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The Dangerous Fetishization of ‘Hustle Porn’ (melmagazine.com)
268 points by pl0x 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 161 comments

There's nothing wrong with hard work.

But there is a lot wrong with the idea that you need to work until your health is impacted to succeed; if you need to work that hard, something else is off - the idea isn't good enough, you're attacking it in the wrong way, whatever.

To me this ties into the gross, pervasive trend of wantrepreneurism. Shark Tank, Zuck, Elon Musk - being a founder has never been sexier, never been more interesting or lucrative. In the wake of that, WeWork and GaryV and a whole bunch of people are selling the idea that regardless of how bad your idea is or how unfit you are to be an entrepreneur, all you need is access or hustle to succeed. And that's awful, awful advice.

As income inequality continues to grow, I expect this to get worse and worse.

It's a pretty pure example of Cargo Cult. If I shakalaka the 'hard work' stick hard enough, rainfall/supply planes/success will surely come.

It didn't rain? Must not have shaken the stick hard enough.

“Cargo cult” gets thrown a around a lot, and I enjoy comments like yours that bring it back to its roots.

Cargo cult means imitating something for the sake of it, not doing rain dances or other backwards stuff.

No, it doesn't mean "imitating something for the sake of it".

It means ritualistically imitating some advanced technology and thinking of it as magical way to get wealth and prosperity (based on primitive tribes building fake-airports and thinking that will bring the associated goods westerners coming to their land with airplanes had). And yes, it can involve all kinds of "rain dances or other backwards stuff" too.

"The name derives from the belief which began among Melanesians in the late 19th and early 20th century that various ritualistic acts such as the building of an airplane runway will result in the appearance of material wealth, particularly highly desirable Western goods (i.e., "cargo"), via Western airplanes."


No, "cargo cult" means imitating someone's activities that lead to a certain outcome, without understanding why did that work and why it might not work for someone else. In fact, to be precise, imitating the perceived activities: your coconut headphones might look like what that US army guy had on his head, but they don't have the whole technical and human infrastructure behind them; or, your Web search page might look exactly like Google's, but it won't produce similar results by itself.

It's more about misunderstanding cause and effect. Tribal people after WW2 started building runways on their islands because they thought that as long as they built the runways the airplanes would show up bringing their cargo.

They didn't imitate it "for the sake of it", they genuinely thought they would receive cargo by building runways.

So while it's not about rain dances and shakalaka sticks the previous commenter was on the money about the term cargo culting.

UPvoted because you were wrong and presumably lots of other people were wrong but quiet about it -- so now you and they know the actual answer.

Explained the upvote because I don't want you to be confused.

People who think hustling is about working hard have a very different interpretation of the word than I'm used to. A hustler is supposed to be a cunning character who uses their guile and persistence to get ahead, taking advantage of the system. Someone who just works really hard at the expense of their health sounds more like what I'd expect to see characterised as a schmuck than a hustler.

I think both connotations are valid and context usually determines the underlying meaning.

For a third connotation that is close to the GP's, think of a coach telling his players to hustle on the basketball court. To me, that means they need to play hard and quick, not that they need to try more to bend the rules, take advantage, etc.

>For a third connotation that is close to the GP's, think of a coach telling his players to hustle on the basketball court. To me, that means they need to play hard and quick, not that they need to try more to bend the rules, take advantage, etc.

That's interesting, I always assumed the coach was actually suggesting they try to bend the rules and do whatever's necessary to win, but your interpretation makes more sense.

As someone who played a lot of sports, the classic "hustle" play was laying out/diving/getting on the ground for the ball. Be it in baseball, basketball or football.

You could play the game without hitting the ground, but if you wanted to hustle and win, you had to get your clothes dirty.

You weren't breaking any rules, just doing what other people wouldn't.

>Someone who just works really hard at the expense of their health sounds more like what I'd expect to see characterised as a schmuck than a hustler.

Well, if we're going with Yiddish slang, the term would be freier, meaning "sucker" (https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-word-of-the-day-freier-1.52...).

That's also my understanding of the term "hustler". Obviously hustling is considered cool - so a lot of people want to be hustlers - but if a lot of people were able to hustle - then it wouldn't be anything special. So by means of commercialized cargo culting the agreed upon definition gets watered down to a level that can be met by more people.

something else is off - the idea isn't good enough, you're attacking it in the wrong way, whatever.

...and don't forget the fact that seems almost taboo to say these days: you just don't have the ability.


I think about it in the same way I think about "American Idol": Simon Cowell became a notable figure simply because he was honest with people; he dared to tell people that they were wasting their time pursuing singing.

Right now, Gary and all of these other hustle porn types are Paula Abdul. And they'll keep telling people that all they need to do is work harder, up until the point that it becomes to professionally more lucrative for them to stop being Paula and start being Simon. When we get to that point, they'll flip in a second. And their fans will eat it the fuck up.

Well, not 'simply' for being honest, but for being (entertainingly) rude about it. You can be honest without being brutally honest, but it doesn't make such good TV I guess.

That depends on if you think people are naturally rational and without bias.

In reality, people often have to be forcibly dethroned from their views. Having a judge say no thanks will not have the appropriate effect.

The issue is emotional commitment, not accurate assessment.

You know that they intentionally put through and hyped up the worst singers, right? Like some kid who showed up for the first round on a lark was told "congrats you're great!! You're coming back for the next round when the judges are here," did the whole profiling/backstory thing like they'd do if you were a good singer, and intentionally set you up to fail in the worst way. Just so Simon can make a joke at your expense.

Tail dog wagging. They prominently feature terrible singers because Simon is brutally honest, not the other way around.

Whether or not the singers were hyped up for entertainment doesn't change the fact that they seriously auditioned, unless you think they tried out ironically for the lulz.

In the first case, rudeness can be helpful and in the second case it won't hurt their feelings. Seems like a fine choice to me.

What depends? on..what?! I don't understand.. (I really tried) uh.. I don't understand your last sentence either.

Assuming you meant 'But you have to be brutal to have the desired effect of getting through to the terrible singers, plain honesty - considerate, respectful honesty[0] wouldn't work', well, he didn't get through, did he. Instead they thought he must be just being rude deliberately and didn't mean what he said. He made it impossible for them to hear him. Mostly.

