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Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?

Never once at the start of my workweek — not in my morning coffee shop line, not in my crowded subway commute, not as I begin my bottomless inbox slog — have I paused, looked to the heavens and whispered: #ThankGodIt’sMonday.


Apparently, that makes me a traitor to my generation. I learned this during a series of recent visits to WeWork locations in New York, where the throw pillows implore busy tenants to “Do what you love.” Neon signs demand they “Hustle harder,” and murals spread the gospel of TGIM. Even the cucumbers in WeWork’s water coolers have an agenda. “Don’t stop when you’re tired,” someone recently carved into the floating vegetables’ flesh. “Stop when you are done.” Kool-Aid drinking metaphors are rarely this literal.

Welcome to hustle culture. It is obsessed with striving, relentlessly positive, devoid of humor and, once you notice it, impossible to escape. “Rise and Grind” is both the theme of a Nike ad campaign and the title of a book by a “Shark Tank” shark. New media upstarts like the Hustle, which produces a popular business newsletter and conference series, and One37pm, a content company created by the patron saint of hustling, Gary Vaynerchuk, glorify ambition not as a means to an end but as a lifestyle.

歡迎來到奮斗文化。它迷戀努力、無盡的積極和幽默的缺失,一旦你注意到它,就不可能逃脫。“Rise and Grind”(起床,奮斗)是耐克(Nike)廣告的主題,也是一位《創智贏家》(Shark Tank)創業者的著作標題。新媒體新貴——譬如制作暢銷商業新聞電郵、承辦系列會議的Hustle,和由奮斗文化守護神加里·沃伊內楚克(Gary Vaynerchuk)創辦的內容公司One37pm——并不把野心當作達成目的的手段,而是把它當作一種生活方式。

“The current state of entrepreneurship is bigger than career,” the One37pm “About Us” page states. “It’s ambition, grit and hustle. It’s a live performance that lights up your creativity ... a sweat session that sends your endorphins coursing ... a visionary who expands your way of thinking.” From this point of view, not only does one never stop hustling — one never exits a kind of work rapture, in which the chief purpose of exercising or attending a concert is to get inspiration that leads back to the desk.


Ryan Harwood, the chief executive of One37pm’s parent company, told me that the site’s content is aimed at a younger generation of people who are seeking permission to follow their dreams. “They want to know how to own their moment, at any given moment,” he said.

One37pm母公司的首席執行官瑞安·哈伍德(Ryan Harwood)告訴我,網站內容針對的是年輕一代,他們希望獲得追逐夢想的許可。“他們想知道如何在任何時候擁有屬于自己的時刻,”他說。

“Owning one’s moment” is a clever way to rebrand “surviving the rat race.” In the new work culture, enduring or even merely liking one’s job is not enough. Workers should love what they do and then promote that love on social media, thus fusing their identities to that of their employers. Why else would LinkedIn build its own version of Snapchat Stories?


This is toil glamour, and it is going mainstream. Most visibly, WeWork, which investors recently valued at $47 billion, is on its way to becoming the Starbucks of office culture. It has exported its brand of performative workaholism to 27 countries, with 400,000 tenants, including workers from 30 percent of the Global Fortune 500.


In January, WeWork’s founder, Adam Neumann, announced that his startup was rebranding itself as The We Co., to reflect an expansion into residential real estate and education. Describing the shift, Fast Company wrote, “Rather than just renting desks, the company aims to encompass all aspects of people’s lives, in both physical and digital worlds.” The ideal client, one imagines, is someone so enamored of the WeWork office aesthetic — whip-cracking cucumbers and all — that she sleeps in a WeLive apartment, works out at a Rise by We gym and sends her children to a WeGrow school.

今年1月,WeWork的創始人亞當·諾伊曼(Adam Neumann)宣布,他的初創公司將更名為We Co.,以反映其在住房不動產和教育領域的擴張。Fast Company在描述這一轉變時寫道:“公司的目標不僅是出租辦公桌,還包括人們在現實世界和數字世界生活的方方面面。”你可以想象,理想的客戶是這樣一個人:她迷戀WeWork辦公室的美學——刻著激勵語的黃瓜之類——睡在WeLive的公寓里,在Rise by We健身房鍛煉,把孩子送到WeGrow學校讀書。

From this vantage, “Office Space,” the Gen-X slacker paean that came out 20 years ago next month, feels like science fiction from a distant realm. It’s almost impossible to imagine a startup worker bee of today confessing, as protagonist Peter Gibbons does: “It’s not that I’m lazy. It’s that I just don’t care.” Workplace indifference just doesn’t have a socially acceptable hashtag.

