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Alexis Ohanian speaks out against “always-on” work culture (wsj.com)
231 points by petethomas 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments



I don't get "hustle porn" in the slightest - I want to see people who succeeded by doing the least possible.

You have a private jet because you worked 18 hours a day 7 days a week for 10 years? Sacrificed evening meals with your partner and kids, missed spending time with your parents before they got old, and generally only commit to "quality time" (which is largely bullshit) for self and social care? Nah thanks pal.

You're driving that Ferrari because you make something that makes money, you pay people a decent wage and give them good working conditions to take it all off your plate so you only spend a few hours a week doing the bits you enjoy? That's the sizzle right there.

Telling Gary Vee to put a cake in it would be a good start.


Gary Vee is a snake oil salesman. He knows the right things to say and he's incredibly charismatic. But from a business point of view, his hustle-porn guru business is way more successful than anything he did previous to that. Sure he's a successful business person but he wasn't something special. It was his "motivational talks" that are his real claim to fame, so he's basically famous for being famous.


My anecdote is that people I come across who quote him tend to have a lot of anxiety and pent-up energy around the idea of wanting to be in business but they don't have an idea, skill, or plan.

So, the business proverbs they live by both give them hope and amplify their anxiety that their opportunity is slipping away with each day that they're not hustling.


> the idea of wanting to be in business but they don't have an idea, skill, or plan.

Speaking as someone who just does what he enjoys doing and ended up with a marginally successful business as a result, I have to say that I genuinely don't get this mindset.

Then again I don't "hustle" either. I (and my employees) just write code that solves problems and creates value for bigger businesses and they pay me good money for it.


Spot on with this one. Now that I think about it, it makes so much sense thinking of some peeps I know. Never really got GV and usually can't stand people preaching too much to other about success.


Gary Vee only preaches hustle if you're not happy with where you're at. And it isn't necessarily hustle to make more money. It's hustle to do what you want to do so that you are happy. If you are already happy, he just encourages you to "keep doing you".


> Gary Vee only preaches hustle if you're not happy with where you're at.

I find this phrase trite and full of significance at the same time.

Much of existentialism is an investigation of anguish — the permanent, low-lying anxiety of existing and trying to find meaning in life. This anxiety comes from, and is the process of, realizing one's potential.

Thus, anyone who realizes that their current station in life is not the top of their potential is bound to not be happy with where they're at.

This is not just in business and money. You can be anxious about not having enough fulfilling friendships or spending meaningful time with your children, or any other thing you value highly. Many people give up on stressful business enterprises, but move their anxiety towards other targets — family life, politics, future events, or specific interests.

Conversely, only those who do not realize the gap between their potential and their current situation will be satisfied. The more qualified and diligent you are, the more likely you are to be aware that you're not your best yet.

It takes active work ("hustle" of sorts) to be diligent and unworrying: meditation, therapy, etc.


I definitely agree with your assessment. Gary talks about "unworrying" part a lot, actually. Comparison is the thief of joy. If you compare yourself to others or "what you could have been / could still be", you're not gonna be happy with yourself. There is something "zen" about not being too worried/anxious about fulfilling your potential, but yet still driven enough to go out and improve yourself.


That's a platitude we hear so much that it no longer means anything. I think people crave the validation that their hustle will make them happy. And they hear it so much on so many channels that they confuse it with happiness


He grew his father's liquor store 20x before anyone knew who he was. Your third sentence is a weird way to say he's built upon that early success. As far as, "his real claim to fame," he's responsible for the most recent Planter's Peanuts Superbowl commercial and a pretty big Budweiser basketball campaign. If you think his keynotes have a bigger impact that's a matter than could be debated.


I've been involved in an industry (stock day trading) that is rife with "gurus" like Gary Vee. There are hundreds of gurus that talk with EXTREME confidence and tell you the ways of how to be successful. Gary Vee is exactly like these people. They talk with confidence about how their techniques will work, and they have fans and followers that believe everything they say hook, line, and sinker. And in fact, teaching how to trade is a much more lucrative business than actually trading for these "gurus".

Gary Vee is a successful businessman. He built upon an existing business and made it more successful, that's a great accomplishment. I wish I had 10% of his success. But he's not a guru, he is nowhere near elite. Plenty of people have done more impressive things than him but the memes around him being some sort of guru on being an entrepreneur are far more outsized than his actual success. But the way his followers treat him is completely disproportional to what his actual successes are.


Plenty of people would sacrifice 10 years of their life for private jet type money. The problem is there is no guarantee that putting in the time and effort will result in that kind of money. It will probably at least equal decent money, but decent money isn't private jet money and I'd agree that decent money isn't worth a decade of my life.


Totally - it almost inevitably doesn't work out positively, but even amongst the survivorship bias of the stories we're spun by these people they focus on the all-nighters and the sacrifices of the successful.

Obviously on the flip side there are the other snake-oil salesmen selling you "work from a beach doing nothing" crap, but there's definitely a middle point of highlighting the success of people who did the minimum they possibly could to succeed.


I think this is often what Gary Vee is misjudged on. I've listened to more than a few of his talks, read his books, and find his message is that you should throw your all in, if that's what you want. If you want to have your Saturdays with your kids, go do that. Matt D'Avella had an interview with Gary Vee that acknowledges this. He seems to be very much about living your own life and not subscribing to the hype.