Anyway.. I was making another point, not that Simon became notable 'simply because he was honest' but because he was rude; whether it was effective (at getting terrible singers to realize they're terrible) is another thing.

[0] See the book Crucial Conversations, it's largely about how to be honest with people, in important situations people usually aren't, while being respectful and considerate.

Whether or not he is being rude depends on your interpretation of his intentions based on assumptions about how the performer will react.

Are you implying those people are auditioning ironically and know they are bad singers?

It does not seem rude to me to try and change the course of someone's life who is _drastically_ underperforming.

Is the definition of rude hurting someone's feelings? That doesn't follow the implication that rudeness shouldn't happen; sometimes people need their feelings hurt to inspire positive change.

Are you implying those people are auditioning ironically and know they are bad singers? - No. I have absolutely no idea why you ask that.

It does not seem rude to me to try and change the course of someone's life who is _drastically_ underperforming. - Leaving aside what underperforming could mean - so, if he means well, it's just not possible for Cowell to be rude, no matter what he says? I think that's just not what the word means to people (apart from you).

That doesn't follow the implication that rudeness shouldn't happen; - I can't parse that, sorry.

I read something recently along the lines of "People who brag about being 'brutally honest' are usually much more into the 'brutal' part than the rest of it."

Yeah, I've heard people talk like it's a huge virtue the way they go around being mean to people, 'daring' to speak their minds.

Yes. This exactly. Or, if not ability, then experience and wisdom. Or relevant skills. Or connections. Or discipline. None of which you can manifest by sheer force of will.

I always tell my Jr. Engineers that if you have to work THAT HARD to accomplish your daily tasks then you need to go back to school or go for a more newbie-friendly position.

>I always tell my Jr. Engineers that if you have to work THAT HARD to accomplish your daily tasks then you need to go back to school or go for a more newbie-friendly position.

I don't think that this is very productive thing to say to someone. If the Junior Engineer is still able to produce, why do you care how much they struggled with it? If a person truly wants to grow and then struggling on problems that are on the edge of their comfort zone sounds like the perfect way to do it.

If their abilities are effecting project timelines, quality, profitability, etc then I can understand having that conversation with them but I really don't see the harm in someone challenging themselves professionally.

I mean, yes there's nothing wrong with engineers struggling and pushing their skills and boundaries, it's how we grow and improve. But persistent struggling with daily tasks is indicative of a deeper problem. There might be missing knowledge, or the mistaken idea that programmers should be hard workers to be productive.

Using our tools of simplification, abstraction, automation and domain knowledge, it's critical to teach your juniors how to be optimistically lazy and do less. That's how we raise great engineers. Otherwise, we're just raising mid-level programmers who only know how to throw lots more code at their problem, and as I hope we all know by now, more code never results in fewer problems.

>Or discipline. None of which you can manifest by sheer force of will.

Having discipline is the same thing as having force of will.

Its interesting that you've been down voted. I'm not suggesting that you are correct or wrong, but I'd geniunely like to hear a philosopher or somesuch clever thinker talk at length on this topic - are they the same? are they different? is the ability to get through a difficult physical experience such as pain related to being able to work at a task you show no interest in for hours? Is it a single trait that you either have or don't, or do some people have remarkable discipline when it comes to office work and others are disciplined when it comes to gardening or cooking for hours with passion all day every day? Is it something that is geniunely in a person's character, or is it to do with other things (do people with discpline just get more sleep/have a better upbringing/have interesting work to do etc?)

I don't want to pass any judgement nor assume the answers to any of these questions - I'd like to see/hear/read discussion on it.

What hussle porn is selling most of all is agency. That you can get whatever it is you want through some actions you can take.

Which is true as long as one of your options is "want something else."

Hun. When you put it that way, it doesn't sound all that much different from The Secret.

Nor too different from Dale Carnegie.

I really like this interpretation, but to take it at face value would be to assume that other approaches do not offer actionable steps? or at the very least do not suggest that their steps actually work? Naturally it's correct that no matter what you do you don't always suceed, but does the fact that people eat this up suggest that for most people there are no actions they can take to be successful?

Not saying this isn't true sometimes, but I think it's far more rare that the reason someone isn't succeeding is their ability, but rather their circumstances.

But either way it doesn't change the fact that it is one's personal responsibility to chart a course through those circumstances.

It's great for people to get out of their comfort zones and try things that they weren't sure they could do, but sometimes you just have to aim for a target you can hit.

It's pretty well known that the most successful teams are often those that function well as a team, complementing and supporting each other, even if they lack superstars. They need people who fit into their "lesser" niches. Sometimes it's not about hustle, hustle, hustle. It's about execution, execution, execution. The small fish you caught tastes better than the big one that got away.

> there is a lot wrong with the idea that you need to work until your health is impacted to succeed

Know your pay-offs. Gambling your health to enrich someone else, while you scrape by with pennies, is a last resort. Gambling your health for tremendous gains is a fair choice.

These are gambles humans leaving Africa and navigating the oceans made. (The cost of loss was death.) It’s a risk we’ll face expanding to the Moon and Mars and Alpha Centauri. Be thoughtful about the risks you take—not all are offered equally—but don’t discard them outright for being risky.

I suspect "work" here refers to that thing you do so that you can pay for the life-risking adventures worth having. If you kill yourself working how can you kill yourself scuba diving with sharks?

GaryV was a major investor in FaithBox, a company that knowingly incurred huge bills with my company that they'd knew be unable to pay (I run a 3PL). The switched to another warehouse for two months and did the same to them, then they "sold" to a firm in Omaha in a supposedly $0 asset-for-debt sale, and the buyers are trying to get out of paying me ~$60k. My lawyers are on it and I expect to get something out of them eventually, but I was lucky my business was far enough along to survive the hit.

The guy who ran the company into the ground through gross mismanagement was one of the speakers at SubSummit this year.

Such 'hustle'...

I am seeing more and more of this on youtube now. The people who advise others like this are usually flawed in their business dealings. These people usually tend to focus on soft skills without any emphasis on other skills. The soft skills is usually convincing people and leans more towards conning people with sweet talk and forceful marketing.

Ultimately its peddling false hope with just enough of an inkling of truth to not be downright fraud. Like peddling health elixirs, magic diets, or the casino's w/l rate. It will get worse as income inequality (and desparation) grows.


