When you started your job, you were passionate about work. You believed in your organization, were optimistic about the leadership team, and looked forward to collaborating with your colleagues.
Then reality hit.
Within months, the pace became relentless. Deadlines were pushed around, meeting requests evolved into demands that seeped into your personal life, and that once-promising culture? It turned out to be disrespectful, cutthroat, and borderline abusive.
How did you end up here when things started out so great?
The glorification of hustle culture steered you away from what really mattered to you. And you’re not alone. At some point, hustling moved from the domain of 1920s mob bosses and low-level delinquents to a cultural mindset worshiped by many inside the workplace and in our everyday lives.
Take a moment to think about your typical day. Then ask yourself: Are all the things you’re cramming into your day really adding value and meaning to your work or your life?
Hustling is mindless busywork that keeps you on autopilot. The problem is, you can’t possibly show up—for yourself, your relationships, your career—when you’re engaged in meaningless stagecraft that ultimately signifies nothing. All this while a downward spiral of distrust, negativity, and burnout continues to reign supreme.
To live a great life, to do great work, it’s time to switch off the autopilot. It’s time to end hustle culture. It’s time to put your life first, once and for all.
Let’s start with the facts.
FACT: You die faster when you put work before life.
Work-first hustle culture leaves you with no time or energy for anything else. It burns you out until you finally tap out. As neglected life tasks pile up, an “always-on” mindset ends up increasing your stress, decreasing your quality of life, and shortening your lifespan.
But you don’t have to die for work to be terrible. Burnout and fatigue are common in hustle culture. And sure enough, they can cause you to make abrupt changes like taking a new job out of desperation, only to find yourself in the same place once the newness wears off.
The resulting overwhelming mental exhaustion and disconnection from your innate wants and needs can then damage meaningful relationships. This ultimately leads to greater loneliness, isolation, depression, and anxiety.
Surely, there must be a logical reason why we’ve all subscribed to this grueling, work-first hustle culture, right? There isn’t.
FACT: There is no research or data to prove that this is a great way to run a company, manage a team, or achieve personal success.
It’s the opposite. Managers who prioritize work-first cultures tend to micromanage their teams, holding up vital projects and making decisions out of fear. And colleagues who are burned out by the hustle are less productive and more susceptible to negativity at work. They openly resent coworkers who use PTO, label peers as slackers, and spread toxicity throughout the culture.
Nobody wins in this model, as managers turn into insatiable hustlers who push for more and make it impossible for their teams to trust them. As a result, people blame their managers for burnout—while senior leaders blame those very same managers for not hustling hard enough.
FACT: There are no easy answers to ending the work-first hustle culture.
If there were a simple fix, someone would’ve done it by now.
Governments, academic institutions, associations, consultants, and even local workplaces have tried to improve company culture, employee engagement, and work-life balance. Unfortunately, they’ve largely failed—because their approach is fundamentally wrong. They’re still trying to force your life to fit around work when it should be the other way around.
Work should fit into life.
Read that again.
Let that settle in for a moment. You don’t have to accept the status quo. With a bit of effort, you can fix this mess. We all can.
How can workers make this better?
- Choose your life over your job. Nobody will ever take the last seven minutes of a staff meeting to teach you how to put yourself first. It may feel unfair, but only you can change your circumstances. Until you start to put some of your needs before work needs, you won’t be able to show up for anyone or anything else in your life. The first step is the hardest: You have to believe there’s a better way to live and that you have the power to create that change. We believe in you and are fighting for you.
- Be honest with yourself. You can’t be angry with a boss or an organization for thwarting your happiness if you don’t first identify what kind of life you want and how you might get there. Consciously take a pulse with yourself and reflect on what’s essential. Then give yourself every available chance to thrive. Set intentions for the life you want, determine the boundaries you need, and set yourself up to spot the early warning signs of burnout before it’s too late.
- Reach out to supportive people. Talk to mentors, coaches, therapists, or clergy. You can love your career, enjoy your coworkers, and still put your life first. All of that is possible. Show that your life deserves to come first. Bolster your relationships, boost your mood, improve your mental health, and kick loneliness to the curb.
That might seem like a lot, and you wouldn’t be wrong for throwing your hands up in exhaustion. But your manager and company have roles in this, too. It’s time for all of us to ditch cutthroat hustle culture and create cultures where life comes first.
How should companies fix this?
- Trust needs to be re-established. Managers must look their people in the eye and permit them to put life first. They also must apologize for mistakes of the past, like not providing proper support to working moms, caregivers, and other groups marginalized by the hustle. Additionally, companies need to offer new tools and resources to help their people communicate their needs more effectively and set intentions about work and life. They need to help employees raise their hands if their well-being is compromised.
- Organizations must enable leaders to lead in a life-first culture. You have a life beyond work. Bosses should accept that, show genuine interest, ask questions, and care about their teams as people beyond job titles. To make that happen, leaders need training, support, and their own framework for putting life first because they’re also human—even if they might struggle to show it at times.
- Executives need to lead this change. Everything has to be different, not just the copy on your company’s career website. Your C-suite must openly celebrate life-first moments and tamp down the organization’s “kill-or-be-killed” work instincts. This means celebrating when people take their PTO and not basing high performance on who burns the midnight oil. Execs must learn to recognize that it’s actually rested, fulfilled people who produce the real results—not the other way around.
Everybody has a role in fixing work.
People still need to be accountable for delivering work, but your job shouldn’t kill you.
Is that a radical statement? Are we breaking new ground here? Can we finally all agree that eroding the workforce’s physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being is no longer an acceptable way to run an organization? That working for companies that think of their people as cogs is no longer tolerable?
Say “yes” out loud. Seriously, say “yes” out loud right now.
You deserve to feel fulfilled. You deserve to be healthier. Most importantly, you deserve to put your life first.
We are working to help companies embrace this audacious operating model. We don’t just believe that a life-first methodology is the future of work. We think it’s the future of living.
You get what you expect in this world, so raise your expectations.
If you disagree with what you’ve read so far, you’re not quite ready for this journey. That’s okay. You will be, just not yet. But if what you’ve read is like looking into the mirror of your soul, let’s stop wasting time.
The hustle culture that has eroded our lives ends today, and it stops because you decide it stops.