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How hustle culture took over advertising (digiday.com)
204 points by ilamont 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 252 comments

I'm American but I've lived overseas for nearly a decade, and I hardly ever go back.

In recent years when I meet other Americans who are visiting my city, I often get this vague feeling that they're just trying too hard in one way or another. Maybe they're working too hard, or trying too hard to impress someone, or get attention, or assert themselves. I don't know if I've changed or if America is changed or if it's something else entirely.

What I do wonder is, what's with all these Americans working themselves to the bone? I own an agency which is one of the types of businesses called out in this article. I tell all my employees very clearly, whenever possible, work 40 hours and then call it a week. We also happen to be mostly remote so I tell them, within reason, respecting a small number of important calls/meeting times etc. you can put in those hours whenever you want, preferably after a great night's sleep.

There's nothing like "you're measured by how many hours you bill out," nor does there need to be, if we have more than 40 hours of work per person per week, we hire more people.

Where does this all come from? This is an honest question. Why are people working themselves to death in the US and having this crazy mindset that doing stuff which puts you on the verge of a breakdown is good? When did this start?

Is it good for health/happiness? Definitely not

Is it good for productivity? Maybe, but I doubt it

I think we're all increasingly aware that our society and infrastructure are crumbling, and no matter how "rich" the country as a whole is, if you haven't built up your own security through wealth, you're [going to be] fucked. And that awareness translates into people being willing to overwork themselves, so they don't lose their spot in the rat race; and corporations with money to spend on workers are well-positioned to take advantage of that, and they do.

> I think we're all increasingly aware that our society and infrastructure are crumbling, and no matter how "rich" the country as a whole is, if you haven't built up your own security through wealth, you're [going to be] fucked. And that awareness translates into people being willing to overwork themselves, so they don't lose their spot in the rat race; and corporations with money to spend on workers are well-positioned to take advantage of that, and they do.

I disagree. That only makes sense if you assume you (and everyone like you) are politically powerless and the rot and decay are inevitable.

There's also another option: redirect that excess effort you're expediting to hoard for the failure into fixing the system before it fails. Your personal efforts to fix it might fail, but some other group that heeded the same call might succeed, and that's all it takes.

Hoarding wealth might seem like a safer bet, but it's just as prone to failure. The kind of wealth you could accumulate through hard work might not be enough to give you the security you want, and to get more you have to take big risks anyway.

I'm afraid that without some systemic-level changes, donating less time to work and more towards infrastructure maintenance would only be giving free gifts to corporations and small entrepreneurs alike, who will be happy to put the improved infrastructure to use in making more money for themselves.

We need a way for improving things where, when a community improves its own space, the gains don't immediately get privatized.

I think one of the biggest public infrastructure issues in the United States is the lack of equal education. The education system of the USA is not fair and inherently unequal when schools are funded from the taxes of its local communities.

Other public infrastructure issues could be lack of cheap, affordable internet access, clean water, and health care.

Even when there is some subsidising towards educating children that are unfortunate enough to have poor parents, you still end up with very unequal outcomes.

Go down to Figure 53 of this: http://www.nzchildren.co.nz which shows only 1/3 of the poorest 20% attain a high enough level of education to even enter university, while 3/4 of the richest 20% do (the relation is fairly linear for the rest).

Financing the education of children with poor parents helps, it just doesn't equalise on average. Of course it does help a few outlier children a lot.

In NZ we add extra subsidies to schools with poor parents through a system of deciles - but it doesn't offset the difference that much.

> Even when there is some subsidising towards educating children that are unfortunate enough to have poor parents, you still end up with very unequal outcomes.

I think the idea with funding education more equitably is to remove existing barriers that are created by policy, not about creating totally equal outcomes.

I think we're on the same page. I interpreted "infrastructure" primarily to be social and political infrastructure, not physical infrastructure. Fixing it would undoubtedly need to include greater resistance to exploitation by powerful private interests.

I think this conclusion really works for both physical and social infrastructure. It's cool to work on either, but it's cooler if you don't feel like being an unpaid volunteer in someone else's business.

When participating in the system of the US, wealth and job security are extremely useful. It may be rational to think “I will have more impact working to the bone and then donating/volunteering, than I would if I worked less and volunteered more”

> When participating in the system of the US, wealth and job security are extremely useful. It may be rational to think “I will have more impact working to the bone and then donating/volunteering, than I would if I worked less and volunteered more”

I think that's the trap: you can't work yourself to the bone then have energy to work more to be active in your community, volunteer, run for office, pester politicians with letters, etc. Those are the kind of activities that I think could avoid the decay and perhaps even lead to some improvement.

I think it's a mistake to view "donating money" as meaningful response to many current social problems. Many of them are caused or propped up by people with more money than you could ever dream of having. Thinking that mere donations can win is like thinking a group insurgents could win in a stand-up direct fight against the US Army. The insurgents have different advantages than the US Army, and if they're smart, they'll use them rather than futilely attempting to reach parity with the US Army's strengths.

There's definitely some minimum amount of donations that will be required to really change things, but at a certain point I think the returns diminish.

  I think it's a mistake to view "donating" as
  meaningful response to many current social problems.
It probably depends on what problem you hope to solve, and what the other activities you're considering are.

A guy on minimum wage can ladle out soup at a soup kitchen every bit as well as I can.

But can he convince my elected representatives that I care about soup kitchens? Or make soup kitchen users into my personal friends? Not so much.

Countless social revolutions started from people who had the time to get socially engaged e.g. students and academics.

Keeping people busy with real or artificial work is extremely common in dictatorships.

Could you give an example of this - a society with a dictatorship that endeavors to give people artificial work?


Not sure if this counts but this image of a soldier mopping in the rain comes to mind.

That looks like a Marine and this kind of pointless punishment is common in the corps. The more pointless, the better. (Think, digging a hole and filling it back up again, repeatedly.)

There was also the old age of sail "anti-idleness" laws which also had issues of believing their own lies and causation correlations that it caused crime and sin. There are plenty of what are now clearly goddamned moronic social theories then in the 15th to 19th centuries - and it sadly isn't an exclusive to then and ones of modern vintage exist as well. They honestly thought people drinking until they pass out in the bar was socially preferable to walking around town.

Stalin's five year plans, Pol Pot and Moa's Cultural revolution immediately spring to mind. The ancient Roman practice of having Soldiers work on construction projects (eg Hadrian's Wall) between battles is a similar idea (though to keep them from looting, not plotting revolution).

As well as fascism in Italy and nazism.

They all disliked unemployed people and often forced them into work or in the military, loathed artists and writers that were able to work independently. They glorified "work for work's sake".

Created work artificially through gargantuan public works, bureaucracy and... war - the ultimate instrument to keep people busy and give them a common purpose.

I think we have to do both, to hedge our bets, at this point.

> if you haven't built up your own security through wealth, you're [going to be] fucked.

Another approach is to build security through self sufficiency and community based initiatives. For example, growing your own food wherever possible, or community gardens on common land.

There is a long list of examples and ideas where future security, defining that as decent quality of life, health and education, doesn't need to be based around monetary wealth.

Modern society relies on mass scale agriculture which cannot be replaced by community gardens. If everyone had to meet their nutritional needs with a community garden that is within walking distance of where they live, we basically couldn't have cities.

Growing your own food is work; where is the retirement plan? What if you're not able? Even if you are, many people want to do things other than farming when they retire.

It feels like the ultimate defeat: what have I achieved in this lifetime of work, when I'm reduced to land-to-mouth existence, like an ancestor tens of thousands of years before me? Where is the progress?

Theft is a problem in community gardens. If you just grow enough to sustain yourself and someone steals your produce, you're back to fucked.

I really don't think this is viable. I grew up on a mostly self sustaining farm. I've seen how inefficient and unpredictable it is at small scale.

There are simply too many of us to revert back to an agrarian society. We have to create food at a very large scale. Which means we have to become better at sharing it.

It doesn't matter how many cucumbers you can grow in your back yard or how good you are at fixing your 69 Ford when the heart meds you need to live are $600/month.

Like it or not we're all in it together and we're doing kind of a sucky job of it right now.

Almost no one in the US has a problem with getting enough food. Maybe substandard nutrition, but no one is going to starve.

Healthcare and education are areas where a common option could make a major difference in people's lives. But I think the "community" has to be pretty large to make a meaningful impact.

This may be true in socially progressive areas such as Silicon Valley, but it is far from the case anywhere else.

Hunger is further down Maslow's pyramid. You can't even begin thinking about things like education until you are able to adequately eat.


About 15% of the US population is "food-insecure" as defined by the USFDA. That's 40,000,000 people.

Since the recession, the US' food insecurity numbers still haven't recovered to their pre-recession values. A disturbingly non-zero number of families have no idea when their next meal will be or where it is coming from.

Society is crumbling...? I'm pretty sure the data doesn't back that up.

We face many problems, to be sure, but this is nothing new.

It doesn't matter what the data says, the feeling that our society is crumbling is palpable, and that is what drives this overwork. People my age (40s) and younger do not believe that our institutions will be able to support us in our old age and retirement. We do not even believe that the earth's ecosystems will be able to support us (as a group) then. In 30 years, we as individuals better have resources accumulated to support ourselves, or we will be unable to afford basics like healthcare, shelter, and even food.