Wake me up when Gary does a video on unit economics. Or cohort analysis. Or CAC/LTV. Or literally anything to do with business other than the idea that regardless of how unfit you are, how unsuitable your idea is, or how damaging the attempt will be on your personal finances or health, hustle is all you need.

The winds are increasing against him. It's going to be interesting to watch him flip and suddenly preach realism, once he calculates that his adoring masses are going to appreciate that message more on the basis of his "authenticity". (And I wish I could use about fifteen more air-quotes around that word.)

I've never actually heard him say a single shred of useful, practical advice. To me, Gary is the epitome of a snake oil salesperson because I have absolutely no idea why he's so popular.

Is this some sort of twisted Truman Show dystopia where everyone is pretending to worship him and seeing if I am foolish enough to believe them?

Peter Popoff comes to mind . Both make millions pushing lies, and it's legal.

Reminds of what happened with Inbox Zero. Didn't that guy wind up admitting he himself failed at it and it wasn't reasonable anyway? (Or am I getting confused with someone else?)

No, Merlin Mann distanced himself from Inbox Zero once it got picked up by the productivity porn blogger crowd who reduced it to yet another lifehack and lost the spirit of the idea which is that your inbox should not be your todo list because then you lose agency over your own priorities.

Unless you exist in a vacuum, your agency over your own priorities is strictly limited anyway. Sure, you can choose what to work on but a large part of the time, practical considerations are gonna make it pretty damn obvious what the right thing to do is. At that point pretending it's your choice to do that one obviously correct thing is pretty specious.

If you're at one of those rare crossroads where you do have a genuine choice, your inbox is probably going to be close to zero already. I think cause and effect here are getting switched.

> more on the basis of his "authenticity". (And I wish I could use about fifteen more air-quotes around that word.)

He curses a lot, so you know he’s authentic.

He'll probably become a spokesperson for Rent-A-Center before that happens.

It’s worse than that. This kind of pressure leads to ethical lapses and outright corruption.

Hustle is fine. The requirement to give 110% at every moment of every day to succeed means, anyone with two neurons to rub together will just cheat. Not hard to find conspirators when everyone is in the same situation.

> There's nothing wrong with hard work.

> But there is a lot wrong with the idea that you need to work until your health is impacted to succeed

Yeah but that's the thing: people tell you it makes totally sense to work long hours if you have the time, no commitments in life etc. Those people can be parents, 'peers' (whatever that means), people on the Internet... My bosses - during the times in which I was regularly employed - rarely told me such things. But to come back to the point, nobody of these people tells you to work while you're seriously sick or to work yourself to death. They tell you to work yourself into a higher position, wealth, etc.

So by the time you're health or social life are affected, it's already to late. I mean this is not a process where you turn one day to the other from healthy to sick. It's a gradual process and you realize it when it's years to late.

> To me this ties into the gross, pervasive trend of wantrepreneurism. Shark Tank, Zuck, Elon Musk - being a founder has never been sexier, never been more interesting or lucrative.

I've heard the term 'wantrepreneurism' but the people you mention are highly exceptional and super successful. Chances that you can copy them are for various reasons next to 0,0000%.

> In the wake of that, WeWork and GaryV and a whole bunch of people are selling the idea that regardless of how bad your idea is or how unfit you are to be an entrepreneur, all you need is access or hustle to succeed. And that's awful, awful advice.

In my experience this is not true. I mean when you encounter people working in the startup scene running accelerators etc., there are not tired to tell anyone how selective they are, that this stuff isn't for anyone, brainstorm any aspects of your idea that might be stupid. When you listen on the people on the videos, you realize that this is also the whole point of this hustling porn: either you have incredible luck or you work like crazy so you become successful. That said, I think the original Medium article which popularized this topic recently was much more on point: https://medium.com/@nateliason/no-more-struggle-porn-202153a...

> being a founder has never been sexier

Really? To whom?

Being rich has always been sexy. Being busy working 70 hours a week not so much. Ask any partner of a workaholic.

> Being rich has always been sexy

And on top of that, the guys come from an already well off background. They were able to invest all the time they wanted in their personal projects, as mundane problems like paying the rent were never issue to them.

>They were able to invest all the time they wanted in their personal projects, as mundane problems like paying the rent were never issue to them.

A million times this. Many, many, founders come from upper middle class families or better. Many of them have, or were earning, ivy league educations when they dropped out to run their funded businesses full-time. A good chunk of them have already exited at least 1 startup and are independently wealthy if they chose to live in most of the US, if not any city in the world.

It's easy to pour yourself into an idea when you're not worried about making your car insurance payment, making rent, hoping no personal emergency happens that you'll have to put on a credit card, it's a whole different story when you're lower middle class or lower and have no cushion. When you have no family to fall back on when things don't pan out.

Hustle is sexy when you have an exit, when you have a safety net, when you have a support system. Hustle is tantamount to slavery when you don't have these things. When hustle is a means of survival it can quickly become toxic, demoralizing, soul-crushing and even dangerous to your health but when you come from a position of means it's just a challenge, another way to get that adrenaline and endorphin release.

Is anyone actually advocating for working until your health is impacted? The article mentioned working weekends and waking up before dawn - neither of which is particularly toxic to your body.

If other people want the hard-working founder lifestyle, and if they find these videos motivating and useful, I don't see why we should try to tear them down. People don't need to be criticized or psycho-analyzed just because they have different life goals and dreams.

Edison famously said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Was he fetishizing Hustle Porn as well?

edit: Thanks for the name fix

That was Edison, and yes, he was definitely fetishizing hustle. E.g. "Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits."


There's nothing wrong with hard work, nor does work have any intrinsic value (despite what the Puritans and many others would have you believe). You need to work hard enough to earn enough money to ensure you have everything you need to survive, plus whatever extra work it takes to earn what you need to live "comfortably" (which means different things to different people). You should also work hard enough so that you can save for retirement and contingencies that might prevent you from working in the future to ensure you have what you need.