"Are you doing something you enjoy to do? Happiness and fulfillment has to become a much bigger part of the conversation than financial upside. I'm always very hurt when people think that I'm pushing hustle and too much work."[1]

[1]: https://youtu.be/nhMuBEvopk8?t=298


The problem with what you want is that a lot of times you think you do know it, you've heard so many success stories and subconsciously you follow the herd, but in reality what you really want is yet to be discovered. Once you have truly found what you want, what you're natural at, you don't need any more validation.


not sure why you're being downvoted. You even cited a source! I agree that his content is mostly "hustle your face off" IF you're NOT happy, and he only occasionally talks about what to do IF you ARE happy (which is keep doing what you're doing).


Gary Vee is the anti-vaxer equivalent of "hustle culture" - you'd learn more about business listening to one of Michael Eric Dyson's unintelligible rants than listening to Gary Vee...

He has no understanding of the notion that working hard is supposed to compound your productivity not always be the way you go about life...


This is the perfect description of Gary Vee.


The idea "If I work hard enough I can get what I want" is appealing because it means your end goals are possible.


> Sacrificed evening meals with your partner and kids, missed spending time with your parents before they got old, and generally only commit to "quality time" (which is largely bullshit) for self and social care? Nah thanks pal.

"Nice guy? I don't give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids."

Hustle porn comes from the idea that if you take your eyes off the prize, someone who wants it more than you is going to work harder for it, come up and take it from you.


what is hustle porn ?


Articles about how hard you worked, how you went above and beyond and slept at work, etc. Sort of like comic books that are "torture porn": how long can Batman/ Wolverine/ Daredevil suffer like this before we get a cathartic end?

After a lifetime of Catholic schooling, the appeal to me seems deeply rooted in something about being crucified. Which doesn't really seem enjoyable, but YMMV.


Thank you!


Great comment - I like you!! :)


I find the effects of overwork to be quite interesting- a lack of space for self makes it impossible to perform actually life enriching behaviors such as retreats, meditations, socialization, and hobbies. This means there's simply no room for any other entertainment or enrichment beyond the most shallow/fast/addictive stuff - social media, twitter wars, the thrill of buying nice things.

(EDIT: I should emphasize why it's so interesting to me because people often overwork with the justification for life enrichment, but the actual act of overworking reduces space/time for life enrichment!


Conveniently, consuming shiny things and lowest-common-denominator mass media is what the Western society very much encourages us to do. Work, consume, repeat.


It's the most efficient way to extract value from us


And the most efficient way to keep people from reflecting on their lives, realizing how far from their "ideal lives" they are.


When I was a teenager, old people told me that my political views would grow more conservative as I got older. If anything, as I've watched growing income inequality and the further concentration of wealth among the one percent, I can better appreciate the point Karl Marx was trying to get across to people.


Indeed. Same here.

It doesn't matter how nice a system of fluid economics the Wealth of Nations was on paper. The problem is that people will exploit them. And exploitation of rules leads to exploitation of people.

And where are we now? https://www.cbsnews.com/news/middle-class-americans-increasi...

"In 2014, the middle 60 percent of Americans accounted for 46.8 percent of federal aid offered to people who qualify for such help, Brookings found."

Any one of us can 'fall', and not able to be self-sufficient to 'pull up by ones bootstraps'.

We've given capitalism a good 300 year run. And we know its pathologies. Communism isn't necessarily the best, but it provides a converse theory to start the discussion.


> Communism isn't necessarily the best, but it provides a converse theory to start the discussion.

Well, compared to capitalism its much more utopistic - I mean how far it is from reality of human nature and how much you should expect from people in the system.

As history shows us numerous times, it really doesn't matter how good things look on the paper or during academic discussions. The reality is, evil, messed up, unbalanced, sociopathic etc. folks are part of society. I don't mean in insane asylums, I mean in schools, hospitals, corporations, hackernews, everywhere. And somehow, for number of reasons, when numerous factors combine these people rise to power although they shouldn't. Every communism I am aware of ended up as dictatorship very quickly. In real capitalism, they come and go much more quickly and the impact is smoothed out over time.

This is the breaking point for me where the system is obviously worse - in communism, those dictators always ended up as net loss for citizens and mankind. And you gotta be brutal if you want to force millions into situations they wouldn't choose themselves. There are other obvious issues - no private ownership means nobody will work hard to maintain/enhance/create if at the end benefits are marginal at best. Better enjoy that beer.

And over time, these things compound and the result is always the same. Capitalism wins through sheer efficiency and overall upper hand. When comparing similar starting systems, its pretty clear which is more beneficial.

But yeah, it looks cool and very nice on the paper, or in TV like Star Trek.


You're spot on with evil, messed up, unbalanced, sociopaths folks being part of society, and especially sociopaths gravitate towards power. No matter what system we set up they'll corrupt it. I think once we shed some light on psychopathy and narcissism things might look better for the future. I'm following an interesting channel on youtube. The owner, Sam Vankin is a highly intelligent narcissist who has studied himself and is very open about it and even proposes ways to treat it.


While communism is probably incompatible with human nature, I'm beginning to suspect that capitalism may be incompatible with things that are ultimately a lot more fundamental.