從這個角度看,20年前的下個月推出的X世代懶漢贊歌《辦公空間》(Office Space)感覺就像是來自遙遠國度的科幻小說。幾乎不可想象如今的創業公司員工會像主人公彼得·吉本斯(Peter Gibbons)那樣坦白:“我不是懶。只是不在乎。”工作場合的冷漠沒有一個社會可接受的社媒標簽。

It’s not difficult to view hustle culture as a swindle. After all, persuading a generation of workers to beaver away is convenient for those at the top.


“The vast majority of people beating the drums of hustle-mania are not the people doing the actual work,” said David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder of Basecamp, a software company. “They’re the managers, financiers and owners.” We spoke in October, as he was promoting his new book, “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work,” about creating healthy company cultures.

“絕大多數鼓吹‘工作狂’的,并不是真正工作的人,”軟件公司Basecamp的聯合創始人戴維·海涅邁爾·漢森(David Heinemeier Hansson)表示。“他們是經理、金融家和公司所有者。”去年10月,他在宣傳自己的新書《不必為工作瘋狂》(It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work)時,我們談到了創建健康的企業文化。

Heinemeier Hansson said that despite data showing long hours improve neither productivity nor creativity, myths about overwork persist because they justify the extreme wealth created for a small group of elite techies. “It’s grim and exploitative,” he said.


Elon Musk, who stands to reap stock compensation upward of $50 billion if his company, Tesla, meets certain performance levels, is a prime example of extolling work by the many that will primarily benefit him. He tweeted in November that there are easier places to work than Tesla, “but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” The correct number of hours “varies per person,” he continued, but is “about 80 sustained, peaking about 100 at times. Pain level increases exponentially above 80.”

如果特斯拉(Tesla)達到一定的業績水平,埃隆·馬斯克(Elon Musk)將獲得超過500億美元的股票薪酬。他可以說是一個好例子——他贊美許多人的工作,但主要受益人是他。去年11月,他發推說有比特斯拉輕松得多的地方,“但是沒有人能靠每周工作40小時改變世界。”合適的工作時間“因人而異”,他接著寫道,但是,“承受過80個,有時最高超過100。痛苦程度從80開始呈指數增長。”

Musk, who has more than 24 million Twitter followers, further noted that if you love what you do, “it (mostly) doesn’t feel like work.” Even he had to soften the lie of TGIM with a parenthetical.


For congregants of the Cathedral of Perpetual Hustle, spending time on anything that’s nonwork related has become a reason to feel guilty. Jonathan Crawford, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur, told me that he sacrificed his relationships and gained more than 40 pounds while working on Storenvy, his e-commerce startup. If he socialized, it was at a networking event. If he read, it was a business book. He rarely did anything that didn’t have a “direct ROI,” or return on investment, for his company.

對于“永不止步大教堂”(Cathedral of Perpetual Hustle)的會眾而言,在任何非工作相關的事情上花時間都是會感到愧疚的。舊金山創業者約翰遜·克勞福德(Jonathan Crawford)跟我說,在努力創辦自己的電商初創企業Storenvy的過程中,他犧牲了自己的感情生活,增重了40多磅。就算有社交也是為了積累人脈。要是看書就是商業書籍。他幾乎沒做過任何對他的公司沒有“直接ROI”——即投資回報——的事情。

Crawford changed his lifestyle after he realized it made him miserable. Now, as an entrepreneur-in-residence at 500 Startups, an investment firm, he tells fellow founders to seek out nonwork-related activities like reading fiction, watching movies or playing games. Somehow this comes off as radical advice. “It’s oddly eye-opening to them because they didn’t realize they saw themselves as a resource to be expended,” Crawford said.

在意識到這讓自己感到痛苦不堪之后,克勞福德改變了他的生活方式?,F在,作為投資公司500 Startups的駐場創業者,他告訴廣大創始人去尋找非工作相關的活動,像讀小說、看電影或玩游戲。這聽起來多少有些離經叛道。“但想不到這讓他們茅塞頓開,因為他們沒意識到他們把自己當成了要耗盡的資源,”克勞福德說。

The logical endpoint of excessively avid work is burnout. That is the subject of a recent viral essay by BuzzFeed cultural critic Anne Helen Petersen that thoughtfully addresses one of the incongruities of hustle-mania in the young. Namely: If millennials are supposedly lazy and entitled, how can they also be obsessed with killing it at their jobs?