Unfortunately many in our modern society are caught up with tying the idea of "accomplishment" with work and "productivity". Accomplishment is a completely subjective idea, as is personal satisfaction and happiness. I've found that most people who seek to lose themselves in their work or derive satisfaction out of being as "productive" as possible are usually very unhappy people overworking themselves in an effort to distract themselves from their unfulfilled lives. I am not referring to those who truly enjoy what they do, and thus can "work" all the time and find actual fulfillment. People like this (artists, writers, ect) would be engaged in this "work" whether or not they were getting paid. I'm referring to the people who put in an extra 20 hours of overtime at an office job they don't particularly like, or work a "side hustle" in their few, spare hours because they have been convinced that if they aren't being "productive" all the time that they are being lazy, or that their time is being wasted.

For most people work is a means to an end - not something that can or should define you as a human being.

Sometimes you do have to work that hard. Sacrificing personal health for some future gain for you (and your family) is not strange nor rare, it's reality for many people.

There's no moral judgement necessary as each individual can, and should, make that call for themselves. I only wish more had more opportunity to do so.

One of the best things that happened to my entrepreneurial career was realizing that I wasn't cut out for every aspect of the entrepreneurial career. It took a failed startup to realize the things I don't do well. So now I offload them to others. And I'm so much happier for it.

I respectfully disagree with you that Gary vee is selling the idea that everyone should become an entreprenuer.

His main message is to be self aware and to be patient. In fact, in many videos he clearly makes the case that entrepreneurship has become glamourous and he warns against the dangers of faking it till you make it mentality.

OT, but I only just learned with this post that Gary Vaynerchuk is known for more than being a prolific wine vlogger/reviewer back in the day. Shows how plugged-in to the entrepreneurship sphere I am, I guess.

There's also those companies that advertise on TV to help inventors patent their ideas. No price is mentioned. I assume they fleece customers pretty hard.

Agree with this 100%. Hustle porn is toxic and and the ethos needs to be avoided.

It is clear why people latch onto the narrative. Working insane hours is a way to conceal incompetence.

When your boss or employees come knocking and sees the complete waste you have made of your task, you can point at your complete lack of social life and how much you have martyred yourself for your company as proof of your competence. "I can't be a fuck-up, look at how hard I worked!" THAT is a participation trophy.

I have a revolutionary new form of hustle: It's called taking care of yourself and getting an education AKA "Growing Up".

I do weight training after work every day. I eat healthy. I cook food with my girlfriend. I read multiple programming books a month ( Shout-out to Uncle Bob!). I read multiple other types of books a month. I meditate. I go to bed on time and get up on time. I work on side-projects. I even find time to smoke some weed and play video games with my friends!

And I am extremely productive. I'm constantly learning. I measure twice and cut once instead of hopelessly flailing at a keyboard long into the night. I do not need to martyr myself to make sure everyone around me knows how hard I am working, it's just obvious from the quality of my work.

Don't you harbour dreams of having a startup and working with your own agency? Or pursuing a hobby like music or adventure sports seriously? You seem capable enough to do that well, why are you living life like a robot? Leave your job and travel the world with your girlfriend! I could even say you're wasting your productive potential - you could change the world instead of living this happy temporary life. /s

I almost typed out a disbelieving response because I missed the /s :D

this may be the first HN comment that increases in sarcasm exponentially with each paragraph.

I hustle so hard that I don't even need to hustle

I think working hard is fun, regardless of whether anyone’s watching me or if it’s productive.

Personally, I think I work pretty hard!

I don't think I slack off, I just recognize that I'm going to get more out of doing weight training than I will spending another hour on the same code-base I've been hacking on for the last 8 hours.

To be clear: I hate working out. HATE. IT. It is so boring!

I think this is exactly the same problem. If you don't like it why to push? Just do training of another kind of the sport? Maybe more active or team one.

This is exactly how I think. Gyms are possibly the most boring unimaginative ways of getting exercise as I see it. Personally I cycle to work and that gives me 45 minutes of decent exercise per day. When I get the chance to I like whitewater kayaking, mountain biking or skiing depending on the season. Climbing is another one that I used to do and want to start again.

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic

I love comments like this where your reaction to it flip flops between reverence and revulsion like an optical illusion.

>I do weight training after work every day.

Dunno about that; you're supposed to have breaks so the muscle has time to repair itself unless you're just not pushing.

Not if you're intermediate or advanced and go on split routines.

Split routines to me are back/biceps one day, chest/tri, then legs totaling 3 days a week, but maybe the fitness board I learned that from is wrong.

Yeah that's one kind of split, but google 'n day split' with values of n in [4,7] and you'll find many.

The muscle has 23 hours to repair itself. Post body

Not if you are working different muscle groups.

You a great person! Tell us more

This. Also, please start a blog, a podcast and a youtube channel, so that I can be inspired by your anti-hustling lifestyle every day.

> The guy hoping to help me pick myself up by my bootstraps is Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur known for investing in tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Venmo and amassing a $50 million fortune in the process. But it’s unlikely that you know him as a successful businessman. More likely, you’ll recognize him being plastered all over your social media feeds as an “inspirational speaker” and internet personality who gives lectures on how to hack your life in such a way that you become “more productive” and “more successful.”

A VC lecturing everyone to work their asses off reminds me of this:

www.jwz.org/blog/2011/11/watch-a-vc-use-my-name-to-sell-a-con/ (not direct-linked due to a referrer-prank):

> Michael Arrington posted this article, "Startups Are Hard. So Work More, Cry Less, And Quit All The Whining" which quotes extensively from my 1994 diary. He's trying to make the point that the only path to success in the software industry is to work insane hours, sleep under your desk, and give up your one and only youth, and if you don't do that, you're a pussy. He's using my words to try and back up that thesis.

> I hate this, because it's not true, and it's disingenuous.

> 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.

There was an article discussed here on HN a few weeks back about "hustle culture" (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18381605) that encapsulated the trend in the ad industry, but this could apply in tech startups or many other businesses as well:

To be clear, hustle isn’t just hard work — it’s showing that you’re working hard. It’s Instagram posts about how much you have to travel for work, it’s LinkedIn and Medium memos about how if you’re not working yourself to the bone you’re not doing enough. It also smacks a little bit of “work at all costs.” And if you’re not struggling, you’re probably not working hard enough.

Sadly, this has been going on for years, even before social media gave it an outlet for fetishization. Accelerators like Y Combinator and TechStars as well as VC and angel communities are a big part of the problem, emphasizing questionable demonstrations of "progress" as a condition for getting into the program and getting attention from investors like Gary V. I've seen it in graduate business programs, too, thanks to lecturers drawn from the investor class and academics who push students to learn how to appeal to them.