For that matter, many of my non-tech friends (in their 40s) are already only one health crisis away from being homeless. I only have two couches and they all can't stay with me. I am doing relatively well and even I feel the pressure to overwork and "make hay while the sun shines", so maybe I can help support them when they need it.

This is a really interesting statement:

It doesn't matter what the data says, the feeling that our society is crumbling is palpable, and that is what drives this overwork.

There is an interesting conflict of interest buried in there, "someone" who is benefiting from your work figures out that if you "believe" that society is crumbling, you will work harder (which generates them more benefit), and so they arrange it so that in spite of the data to the contrary you are left feeling that society is crumbling.

Even the most intelligent and rational person will take action against their own self interest if they believe that such action is necessary. You can see that principle in action all too often today as people get caught up in a conspiracy theory and then decide to take action on their own.

I certainly agree that it's in the best interest of those at the top to make the rest of us believe retirement won't be there, and we must work-work-work to save-save-save.


1) I have seen it become commonplace to have several generations of a family living in the same house.

2) I have seen my grandparents struggle to afford prescriptions even with 2 pensions and social security.

3) I have seen a sibling fall into poverty despite making bi-weekly efforts to establish an emergency fund. A totaled car was all it took despite full coverage.

4) I have been a part of the crowd commuting 4+ hours round-trip a day to jobs they can't move closer to.

It definitely feels as though institutions are failing us. I don't think social security will fail, but I do think they'll move the goal post on when we can retire.

There are conspiracies and there's anecdote..

I'm waiting for a massive exodus of US citizens to Europe for healthcare.

Also the perceived society crumbling is self-imposed. Raging culture wars, terrorism as an excuse for totalitarian paranoia, freely accessible firearms, school shootings, obesity epidemic, trade tariffs, monopolistic corporations lobbying for laws, ecological disasters.

Frankly, I'm happy with my European backwater if the cost of getting off well after WW2 would be the list above. No wonder the US collectively is stressed out to the extreme.

It's not just healthcare. I often get into discussions about our ridiculous gun situation. Often, I am told by advocates for the status quo that if I don't like it, I should leave. Maybe I will take that advice. What happens to a community when all of the people who want to improve it who have the means to emigrate give up and leave?

Middle East


I emigrated from America to the UK. Healthcare is the number one thing that would make me trepidatious about moving back, far ahead of the gun violence and even the general political lunacy.

Another U.S. to UK transplant here. I thought the UK was bit better than the U.S. in terms of general divide and political nonsense. After Brexit, not so much.

Healthcare is insane here. I have a relatively good health insurance but a trip to the ER (no ambulance) for abdominal pains still cost me $1600 out of pocket. I questioned going to the ER and tried to wait as long as I could but figured if I have insurance then I might as well use what I have. I should have waited longer. I fully understand why under-insured people will avoid going to the doctor or ER until it's either life-threatening or too late. Sometimes I think it would be better just to get the cheapest insurance and build up the emergency fund more.

If you are a young person in America, it is. Unless you were born into the top 10th percentile of wealthy households, you are pretty much guaranteed to grow up to be poorer than your parents, and you know it. This is something new for America, and the sense of desperation it creates is the young is, for once, entirely legitimate.

This is key. It's not that you're going to be third-world-country poor, it's that regardless of what you do, you won't experience the same economic benefits for the effort that you put in, compared to 30 years ago.

This is true for people all across the board: blue-collar workers, office workers, and doctors.

For societies that crumble, the data is always retrospective. Organisations and societies are entities where people tend to pretend (believe, even) that everything is okay or at least everything is manageable during catastrophic events, until the day that illusion can't be maintained anymore.

With esentially no exceptions, people don't overwork themselves their whole lives for society, they do so for themselves or their kids.

When they don't get a commensurate benefit form extra work, they won't do it. If there are societies sliding downward it is because they are extracting too much wealth from the people who produce it. Among other things, just eliminating rent seeking would be a boon.

That's tragic, since the "rat race" is kind of the reason why society and infrastructure are crumbling.

I think the rat race is a symptom, not a cause

What would you say is the cause?

Many would say globalized, unfettered capitalism.

This is the "appeal to worse problems" fallacy.

Given that the US is wealthier than most of Europe and yet people work much longer hours with little worker protection, people could could demand much better.

Yup. The intense self-focus and zero-sum mentality in that line of thinking ignores that a more collaborative approach can get better results for everybody.

I agree that it can get better results. But I'm not sure if you've noticed that the political party-in-power in the US is actively against collaborative approaches. I'd love to cooperate and win-win for everyone, but at some point you have to acknowledge that it's going to take a larger effort than is currently available.

I think you're confusing the current condition of the federal government with America as a whole. At state and local levels, there are plenty of examples of more collaborative thinking. And a great deal of what happens in any country happens with little relation to the government. We can always collaborate as individuals.

I'm curious, where do you work now and who are your clients? I worked in Asia and the work culture with the Chinese (mainlanders) and those of Chinese-descent (Chinese Malaysians, Chinese Singaporean) was more challenging than working with Americans.

When I was in advertising, stories of people working and staying (as in sleeping over) during the weekends was not uncommon. Clients would call me at 11pm asking for a concall with my staff. 12 hours a day for weeks on end, including working weekends, were common place.

We were able to hire great talent just by promising that we'd never ask our staff to work weekends and hardly ever after 7pm on a workday. We had mostly US clients so that was an easy thing for us to day.

This culture shifted a bit when stories of young agency people in Hong Kong and other Asian cities dying from exhaustion became a big deal 4-5 years ago. But its still very workaholic culture.

Don't get me wrong, Americans work insane hours compared to Indonesians or the French, but parts of Asia is a whole other level of madness.

I'm in Thailand and our customers are almost all in the US. Some Thai companies have a pretty grueling culture, six days a week, little/no vacation, etc.

Our customers don't try to micromanage as long as we're getting results. I think our approach to work just comes down to me setting the tone. I was very lucky to have a teacher all the way back in elementary school who drilled the "Work smarter, not harder" mentality into my head from an early age.

And I've maintained 100% ownership of my company, therefore I exert the main influence over the culture. The way we do things works so I have no desire to change it.

They are lucky to have you, but how does "work smarter, not harder" work for competitors who aren't as smart as you?

If you can't compete with others at school, in the workplace, or as a business based on intellectual superiority the gap has to be made up somewhere. Usually that leads to hard work and then a vicious cycle.

That's an interesting question. I'm not sure this is a satisfactory answer, but I think what we do isn't really enabled by superior intellect as much as it is by a focus on good process and introspection.

In other words it comes down to good management -- this is just my pet theory, but as a ruminating introvert, when I did live and work in the US I felt that I witnessed a lot of extroverts get promoted into positions of authority because they were popular, and proceed to make poor decisions.

The point of that statement is usually doing the efficient thing instead of just working hard because the end results are what really matter. Why use a brush for broad areas when a paint roller can get the job done quicker?

I didn't know it was possible to have a 100% foreign owned business in Thailand. Is that a new development, or is the business in your SO's name?

I don't see this as being unique to the US.

It's pretty similar in London (UK), for example.

Here, it's about the fact that most people are hilariously, almost comically underpaid.

The cheapest 1 bedroom flat I can find within an hour of the centre is going to be in the ballpark of 200K.

So if you don't have established wealth, or earn at least 50K (4x mortgage), you're a prole.

Unsurprisingly, people don't want to be proles, so they work their bollocks off to get out of that category.

London is a special kind of hell. Of course, you can have a meaningful and fulfilled life outside of London, but maybe unsurprisingly for a city built on finance (in the modern area?), it attracts people who can only think of money, not cost. Or, for those less driven, maybe moving to London is the equivalent of going to uni, you do it because everybody else is and you don't have a better plan. IDK, I didn't get it and still don't.

For Americans, I imagine NYC or LA is similar. The traffic alone would keep me out of LA.

It's a bit different in the U.S. in the sense that, whereas in Britain and France most mid-sized cities have decent public transit and municipal services, in the U.S. only a handful large urban centers have these kinds of things.

For example, in Clermont-Ferrand, which is roughly to Paris what Albany is in NYC, there is a well-established tram system that can get you to many places you'd want to go to without a car. This is especially essential if you're low income. Albany in contrast, just has buses (the CDTA), and pretty crap buses at that. The only other city in New York State with anything even remotely approaching the utility of the subway system is the light rail system in Buffalo, which is mostly useless since it only comprises one marginally useful line.

Believe me, as someone not involved in finance in NYC, if I could get the same services I get here in a mid-sized city like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Buffalo, I'd strongly consider relocation.

> in Britain [...] most mid-sized cities have decent public transit

Strongly disagree with this. It might be better than the US, but to call it "decent" I think is a bit of a stretch.

Most journeys, in most cities, will be 3x faster by car or more. The exception is usually rush hour commuting into the city centre.

In my hometown for example the buses used to run on a 20 minute timetable in the middle of the day. I could cycle or drive into the city before the bus even arrived.

Inner city London is the exception. In the suburbs public transport is mostly useful for going in to Central London.

Agree I have 2 busses an hour in a commuter village near London no busses after 6:35 PM and a whole 3 busses on Sunday.

