Should We Work to Live or Live to Work?

If you’ve watched any of Tai Lopez’s YouTube ads, or stumbled across Gary Vaynerchuk’s Instagram page, then you’re aware of the ‘rise and grind’ mentality. This entrepreneur mindset says if you work hard success will follow. It’s not an uncommon or even recent idea. It’s the foundation of The American Dream that people still try and achieve today. It’s nice to believe we live in a society that rewards work ethic, that you get as good as you give. We take pride in and glamorise our workaholism. So much so that it’s unattractive to not constantly appear busy with work, or always grinding and hustling to get forward in your life.

Not long ago, I watched Kevin Hart’s Netflix docuseries ‘Don’t F**k This Up.’ He didn’t waste any time emphasising just how far his toxic productivity dictates his life. I saw how relentless Hart is in his attempts to fulfil his responsibilities as a comedian, actor and producer. But along the way, he fails to fulfil his responsibilities as a father. Most of his family's on screen time is spent highlighting how they wish Hart was home some more. Unfortunately, that’s the price you have to pay to acquire the reputation as one of the hardest working men in showbusiness - a title that every man in the entertainment industry yearns for. 

Gone are the days that a 9-5 is a stable, worthwhile career option. Now, menial jobs and the idea of the ‘blue-collar worker are perceived as at the bottom of the workers pyramid. Just a stepping stone to a real career. That’s the impression I get when I see music videos like Drake and Future’s ‘Life is Good’, following the rags to riches plot we’ve seen a thousand times before. Or when Rapper ‘Yung Joc’ was ridiculed on camera and told he ‘fell off’ for being a rideshare driver - insinuating that he must be broke or going through hardship to accept a job of that nature. Yung Joc denied this, stating that it was to show kids the value of hard work as part of his volunteer work. It’s evident that the job as an Uber driver was seen as shameful and embarrassing, not as an honest living.

Menial jobs are now a symbol of compliance when compared to what you could be doing if you only flipped that 9-5 to a 5-9. And oftentimes, work doesn’t stop there, it follows you home. Whether you’re still responding to work emails, or you have another job or side business that you need to manage, hustle culture is a 24/7 commitment. Society dictates that this is the only chance you have at breaking away from a mundane life. Is it self-sacrificial? Yes, but there's a chance you may reap the benefits when you reach the top of the ladder of success. 

Like everything in life there must be balance, because we are worth more than our jobs and careers. We shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time out for ourselves, we shouldn’t be consumed by a desire to constantly achieve. If anything is the key to success, it’s a healthy mind, not only the mindset. We all tend to feel a little pressure to utilise our free time during weekend breaks and holiday periods. Even though it’s good to not abandon productivity altogether, these moments can be a rare opportunity to refresh and reflect.  

It seems like a stretch to imagine that hustle culture will be discarded anytime soon. Its optimism is appealing and acts as a nice enough distraction from the elephant in the room. Privilege. Due to systematic oppression, it’s challenging for minorities to reap the benefits of being a workaholic. Not everyone has the privilege to be able to afford the risks motivational entrepreneurs suggest taking - quitting your job to attempt a coffee roasting business just isn’t practical when you have three children and a mortgage. Financial stability is a luxury, and the reality is menial jobs are not a temporary gig for most. Especially when you need to work to live. Idealising workaholism and hustle culture is hurting us, not helping us. The importance of hard work shouldn’t be minimised, but it shouldn’t be overdone. 

Written by Alisia Usher

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