Some call it "startup theater," but "hustle porn" works, too.

Saw this GaryV video where he was saying how he told a caller to 'eat shit' for the next 3 years, and he was proud of his advice to the caller.

A woman called in saying she was working three jobs where one was her main income, and she had 2 side opportunities. Her basic question was which one to pick. He told her 'eat shit' for the next couple years and take no vacations, just completely grind out her existence and nothing else.

The guy is seriously a maniac recommending this approach. He doesn't consider at all the risk of burnout, and how a real burnout can set you back so far. There's zero balance to his approach. I've also found it amusing there is no talk of what you should do when you retire or get the money you are aiming for.

> He told her 'eat shit' for the next couple years and take no vacations

I did this for three years. It sucks, and my god is it a roll of the dice with your health, wealth and happiness. But for me, at the time, the risk of breaking was worth the chance at stability and autonomy.

It’s terrible universal advice. But if wealth and power matter to you; and you diligently save, take sensible risks, and remain health- and mental-health-wise grounded, it can skip you up quickly. (Important, for me: having friends I could spend evenings with, eating macaroni and drinking cheap wine. Also, don’t do this if you haven’t found product-market fit.)

It's only ever "worth it" if it works out. It's never "worth it" if it didn't.

This is basically the survivor fallacy: you didn't win because you risked ruining yourself, you won because you got lucky. Risking to ruin yourself just meant you increased your chances of winning (while also significantly increasing your chances of losing).

Teaching people they'll be successful as long as they're willing to "eat shit" for years may create a handful of winners but it will also cause a ridiculous amount of ruined lives (not to mention families and relationships).

Imagine playing Russian roulette with only one empty chamber but afterwards everyone who survives also gets a toin coss to determine if he also wins a billion dollars on top.

Sure, if you win, it was totally worth it because you came out of it unharmed and you have a billion dollars.

If you win the roulette but lose the coin toss, hey at least you were ever so close to winning the billion dollars. Maybe you'll write an inspiring blog post about how waking up before dawn and doing push-ups helped you come that far and about your plans to win that coin toss if you get another chance in the future.

Or you are sour about losing the coin toss and traumatised from the roulette but people now just lecture you about how you held the coin wrong and you should be lucky you even made it to the coin toss because if you fumbled the coin toss you really weren't skilled enough to win the roulette or you should have played for a few more rounds after nobody else was left because then you'd have definitely performed better at tossing that coin.

But if you lose the roulette, you're probably in no state to lament to anyone how terrible of an idea it was to play in the first place.

And if you look at the really successful ones, you'll notice they actually sometimes shot themselves but their parents or family were rich enough to make sure they wore a bullet-proof helmet.

It's luck. Risking your health and social life just slightly increases the number of coin tosses while loading more bullets in the chamber. Look at how many entrepreneurs are putting themselves out there and working themselves to death, then look at how many are billionaires -- heck, look at how many are millionaires. The rest that just vanishes? At best they gave up and decided to do something else.

> Teaching people they'll be successful as long as they're willing to "eat shit" for years may create a handful of winners but it will also cause a ridiculous amount of ruined lives (not to mention families and relationships)

Totally agree. Telling people to "eat shit" is terrible universal advice.

> if you lose the roulette, you're probably in no state to lament to anyone how terrible of an idea it was to play in the first place

Agree again.

That said, just because something depends predominantly on luck doesn't mean it is never worth it. Terrible universal advice can be decent advice to specific people. If, as you said, you are fortunate enough to have downside protection from family, it can be less risky than it generally is. On the other hand, if you are sure you'd be happier having tried and lost than never tried at all (and know just how bad this flavor of losing can be), it may be the only choice.

Most people aren't like that. But some are. My point is to avoid over-correcting. Don't "eat shit" because a shithead on the Internet told you too. But if you really feel that's what you must do, don't not do it because someone on the Internet told you not to.

Side note: anecdote comes to mind. Advice is a person talking to their younger selves.

Sure, but this can be reduced to "it's worth the risk if you have a financial safety net to fall back to if you fail or burn out". In other words "the high risk discourages people who are not already well-off and the high reward primarily benefits those who are".

Or more simply: if you have a few tens or hundres of thousands of dollars you can fall back to even if everything goes wrong, it's worth the chance to become a millionaire/billionaire. If you don't have that safety net, you'll most likely ruin your life unless you're extraordinarily lucky (i.e. lucky enough to win even without the advantages nearly all the other winners already had).

Meritocracy is biased towards affluent starting positions.

> That said, just because something depends predominantly on luck doesn't mean it is never worth it.

I mean, you can do some back-of-the-napkin math and at least get a ballpark figure on the worthiness of an endeavor. 'Expected Value' is the term in stats. It's not too convoluted to run through the math here, but you can expand it as you need. Yes, things like 'freedom' and 'autonomy' are hard to quantify, but you can estimate them somewhat.

How did you eat shit exactly? a failed startup?

Ecclesiastes 4:6 - "Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and (anxious) chasing after the wind."

In fact, just read the whole book of Ecclesiastes if you want some sobering realities on the nature of the hustle, the grind, the striving for material things:


This is all well and good if the grind is about next level “material things”. A bigger house, another car, private schooling for the kids, that holiday etc. But there’s a huge proportion of humanity that has to grind just to keep their heads above water. One uninsured medical incident and it’s tickets for them.

But that's a problem of the system and cannot be overcome by 'working harder'.

Man, talk about a timeless book. Thanks for the reminder.

The problem with hustle porn is really how little emphasis is put on luck. They show a grind that translates directly into results, not really talking about dealing with failure due to things outside of one's control. Yes hard work gets you primed for new opportunities, but luck still plays a role in which opportunities you come across.

This. It's easy to hustle, and hustle, and work hard, and hustle.. when you've found that product-market fit, or you've found that profitable niche, or you've found that market opportunity. Otherwise, the chances of you succeeding is nil. It's like you're playing World of Warcraft, or Diablo II and can't find that loophole to farm new items. Once you've found that secret, you can then hustle.

That’s the American way though. Individual success, socialized failure.

Luckily our fellow libertarians are busy promoting "individual success, individualized failure" as an alternative.

