Hustle Culture is Dead

And that in itself is Innovation.

The 14th floor room was quite different than my usual conference rooms, those edgy, gentrified spaces where I had many meetings. The window air conditioner was hardly working. I forgot my water.

I hadn’t been in a classroom setting in…I tried to remember.

We did the familiar go-around-in-a-circle-and-introduce-yourself. I went first, highlighting some career accomplishments.

The instructor asks, what are you reading for fun?

I was caught off guard. Would the truth, the latest Howard Stern book, show my new instructor that I wasn’t smart, that I wasn’t a “hard-worker”?

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I told my business coach I was confused.

Me:

After selling my company I don’t know how to work outside of the “hustle culture” framework. This is what I’ve done for years. This is what I know.

Her:

Are you willing to leave the hustle culture and figure out a new way?

Me:

[I paused]. Yes, well that’s why I’m here.

Her:

I sense hesitation. Why would you want to stay?

Me:

To work as hard as possible so I can have more freedom in different areas of my life.

Her:

If the goal is freedom, when will you know that you achieved that freedom?

She waited for an answer that I didn’t have.

Her:

Do you have more freedom than you had 10 years ago?

Me:

Yes.

Her:

But you’re here because you don’t know how to operate outside of hustle culture, how to continue to do the work you love within a new context? But the previous goal to get here was the freedom from the hustle culture?

She waited for an answer. She shrugged sarcastically and her eyes said, Well…

My stream of consciousness overtook having my guard up. Uncomfortable I laughed, embarrassed at the ridiculousness of it all.

Me:

I just know I love building businesses and connecting people and ideas. I understand it. I want to keep doing it. I want to use all this knowledge and these experiences but in new ways.

Her:

You’ve told me so many business stories of resilience. So, the question is what does the next phase of this look like? What are some new hobbies or activities to pursue outside of your business comfort zone? And I’m jumping ahead to the punchline, but they will probably give you inspiration and actually provide more value in your work life…

My thoughts swirl. Numbers. Deal terms. Go to market. Working capital. Technology. All of the things I know. Creative writing would be fun…

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

A founder called me this afternoon almost in tears. She said she felt stuck with a certain business relationship within the company. She and I had had countless strategy sessions with revenue models, subscription services, etc. But today I didn’t jump into discussing the company, the direction yet. I asked her how many days straight she had been working.

There was my work with the sports marketing companies that were starting mental health awareness initiatives, leveraging the voices of retired professional athletes. These 250 lb giants known for their toughness were now speaking to up-and-coming professional athletes about the balance of athleticism and mental wellness. And that both of these things are necessary to achieve goals like a National Championship, but they also wanted them to know: They are more than just their uniform. (1)

I met with an investment fund today. We spent time discussing how to support portfolio companies and founders. We talked about capital, technical support, sales, marketing and health and wellness- as if all these items belonged together and had for years.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

My senior year of high school we were assigned to read Upton St.Clair’s The Jungle. “Sinclair wrote the novel to portray the harsh conditions and exploited lives of immigrants in the United States in Chicago and similar industrialized cities.” (2) Critics and literary analysts proclaim the book had ground breaking impact on working conditions but also brought to light the unsanitary and unhealthy practices of the food industry. In addition to sweeping reforms on working conditions, the book was a catalyst to build regulatory reform especially in the meat-packing industry.

So what happened as a result? Was productivity dead? Did the factories shut down? Did the entire industry topple as a result of not working 7 days a week, 365 days a year?

Well just consider where we are today:

“The food marketing system, including food service and food retailing, supplied about $1.46 trillion worth of food in 2014. Of this total, $731 billion was supplied by foodservice facilities.” (3)

Hustle culture is dead. And with all phenomenons that evolve, we are still shaping the next narrative.

It doesn’t mean you can’t love your work. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get into that zen moment of building, growing, learning, achieving, making impact. It doesn’t mean you can’t make money. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be any late nights or last minute flights. It doesn’t mean there won’t be tremendous sacrifice. It doesn’t mean you can’t return profit to shareholders. It doesn’t mean you can’t build a 200 million dollar companies or a 1 million dollar company or any type of company.

Our work today in the knowledge industry, requires imaginativeness.

Just as we used this imaginativeness to innovate from traditional corporate culture to create what is now the “startup”, we will once again use imaginativeness to innovate from hustle culture.

But this next gen phase will require new and different paths for the evolution of business, incubation, ideation, bringing this imaginativeness back into our lives as a whole person, whose knowledge, experiences and inspirations, both inside and outside the office’s four walls, contribute to work.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

The air condition clicked off for a moment.

What am I reading for fun…

I think of all these conversations that led me here to 8th avenue, to the Writer’s Workshop Creative Writing 101.

I said oh yes, I read Howard Stern’s new book. And I loved it.

_____________________________________

(1) http://www.imchangingthenarrative.org/

(2) Brinkley, Alan (2010). “17: Industrial Supremacy”. The Unfinished Nation. McGrawHill.

(3)https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-markets-prices/food-service-industry/market-segments/

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Katie Palencsar

Katie Palencsar

Renaissance woman. Founder. Investor. Early Stage Builder @anthemis