I used to think so, but it's not necessarily true. If, for example, we reduced our weekly work hours to 20 or even 30, and we ensured that no worker had any work responsibilities outside those hours, we could attend our more fundamental needs.

Add protections so that no person goes hungry, homeless, or without medical attention and you've almost got an Utopia.


The problem with a Marxist Utopia is not in the ideas or in the policies, it lies with the simple fact that humans are the ones carrying those policies out. There's a good quote that sums it up: "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." Some group of people will be in charge, and that group of people will exploit the rest. Communism works great in small groups, but breaks down at the population level.


Fair enough, let's test this conversely:

The problem with a Capitalist Utopia is not in the ideas or in the policies, it lies with the simple fact that humans are the ones carrying those policies out. There's a good quote that sums it up: "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." Some group of people will be in charge, and that group of people will exploit the rest. Capitalism works great for small groups, but breaks down at the population level.

Works both ways, so you are not actually proving anything with your statement except showing your ideological blind spot.


I don't need to prove anything through my statements, every government striving towards Communism has failed miserably several steps beforehand. Separation of power and limits on the influence of individuals is what keeps corruption at bay.

I'm not arguing for unbridled capitalism, nor am I arguing against socialist policies and checks against the formation of oligarchies. I'm arguing that state control of the economy, such as that which comes about when your population is too spread out and large to make decisions in an efficient manner, is inherently flawed and unsustainable.


You're right that statist communism (the ones from the 50's-90's) is an epic failure that turned dictator fiefdoms (companies) into a dictatorship (country). On the ground floor, there was no discernible individual ownership of society shared.

And countries like the USSR were not only dictatorships, but virulent military dictatorships.


>> Communism isn't necessarily the best,

Understatement of the century. Tens of millions of people have paid with their lives to learn this lesson.

>> it provides a converse theory to start the discussion

As someone who grew up in the USSR, I suggest that maybe you should spend half a year in Venezuela, with Venezuelan amounts of money for your living expenses, and then suggest whether it's a good path to take for this country.


I've heard this too. I think it is that people fear change intrinsically. Also they want to avoid anything that could kill property values. Plus there it is just competition in general that people view incorrectly as zero sum.


Feedback loops like transistors increasing economic efficiency to pay for more transistors are unusual.

Sure, over the long term markets change, but day to day most competition approaches zero sum. Americans are only going to pay for and consume so much food each year. That may move around a little, but mostly it’s a question of competition between food producers not expanding the market.

Entertainment competes for only so much free time and disposable income etc. Now as productivity increases people may have more disposable income, but Disney can’t really influence how much money people have.


I'd argue that rationale was based on a very different economic evironment to what we have now, and arguing that today, a failing to know and understand the different challenges that are faced by the very people they may empart this idea to.


Being conservative has little to do with consumption culture.


if only people really new what Marx said instead of the caricatures deployed by McCarthyism. Marxism is about alienation. read this and tell me you don't relate https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx%27s_theory_of_alienatio...


And especially so this one:

"Alienation of the worker from other workers"

Now, look at the 'gig economy'. Instead of grousing about shitty bosses, these companies pit 'employee' against each other. The gig economy companies are setting up zero sum style games: There's only X work per day, and each person claws for their slice of it against others.


I'm in the midst of reading Capital after realizing I'd never read any Marx, but only heard second hand stuff. It's surprisingly different from what I expected. It's a behemoth of a book, but I'd still recommend it.


Yeah, that's how I felt when I got my first job out of college. Then I met a bunch of Marxist-Leninists and they reminded me why I stick to democratic socialism.


I was born in the USSR, where Marxist socialism was implemented: no significant private property (you own your clothes and furniture, but not your apartment, a car is borderline suspicious), and most certainly no private business ownership.

Life was pretty miserable back then, if you ask me.

Even in capitalist societies there are still places like that, with free healthcare, basic necessities available for everyone, guaranteed roof over your head, and even full employment. These are called prisons.


> Even in capitalist societies there are still places like that, with free healthcare, basic necessities available for everyone, guaranteed roof over your head, and even full employment. These are called prisons.

I've seen this quote elsewhere, and the spurious correlation bothers me. That prisons supply inmates with basic necessities does not make systems that supply members with basic necessities akin to prisons.

In practice, many of them may operate with restrictions to freedom, but so does employment in most fields under capitalism. Even business ownership is a significant restriction of freedom if you cannot delegate work (i.e. you cannot afford to hire), liquidate assets, or stay free from mounting debt.


The difference you are ignoring here is voluntary and/or unenforced restriction of freedom (which is a contradiction in terms — you are free to change your conditions) vs. imposed and enforced restrictions.

Kind of important.


And the obvious thing you are ignoring is that prisons just dont do this:

free healthcare, basic necessities available for everyone, guaranteed roof over your head, and even full employment

Prisons are places where rape, neglect, and violence are the norm. Being pithy reduces whatever point you had into dust.


Perhaps in United States. Our European prisons are much more comfortable.

Additionally, in the USSR we perhaps had less rape and violence in peacetime (our prison guards were professional and order was enforced), but oh boy, we knew a thing or two about neglect.


The Gulag Archipelago paints a very different picture, torture was common according to that text.

Serves them right for not giving up every single ounce of grain they produced to the government.


Yes, that’s right; it is about the Stalin era, though. My personal experience with the USSR was limited to the end of 1980s, where things were much softer compared to those horrors.