Because if you're a failure, it shouldn't be our job to provide for you or pay for your recovery, right? Right?


Luck is a part of it for sure. And survivorship bias isn't usually discussed in motivational stories. XKCD has something on it:


No one wants to listen to a Ted talk in which a successful person attributes his success to luck (although in invoking Cunningham's law I'm sure one exists)

...which begs the question, what is the point of a Ted talk about success stories if they're really just stories of being lucky without admitting that fact?

It's a nice bedtime story, yeah, but people look at this crap for inspiration and guidance. "I want to be like that guy" except nothing in the story can be replicated to recreate the same outcome.

EDIT: Is "envy porn" a phrase yet?


The way I look at it, the more you work the more opportunities you have to have good luck. No guarantee of it. (Kind of like smoking doesn't guarantee you will die of lung cancer, just increases your chances).

There are probably smarter ways of increasing your luck though.

Yeah, but you can’t control luck. The one thing you can control is how hard you work.

I disagree with the article.

I got nowhere fast in life by just sitting around waiting for things to happen. I had all sorts of excuses on why I wasn't succeeding, the article likes to supply plenty, and they are just poisonous thoughts.

then i lit a fire under my butt. I wanted to be a principle engineer, so I did research by looking at profiles on linkedin and found a masters at a great school would make that path easier. I spent time waiting in the subway, nights, and weekends studying and applied. I got rejected. I kept improving my application, I got accepted.

I changed my mind on what I wanted to be and wanted to be a data scientist, preferably a top tech. lots of rejections, lots of no response. took me years of trying different things and spending my nights and weekends doing kaggle competitions and learning. eventually I got what I wanted.

hustling alone didnt get me where I wanted to be, but resting around on my laurels and blaming other things for my lack of success would have done nothing. worse than nothing, it would have made me a bitter failure.

the article suggests the hustle culture is a symptom of a failed work system because people are afraid to loose their job. I disagree. I think its because many recognize we are in a rare window in time that we can do so much with our effort. we may have to change our expectations, we may have to fail a bit before we get there, but if we keep trying better things will happen.

I agree with you for the most part, but there definitely is a toxic extreme of "hustle culture", in which people believe the sheer amount of "hard work" is the only coefficient.

All things in moderation.

There is an extreme amount of entitlement and apathy in the US today as well.

So while extreme "hustle culture" is bad, and working yourself to death is very bad, the idea that you might have to "work Saturdays" in your 20's to get ahead also should not be considered an "extreme" position.

But to many people working even 40 hours a week is considered "too much work", being away from facebook for more than 2 hours is a burden, etc.

If you were really hustling, it shouldn't have taken years. A hustler like myself could have done it in months.


What I really don't get is people that will work themselves to death, 60-80 hours a week for products and market segments that I personally consider to be bullshit.

If you're under age 30 and working long hours building a dating site app, some iOS or Android game with pay-to-win mechanics, or writing software so that peoples' clicks on ads can be tracked better, are you really doing anything to improve the world?

There should not be an extreme sense of urgency and deadline-looming rush when what you're developing is a third rate clash of clans clone.

But I read all the time how the video game development industry pushes people like this, until they burn out. There was a huge scandal about the 3D artists employed by a studio which produced the animated comedy movie "sausage party":


With the benefit of age and 20 years of experience in the industry, I'm not going to go into "emergency rush" mode for anything short of an ACTUAL emergency.

I am so glad about the way the topic got addressed in this article. What it basically says you just need to live life and needn't bash yourself and constantly rape yourself for the sake of fitness-like ghost benefits of "life-hacking". Overworking, early waking up, self-sleep deprivation for the sake of productivity won't do you any good, and won't make you happy.

I was trapped by the hustler-porn during 2012-2014, got a job due to it, amassed some good money and it didn't make me happy at all. I was trying to think of myself as a better person because I struggled more and I was creating the struggle out of nothing just to overcome it and thus I, though I never admitted that to myself or showed that to anyone else, was actually amassing my pride trying to rise myself above others, thus falling myself into pride in the negative sense.

Article is very brief and not detailed about the alternative to hustler lifestyle. I guess it's simple - "do ya thang", don't overwork, value living, value some joys, sleep well and just be a _somewhat_ good man I guess. Not everyone will become a millionare. And "_somewhat_ good" is a keyword heere, not "100% good", but "_somewhat_ good"

I'd also like to highlight and cite 3 great things been said in the article, which pretty much sum up (as I think about it) what Hussein tried to say in it:

>When you believe the normal state of affairs is to feel like you’re struggling to make progress, you’ll be less likely to quit something that isn’t going anywhere.

>the myth that “if you work sufficiently hard, you’ll be one of these major influencers and one of these top people.”

>So some people end up thinking they have to do particular things that their colleagues don’t do to justify why they haven’t wasted their day.”

I'd also like to notice that while the article says some good things it nonetheless falls itself into the trap of "generational thinking", where it clearly says that life-hacking hustling is the problem of some ghostly "millenials". Then suddenly equating "millenials" with "young people", obviously forgetting that if you say A you cant escape saying B and if you argue along the lines of "generational logic" (and that's failed logic) you can't not mention "Z" people, who also work hard already these days. Aren't they "millenials"? Why? Ah, I get ya, they have been growing with tech, while "millenials" only picked tech just before teens. So that makes "Z" totally different brand of people /s. Not shared environment, not shared culture, but the year you were born is what defines you and defines whether you were growing "with tech". And growing with tech makes you completely (or very) different /s. Totally makes sense. I've read that some of the people going along the lines of this failed "generational" logic even go as far as stating that anyone born in 1998 is a millenial while anyone born in 1999 is already a Z.

In all serious, this "generational" bullshit stereotypizes people, similarly to how racism tries to solely define people in terms of their skin shade. That's total bullshit, there are completely different people among people born in 1980-1998 and some were already growing with tech, some didn't, some born in 1999 haven't seen tech to this day, some did, some've grown with it. Some of those born in 1960-1980 grew with tech too, they also are very prey-fallible to these types of "motivational" videos. And it's plain ridiculous to call someone a "young, cause millenial" cause they were born in 1980 but a 1979-borns are "not young, cause boomers". "Generational racism" (I'd go as far as to define it like that) just doesn't add anything to any conversation, enforces stereotypes and need to be fought against.

