Hustle Culture: How “Every Day I’m Hustlin’” Became a Mantra

Learn why some consider hustle culture toxic and others see it as the best way to reach their career goals.

Hustle Culture: How “Every Day I’m Hustlin’” Became a Mantra

Is hustle culture toxic or just the new American norm?

In 2006, rapper Rick Ross became famous thanks to “Hustlin’,” a hit song about his tenacious pursuit of money and power. For many people, especially Millennials and Gen Z, working relentlessly and continuously, including by taking on side hustles and freelance gigs, is a way of life. But controversies about hustle culture remain: Is it the best, quickest, and maybe even only way to “make it” in life, or is it a fast road to burnout?

What Is Hustle Culture?

Also known as burnout culture and grind culture, hustle culture refers to the mentality that one must work all day every day in pursuit of their professional goals.

In the 21st century, thanks in part to the Great Recession of 2008, overworking became popular among younger generations who felt like they needed to work long hours and start a side business to achieve success in a tough economic climate. Positive depictions of “rise-and-grind culture” (especially on social media) quickly normalized working harder, faster, and longer.

How Much Do Americans Hustle?

Many salaried employees—especially those in management, legal, and engineering roles—work over 45 hours a week at their full-time jobs. And according to a survey by GOBankingRates, 25 percent of Americans have a side gig in addition to their day job. Of those, 10 percent work a full 15 to 20 hours at their side gig. Why do they do it? Forty-six percent said they need a side hustle to pay for their basic expenses, 25 percent use a side gig to save for a specific goal, and 24 percent to pay off debts and loans.

This data makes it clear that many Americans still have to hustle out of necessity, but many more choose to adapt a hustle lifestyle—23 percent are taking on a side hustle as a hobby or for fun, 11 percent for more experience, and 10 percent to grow their professional network.

So, is this the best way to become a successful professional, or is it a toxic trend that’s bound to wear you down?

What Are the Pros of Burnout Culture?

The core of this mentality is that:

  • If you work hard enough, you will become successful.
  • The more successful you are, the more powerful you are.

The many prominent supporters of grind culture include businesspeople who credit their hustle for their success, Instagram influencers, and motivational speakers like Tony Robbins. Then there’s Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, who asserts that the hustle-culture lifestyle is what made him a billionaire. After all, he’s famous for saying, “Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”

There’s no denying that working long and hard and starting side businesses have helped some Americans achieve their professional goals, explore their passions, and build a financially successful life for themselves. It’s also true that many don’t have a choice when it comes to getting a side gig or two, as it’s the only way to afford their bills and pay down debt. For some, not being able to cover rent or transportation costs can cause more stress than working a few extra hours a week.

Even for those without a side gig, burning the midnight oil can pay off. Many full-time salaried employees feel that overworking will help them to get raises and promotions—and avoid layoffs. Others feel that putting in long hours is expected in their industry or at their company—60-hour weeks are the only way to climb the corporate ladder in a competitive field or to meet financial goals such as buying a house or saving to send their kids to college.

Is Hustle Culture Toxic?

Respondents to the GOBankingRates survey paint a grimmer picture of grind culture: About 28 percent of participants reported that their side hustles negatively affected their mental and physical health, increased their stress, challenged their work-life balance, or even strained their personal relationships.

Authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) warn that overworking is dangerous. According to a WHO study, working at least 55 hours a week kills more than 745,000 people a year. Their report asserts that working too much increases the risk of a stroke by 35 percent and heart disease by 17 percent. And the problem is only getting worse as more and more people work longer hours.

Other research suggests that overworking is also detrimental to companies: Employees who work long hours tend to sleep less, make more mistakes, and end up costing businesses more in health insurance, high turnover, and sick days.

Critics who suggest that hustle culture is toxic point to the intense pressure to seem successful on social media. And once you get on the grind-culture hamster wheel, they say, it’s almost impossible to get off. People who hustle chase success, but once they reach their initial goal, they’re so addicted to the hustle that their current success isn’t enough. There are always more hours they could be working to achieve an even more ambitious goal, leading to a workaholic lifestyle. Burnout culture pushes people over the edge, critics suggest, making them lose sight of what is truly important in life, which includes taking care of their mental and physical health.

Where Do We Hustle From Here?

So, will hustle culture end? It’s hard to say, especially when Musk, one of the richest men in the world, is still grinding every day. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way many Americans work and live, leading more workers to question how they hustle. While working from home, many people exchanged their commute times for more working hours and less vacation time—leading to higher productivity but also higher rates of burnout.

More research is being done into the benefits of taking vacation time and working fewer hours. Iceland even piloted a shorter workweek, finding that workers’ happiness increased while still maintaining high productivity levels.

Whichever side you take in the debate, it’s clear that more data about work culture and a bigger conversation about the effects of overworking can only help to move us forward.

Too Much or Too Little Hustle Culture at Your Job?

When it comes to your job, it’s important to find the perfect setting—you need a job that allows you to have work-life balance while challenging you to grow. Create a profile on Monster for free to upload your resume and connect with top recruiters and companies who are a good fit for your goals and lifestyle. Monster will bring the hustle to your job search so you can focus on your career.