> And the obvious thing you are ignoring is that prisons just dont do this: > free healthcare, basic necessities available for everyone, guaranteed roof over your head, and even full employment

Yes they do in all western societies apart from US


I don’t know, I pay $500/month for my medical insurance out of pocket. Last time I checked, unemployment was also rampant. Basic necessities are quite expensive. Education is nearly free compared to everything else, that one is true (costs of living quite compensate for that, though).

Americans are quite welcome in Europe, by the way. For some reason, however, the majority of people prefers to move in other direction.


It's a big problem that our current political imagination is so narrow to only allow the false dichotomy of either neo-liberalism or Stalinism. The number of top-down Stalinist within the general leftist movement is tiny.


Indeed. Since capitalism is "lots of smaller dictatorships(companies) with a set of rules for all", and the migration to communism was "get rid of the smaller dictatorships and make a nation-wide dictatorship".

"Communism" ala USSR, North Korea, etc just moved the problem to a strictly worse area, and something you could not get away with. At least in capitalism, there are better and worse 'masters'.


Stalinism wasn’t existing in the USSR since 1956. Marxism, however, was always acknowledged as the foundational ideology — right until the collapse.


My intention is not to get in to some sort of debate on when the legacy of Stalinism ended, but to say that authoritarianism is properly shunned within the left movement as well.


The modern democratic and republican parties are chock full of pro-totalitarian, pro-authoritarian, "pro-state control of people's lives" politicians (of course they're inconsistent and they'll say or vote the opposite when they are pandering to their base though).

If the "modern socialist" types gained tons of traction tomorrow and became mainstream within the democratic party people like Feinstein and other authoritarians won't stop pushing regressive authoritarian policy. They'd just do it in a way that's sculpted to line up with the (newly) popular "socialist" sentiment. So the end result would be pretty darn Stalinist IMO.

So yes, you're right that current socialists are generally not in favor of secret police and shipping undesirables to the gulag but you're also wrong because if socialism becomes popular it will include all the totalitarians on that side of the isle who do want secret police and gulags.

As regrettable as it may be I don't see any path for going from the status quo to something more socialist without the current crop of totalitarian jerks in the ruling class turning it into a 1984 dystopia (the technical, procedural and much of the precedent for said dystopia already exists) along the way.


From my European perspective both those parties are firmly capitalist and right-wing. I will never expect anything other that what you described from members of them. Certainly not to do some sort of socialist transformation. The current US mainstream "socialists" are after all at best bog standard EU social democrats - that is, still capitalist.

I don't believe that currently ostracized strains/ideas/people will somehow inherently come to power just because democratic socialist ideas become mainstream. Democratic minded socialist are just as inoculated against authoritarianism as liberals. These people were persecuted and killed by ML/Stalinist authoritarians too.


From my European perspective the Europe is hopelessly socialist, indeed (which is not a good thing). Even the fringe right-wing authoritarian parties hated by the left (and every sane person) are still socialist, pushing authoritarian market regulations by _them_. Nobody here wants to protect economical liberties and free markets.


>From my European perspective both those parties are firmly capitalist and right-wing.

I hope that "anyone who believes in capitalism is therefore right wing" is not a mainstream European perspective. You can have a pretty darn socialist government without seizing the means of production.

>I don't believe that currently ostracized strains/ideas/people will somehow inherently come to power just because democratic socialist ideas become mainstream.

The fact of the matter is that these totalitarian beliefs are not nearly ostracized enough for that statement to be anywhere close to reasonable.

On one side of the isle it's considered perfectly reasonable to violate all sorts of rights as a hurdle to buying the tools of self defense. On the other side of the isle it's the same thing but for abortion. This is but one example. These kinds of people won't just find a way to use the popular movement of the day to push their beliefs.

Sure they might make things more socialist if that's what the people demand but don't think they won't also work on their totalitarian pet project at the same time.


>Even in capitalist societies there are still places like that, with free healthcare, basic necessities available for everyone, guaranteed roof over your head, and even full employment. These are called prisons.

Or "schools". Or "military bases." But you do you, I guess.


As a member of military, you are allowed to own property, but have to take orders. Same, same, but different. But yes, many people compared the USSR to essentially a huge military organization.

School students are very limited in rights, indeed. Their welfare depends on welfare of their parents. But they can hope to become free adults one day; no such hope for citizens of socialist countries.


What is your point? That every person who has to make decisions with costs may as well be in prison? Going to school and serving in the military are only different kinds of prisons because you can't escape them? You can't escape capitalism either.


Yes, it's a bit ironic to complain about "work all the time" culture and think Marxism is going to fix it, when the first thing the State does is essentially extend this workplace culture to the entire culture, so that you are never off the clock of being a correct-thinking employee obedient to your superiors in every way, even your speech, even when alone with your family. (And that was prior to when we all carried around portable surveillance devices voluntarily.)

The US may draw you in to that culture, but plenty of people escape it, and plenty of people in it can yet get out of it with reasonable effort. Marxism created cultures where it is a crime to escape that culture.


> Even in capitalist societies there are still places like that, with free healthcare, basic necessities available for everyone, guaranteed roof over your head, and even full employment. These are called prisons.

Ah, the good old "noncentral fallacy" [1].

[1] https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/yCWPkLi8wJvewPbEp/the-noncen...