I encourage you to fight against it too. Generational racism wont do any good to people. Thanks!

See "Stakhanovite movement", the USSR's version from the 1930s. This is not a new idea. Or a good one. Even the USSR dumped it.

hyper-competitive, individualistic meritocratic culture and economy. Equating wealth and social status with virtue and worth.

people set unrealistic individual expectations.

survivroship bias. It's not that these business leaders are superior people, but many of them are lucky. Hustle helps, but so does luck, whether it's having a really high IQ (for tech jobs), family wealth (when starting business and having a safety net if the business fails), or 'right place at right time' (a domain name name + some simple coding could have made you rich in the mid-late 90's ,whereas nowadays you need a full-scale app with tons of stuff to maybe have a shot at a small amount of funding or a small acquisition).

Don't look for gold, sell shovels. (Or today, sell self-help and life-style brands.)

I dunno if the comparison is quite right, at least shovels were actually useful in the gold rush.

Shovelbot 3000. It uses the latest cutting edge techniques in computer vision to determine the best angle to dig. Except that it can’t actually dig holes.

And it has a tendency to get bricked by auto-installed firmware updates, which you can't disable as it requires a working wifi connection to operate.

Please don't slander The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess[1]

[1] https://press.princeton.edu/titles/8846.html

Shovels as a service?

I use to believe this bs. I thought people who took vacations were slackers and people who left the office before I did were lazy. In 2014 I started cutting my medication (bipolar 1 disorder) in half so I could sleep less and work more. Long story short, ended up back-firing leading to a 9 month leave of absence. In the end it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Working smart is the way to go IMO.

While I appreciate the sentiment of this post, I'd like to see some real stats on "hustle porn" culture's effects. My impression is that the author is pitching doom and gloom where there might be only a small - and increasingly diminishing - problem.

I'm not constantly peppered by this phenomenon on my feeds. In fact, lately I've been find more of the opposite: the growing culture of valuing 8 hours of sleep, mental health, and the like. This trend seems to be especially strong in the world of entrepreneurs. YC's Startup School had a talk on "How To Win" [1] - all about how to stay sane and healthy as a founder. Podcasts like ZenFounder [2] are teaching more of the same and building up that field. And I haven't even read it yet, but the popularity of books like It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work [3] represent a growing movement of successful people - who I'd say still work quite hard - that avoid these pitfalls and are very loud in teaching others how to do the same.

I'm sure, as the author suggests, there're people who take all the motivational talk to an extreme. But there's an alternative that I hope many of us are following: don't just blindly work hard - because working hard is important - but work smart, too.

[1] https://www.startupschool.org/videos/53

[2] https://zenfounder.com/

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Doesnt-Have-Be-Crazy-Work/dp/00628747...

That could be because you consume media on the bleeding edge of these trends.

"Hustle Porn" was quite popular in tech several years ago. It lost its luster and it's no surprise that the hustlers have now moved into broader markets.

I’ve never watched any of those videos but One thing I don’t understand is how ‘victims’ decide to fully trust and follow advice of random YouTube celebrities. Why are they not just a little sceptical?

The discussion around the content of the article here is interesting, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was this quote:

“No amount of grifting or endless working” will help alleviate the gender pay gap, which, according to the World Economic Forum, won’t close for another 200 years

I read on here all the time that the “gender pay gap” doesn’t exist. So which one is it?

I see it as there being two kinds of gender pay gaps. The first one is the gap between comparable men and women in the same job at the same employer. You might call this gender bias, since the only discriminate factor here is gender. This is generally a small gap, though this is not true for all job titles. And it's pretty rare to find the gap disfavor men, so we should probably investigate why this emerges.

The second one is the wide chasm between what men make on average and what women make. If you find it confusing why these two are different, consider nurses vs doctors. These two jobs vary by pay and gender balance, and for this combined population women make less money on average. This is something we probably want to be concerned about as a society, but likely cannot solve it with enforcement of existing laws as it has myriad factors like degree selection, gender role norms, employer selection, time in workforce, labor participation by age, overtime availability, and everything in the first category. I call this systemic bias, because there's not one bad actor we need to punish here. Rather, it emerges as the a rational equilibrium, in response to societal level pressures -- not all of which are rational themselves. This is the sphere where we cross our fingers that maybe Computer Engineer Barbie will adjust things a percentage point while we search for the hundred other, much harder things we need to do to unbias society.

So, re: "grifting or endless working." Not a prescription for solving systemic gender bias. Getting up early for your teaching job or working more hours as a nurse won't solve the fact that you're not an engineer or surgeon. A few dozen more women in VC funded executive positions won't move the needle either.

But in general, you should probably take what folks on HN say with a grain of salt.

Other things that influence the gender pay gap is that women are typically the ones to stay at home to raise children or work part time, they're the ones to stay home from work to tend to sick children, etc. which lowers their average pay.

The “gender pay gap” absolutely does exist, look up any results from any census ever. Even the myriad ways of “explaining it away” which you can find on the Wikipedia page [1] cannot fully account for the gap (regardless of whether these explanations are valid/fair/equitable or not). Where exactly are you reading that the gender pay gap does not exist?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_pay_gap_in_the_United_S...

If you find yourself questioning reality after every opinion you read you should really form your own opinion. Take the time to read the arguments present by both sides.

Here's my take as a 40 year old always trying to keep pushing through the next hurdle. Hustle early and often when you're young. Yes, do it. Try, and don't be afraid of failure, fail often, enjoy failure, and push yourself harder when you fail. That's my message.

Anyone that has a deeper understanding of Gary V, Simon S, know that that they have quite a bit more background than just a message of go hustle yourself to the ground. I don't necessarily agree with everything they say, but that's where my (your) personal judgement comes in. Nobody is has all your answers.

Alas, the kids/family, once you have a deeply rooted family, that will take over. Time will start shrinking and it becomes harder and harder. Not saying it can't be done or others don't favor their mission over their family, just that it's an issue, so address it.

Don't blindly ignore the encouragement to work hard and don't ignore how that affects you.

I wanted to give my thoughts Gary Vaynerchuck since I read some comments about him here. Yeah, he's super extra and too much for a lot of people. That's just kind of the way he is, or maybe more accurately, the way he has become. He's a showman, but with credentials.

