I have always had ambivalent feelings about the so-called hustle culture. I never liked the word, to begin with, and I felt always conflicted about it seeping into our everyday lives — as something to go for.
I spent almost two decades of my life working in advertising, for huge international ad agencies where the corporate culture was everything but healthy, the competition was ruthless, and the notion of hustling was the groundstone of it all. Even worse, by the nature of the territory, advertising professionals were hustling to fill the pockets of already filthy rich shareholders and investors — giving their all, sweat and tears, mental and physical health, life sacrificed for something that has never been something worth the sacrifice.
Of course, it didn’t seem that way to me. At the time, young and single and ambitious, it was also fun. It was catering to my competitive nature. It was also great company. If you were lucky, you got to work with amazingly talented people. It was also the promise to become one of the elite VIPs, living the high-life in five-star hotels with infinity pools and trips with penguins in South Africa during the cold continental winter to shoot some commercial that needed a sunlit field in the middle of December. It was also about gossip and cocktail parties, award ceremonies, industry-leading keynote speakers — in expensive suits and costumes with matching shoes and bags and watches and jewellery. A world of wonder and superficial values all dressed to impress.
And it demanded you to give everything, even if you never reached anything near that high class and you were doomed to break your back to make someone else shine.
It was pure hustling before hustling was even a notion.
And I got sick and tired of it. Burn-out wasn’t something to speak of as it was just an average Tuesday to get through — preferably with a smile and a promise of a better week to come that never arrived.
When I left it all behind and jumped into freelancing, I was baffled by the calm and uneventful days and months that followed. Not that freelancing was easy or a walk in the park to go after my own clients, sacrifice my weekends…