So, you are calling USSR a non-central example of Marxism implementation? What would be a central example, then?


And it’s still less toxic a hobby than being annoyingly smug on the internet.


A zinger.... except is this even remotely true?

Buying bigger TVs every year and disposing of them in landfills (and sacrificing your quality of life to afford it) seems a bit more toxic than "being smug on the internet."

Plus, isn't the remark itself exactly what it accuses others of... smug?


I doubt it's being smug on the internet that has brought us to the brink of a global ecological disaster.


Ha! I’m going to file that line away.


Depends which social class and country are we talking about here its not as cut and dried as that.


This is exactly correct. The more one overworks, the worse his impulse control becomes. After a long enough stretch of overwork (months, years) one can be transformed into something else entirely. Fat, drinking too much, angry at the internet. He could see it happening every day, and every day lose the fight to stress and easy relief.


It kind of changes your character. Some people cope by drinking or eating, others whatever means. The insidious thing is: the change happens so gradually that it is, IMHO almost impossible to recognize while it is happening. You do recognize when the circumstances change, by which point it might be too late. A solid social network of friends and family helps, but is also one of the first things to loose with this lifestyle.


I can’t think of any of the big founders that were fat alcoholics - bill gates, Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg, bezos? Pretty sure they all work all the time, as in no weekends, get emails at 11 pm every day, at least when they worked.


There is a vast difference between being at the top of of the apparatus vs being enmeshed in it.

A) The people you mention were essentially post scarcity long before they were household names.

B) They had substantially more agency in their work than mid and low level workers.

C) No one in their work life is akin to a “boss.” They have customers, advisors, peers, employees, investors, etc - no bosses.


Sure, but I think most “workaholics” are attempting to work towards a position like that, if not the founder then a major shareholder of a startup that will make it big, portfolio manager of a big fund, partner at a m&a firm or bank, etc.

I think arguing that it’s insane to work 80 hour weeks as a dead end test engineer at a large stagnant company is a straw man. Most people have a tenable goal in mind.

And at the end of it I don’t see the majority of them being fat alcoholics.


Software/IT is full of people working crazy schedules to get their products out.

The early days of ID software. They worked their day jobs and then worked nights/weekends to create their own games.

The early days of eBay when Pierre Omidyar was up all night fixing the site as it crashed.

People at Netscape sleeping under their desks so they didn't waste time driving to/from work.


Yes, absolutely. I apologize, I didn't mean to aim this at founders. I was just thinking about overwork in general, and its effects on people.


I don't think there's a chain of valid reasoning that can start with a few very exceptional people (that is to say these people are an exception, whether it be by talent, effort, or luck) and end with any conclusions about what is normative for the burned-out developer.


Musk had an overweight phase. I think he likes nice wine.


This is exactly by design. It encourages consumerism and the idea of consuming your limited free time with entertainment and superficial activities.

But it goes far beyond that. With limited free time people cannot develop political consciousness and drive social change.

There are historical examples: most dictatorships go/went very far to keep people busy and preserve the status quo.

Universities, on the other hand, has been often driving social change given that students usually have more free time and freedom to organize their time.



I don't think it's just overwork that has this effect. Work, in general, along with the constant pressure to remain "employable" forces us to structure our lives in a way that leaves very little time and/or energy for other meaningful endeavors:

> I begin with a simple-sounding question: at what point does a day’s work truly end? Whilst our jobs might contractually oblige us to work a certain amount of hours per day, it is clear that we do not simply step out of our workplaces and into a world of freedom. This was brought to light by Theodor Adorno in a short but poignant essay from the 1970s called ‘Free Time’. Adorno questioned the extent to which workers are truly autonomous in their time outside work, arguing that the covert aim of non-work time is simply to prepare people for the recommencement of work: free-time is not free at all, but a mere ‘continuation of the forms of profit-oriented social life’. This is because it involves activities which often have a similar quality to work (looking at screens, doing chores), but also because more alienating or exhausting forms of work produce a powerful need for recuperation. By draining people’s physical and mental energies, work that is alienating ensures that much of the worker’s non-work time is spent winding down, retreating to escapist forms of entertainment, or consuming treats which compensate for the day’s travails.

https://www.zedbooks.net/blog/posts/free-time-pressures-empl...


I don't have a source, but I'm pretty sure that the people who enjoy what you call the most shallow/fast/addictive entertainment probably work the least. I don't think people that are unemployed (voluntarily or not) or work few hours enjoy many of those life enriching behaviors. Personally I find that those are most enjoyed by those who work a lot professionally, although not at the extreme end, and make time for it.

[edit] Found a link suggesting that video game use is correlated with unemployment or working fewer hours. It's not clear whether those individuals are using it to fill time or are dropping out of the labor force to pursue more of these types of leisure activities.

> They are not leaving home; in 2015 more than 50% lived with a parent or close relative. Neither are they getting married. What they are doing, Hurst reckons, is playing video games. As the hours young men spent in work dropped in the 2000s, hours spent in leisure activities rose nearly one-for-one. Of the rise in leisure time, 75% was accounted for by video games. It looks as though some small but meaningful share of the young-adult population is delaying employment or cutting back hours in order to spend more time with their video game of choice.

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/escape-to-another-worl...


Maybe its by design - give people too little time to live their lives that they come to depend on services and consumption thus perpetuating capitalism.