People kind of get the wrong image of him since they tend to hear only the 'hustle' stuff of working your ass off for a few years on some project. But he has a ton of other advice too, and much more "sensible" ones at that. Not too long ago he changed his eating habits, lost weight and promoted healthy living. I believe he's also put emphasis on getting enough sleep. He's said multiple times that he knows a lot of people who make 50k a year and are happier than many millionaires. I think he usually gives the "eat shit and work hard" type of advice to people who are asking him for a formula to success on their business. And it is true, you have to work hard to achieve something exceptional.

Talking about 'hustle', I think it really depends how you define it in the first place. You can do a bad, BS hustle by working to get Internet points and validation from strangers on social media. Or even worse, do something to con people out of their money. To me a positive hustle is putting in constant work, not being afraid to sell and market your stuff, and most importantly, starting before you are ready.

I'm not a zealot of the Vaynernation but I have found some of his messages helpful. One of his key principals is to document your journey. I love this idea and I've recently gotten over the fear of doing it myself, posting VLOGs and doing things more publicly using my real name (you can search this username and find out more). Another message is that "you could die tomorrow". Sure, this is a bit dramatic and cliche, but it did give me courage to push on with doing some things that I might have procrastinated on.

Overall, I find Gary's content useful for the most part, especially his insights on social media. If you just know him from 'hustle hustle' type of things, I suggest you try to dig a bit deeper to his videos and blogs. He does know his stuff.

The problem is we compare the worst of our lives to the best of other people's lives - be it our body, wealth, health, personality, travel, well-readness, intelligence etc etc. No one has every area of their life in order, there's just not enough time in a day!

This Hustle Porn is just one area where people can be led astray, and they all come back to this same principal of belief that there are people who have everything together.

A more generalised solution is simply to compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today.

I don't think looking back on the past is productive either; it's easy to say, gee, a couple years ago, I was in a happy relationship, I liked my job, now I'm single and trying to find a new one, I must be a failure, etc. You have to let go of comparisons.

The energy drink pyramid scheme reminded me of Thunder Muscle from 'The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret'.

Oh man, Todd Margaret was gold!

It's part of the deal though. Anyone who willingly participates has a goal where the end justifies the means. Albeit, a sell your soul type of deal at times, but nevertheless the problem is more a lack of self-awareness for why one might be hustling. That self-awareness is also understanding why Hustle Porn beckons.

edit: last sentence

I think what gets me about Gary V's "hustle porn" ethos is that most people don't realise he had a career for AGES selling wine for his family wine business and making wine tasting videos for over a decade on youtube. He's posted over 1,000 wine tasting videos. Long before he was known as the hero of hustle porn he was spitting cali cab in his Jets bucket and waxing lyrical about the palate of said wine. I love wine more than most but the thought of producing a 10-20 minute tasting video roughly every 3.6 days for a decade sounds like a sure fire way to cure yourself of imbibing. The guy's a machine.

Is this sarcasm...? Producing a 10-20 minute wine tasting video 2x weekly sounds both enjoyable and easy for people who like wine.

Definitely not sarcasm. I'm sure it would be fun initially but after doing it for a decade plus I would definitely get tired of it. And I'm a huge lover of wine and a pretty avid collector.

Why must it be dangerous? Why are individuals not free to take inspiration where they find it?

It's true that much of the "hustle" advice is rarely actionable business strategies, but that's not much different from listening to music or having faith in a religion and finding guidance and support within. There's also endless amounts of education material for the people that seek it out, and if the push they need to do so comes from a cheesy video or quote then more power to them.

Is the judgement really necessary in all this? I find that much more counter-productive.

It's easy to say that this is the best possible time for a human to be alive, when your occupation is motivational speaker. You've got YouTube, and business class, and 7-minute workouts. The message you've got is to disregard the media you're using to send that message.

Try working in a field where this isn't true, and tell us if you still think this is the best time ever to be a human. Do high school teachers (who have to compete with the internet) think 2018 is the greatest?

It actually is the best time to be a human in general, that doesn't mean every person has a perfect life.

Things are better now than they've ever been. There's still poverty, war, famine, disease, etc. but way fewer people die to those things than at any point in history. 80% of the world's children get their vaccines. Girls go to school almost as long as boys. Child mortality is dropping sharply in the world, etc.

So does things still suck for the person who gets terminal cancer? Of course it does. But humanity is doing great.

It's easy to say you should work less when you are successful.

John D. Rockefeller would take mid-day breaks to do some gardening around the house. Work hard, but keep a balanced and cheery pace :)

"Remember to take all things in moderation"

Work ethic is great and shows through. But you don't get far ahead when you Karōshi [1] yourself. If it hurts, stop.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kar%C5%8Dshi

The thumbnail comes up of a photo of Jay Shetty, he runs many inspirational videos based on his links with ISKCON/Hare Krishnas. Bit misleading as he never talks of working hard to the bone, but more about working and living so you are happier in doing you work and in your life.

It's easy to want to hate on the linked Vaynerchuk video. I couldn't agree more with the message though. Working hard is good; if there's a certain type of life you want. There simply aren't any shortcuts; at least that's the rule and not the exception.

This reminded me of an essay by Amy Hoy: https://stackingthebricks.com/entreporn/

Gary v is extremely annoying. But what makes it porn is that it's what people want to hear. Hes just selling people what they want in the end. It's a bit sad

But it creates a competitive energy within the audience which improves collective productivity.

Is Will Smith's movie Happyness hustle porn?

It’s been a while since I watched it, but only kind of. A major component of that movie is how he deals with and prioritizes NON work stuff (his kid.)

I imagine it might be because it’s easier to tell yourself “you just have to work harder” rather than to accept that it wasn’t written in the stars.

? I thought this was a about pornography such clickbait shouldn’t be on this site....

I disagree with this.

"Greatest comment ever"

As others said, why? Give us some reasons.


This is all fine and dandy but let’s be real. How many of you can solve: Given n non-negative integers representing an elevation map where the width of each bar is 1, compute how much water it is able to trap after raining.

In N(1) space and N time

None, because a two-dimensional bar graph can’t trap any water?

This is completely irrelevant to the article being discussed.

It's only 'dangerous' if you feel anointed to protect people from their choices.

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