Is public transport really a driving factor for your decision on where to live? If it is, I just can't see it being a common factor for others. Most Americans I know are happy to drive if they can, and begrudgingly take public transport only when they have to (or when the cost and/or time savings is overwhelmingly in support of public transport, as it is in much of NYC). I would have to agree with the post above yours, that there is a drive among young people to live in large urban centers, if only to be nearer to culture, despite only being consumers of that culture. I can understand that drive, but it is far from the most financially responsible choice of residence for a large majority of people.

>> "Comically underpaid"

Underpaid compared to what? To what they might earn elsewhere? To the cost of buying a house or flat?

Compared to the amount required to not want to spend most of their time grinding to acquire a decent life.

We're missing any kind of definition for "a decent life" (or indeed "grinding" for that matter).

I live in an region where the population density is at least 50 times less than that of greater London. We have few Michelin-starred restaurants, a distinct lack of opera houses, and no top-ranked universities. I'm not bothered in the slightest.

Living in London (or NYC, or the Bay Area) is, just like so many other things in life, a choice.

To the amount of wealth they are generating for the place they work perhaps?

the USA there is a reason FANG companies like London

Well UK advertising and publishing have relied on being able to recruit cheaply the best Oxbridge firsts for decades.

Of course now the industry is digital there are a lot of people out of water and don't really get the internet an di am talking about people decades younger than me.


1) Working 40 hours a week does not support my long-term goals (house fund, retirement, vacations, etc). Which is another way of saying my job doesn't pay enough.

2) Companies will gladly have someone perform the work of 3 people and replace them when they burn out. It is rarely in the budget to increase staff with additional work (hah).

Equally anecdotal: when I found myself in this position 20 years ago, my response was to move to a lower COL part of the country that still had plenty of tech jobs (Upper Midwest).

I only wish I had done it even sooner!

Advertising/publishing isn't tech pay is a lot worse

Here's the secret: it's total BS.

"Hustle" is almost always BS. And real hustle is a red flag. If people can't get what needs to get done within predefined work hours, it's either a reflection of incompetency or poor time management.

I worked at one of the ad holding companies mentioned for a few years, and the magic behind the curtain is that there's no magic behind the curtain.

Agencies by and large blow smoke up the clients' behinds as a matter of standard practice. And the clients typically know this (though I'm not sure they know the full extent of it), but put up with it because the work they are engaging an agency for makes more sense to outsource to the agencies, and since all agencies are posturing, they simply pick who they think BS'ed best (as if that's a reflection of what will actually get done).

When I was there, it was all about BSing digital competency and foresight. Everyone was trying to claim a better finger on the pulse of change. Now that change has somewhat slowed down (no major hardware upsets in the past few or next few years), it makes sense to start behaving more like a commoditized service and trying to brand oneself as offering greater efficiency than one's counterparts.

Which is why if I was still in the industry today, my pitch deck would probably include a slide about how you won't hear us talking about "hustle" because it should only be necessary if you're not optimizing your work day (and including out of country examples of functioning companies working even less than standard hours and doing great work, and numbers about productivity tanking as hours go up). "So you could pick a 'hustle' agency, but are they spending their 'productive' hours on you, or are they billing you for those extra hours operating at lower efficiency? If you see an agency claiming to 'hustle', personally we'd suggest hustling in the other direction ASAP."

A historian I'm fond of, Walter McDougall, is writing a trilogy of American history books where a key theme is how the notion of "hustle" is central to what America is. For him, though, the word's dual American meanings of "work hard/move quickly" and "mislead/scam" are closely joined.

I think he's right. So many of these companies that value hustle are up to something ethically suspect. But if you go fast enough and apply enough pressure, nobody really has time to stop and say, "Wait, are we doing the right thing here?"

So although it'd definitely bad for worker health and generally also harms productivity, I think it's great for the profitability of whoever's at the top. And also for sweeping any ethical questions under the rug until after their pockets are filled.

> What I do wonder is, what's with all these Americans working themselves to the bone?

It's what happens when economic inequality increases continuously for decades. The slope of the line between the haves and the have-nots gets steeper and slipperier every year. Every year, the bottom end of that line gets ever more grim.

When there are fewer jobs to go around, fewer safety nets for people who can't find jobs, and being unemployed means losing health insurance and possibly dying, yeah, people are gonna hustle. It's awful.

> What I do wonder is, what's with all these Americans working themselves to the bone?

Intense competition among labor and companies’ willingness and ability to squeeze value out of employees.

Life is not getting any cheaper, but there is a perpetually larger and larger supply of labor willing to do your job for less. Employers are very efficient at capturing that value, so if you want to keep your job from someone willing to be paid N% less, you need to be N% more productive. The most visible proxy for doing that is to work longer hours. Or, be willing to work for less and work multiple jobs. Lots of people do that too.

When meaning and agency get steadily stripped away, or are even thrown away gladly, until all that remains are metrics that pretend to fill the hole but never really do, the hamster wheel efficiency goes up by a gazillion percent.

A phrase by John Cleese in another context comes to mind: "operating at a very, very low level of mental health." Most people would find that offensive if they heard it head on, but then complain they're not happy in the same breath. But it should be considered an opportunity, "unhealthy" can also be another word for "a lot of untapped potential".


> For instance, what would you say is happening to man, American man, in relationship to his work?

> FROMM: I think his work is to a large extent, meaningless, because he is not related to it. He is increasingly part of a big machinery, social machinery, governed by a big bureaucracy......and I think American man unconsciously hates his work very often, because he feels trapped by it...imprisoned by it... because he feels that he is spending most of his energy for something which has no meaning in itself.

I would say people don't really breed well in captivity, and that's it. Even people who consciously want it, who are so broken they embrace captivity, are not exempt. They die in some way or other, sooner or later, in one generation or another, sometimes by creating the catastrophe that kills them. Maybe the additional "complexity" is really just invented by a.) prison wards and b.) prisoners who don't dare to meet their gaze, for obvious reasons in either case.

> There is a goal, but no way; but what we call a way is hesitation.

-- Franz Kafka

We have too many yes, but's. They kill the soul, and then the body leads a derpy life.

>> I think his work is to a large extent, meaningless,

So create your own meaning. tell your own story. What's wrong with "i take in a job that feed me and my coworkers" for meaning ?

As for autonomy - that's different.

> As for autonomy - that's different.

Different as in separate from meaning? I disagree.

I feel like we have a misunderstanding. for me:

Autonomy = the level of freedom of choosing your own actions , under the constraint that your goal must be met.

Meaning = knowing your work has some positive value, which means you can tell yourself(maybe subconsciously) that you are useful, which increases your motivation.

Example : a doctor that is forced to use an expert-system to guide him, would feel a lot less autonomy,even though he may understand that he's more useful to his patients - i.e. ,a lot of meaning.

You also need autonomy to choose your own meaning.

> Example : a doctor that is forced to use an expert-system to guide him, would feel a lot less autonomy,even though he may understand that he's more useful to his patients - i.e. ,a lot of meaning.

Then why would they be "forced"? Either it makes their work easier/better or it doesn't, where does the force come in?

Insurance rates for one or if it is sufficient enough not doing so being malpractice.

Let's take throwing rocks from a highway bridge. I would never want to do such a thing, so knowing that I would get punished for it doesn't curtail my autonomy. I don't feel "forced" by those laws to not do it, since my own volition comes first. I think about the example of the doctor the same way.

Autonomy doesn't just mean being able to do random things and not being subject to thermodynamics and gravity and everything, in the context of a human being's will to live, it simply has to do with being subject to the will of another human being, and the reasons for that.

As Hannah Arendt said in an interview:

> The whole of Kants morality boils down to the fact that every human has to consider if each of their actions could be general law. This means.. it's the the extreme opposite of obedience, so to speak! Everybody is lawgiver. No human has the right to obey according to Kant. [..] We obey in this sense, as long as we are children, because it is necessary. There obedience is a very important thing. But this should end at the latest at age fourteen or fifteen.

In that sense, I would also make a distinction between discipline and coercion. E.g. choosing (and keeping to reflect on and affirming) even the most rigid principles and living by them is not a reduction, but an expression of autonomy. If you are your own captor -- and you're aware of it, and it's a voluntary choice, rather than a rationalization like like with drug addiction or mental problems -- then you're not really a prisoner.

When I work on something I love, I sometimes work my ass off. I could never ever work this hard on command, outside of a slave camp with actual guns pointed at me. There is simply no way. But when I'm in "in the zone"? I love it, because there isn't just pressure, there is also grip that translate it into motion in a direction that fulfills me.

The same goes for helping people or doing chores that I agree need to be done. E.g. once I and people from an FB group helped clean the flat of a woman who was lethally scared of an upcoming landlord inspection.. and so ashamed of the state of her flat that she actually wasn't even there while we did it. I cleaned nicotine stains from surfaces with baking soda for two days and it felt good then, and still feels good thinking back on it. According to her best friend who had organized the thing she broke out in tears of joy when she saw the result. If I had to do it for money for someone who then complains about the result, it would have been degrading. Same work, different context, completely different result. Extend that to a lifespan and it's really no wonder.

I think people can't care deeply about things they don't have some kind of ownership of, and doing things we don't or can't care deeply about makes us sick. Which is good, because it also means doing things we care about makes us happy, so let's do that :D

I suspect your data set is skewed toward those with higher disposable incomes who can travel abroad versus those who are content to live more modestly.

Excellent point

Americans live with the awareness of two issues. First, we are one crisis away from poverty unless we can build up our own safety net in the form of wealth. Second, the most successful people tend to have grown up in households where they could count on a family safety net. The mere presence of wealth is beneficial to our children by letting them take more risks.