Nicely said.


> “All of us who decide to start a company, we’re kind of broken as people,” because founders are often singularly-focused on the success of their venture, said Mr. Ohanian. Even with great mentors and investors supporting their vision, entrepreneurs tend to put a great deal of pressure on themselves to work harder than anyone else to achieve success and profitability. That psychological pressure is compounded by what he and others refer to as “hustle culture.”

> “You have this culture of posturing, and this culture that glorifies the most absurd things and ignores things like self-care, and ignores things like therapy, and ignores things like actually taking care of yourself as a physical being for the sake of work at all costs. It’s a toxic problem,” said Mr. Ohanian.


Some people refuse to take care of themselves, others do not. To lump all entrepreneurs/founders in to a single group is ridiculous, the people who start companies are the most individualistic members of society.


> the people who start companies are the most individualistic members of society.

So they're all like each other in that they are all unique individuals, like the lads in Dead Poets Society!


They admit it but don't do anything about it. The very definition of a psychopath. I have no issue with people who are driven, mind you. The issue is that it leads to quality of life suffering for everyone in the company as expectations continue to ramp.

I just don't buy into it anymore. Management where I work attempts to pressurize people and I just laugh. Yes, the "hustle" culture is right--so your boss's boss's boss can make $20M last year while you have to cut coupons.


>Management where I work attempts to pressurize people and I just laugh. Yes, the "hustle" culture is right--so your boss's boss's boss can make $20M last year while you have to cut coupons.

yep, that's what happens when incentives are extremely mis-aligned. you know very well that you probably won't get paid more if you're more productive. and management knows that they'll always get paid more if you're more productive.

but they still refuse to bridge the gap and make it so you get paid more if you are more productive because it would mean a smaller payout for themselves in the short term.

of course, this severely limits their ability to earn in the long term due to the massive gap between potential productivity (with genuine incentivization by sharing of revenues earned by additional productivity) and the actual productivity of their employees, but i haven't met a single C-suite person who understands the concept.


Which is, why I wonder, is a VC of (presumably?) tech companies trashing the hustle culture? If he lends some founders some money, does he want them to be home to spend time with their kids and their spouse, or is he seeking a return?

I can't help but think this is just some PR for Alex. Maybe someone can prove me wrong?


> Which is, why I wonder, is a VC of (presumably?) tech companies trashing the hustle culture?

For one thing, it doesn't work. If you crunch for more than a couple of weeks in a row, you wind up being less productive per week than if you were sticking to 40 hours. There's loads of data demonstrating this.

Maybe there's a tiny number of mutants who can work 80 hours a week for years on end and still be productive. But that's not something the average human being is physiologically capable of. For most people, trying to emulate those outliers is a cargo cult.


This is basically his content marketing[0]. Whether he believes it or not, it doesn't matter, because this topic is on trend right now. He's likely taking what he believes is the most attractive option to early stage entrepreneurs right now.

[0] - https://avc.com/2016/08/understanding-vcs/


Dunno, he seems pretty legit in the documentary about Serena and them having their kid. I don't get a "do as I say not as I do" vibe from watching that, but who knows.


It might also be that maybe he can be selective with the type of companies he funds. Ones that may not be "moon shot" ideas or require an upheaval of an industry. 99/100 companies who think they will unicorn, will not.

He's just choosing not to head for those avenues of founders.


It also seems to imply a market opening; a VC that looks for and encourages 40 hour per week founders.


I find the idea of working more than 40 hours a week to create something ultimately optional and meaningless... Just utterly preposterous.

People treat the "crunch" as if it's an epic accomplishment of world shaking importance to write a slightly better Android food delivery app, or slightly optimize video ad delivery.

I have worked on networking and IT projects in immediate post-disaster relief environments, and in active combat zones, where it might be justifiable to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.

But it's just laughable that some corporation expects people to do that for something which is frivolous. Look at the recent news article about the abuse of their staff involved in the development of the recent Anthem video game...

https://kotaku.com/how-biowares-anthem-went-wrong-1833731964


Most of the tech companies these days speak in terms of "revolutionizing," or "reinventing," or "re-imagining," and it's all fluff. I don't even suspect this is strictly deceptive. I think people (and founders in particular) are starving to be meaningful and important. They need it in their lives. And so, they tend to describe their work aspirationally. Claims such "No one's ever do this before" will accompany a website that sells goods and services. People are clamoring to be important, and aren't really sure how to get it.


I can recall only a couple of actual time critical rush projects in a career of non-profit IT work, which was filled with high stress "we've got to have this now and CHEAP" exhortations. They were not "disaster relief" important, they were "the meeting will not come off as scheduled" important.

I was proud to work that hard partly because I felt no one else would do the work if I didn't, and partly because I expected I was building equity towards an early retirement where I wouldn't have to work so hard. I wound up expending my health and enriching others instead.

At least I enjoyed the work as I was doing it; I can't imagine how horrible it'd be to look back on 10, 20 years spent doing something you hate and realize that you didn't even get paid.


Yup; if you're not guaranteed of either direct rewards (paid by the hour, overtime pays extra) or indirect rewards (you're working on a product where every hour spent means a better product - this is probably where a lot of people miss the point), it's not worth it.

