I couldn’t wait for Monday, and I am a long way from being a millennial. I have enjoyed my job. Yes, at time the job is routine, there I are also challenges, mountains to climb, and satisfaction with a job well done. According to Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”, the highest level is self actualization, being all you can be. This can occur in your profession, as well as learning, athletics, art... the article, seems to see the downside of work and little of the upside

    I have to admit, there were times I couldn’t wait for Monday, and I am a long way from being a millennial. I have enjoyed my job. Yes, at time the job is routine, there I are also challenges, mountains to climb, and satisfaction with a job well done. According to Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”, the highest level is self actualization, being all you can be. This can occur in your profession, as well as learning, athletics, art... the article, seems to see the downside of work and little of the upside. Balancing personal life with work is not some new concept, it has been going on for a long time, and each generation faces the dilemma!

  • Well if they are anything like myself they love what they do. My father once told me that if you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life. He was correct. I can't wait to get up in the morning jump in my car and get to my work. There is a sense of joy not only because I'm an entrepreneur but the sheer magnitude of my company and my employees that team together to eradicate a common goal. The love of what you perform through talents and brain power will only place you on a higher

    Well if they are anything like myself they love what they do. My father once told me that if you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life. He was correct. I can't wait to get up in the morning jump in my car and get to my work. There is a sense of joy not only because I'm an entrepreneur but the sheer magnitude of my company and my employees that team together to eradicate a common goal. The love of what you perform through talents and brain power will only place you on a higher elevated plain of existence. Therefore work as you call it no longer is work but sheer joy of what you do. I digress

  • V interesting

  • Right. People lie to themselves

  • Hours worked is not necessarily an indicator of productiviy. I think I read one study observed employees to determine employees were most efficient and it was Wednesday. Mondays were coffee, lagging, get through it , Tuesday fared better , Thursday dropped off, Friday productive until afternoon clock watchers...

    I liked using the workload units method. First I could determine how often difficult tests ordered and what days heaviest so scheduled ployees for coverage. By using workload units you could

    Hours worked is not necessarily an indicator of productiviy. I think I read one study observed employees to determine employees were most efficient and it was Wednesday. Mondays were coffee, lagging, get through it , Tuesday fared better , Thursday dropped off, Friday productive until afternoon clock watchers...

    I liked using the workload units method. First I could determine how often difficult tests ordered and what days heaviest so scheduled ployees for coverage. By using workload units you could justify employees per FTE

    You could check employee individual workload.

    A qualifier counted per test as how difficult each test or componentry and time to complete

    Testing that required set up and overnight incubation was 4+. And each test grades per length of time as workload init and complexity of test qualifirt

    So a workaholic may work 11 hrs but you have to parse what was the work? Applying discrete criteria may justify the other or question why it took so long?

  • It's been started not a long time ago when some genius came up with "bright" idea to give out the trophies to kids for participating in events rather than winning. The results we see now when young people want to get pay cheques just for showing up in a workplace

  • While it is imperative to live life in balance, there's nothing much healthier than enjoying your work. For, if you do, it ceases to be work and becomes your life's mission.

  • Glamourising workaholism.

  • Truly a sad comment on the Ethics of the Milenials not interested in work or Religion a sad state of Affairs for America!

  • Life is too short. Work and career are important, but there will come a day when you don't work there anymore. It won't matter what you did there because you'll be gone. What happens when you wrap your identity to the job/company and you are fired or laid off? Fyi people are fired every day for no good reason. Don't forget that unless you're the owner or a partner, you're just the help. So think for yourself. Look after your own interests. If you feel you are being taken advantage of, you probably are.

  • Seems a rather neo Dickensain attitude actually...

  • Sandy Rivers

    Riley Blissmer

  • This author does a great job of looking at this from both sides I think. It is true that being overworked does not produce more. My industry knows that first hand, but everyone is different. I think the idea of hustle and grind is a powerful one. If there is something you want you go for it. Don't stop until you get there, but there is a catch. Don't grind for something that is inevitably futile. The end result is not always as pretty as it looks in the beginning.

    The author mentioned a decline

    This author does a great job of looking at this from both sides I think. It is true that being overworked does not produce more. My industry knows that first hand, but everyone is different. I think the idea of hustle and grind is a powerful one. If there is something you want you go for it. Don't stop until you get there, but there is a catch. Don't grind for something that is inevitably futile. The end result is not always as pretty as it looks in the beginning.

    The author mentioned a decline in religion in correlation to increased hustle mentality. I think people are trying to fill a void. We are driven off of purpose, but it truly seems like without God the purpose becomes misdirected. We end up pushing ourselves to the limit, but never feeling like we have achieved anything. So to sum up what I said, the hustle mentality is good but many people have a misguided purpose.

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