This drives people who are not independently wealthy, to try and build that wealth in excess of what they might actually need for survival, and even for a happy life.

Is it good for productivity? I measure my productivity in terms of what I produce for my family.

> Where does this all come from? This is an honest question. Why are people working themselves to death in the US and having this crazy mindset that doing stuff which puts you on the verge of a breakdown is good? When did this start?

I believe it all started when the Church of Pavlina opened and easy access to personal development blog fueled by Ferris and others. The ubermensch was promoted. At the same time Amazon and Facebook showed that you could make it big or be a slave so.. fear of doom and american success stories à la "you too can do it if you want" ?

Isn't Tim Ferriss' belief the opposite of overworking? I thought that was the whole point of the 4-hour Work Week.

The Four Hour workweek is a dream reached either by working really really really hard to build a business, or by basically strong-arming your employer into letting you work while you're relaxing on a beach.

It's all right there in his book, but like anything that inspires people, most people read what they want to read and not the actual words on the page.

I think the key lesson in the 4 hour work week and skill you need to be a successful entrepreneur or capitalist is delegation and outsourcing. You need to learn how to scale yourself and your processes by hiring others and profiting from their labor. That's the key to the 4 hour work week and capitalism. You're not going to get the crazy results everybody wants until you learn how to build, hire a team, and profit off their hard work.

The secret to this is that this doesn't require capital at all. You don't need anything to learn how to arbitrage, money, goods, or time.

Where is the capital to pay the people you hire?

My partner worked as a developer to someone who served as a middle man. People would give the middle man tech projects and he'd split them up between developers he knew and profit. I think Steve Jobs actually did this when they wrote a game for Atari.

People do this all the time with 14 day invoices etc. You have to be a little creative and very skilled but it's possible to make something out of nothing because you're providing value- especially when you get paid up front with a deposit.

That's the theory. But isn't the premise that by working 8 hours a day à la Ferris you'd end up working 10 times more than the others in the rat race ? (at least that's the vibe I got back then).

It's still about being super efficient though (4 super efficient hours a week. Let's be honest anybody who could do that would do it more than once a week).

Hey - I've never really heard about the "Church of Pavlina", and Google isn't really forthcoming. Do you mind explaining what you mean a bit?

Sure (sorry about being cryptic).

Steve Pavlina is one of the first superstar of the online self-help world (dating back to 2004 or 2006). It started with an article on a famous website for programmers (can't remember the name atm) about how he dig really deep with his first game and so others were playing catching up but he was raking in a steady monthly income (see where we are going and who would be interested ?).

Then he started his personnal weblog (yeah, we used to call'em weblog in my days) about self help and how he experimented with polyphasic sleep (sleeping 3 or 4 hours a days in twenty minutes increment, see the kind of folks that would bite that bait ?). So far, so good.

Then he went full crazy with psychic powers like talking to bird, being a telepath, reality shaping (aka the secret), etc.

His article were 10 or 12 A4 pages long (wonder how that goes nowadays) and it was kind of mesmerizing to see all that happening in real time (I admit I got first intrigued with his time management article and I kept reading for the crazy).

There was a funny experiment with polyamory and it ended with a divorce.

See http://edificial.blogspot.com/2006/08/church-of-steve-pavlin... for the church of pavlina and https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Steve_Pavlina for links and stuff.

Of course they guy was kinda successful (financially).

His forums were a pure gold mine of fun. There was the same kind of diverse mix of people you'd see on a huge site like 4chan or Reddit, but it still felt really intimate. Like the Tucker Max forum but not quite as hyper-masculine.

The overwork culture certainly predates blogs.

Steve Pavlina is/was a programmer turned motivational(?) speaker.

>Where does this all come from? This is an honest question. Why are people working themselves to death in the US and having this crazy mindset that doing stuff which puts you on the verge of a breakdown is good? When did this start?

Americans have been convinced (largely by republicans) that the reason so many americans are struggling financially is because they're lazy and stupid. One of the side effects of this is people being proud of working non stop as proof that they're not lazy and stupid like everyone else.

Consequently, any time someone proposes something that will improve the lives of every working American, a disturbing number of us respond along the lines of, "Hey, I work my ass off, and I've had to suffer over ____, so everyone else should have to suffer at least as much." As opposed to, say, "Hey, I've had to deal with ____, and it sucks. Let's fix it so none of us have to deal with this anymore."

Oh! I see you've been listening to Mitch McConnell! Yeah, that man HATES the poor and lower middle class.

The historical component for this work ethic is frequently tied to Protestantism, especially Puritanism. Work was divinely mandated, and shirking that responsibility was socially unacceptable. Work was also more necessary, as not working hard enough could led to the death of your community. Just my two cents

MBA's are trained to wring every ounce of productivity from employees by working them more than 40 hours (because working late is a badge of honor!) while letting them know that, yet again, there are no raises coming and they need to take one for the team and we all need to tighten our belts and blah blah.

And yet, American workers still hold fast to the dream that if they just work harder, they'll be more successful.

That dream doesn't exist. The nightmare that does is that workers are continuing to work for less and less each year.

Some people enjoy doing more. I work at work, then I work at home on side projects. This does not have to mean I am dying from overwork. It is the same for exercise, am I trying to impress people or get attention? I don't think so, I'm pretty sure I just like doing pull ups. By all means, do what makes you happy, if you want to check out after 40 hours, that is fine. However, don't project your attitude to work on other people. It can be perfectly healthy and enjoyable to work your ass off.

Maybe it's the Internet? It's filled with success porn (exceptional people giving talks, streaming while they work etc.), as well as ordinary people giving each other pep talks (for example, gamedev subreddit is full of people telling you should be making games in addition to your full time job).

The US (and by greater extent, the western world) praises individualism - “do it yourself or it won’t get done right” is a common theme. I think this is a driving force behind overwork.

I think it might be more like "do it yourself or it won't get done".

It wasn't that long ago when agriculture was a very big employer. I have a lot of farmers in my family and basically, if the sun is up, they are working. When something needs to be done, they DIY-it mostly because that's all they can afford.

Passion, or workaholism?

Or perhaps it's because a single income isn't sufficient anymore to support a household, and people without a partner still need to pay rent/mortgage.

I think insecurity is a driver for it. Fear that if they work just 40 hours they'll get replaced with somebody working 50. Not to mention some cases of sociopathic "sacrifice mentality" where they think if they aren't extracting as much as possible they are leaving money on the table even when both productivity and cost are the opposite with turnover. People living paycheck to paycheck excaberates it.

Sounds like a great place to work. Are you hiring? :)

It comes from the long-running anti-union propaganda campaigns put on by corporations. It comes from deregulation, which comes from politicians wholly bought and paid for by corporations. It comes from years of flat minimum wage alongside constant inflation. It comes from years and years of decisions about what a business can do to a worker that almost all come down in favor of infinite rights for the business and none for the worker, because the businesses are the ones who can hire the fancy lawyers to spin tangled webs of justifications resting on previous bad decisions or willful misreadings of the letter of existing law.

I am sitting in a hotel bed as I write this, killing time before leaving to catch a plane home. Yesterday I extended my stay by a day; I noticed the front desk clerk was wearing a union button, and complimented him on it. When he mentioned their contract is up for re-negotiation at the end of the month, I wished the union the best of luck in getting a fair chunk of the profits they’re making for the owners. It felt great to be able to say things like that.

the fact that unions/left wing politics have very little political representation in the US is also fairly astounding.

How is it possible that a political ideology which should appeal to the bottom 50% of the workforce has no representation?

So, this is the industry that:

- puts flashing colored boxes in front of our faces at any possible opportunity

- requires us to click through multiple popups to access almost any for-profit website

- has normalized the act of wasting human life at a mass scale by injecting multi-minute time-wasting sessions in activities

"How hustle culture took over"? It's a hustle by default. I'd call it a swindle.

I always thought that hustler was synonymous with confidence artist or a low level scammer. That it’s now considered a positive word is fascinating to me.

Hustler is used a lot in rap. It's always been there. A hustler hustles. They put in work. They are in the grind. It's all about turning a nickel into a dime. In other words, they sell a lot of crack. Nothing deep.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZbwTCrnktY - Cassidy - I'm a hustler

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sv6CbP4kVno - Lil Wayne - Hustler Muzic

Reminds me of the other usage of hustling which is an incongruous clash with the macho image - male prostitution mostly to other men and the occasional older women. Not judging either and I fully understand that it is a serious situation - just noting the inadvertent humor in linguistic drift.

Technically I believe it often meant any odd job to make money whether legal, illegal or a grey area. So selling weed, shoveling a driveway, and busking where you could get kicked out at worst all count.

Selling drugs is pretty deep, try it sometime. You really feel every dollar. Now I’m more connected to money and survival. Great capitalism experience 10/10.

Depends on the drug and where you are. Selling crack on Chicago’s southwest side used to be more fatal than Texas’ death row.

Hustler yes, but hustling is a verb, often used in e.g. sports movies / events.

I first learned the word hustler in the mid 80s when my soccer coach had a "hustler of the day" award for every game. It went to whoever worked the hardest that day.

A hustler hustles, but one who hustles isn't always a hustler.

Poetic, but that could be said about anything;

A programmer programs, but one who programs isn't always a programmer...