Employers and employees both need to learn about sustainable pace. Doing 60+ work weeks will mean nothing if you end up burned out and unable to do anything at all after a few months.


Maybe this is a bit cynical but is this not like if the CEO of Pepsi spoke out against sugar?

He and his VC partner are both YC-insiders. I don’t necessarily follow his tweets as much as his partner’s but his partner tweets are what I’d call classical hustle porn tweets that he spews all the time. And YC is almost certainly the epi-center of hustle porn.


The “hustle porn” is also quite frequently a coverup or distraction from general failure at other parts of life. Those that are super successful in perhaps their career but have no personal life, no partner, no kids, no real existence outside of their company tend to be quite boring people. These types keep promoting themselves and their “hard work” but it seems lost on them that others aren’t really all that impressed.

Those that are super impressive and truly accomplished are the ones that have successful careers but also have actual lives with families and a real life. Doing both well and not stressing out is a true accomplishment worth celebrating and promoting.


I worked for years in a role that was "always-on". To the point it cost me more than I gained. I've lost years of my life through that experience, and only towards the end could see the toxicity of it all. I'm finally free with a healthy work life balance and can't understand what I was thinking, if I was thinking anything at all.


Congrats on the escape. Champion the idea of shedding toxic employment to others.


While certainly true, statements like these fail to ignore why tech folk grind so hard-- because if they don't and someone else does then they are at an objective disadvantage. That's not to say that means they cannot or will not succeed, but if one tech founder is working 60 hours a week versus 40 hours a week (assuming they are both efficient) then there is a clear advantage.

If your going to hustle, do it young when you don't have responsibility. Don't be the dude with a kid missing dinners and school plays. But if I'm young and want to grind to build something I'm passionate about then I don't think that is so wrong or toxic-- just don't fucking post about it on social media.


> ...but if one tech founder is working 60 hours a week versus 40 hours a week (assuming they are both efficient) then there is a clear advantage.)

There really isn't a clear advantage here either since no one is achieving 100% efficiency like that week after week. [1]

[1] https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-research-is-clear-long-hours-bac...


Efficiency isn't the metric people care about on either side of the equation though. Management only cares about results. If you work 3 hours at 100% efficiency, 5 at 75% and 3 at 50%, that's still more results than working 4 at 100% and 4 at 75%. On the other side of the equation, the worker gets to see and handle more technology with the longer hours, which make them more attractive in interviews. If you're working 50 hours of week instead of 40, even with productivity hits, you're still "gaining" a week of experience roughly every month. That means at 2 years, you're actually at almost 3 years of experience, and that pays off. Repeat this for a few more years, and the difference adds up and matters.

I'm not advocating for that lifestyle at all, but there is something to be said for just having more time with code. You obviously need to have an endgame plan, as staying at one company often doesn't scale your career, but if that 2nd year dev is able to get a prime spot because of his extra "year" of experience, and repeat a few times... There is money to be made.


I agree, i think there's nothing wrong with being passionate about your work or building a company. However, it's not ok for others to suffer because of it. Neglecting family or spouses is wrong... it's a contract violation more or less. An absentee dad/mom/partner is not what they signed up for.


It's a tragedy of the commons, where the commons is our individual and collective mental health. Working your ass off might be an individually rational choice, but even if that's true (opinions definitely vary) the result of everybody doing it is a significantly crappier society.


My last job was managing product security for a company that has customers worldwide. The first and last things every single day I did was check my email on my phone, weekends and holidays. When I got out of the job my health greatly improved to the point where I had my blood pressure medication lowered. "Always-on" is a killer.


"Always-on" can kind of sort of work out, for a couple of years -- provided all 3 of the following simple conditions are met:

(1) You're getting a decent base + health insurance

(2) The equity is in proportion to the sacrifice (this can be difficult to quantify; but in any case not a microscopic share of the pie); and

(3) You actually have some say in (and responsibility over) the outcomes.

(4) And of course you aren't throwing anyone under the bus in your family or personal life.

On of the reasons our industry is so toxic is that you're expected to be "always on" even though there's not even a pretense of (2) or (3) being met -- and quite often the numbers for condition (1) are sketchy, or far worse.


The fundamental engine of growth in the economy is the continual increase in productivity.

that is the increase of unit of work per staff head.

Having staff work hard, not smart lowers productivity, and therefore profit.

For example uber:

IF they were a company capable of making a profit, it is because currently they have a virtually staff free monitoring and dispatch system (that is, no branch offices, no radio dispatcher, no mechanics etc.)

However thats only a small part of thier overheads. The vast majority comes from paying their drivers. Adding more drivers adds cost linearly.

However if they were to somehow manage to perfect driverless cars, their productivity would smash through the roof, as they can replace linear cost increases with an upfront capital cost (ie, buy loads of self driving cars instead of paying a per mile cost.)

If you are working your staff 996, not only are they going to burn out, they are going to be inefficient. There are legions of studies that date back to the early 1900s that prove this. In china there is an abundance of staff, so one does not need to worry, as if you burn out 35% a year, they can always be replaced, cheaply.

but you can't afford to do that if you have a limited talent pool.


Recently heard a good ted talk and good podcast with Andrew Taggart who is using the term "Total Work" to describe this phenomena.

