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’sMonday.
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 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 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.