Yes, it could be said about anything. And if someone thought that someone who programs must be a programmer I'd have said the same you said.

The word was gentrified.

The employees still deserve to be respected and allowed to live normal lives outside of this corporate "hustler culture."

Why should employment be treated as a shroud?

If you spend the majority of your time working to abuse your fellow man, I don't respect that, and see no reason why I should.

That is not, and should not be accepted as, a "normal life".

Advertising companies are a disease.

(I found this usage of "shroud" interesting. It seems to be in the same sense as "corporate veil":

https://www.guffo.in/lifting-corporate-veil-circumstances-ca... )

I agree... this is an interesting concept we should explore. As an analogy to the corporate veil, basically anything a person would do in their employment would generally be forgiven as "well, you've gotta make a living", unless it reaches a point where it's sufficiently morally wrong to still hold the person responsible for their actions on the job. For example, if their job were Winston Smith's (George Orwell character) job of editing historical news articles to distort the past, then we might say Winston is still personally responsible.

The difficulty here is holding CEOs responsible for crimes with "piercing the corporate veil" is holding a high level, powerful decision-maker, with options, responsible... rather than a person who might be trying to support 5 kids and some elderly parents, and couldn't just choose to sweep the street instead of working at the Ministry of Information for 6 figures.

"If you spend the majority of your time working to abuse your fellow man, I don't respect that, and see no reason why I should."

Oh, please. Someone setting up a targeted Facebook or Google Ads campaign is not 'abusing their fellow man'.

This can be said of anyone who is taking part in an abusive activity, and it's equally untrue every time it is said. Advertisement is a very high-end job in the grand scheme of things. People who work in advertising have many career choices at their disposal, it's not like it was the only available job to people in their district and social class, the way mining jobs were in mining towns a hundred years ago. It's a choice that they made, and continue to make every day.

The advertising industry isn't the way it is because it has a will of its own. It ended up like this because a bunch of people shaped it to be like this, and even more people agreed that this is how things should be.

I can understand people who are just starting out in this activity getting a free pass -- they don't really know how things are going in this field, so it makes sense to be a little lax on accountability.

But after that? Why avoid responsibility after that? Or is "making a difference" something we're only allowed to say if you're making a good difference in the world?

I agree with most of what you've said, but I'd add:

> People who work in advertising have many career choices at their disposal

This is a rhetorical trap. If someone has no options left but to abuse their fellow man in order to survive - that doesn't make it respectable.

Inevitable - sure. Something we should tolerate? No, we should call it out, and work to eliminate the circumstances that lead to that sort of thing happening.

> If someone has no options left but to abuse their fellow man in order to survive - that doesn't make it respectable.

Respectable as an activity, no, but understandable -- yes. From the comfort of your own home after a light lunch, it's easy to say that you should refuse to participate in the advertising industry, even if that means starving on the streets. The people who choose advertising over seeing their kids grow up without a childhood certainly don't deserve the kind of wrath and disrespect that we (justly!) show to those who engage in this dubious kind of activity so that they can get a bigger yacht.

> From the comfort of your own home after a light lunch

I don't think this sort of ad hominem attack is productive; it instantly puts people on guard and stifles debate.

I may be mistaken, but as far as I'm aware, you know nothing about me or my background.

That out of the way; I think the idea that people work in advertising because otherwise they'd be homeless and starve is a falsehood. It might be true in some cases, but there are literally millions of counterexamples.

It wasn't an ad hominem attack -- I didn't mean you specifically :-). I'm sorry if that wasn't more obvious in the post. It's the same as "You generally want to double-check before you run rm -rf" -- I mean, you probably do, too, but it's meant as a general statement.

Edit: other than that, I obviously agree that's an extreme (and rare) case. I just want to emphasize that it's worth keeping the exceptions in mind. The advertising industry is what it is, and everyone who chooses to work in it is responsible for what they do -- but that's true of every mentally-able adult, that doesn't mean everyone is also truly free to make a choice.


On the latter point - I strongly disagree that people don't have a choice, but I think this is outside of the scope of the comment thread.

It's the sort of thing I wouldn't mind discussing over a pint rather than in front of a screen. :P

Indeed -- perhaps it's best saved for when we have a pint nearby.

Show me on this doll of the org chart where the responsibility was abdicated.

If you're a summer intern, sure, you can go home and feel good about getting extra credit. If you're the CEO who pushes dark patterns and chooses to sacrifice security for profit, you should toss-and-turn at night. But at which point can we say, "you, the person who knowingly implemented this piece of shit pattern that enables malware to be delivered straight into my machine, did a bad thing, and are personally culpable"?

It really depends what you mean by 'personally culpable'.

I don't think anyone should have force used against them (e.g. prison time, fines).

However, it's not only completely fair, but inevitable, that someone's actions influence how they're seen by others.

If your job involves being an asshole, then it's completely unsurprising that people will see you as an asshole. Because you are one. The fact someone pays you to do it is immaterial. You're not an actor at work, your actions have consequences in the world we all live in.

Maybe I should have said "ethically" or "morally" instead of personally. I'm not suggesting we ride people out of town on a rail, or tar and feather them, but I definitely agree that if you work for an asshole company doing asshole things, that makes you an asshole, with all the social consequences that follow the label.

>If you're a summer intern, sure, you can go home and feel good about getting extra credit.

Unless the summer intern didn't accomplish a single thing, maybe not. I would say that you are guilty if you ordered something bad to be done, or carried out a bad order, and an accomplice to the guilty if you supported the actions of someone who was ordering or carrying out something bad.

After WW2 it was established that soldiers following orders were still guilty of crimes if they knew that their actions were unlawful. Following orders does not excuse guilt.

If you're the person without whom the project can't go ahead or will suffer a major inconvenience (at worst, filling your position with someone else) then you get part of the collective responsibility.

If you write code you know will harm people, you get part of the collective responsibility, no matter how much of a cog you are.

Yeah I didn't put that very clearly but I agree.

“I was only following orders”

Hatred of advertising at a larger scale, nice. How are those people on said websites (and almost any other medium) supposed to make money?

Examples, with specific citation:

My local bus stop has adverts (London).

My local metro station does too (London).

They're all over the roads (UK).

They're in pubs (UK).

They're on paid television services (Sky).

They're on paid programs (Windows 10).

They're shown before movies (cinema, UK).

Advertising is _everywhere_, in paid services, unpaid services, whatever.

Unless I'm in my own, or a friend's private home I could probably find an advert by spinning my head around.

Ask yourself - why haven't you included an advert on your comment? You could, and it'd allow you to comment on HN more, right?

I understand this but it doesn't really counteract my point: it pays for stuff. It (helps) pay for your bus stop (or at least it does in the states), it's on paid television because you'd have to pay EVEN MORE for it, and movies on top of that.

Now, if you made an argument that the entire structure is screwed up and the people at the top deserve to make less and therefore not needing as much cash flow and therefore we should be able to cut the ads, THEN I might agree...


I don't believe that my train or bus would cost substantially more without the advertising.

And even if it did, it's just an internalization of costs.

The advertising (if it works) pulls money in through a side channel (someone sees an ad and later buys a thing).

It makes far more sense to just pay for the bus.

Other examples, like ads at the side of the road, don't even pay for anything. Driving along the road, I see an ad in a farmer's field. I'm not using that field in any meaningful sense.

edit: I actually looked up the transport example.

Transport for London had approximately a 1:20 ratio of advertising to fare revenue last year.

So, I'd have to pay approximately 5% more, or 7 pence per bus fare, to not have adverts plastered on the inside and outside of buses, tubes, station platforms, corridors within stations, and probably various roads under TfL authority as well.

I think the world in which we pay 7 pence more for bus fare and have nice artwork on the bus or something instead of hair loss adverts that call us ugly balds is better.

I'd rather pay £129 for my Zone 2 pass than £135 without ads. The £6 I can buy a kebab with.

Even bought the Kindle with special offers. Preferred it to the one I have without.

If it ever happens, I'll gladly pay 12 more and you can have a kebab and a pint on me. ;)

I reckon if we ever get to that point, by then the pint alone might be 12 quid though. Soz.

Haha, every month? I'd happily take that trade. If only since I'd enjoy the company.

I lived in Berlin for a little while and when I moved back to London I was shocked by all the advertising on the tube. I had sort of filtered a lot of it out when I lived in London and then got hit with it afresh when I returned.

Berlin just has... clean empty walls on the metro. I mean yeah there's advertising and particularly crappy screens on the actual trains but it's so much better.

oh man now you give me ideas... kind of like the guy who tattooed an AD on his face. For 1c per post i will let your company put some BS tagline in all of my reddit/HN/forum posts

Once Patreon became a thing, I turned off all the ads on my comics and never looked back. I am by no means in even the top 50% of earners but I make more than ads ever did and feel a lot better about it.

That's awesome and great to hear. The issue I think is at scale, though.

Sometimes harmful business models die out, which results in good people losing income. We should still celebrate this progress, even with the casualties.

> How are those people on said websites (and almost any other medium) supposed to make money?

1. Have less annoying ads that respect the user.

2. Charge money.

3. Some novel funding model that's unexplored because obnoxious ads dominate everything and suck all the air out of the room.