He leans a lot on this old german book called "Leisure: The Basis of Culture", and asks the question "Why do we work?" His answer is that work should be a means to an end, and that end is to be able to lead a life where we engage fully with love, art, philosophy, and spirituality. This seems to me to be a bit too tightly defined, but definitely made me think more intentionally about what it is I'm living for.

Ted Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7UonZl-Gis

Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/andrew-taggart-philoso...



Based purely on chewz' quote, since paywall: the problem isn't just the impact on founders, it's all the employees who get screwed as a result of the founders' misguided beliefs.

If the person on top works long hours, they pressure their underlings to work long hours in a whole bunch of different ways (https://codewithoutrules.com/2017/06/21/why-company-want-lon...).

See also JWZ on VCs: https://web.archive.org/web/20190425140352/https://www.jwz.o...

(Updated with archive.org link)


FYI the JWZ link redirects to http://i.imgur.com/32R3qLv.png when HN is the referrer and you've never visited the site.


Interesting. I switched to an archive.org link.


Full Text: ALWAYS-ON WORK CULTURE CREATING ‘BROKEN’ PEOPLE, SAYS REDDIT CO-FOUNDER

Alexis Ohanian speaks out against toxicity of ‘hustle porn’ that glorifies ‘most absurd things’

Alexis Ohanian, venture investor and husband of tennis superstar Serena Williams, loves getting asked how he balances family life and his career as managing partner of Initialized Capital.

He and Ms. Williams became first-time parents in 2017, and in the months that followed, Mr. Ohanian frequently spoke out about why it was so important for him to take time away from the Bay Area firm he co-founded to bond with their daughter.

Parental leave wasn’t only a fun way to spend 16 weeks with their newborn Alexis Olympia Jr., he said at The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival on Tuesday, but it was also a reminder of why work should never be the only metric for measuring success.

“I’ve spoken out quite a bit about things like ‘hustle porn,’ and this ceremony of showing off on social [media] about how hard you’re working,” said Mr. Ohanian, who previously co-founded online discussion forum Reddit. “Y’all see it on Instagram and you certainly see it in the startup community, and it becomes really toxic.”

Business men in his position are rarely asked about juggling the requirements of their roles outside of work, like in their family, he said, and that contributes to unrealistic expectations that a job can reflect the entirety of anyone’s identity as a human being.

“All of us who decide to start a company, we’re kind of broken as people,” because founders are often singularly-focused on the success of their venture, said Mr. Ohanian. Even with great mentors and investors supporting their vision, entrepreneurs tend to put a great deal of pressure on themselves to work harder than anyone else to achieve success and profitability. That psychological pressure is compounded by what he and others refer to as “hustle culture.”

“You have this culture of posturing, and this culture that glorifies the most absurd things and ignores things like self-care, and ignores things like therapy, and ignores things like actually taking care of yourself as a physical being for the sake of work at all costs. It’s a toxic problem,” said Mr. Ohanian.

This issue isn’t limited to technology companies, he added, noting that his acquaintances in finance and other industries also promote an unhealthy attitude that encourages 12-hour work days and few breaks.

“Social media has made it possible to weaponize it to the point where, if [bragging about your difficult workweek] gets hearts, you’re incentivized to keep pushing” the limits.


Can some kind soul provide the body of the text for us poor souls or instructions for how to access the article? No luck with the web button or outline.com.


Add ?mod=rsswn to the end of WSJ urls

(e.g. https://www.wsj.com/articles/always-on-work-culture-creating... )


Nice trick!


I don't really see why it's okay to submit paywalled articles to HN to begin with. Either a) someone finds an open source for it, which the OP should've done instead or b) only a small subset of the users can actually access the content being discussed.


Should we limit our discussions of software to only free software, or not discuss Apple’s new laptops until they are giving them away? Or is journalism the only thing that you feel deserves this treatment?


If the links dont work for you why not flag them?


I will just go ahead and carry on the tradition, as it was smacked onto me the last time I complained about a paywall:

The FAQ ( https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html ) states clearly that paywalls are ok.

No matter how much we hate them, apparently.


I find the paywalls on NYT and WSJ a bit bizzare to begin with, especially now that they're closing the loopholes to read an article now and then. Certainly any business has the right to charge for its content, but as newsrooms have shrunk and journalists have been retrained for the clickbait era, these articles are typically worthless fluff or outrage porn. Though I can't actually read this article, I assume that the catchy title references a breif moment from an interview, not a deep cultural analysis. I would pay for the latter, but not the former.


> I assume that the catchy title references a breif moment from an interview, not a deep cultural analysis.

That assumption is correct.


I suspect it is a result of being afraid of cannabalising their subscription base and internal disputes between philosophies. I suspect the paywall leaks are a left hand vs right hand thing - if they make it fully accessible they get maximium click traffic but the boss gets pissed off about "giving money away". If they make it fully sealed Webspiders can't get there and this kills the traffic.


I’ve never seen a NYT paywall in Australia. Maybe it’s geo specific?


> I don't really see why it's okay to submit paywalled articles to HN to begin with.

Why? I would probably haven't found this article if not on HN.


Actually, another way to look at it is, are you going inside work culture as a broken person? Meaning, do you have a choice to be healthy and balanced in life? And if you don't, what is standing in the way of that?

If the answer is "hustle", then you ought to take responsibility rather than crying about it.


Aww, the HN crowd couldn't take a pinch of salt in their sugary sweet dream.




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