Toxic Advice from Hustle Culture to IGNORE for Your Personal Finances
I grew up just on the cusp of Gen Z (1996). As such, by the time I was a teenager, my primary influences for "life advice" were Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Healthy, I know. Most people can say that their teenage years were a cocktail of insecurity, awkwardness, and aimless motivation. But Gen Z will be the first generation to say that their teenage years were a targeted, carefully-measured cocktail of insecurity, awkwardness, and aimless motivation. And as someone with a seemingly-endless supply of all three as a teenager, I fell hard into #inspo.
I'm sure you're familiar with the buzzwords: Hustle. Work hard. Get. Shit. Done.
Never give up
Always be grinding
Make your hobbies work for you
If your friends aren't discussing stocks then you need new friends
I know what you're thinking (...maybe): Umm, okay? Am I supposed to care about this? And what does this have to do with personal finance?
Oh you sweet summer child...
The toxic aspects of hustle culture are nearly one and the same with the toxic aspects of personal finance culture. Shh, yes- that's a thing! And if you're reading this article, then you're already exposed to it! Answer these questions for me...
Have you ever...
- Felt unreasonably guilty over an expense that was entirely out of your control?
- Gone into work sick, knowing that you were putting your coworkers at risk of getting sick as well?
- Alternatively, called out of work sick but spent the whole day wallowing in guilt?
- Put the accumulation of money with no apparent purpose over things you already know you enjoy and value, like time with friends and family?
- Lost interest in a hobby because you couldn't monetize it?
- Thought less of a friend because they weren't on the same "grind" as you were?
For most people, at least one of those points will strike a chord. But just because we all recognize it doesn't mean that it's a healthy mindset!
Don't get me wrong, I'll still occasionally browse more "inspirational" content when I'm feeling down. Sometimes it helps to see a pretty graphic telling you that the only solution to the blues is to get your shit together (or go for a walk). But man, some of these require so much extra nuance that they're effectively obsolete.
So without further ado, here are the top 4 toxic pieces of advice from hustle culture and why they just.... well, suck.
1. Never give up.
When it's good: You promised yourself you'd run three miles today. You're two and a half miles in and your lungs are on fire, but besides that, everything's okay. Don't give up.
When it's bad: You've been at the same job for ten years and have hated it for nine of them. You would have left years ago if you didn't want to be a "quitter."
There are a couple of things to consider when you're thinking of quitting.
1) There are a finite number of resources in your life. You only have 24 hours in a day. Your energy and motivation can be depleted. You presumably have a cap on the cash and the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else. As such, any resource is precious and should only be expended on the MOST important thing
2) What's your end-goal? How will you feel if you do everything right and still fail? Will the effort in itself still have been worthwhile to you?
3) Even more importantly, have you really, really evaluated if this is what you want, or if the "try" is worthwhile to you? Remember that it's possible to succeed at something that's not right for you. And that may be a failure in itself.
Sometimes quitting is fine. Sometimes quitting is in your best interest. Sometimes you have to give up the things that aren't as important to you in order to achieve the things that are truly important to you.
Stop watering dead plants.
"Never give up," doesn't mean to never give up anything, otherwise I'd still be trying out for the junior varsity volleyball team. Give up the unimportant things. I once heard someone say, "Stop watering dead plants."
(By the way, this concept is super important in budgeting too. Give up the expenses that aren't worth it for you and amplify the ones that are)
I think the best way to think of it is this: never give up on that idea, dream, or feeling that you can't let go of- even if you tried. Whatever it is that you find yourself daydreaming about at work or thinking of in the middle of the night? That's what you don't give up on. But the countless jobs, hobbies, relationships, etc. that might help get you there? Every now and then it's okay to cut your losses and move on.
2. Always be grinding.
When it's good: When you know you need to work hard on something, but you have a specific milestone or deadline to stop. GO HAM.
When it's bad: When you feel like you're stuck in a never-ending sprint. You can't catch a break!
Here's the thing about always grinding. Things that are always "grinding" get worn down and eventually disappear. Even something as gentle but persistent as water will wear down the toughest stone after a while. There's only so much of yourself to go around, and chances are that if you feel like you're always grinding, then you're not prioritizing the things that are most important to you. Instead, you'll be constantly focused on what's urgent for you but not necessarily important.
Take a look at the graph on the right. This is called an Eisenhower Matrix, and it's a great little exercise to do when you feel overwhelmed by grocery lists, dentist appointments, college applications, and retirement plans all at once. It gives you a solution for every problem, depending on whether the problem is urgent, important, or a combination of the two.
When people find two much of their identity in "grinding," they get stuck on the left side: working on anything that's shoved before them as "urgent"- whether it's important or not.
In short, "constantly grinding" is a great way to work hard but not smart. It's how people wind up looking back at the last 5 years of their life, feeling totally exhausted and simultaneously that they have nothing to show for all of their effort!
3. Make your hobbies work for you.
When it's good: You LOVE making custom leather purses and people on Etsy LOVE to buy them from you. That sounds like a match made in Heaven, go for it!
When it's bad: You find yourself thinking, "How can I monetize this?" way more often than you're comfortable admitting. Or worse: you think, "This hobby doesn't make me any money... I better scrap it." You can't enjoy the things that you used to be passionate about because you're too busy trying to figure out how to squeeze them for every drop of money.
I get that times are tough and sometimes it's hard not to feel like you're "wasting" time or money by enjoying your hobbies. I really do. But guess what? Making money is not the higher purpose of every facet of your life! It might be the most urgent facet of your life at this moment (the hard truth at times), but a scarcity mindset should always be as temporary as possible.
Besides, if you're unfortunately stuck in a scarcity mindset due to some extraneous circumstance, like a job loss or an unexpected bill, do you really need #inspo to guilt you for enjoying the things that help you take your mind off your troubles?
Enjoy what hobbies and passions you can now- because you may not always be able to!
4. If your friends aren't discussing business or stocks then you need new friends.
When it's good: Let's say you DO have that friend who encourages your entrepreneurial ventures and has similar goals as you have. As with having close friends who are engaged in any other hobby- that's awesome! There's no better feeling than just vibing with someone who gets you.
When it's bad: You resent your friends for not sharing in your interests and are starting to feel like you need to "upgrade." You feel like your friends are holding you back.
Believe it or not, I see this sentiment everywhere in personal finance! If the sentiment itself just encouraged you to make friends in the business world, that'd be fine. But instead, it argues that the friends who aren't on the same page as you financially need to be dumped.
Of course, there are times when your friends might be holding you back from something. Anyone who's tried to quit drugs or alcohol know that their social circles made it harder for them at times. But personal finance is different. If your friends aren't talking about business and stocks, they're not deficient. They literally just have different interests than you have- that's it! It takes a lot for someone's disinterest in personal finance to start impacting their friend's lives. So if you're blaming your friends for your own personal finance problems, you're probably finding fault where it doesn't actually exist.
Hustle Culture might be great for quick bursts of motivation, but in the long-run it can be harmful and even counter-productive.
Because it puts vague concepts like "work," "wealth," and "productivity" above all of the concrete things we already know we love and are good for us. Things like time with friends, exercise, sleep, quality time with family, etc.
It viciously pursues a goal that can't be fully realized, and advocates for rushing to it so quickly that you have no time to even define it for yourself. Hustle Cukture leads to burnout.
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