Let me preface this by a large percentage of people in advertising are not creating #1. BUT:

1. That's fair, but it takes time and talent to create these.

2. Clearly that isn't working; see almost any news site in existence

3. This is a hope, and a nice one. https://scroll.com/

3. OK they have a different business model and lots of content partners, but they won't tell you what it is, just invite you to sign up. I'm guessing it involves monetizing email addresses. If this content free proposition is your idea of a nice prospect, what is it based on? Anyone can say they have laudable goals, like beauty contestants who aspire to bring about world peace and end hunger. Perhaps they're just saying nice things without any real capability or intention to deliver?

you know, sometimes I wonder how the internet would look like today if every time you loaded content from a server some money would automatically go their way (a tiny payment compensating for server time of sorts)

Ah the PRESTEL / Dialcom model pay per page and or minute *narrator voice" it didn't turn out well- I should know I was there if you don believe me ask Vint Cerf

I suspect even worse. People would be less willing to try new things with an upfront cost while clickbait would be even more incentivized as they don't even have to worry about not offending advertisers.

That's similar to what https://flattr.com/ tried. (You could set it to auto-pay visited pages)

Lots of ways. By contributing to society, perhaps?

This advertising model hasn't been around for very long. It's baffling how suddenly nobody can even conceive of how the world would work without malicious advertising and culture-wide psyops digging into everyone's brains. The advertising model is one of the worst inventions in history.

>Hatred of advertising at a larger scale, nice

The problem is that the perception of the advertising industry at a larger scale is that it's a blood sucking industry with no thought for anything other than taking the attention of everyone away from what they were looking for and towards what the industry has been paid to help sell.

It's ironic, I think, that the advertising industry is perceived so badly.

How could the advertising industry market itself? "Our knowledge of psychologically attacking the human mind is second-only to the CIA, but we're catching up!"

Well their job is to please their clients above all else not the ad targets. That crops up a lot like enterprise software being infamously hated because it is geared at looking good to procurers and not the end user - and not even in an "annoying to deal with but it does the job efficiently and cheaply".

If you were to say working in advertising Girl Scout Cookies in Cannabis Advocate magazines you would get fired so very quickly even if it boosted their sales substantially because of the controversy.

It is part of how Google got their good reputation in the first place - they gave the people what they wanted and were loved for it. Obviously it has greyed over time since.

>Well their job is to please their clients above all else not the ad targets.

I find this comment fascinating, in that:

1. If more of the 'ad targets' (ie. consumers) knew this, then it wouldn't work so well.

2. The advertising industry, by keeping their clients happy, are treating the customers of their clients as a resource to be squeezed wherever and whenever possible, and the clients are obviously fine with this.

3. Point #2 results in the advertising industry being a lightning rod for angry anti-consumer sentiment, allowing the ad industry clients to remain relatively clean.

4. It would be 'good / right' if the ad-industry clients that sell the various products being shoved in our faces on most of the flat-surfaces to be found on the Internet could be held to account just as much as the ad industry itself, then the ad industry would have more reason to drag itself out of the sewer. See point #1.

Edited to add: @Nasrudith, just to clarify, your comment is a great point, and succinct. Well said.

The goals aren't entirely disjoint either for commercial but for cause campaigning and strong dogma they may be able to sustain the relationship indefinitely. A fanatical evangelist business owner indefinitely posting on a billboard in fiery red letters "Are you going to hell?!" on a billboard may well be counterproductive to conversion but as long as the customer is happy the advertiser doesn't care that everybody hates that billboard.

Maybe they shouldn't be making money? Advertising allows otherwise unviable businesses to survive. This is true of other things besides the internet, yet nobody wonders how TV shows are supposed to make money without advertising when we pay to watch shows with no interruptions. Streaming television contrasted with cable TV illustrates perfectly how advertising lowers the quality of content. Likewise, it lowers the quality of the audience; if you don't have to pay for something, you're more likely to view said thing, but you probably aren't going value it very much or be a valuable customer in the long run.

Advertising is much worse on the internet because it's a lot easier to propagate, not being constrained by time slots in a broadcast. That means that an overwhelming amount of trash is allowed to survive, drowning out a lot of the things that are worthwhile and building up an audience that is low-value and perhaps even dangerous to society in some regards; I would argue such for the amount of "viral" tripe that sways how people view politics, science, religion, etc.

Back in the ancient times, about 20 years ago, people would exchange goods and services for bits of paper and metal trinkets.

It seems like the future is getting a free refridgerator that you pay for by watching an ad before you can take out the milk. (Oops, did I just spoil someone's startup?)

The history of religion disagrees with your view of ancient times. Swindlers have always been on the psychological attack. The difference now is that they are more invasive in more of the minutes of our lives.

Please, advertising is not the only viable business or economic model. Darn right I hate omnipresent intrusive brainwashing and the cognitive and aesthetic pollution it generates.

They would make money by selling a product.

Don't forget ads in movie trailers! Now that is "ingenious". Forcing you to watch an ad to watch an ad.

The guy who thought of that deserves "Advertiser of the Year" award and a "Crime against Humanity" charge.

> it wasn’t just working hard — it was “maximizing every last bit of energy you have in order to produce.”

That reminds of this blog post by Jamie Zawinski[1]:

"What is true is that for a VC's business model to work, it's necessary for you to give up your life in order for him to become richer.

Follow the fucking money. When a VC tells you what's good for you, check your wallet, then count your fingers.

He's telling you the story of, "If you bust your ass and don't sleep, you'll get rich" because the only way that people in his line of work get richer is if young, poorly-socialized, naive geniuses believe that story! Without those coat-tails to ride, VCs might have to work for a living. Once that kid burns out, they'll just slot a new one in."

[1] [redacted]

EDIT: Make sure you don't click the link but copy and paste it. It seems the author is intercepting all traffic from HN site to an interesting image.

I love that the author is doing that.

The url is cut off in the web view of HN so I can't even copy and paste it.... nice.

Context-click to get the URL. If you can click it, you can copy it.

alternatively: don't send them the referrer

There's a pretty unfortunate redirect happening with your link. If you don't want to see a testicle, I wouldn't click it.

Unfortunately, no way to edit the link. Guess he doesn't like HN.

As a professional diesel mechanic, I find most of the points in this article pretty difficult to understand outside the context of, say, Hollywood? or maybe iPhones? Do programmers really have to show this kind of reckless drive? This hasnt been a thing in tradecraft since...forever i dont think...and if it is, its punished pretty severely.

An example: if im rebuilding the idler and pitman assembly on a fourteen ton truck, theres no hustle. there is no competition to do it "the fastest." You do it right, because if that assembly fails in a turn you could cause a pretty horrible accident. Depending on what that professional driver hauls (benzene, chlorine, pesticides, etc...), you might find your "hustle" on the evening news as the police evacuate some poor suburb.

If you're writing a web application, shouldnt you take care to make sure its secure and well written? Just because nobody had to pick hair out of a windshield doesnt mean a hacked webapp doesnt ruin just as many lives.

The work that programmers do is not physical. Management have a hard time seeing the result of our work.

What always ends up happening because of this is that managers start to manage time spent instead of value outputted. Since the work done is all very vague for them, the best programmer is the one that finish their projects the fastest.

We do our own estimates and our subconscious is trying to "win" that race. Sometimes, we even get bonuses based on this. So we end up stamping time estimates that would only happen in a perfect world. Management use those estimates as hard deadlines. If you do not meet the deadline, it's your fault.

So you start to work crunch time at the end of months.

Since the work is virtual, nobody but the programmer cares about the quality of the work. Management pushes you to finish as quickly as possible.

You then start to work for free one or two extra hours a day every day to fix those things in the code that bring you shame.

The things management won't give you extra time to correct. You know this glaring security hole is going to end your career, even if management doesn't want you to correct it. So you correct it anyway.

You want better tools to insure the quality of your projects but since programmers have to build their own tools from scratch, management won't grant you time to build them.

You use some time out of your weekend to build them.

Nobody wants to use a dull blade so your sharpen your tools on your own time.

A few projects done the road, you work 20 extra hours a week without even noticing anything has changed.

... now imagine a new hire trying to compete without putting any extra time. On his first meeting, he gets asked why he takes double the time to finish projects. He quickly end up doing the same as everyone else. Everyone is working for free because everyone else is.

It's a vicious circle that's very hard to break. Most of the time you only notice it when you are a new hire... and nobody listens to new hire. Heck, what management would allow the situation to get back to normal? They are getting so much free work.

I've read this narrative that only the programmer cares about the quality of the work many times. I find, however, that sometimes the programmer cares more about showing off how clever they are then building a quality and simple system that is delivered in a reasonable time frame.

Hacker News has this narrative that programmers are always right and always smarter than "management" or any other non-programmer. That's not reality though. Programming isn't some special discipline where everyone is great. There are a lot of poor programmers out there like I describe above. Management often ends up not believing people because of this, just like in other professions.

Developers need to share the responsibility of the situation, it's not all just "bad managers". Developers need to start caring more about the people they build products for rather then simply their wallet and personal "fun".

Of course this is but an anecdote from my point of view based on the workplaces that I experienced.

What I've lived through a lot of time is teams of senior programmers led by junior managers. Sometimes they are fresh out of school and have never led any team. Heck, sometimes senior programmers turn into code monkeys because they are hired as nothing more than glorified trophies. IT teams having to answer directly to sales department managers, etc.

Teams of juniors or intermediates are way more likely to make mistakes such as the one you describe. I've seen my share and I do agree that they exist. People migrating entire projects to the language-du-jour and creating a bad situation for everyone because they didn't master that language and ended up refactoring stable solutions into shaky messes.

In a perfect world, we would have a team of strong senior programmers leading a few juniors under a strong management team.

> If you're writing a web application, shouldnt you take care to make sure its secure and well written? Just because nobody had to pick hair out of a windshield doesnt mean a hacked webapp doesnt ruin just as many lives.

No. In fact, where I work (massive multistore ecommerce), this attitude is actively discouraged. They don't want developers spending valuable time worrying about what a malicious actor would do or how it can be protected against. That would be an inappropriate use of company time on non-revenue-generating activities. We HAVE to spend all our time feverishly implementing whatever features business put in for development this quarter to bump conversions and average order volume. If we focus on endpoint security, we aren't adding features, and so we might miss the revenue budget and then stuff REALLY hits the fan.

> An example: if im rebuilding the idler and pitman assembly on a fourteen ton truck, theres no hustle. there is no competition to do it "the fastest." You do it right, because if that assembly fails in a turn you could cause a pretty horrible accident.

In this scenario, you don't have to be in the situation of some company in some other country figuring out a way to sell people a machine that'll rebuild the idler 50% faster. In the SaaS & ecommerce landscape, being beaten to market or having a competitor that can iterate faster than you means you're dead.

> In the SaaS & ecommerce landscape, being beaten to market or having a competitor that can iterate faster than you means you're dead.

I understand how common this sentiment is, and maybe in some markets it really is true, but for the most part I just don't buy it that SaaS and eCommerce are zero-sum games.

I'm going against the grain here, but there are a lot of counterexamples -- look at all the time tracking apps, or all the fitness trackers, or all the file transfer software, or all the credit card processors. I'm pretty sure the number of actual zero-sum markets pales in comparison to the number that people believe exist.

Most SaaS software arent that unique. They solve the same problem other companies are trying to solve. Once you use MailChimp, you arent going to use Constant Contact too. Once you use Stripe, there isnt much reason to use Braintree, etc. Thus when a competitor gains a customer, it usually means one less customer for you.

> I understand how common this sentiment is, and maybe in some markets it really is true, but for the most part I just don't buy it that SaaS and eCommerce are zero-sum games.

I don't disagree with you, but it is shareholders & executives that determine how developer time is to be spent, not developers.

Office work is much different and programming is certainly different than a hands on job as you describe. It is far too often that the 'move fast and break things' ideology is pushed to meet deadlines or be the first to market, even if the product is broken.

Also, more similar to what you are familiar with, dealership mechanics and jiffy lube style shops are closer to the hustle mentality than your professional role. They are bound by time constraints because normal consumers will only pay so much for your time and there are standard limits to charge for a particular job. If you take longer than the standard time you can charge for, then the loss is yours.

All the flat rate monkeys working on consumer vehicles are working to slap things together as fast as possible (without doing such a terrible job that it comes back) so they can log the book hours and move on to the next job (presuming the shop is busy enough for there to perpetually be a next job).

I take it you work in a relatively high margin part of the industry. The skilled trades is just as much of a rat race in the low margin shops where the vast majority of people start their careers.

That's the thing, quantity of 'acceptable' quality of work is valued over how high that quality might be. The minimum time is taken to proof and bugfix, because failures are addressed after they've already come up in order to pump out more product in shorter time. It's velocity, and high enough velocity overcomes any setback that affects a companies pocketbook. Entry level and middle management is burned out but quickly turned over and refilled with fresh meat from each graduating class, those that suffer through and keep up their velocity move up, eventually reaching a point in their career where they don't have to worry about their own output but rather the output of those under them. Your immediate manager in your garage will surely understand the value of your work, but your CEO is only concerned with getting to the absolute minimum time a truck is sitting in your garage idle rather than moving product on the highway, and your manager is probably fighting him on keeping or raising minimum time every quarter.

It varies from one company to another.

Responsible managers (and, by extension, companies) don't encourage this kind of behaviour, precisely because when it goes south, it tends to blow up in your face, badly, especially in heavily-regulated fields where legal responsibility is involved.

Irresponsible managers (and, again, companies) encourage this kind of behaviour because they think it better aligns with their business goals somehow.

"sure its secure and well written?" There's no money in that, so why bother. Unfortunately.

Tradespeople will unionize and collectively bargain. Technology types generally don't do this.

> Technology types generally don't do this.

And the rationale isn't too different from this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONKkoiszVSs&t=409

I find it funny that people seem to think unions are these "shadow" type of organisations where no one has any say in how it should be run.

Unions are made up by people of a certain field/study...

>Hustle is public. And in the ad industry, publicity matters.

There's your reasoning right there.

I've drank a bit of kool-aid myself. It feels normal now to overlay a level of 'hustling advertising' because that's what the business culture does and you don't want to be the one guy in a client meeting who looks pained to be there.

Another way of thinking about it: would you learn to do a little dancing for a good salary + benefits?

It quickly becomes second-nature to at least be engaged in the hustling adverts and culture meetings. The real trap (which is toxic) is feeling like hustling is a competition and a second job.

This stuff can push introverts to the sidelines though, and that can make their real world suffer if they feel isolated because they don't participate as much.

> would you learn to do a little dancing for a good salary + benefits?

This isn't an appropriate analogy because dancing is harmless.

The "hustle" culture has been a key part of MLM (pyramid schemes) for many years. It's sad to see that crossing over into legitimate businesses.

I think companies are missing something. Just because I like to work on side projects doesn't mean I want to work for free for you.

Oh but you wouldn't work for them, you'd work for yourself! That's what they want to sell you anyway, so they have no obligations whatsoever to their employees.

Hustle != Struggle. The original meaning of the hustle culture is that you creatively find your way into an expected result, often creating value along the way.

For example, instead of simply spending money for advertising, you create a valuable piece of content and share it in places your audience hangs out. Then repeat this and be consistent until you get to a result.

Instead of using quick and lazy methods, you achieved something, often creating value for others along the way, and the whole activity was a 'hustle'.

You can hustle 9 till 5 and be done with it. Though, I do get that if you were more persistent and focused on a result, this can easily become 9 till 7 or 12.

So yes, while the term in my opinion was a positive one, it is worth being cautious when explaining it.

Nothing really new except the social media amplifier. After all, the Ad industry has been defined by this quote since the 60s:

'Please don't tell my mother I work in Advertising, she thinks I play piano in a whorehouse.' -David Ogilvie

Out of curiosity, as a non-american, am i the only one who understands the word "hustle" to be synonymous-with/frequently associated with con-men, shysters, spruikers, boosters, etc?

I mean, for me it has almost no connotations of busyness or hard work, but its basically all about defrauding/image-projection.

The phrase "side-hustle" stemming from an almost ironic ghetto-esque-referential joke: like a scam or something a low level gangster or drug pusher is doing on the side to make money. But with complete openness that a hustle is, like his other activities, criminal and fraudulent...

I had to come to the comments here to figure out what they were meaning by "hustle". I had assumed what you thought and was thinking the article was about some sort of gorilla marketing.

That's also what it means for me (California). But I am aware of the other usage. I haven't heard it used positively outside of music.

"Of course, every industry has its fair share of hustle idolization, but ad agencies and advertising in general are unique"

Expand your horizons! Ad agencies are not unique. Boasting about the number of hours your work is one of the oldest, most tired tropes in many industries.

I have clients across all sectors that simultaneously boast and complain about their long hours and how committed they are to their business, or employer. Early rise, stay late, skip lunches, skip vacations, work from home even on holidays - I've heard it all - how is this unique to just the advertising / agency industry?

I know this is a snarky comment, but... is it surprising that an industry built entirely on framing things to look better has a problem of workers having to frame themselves to look like better workers?

I do think we should aspire to better, but the extra image consciousness seems like the common thread here.

The problem is, this is affecting every industry. I have friends in accounting for instance, and if you aren't prompt with your emails over the weekend, if you aren't early at work and late to leave, etc, you will not be promoted.

I have friends in law and its the same thing; If you aren't putting up 55+ hr weeks, you are going to get an awkward reference and won't get your next job.

The problem is universal in early careers, and entirely absent in mid to late careers. We all know that for X amount of entry level hires there's only Y amount at the top of the food chain, but when people are being pushed out of the field for not being able to devote all their available waking hours to an entry level position rather than rewarding real skill and prowess, the situation is completely untenable. In 25 years, senior positions won't be filled by the most clever or bright workers, but whoever was able to slog through being overworked and underpaid and put their life on hold for their first 15 years out of college.

That sounds like a stupid human cognitive bias of judging powerful less harshly by following their self serving standards. The CEO made a mistake and has a problem by showing up to work drunk. The janitor doing so is an irresponsible waste of space.

I don't think "hustling" has to be synonymous with overworking. When I think of hustling I think of my dad who used to pay for his life traveling around Europe by buying, driving, and selling cars in different countries he was visiting. Or how he was able to spot a pair of good tires in the junkyard that he could buy for 50 bucks but sell for 500. I always felt hustling meant you could see small opportunities in the world that could make you money, basically out of the knowledge that most people aren't paying attention and turn their "money-making" brain off when they leave the office.

Hustling would be if your dad was buying more and more cars at a time, making more and more profit, eventually reaching a point where if he were to flip more cars he would need to hire people, and doing so. Hustling is exponential growth, not stopping at comfortable profits.

Just some random thoughts here...this strikes me as a consequence of the contemporary idea of work having to be the end-all to one’s identity, purpose and meaning in life.

Advertising, perhaps the ‘original’ fundamentally meaningless career field to spawn from consumer capitalism, used to be mostly about just communicating your product/service. Eventually it morphed into lifestyle marketing and at this point has reached its ultimate conclusion: advertising workers themselves have drunk the Koolaid that used to only be peddled to consumers.

I wonder if we’ll ever see a return to simple “hey, we make this thing, you might find it useful.”

What you are already seeing is that advertising is baked into the product instead. I.e. the actual features, functionality or problem solved are themselves finding their ways to the right users.

It used to be that the advertisers used their control over the primarily one way distribution channels to promote their products.

Today it's the consumers who promote the products through the multiway channels and then only if you have exhausted most of your organic, social and viral growth channels do you promote through one-way channels again.

Ultimately it seems to be about people throwing politeness out of the window in the name of business.

We are humans first and foremost, and economic actors second.

I encounter people all of the time that treat their job as being more important than, well, being human.

I generally find these individuals difficult to interact with in a meaningful sense, aside from in a professional capacity.

it's a redirection of the natural human characteristic of competitive behaviour and climbing hierarchies. Keeping challengers down and attempting to elevate ourselves in whatever hierarchy we find ourselves in is about as human as it gets, sadly.

I think it's a consequence of abundance.

If you have a grocery store that has cantaloupes, and that's unusual because most grocery stores don't have cantaloupes most of the time, you just hang a sign in the window that says "Cantaloupes". Maybe you put a print ad in the newspaper. Those who decide they want them will come to your store. When they're all gone, well, your advertising did its job.

But if every grocery store has cantaloupes year-round, you're not going to sell many extra cantaloupes by hanging a sign in your window. You need to get clever. And behold, advertising-as-hustle is born.

This is where it turns into tragedy of the commons. If every grocery store has cantaloupes year-round, they need to figure out something else to advertise, or - if they're all selling the same stuff - they should all shut up. Instead, someone will always start the advertising arms race, and suddenly everyone has to waste time and Earth's natural resources on actions that roughly cancel each other out.

>actions that roughly cancel each other out

Welcome to the 'the service industry is a job program for the middle class' view. It's not a rosy one, and the predictions it makes even less so.

I've been entertaining that view for a long time now wrt. advertising, but what other service job has the same characteristics? Namely, that your works serves mostly to undo the results of your peers' work, and vice versa?

I think medical insurance has a component like this. The doctor's office has people in it whose job is to make sure that the doctor gets paid, and the insurance company's office has people in it who try to find ways to not pay.

There are vast numbers of government (and quasi-government) employees who work to cancel or mitigate the actions of other government employees.

this seems accurate to me, although I would phrase it as competition rather than abundance. When everyone has the same product on offer, differentiation comes from how you position that product in the market. This trainer is for aspiring marathon runners, this one is for aspiring basketball players. The reality is the difference between the two is minimal and they're both just trying to focus on selling to the subset of people with a particular self-image.

> the contemporary idea of work having to be the end-all to one’s identity, purpose and meaning in life.

This is something that bothers me a lot. The default answer to any question about who we are is something like "Ohh, I'm a $profession, I work for $company."

I suppose it's an easy ice breaker, but it is so rarely interesting or relevant.

I like riding BMX and Mountain Bikes, being outdoors, building stuff, and have some interest in open source/free culture. Those things are only at best tangentially related to my actual career in IT.

Personally I don't think that is new at all. Farmers have long identified as farmers above all else, sailors as sailors - and that isn't even getting into cushy positions like the warrior-elites.

>> advertising workers themselves have drunk the Koolaid that used to only be peddled to consumers

Please don't blame the victim. The slaves have no choice, they have to dance like their masters require them to. The "choice" to quit their jobs simply doesn't exist since there are fewer and fewer jobs for more and more hungry and desperate poor (payed just to live to another paycheck, making sure they end up in the streets should they put up some resistance at the pressure to dance as they are told).

I'll call bullshit or your victim mentality shtick.

First, things like "at-will employment", which is an offensive term in itself, is pretty much collectively "the workers" fault, since you just vote to not have that, and while you're at it, better labour laws also (see Europe). While we're at collective bargaining, it could be something as simple as everybody in the office agreeing not working past 5pm, or at the other extreme, unionisation.

The reason neither of these things happens is largely self-centred narcissists who ruin it for everybody, because either they can only think of themselves and not others (e.g. if you're single and don't mind staying late vs somebody has kids), or less charitably, they thought of others and then did it anyway. IMO here's the money quote:

> To be clear, hustle isn’t just hard work — it’s showing that you’re working hard.

Of course it is -.-

Edit: Before you say it doesn't work, or doesn't work in the US, consider some of the unions in the US, including the Screen Actors Guild.

"hustle culture" is a scam that's tricking you into robbing yourself of worker's rights

I suppose when it comes to the advertising industry, hustle culture is at least better than misogyny and alcoholism

A culture with a major component being the consumption of alcohol does not escape advertising, FWIW.

Would setting up an LLC for yourself help protect some of those rights?

Probably not.

As an LLC you might also be entering a whole new world devoid of worker rights by being considered a contractor rather than an employee — which of course means you don't qualify for benefits. Ask a freelancer about how wonderful their healthcare options are.

The American variety of capitalism has successfully vilified unions and coined nonsense like "hustle" and "gig economy" to make it seem like this shift in work came from the bottom-up, but it's all just a guise to cut benefits and wages.

It's essentially a system that rewards executives for doing anything possible to exploit labor as much as the law allows for.

If you don't believe me, just look at the ever-increasing gap between employee and executive pay. Or check out the salary plateau despite the enormous increases in worker productivity. We've been suckered into doing more for less.

It would probably just confuse HR directors and your application would get passed over.

Gary Vaynerchuk is one of those clowns that encourages people to work to their bones and sometimes comes off as selling snake out. Leonie Dawnson did a great write up of him.


Getting hit with her course (For only $79!!!!1!!11!) at the end of the article is such a hilarious pot kettle situation and lack of self awareness I'm frankly stunned.

>To be clear, hustle isn’t just hard work — it’s showing that you’re working hard.

I often find that the people that try the hardest to make it appear they're working hard are only working hard at maintaining that appearance, and are often doing only the basics of their job.

If you're trying so hard to prove it, it's coming at the cost of actually doing the job you're trying to prove you're working so hard at.

The double-irony is that in many cases, this over-proof effort is needed because of Managers that are dis-engaged from their subordinates and only notice the sizzle, not the steak, because the Managers Manager is the same, and so on up the chain.

In time, the side-hustle will be all that's left. Which could already be the case given that people now live off their earnings as an "influencer", and if they have a day-job then that's just their side-hustle.

Hustle is an interesting concept.

Most of the time the hustle is making sure the hours at work and at home are effective and not slacking off.

Sometimes it means that as you build a business shit happens at unexpected times so make sure that when an opportunity comes by you take it and don't say oh but it's 7pm and I'm tired.

However I never take it to mean that you should work 50 hour weeks until you collapse. And so far this has been the mentality pushed by fiverr and other companies because it means that they get to profit off your barely profitable labor.

Having to work 60 hours a week is not a hussle. It is a horrible situation.

> it was “maximizing every last bit of energy you have in order to produce.”

This sounds really dystopian, a mindset like this genuinely frightens me.

Meanwhile over in this other thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18271834

We learn that you aren't really an "entrepreneur" unless you are a salesman. Business without "hustle" is unthinkable?

Every traditional business is living from sales, it's incredible you find this shocking.

I suppose it's surprising to me because I interpret the word "hustle" to mean something like "tricking the customer into paying more than needed to turn a profit on a trade"

Seems fitting that this was on Forbes just yesterday - https://www.forbes.com/sites/alizalicht/2018/11/04/how-to-st...

Hustle Culture: What does it mean, exactly? From article:

>"maximizing every last bit of energy you have in order to produce"

>To be clear, hustle isn’t just hard work — it’s showing that you’re working hard.

How anyone can imagine this is supportive of creative work, I just cannot get my head around.


Gary Vanyerchuk, IMO king of hustle culture BS, explaining why his glassdoor reviews by ex employees and employees used to be so bad.

This article is apparently about nothing, and it doesn't example" how" anything happened. People show off for other people to gain status and manipulate others. This is not news.

To answer some of the questions as to why people do this. To try to get ahead. To try and advance. To move up. If you don't hustle, if you aren't trying to advance then how could you ever expect to move up financially?

Think of it in the small scale at a fast food joint. You bus tables, sweep etc. If you do just that you can do just that forever. You can also do more to try and get promoted. You can also do less and get fired. If you want more money per paycheck then you'll want to get promoted. To get promoted you have to hustle. You have to do more. No one will give it to you if you weren't already born into it.

To my downvote. Tell me how you get ahead without working harder than you're currently working? How do you get a raise without showing you've put in the requisite work? How do you gain the experience you need to move from junior to senior other than working harder.

I'd say you could get there with time. But how do you make future possiblities happen in the present without working harder.

So where’s the exit lane? If you’re willing to move to a low COL location and work remotely, how do you assure yourself a modest, if reliable, income?

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