理論上,過度狂熱工作的結果便是倦怠。這正是Buzzfeed文化評論人安妮·海倫·彼得森(Anne Helen Petersen)近期一篇熱門文章的主題,文章深刻反思了年輕人熱衷奮斗文化的不適宜性。換言之:如果千禧一代真的如人所說是懶惰且養尊處優的一群人,那為什么會對在工作中有出眾表現這么上心?

Millennials, Petersen argues, are just desperately striving to meet their own high expectations. An entire generation of students was raised to expect that good grades and extracurricular overachievement would reward them with fulfilling jobs that feed their passions. Instead, they wound up with precarious, meaningless work and a mountain of student loan debt. And so posing as a rise-and-grinder, lusty for Monday mornings, starts to make sense as a defense mechanism.


Most jobs, even most good jobs, are full of pointless drudgery. Most corporations let us down in some way. And yet years after the HBO satire “Silicon Valley” made the vacuous mission statement “making the world a better place” a recurring punch line, many companies still cheerlead the virtues of work with high-minded messaging. For example, Spotify, a company that lets you listen to music, says that its mission is “to unlock the potential of human creativity.” Dropbox, which lets you upload files and stuff, says its purpose is “to unleash the world’s creative energy by designing a more enlightened way of working.”

大多數工作,哪怕是好的工作,都充滿了毫無意義的苦差事。大多數公司都會以這樣或那樣的方式令我們失望。然而,在HBO諷刺劇《硅谷》(Silicon Valley)把空洞無物的使命宣言“讓世界變得更美好”變成了一個反復出現的笑料后,許多公司仍然以冠冕堂皇之辭為工作貼金。例如,Spotify這樣一家讓你聽音樂的公司宣稱,它的使命是“釋放人類的創造潛能”。允許用戶上載文件和其他東西的Dropbox表示,它的目的是“通過設計一種更開明的工作方式,釋放世界的創造力”。

David Spencer, a professor of economics at Leeds University Business School, says that such posturing by companies, economists and politicians dates at least to the rise of mercantilism in 16th-century Europe. “There has been an ongoing struggle by employers to venerate work in ways that distract from its unappealing features,” he said. But such propaganda can backfire. In 17th-century England, work was lauded as a cure for vice, Spencer said, but the unrewarding truth just drove workers to drink more.

利茲大學商學院(Leeds University Business School)經濟學教授戴維·斯賓塞(David Spencer)表示,企業、經濟學家和政界人士的這種姿態,至少可以追溯到16世紀歐洲重商主義的興起。“為了尊奉工作,雇主一直在努力讓人不去注意工作令人不快的部分,”他說。但這種宣傳有可能適得其反。斯賓塞說,在17世紀的英國,工作被譽為治療惡習的良方,但讓人失望的真相只會令工人們喝更多酒。

Internet companies may have miscalculated in encouraging employees to equate their work with their intrinsic value as human beings. After a long era of basking in positive esteem, the tech industry is experiencing a backlash both broad and fierce, on subjects from monopolistic behavior to spreading disinformation and inciting racial violence. And workers are discovering how much power they wield. In November, some 20,000 Googlers participated in a walkout protesting the company’s handling of sexual abusers. Other company employees shut down an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon that could have helped military drones become more lethal.


Heinemeier Hansson cited the employee protests as evidence that millennial workers would eventually revolt against the culture of overwork. “People aren’t going to stand for this,” he said, using an expletive, “or buy the propaganda that eternal bliss lies at monitoring your own bathroom breaks.” He was referring to an interview that Marissa Mayer, the former chief executive of Yahoo, gave in 2016, in which she said that working 130 hours a week was possible “if you’re strategic about when you sleep, when you shower and how often you go to the bathroom.”

海涅邁爾·漢森以員工的抗議活動為據,證明千禧一代的員工最終會反對過勞工作文化。“人們不會容忍這種情況的,”他在說這句話時用到了臟字,“也不會相信那種永恒的幸福就在于監控你上廁所次數的宣傳。”他指的是雅虎的前首席執行官瑪麗莎·梅耶爾(Marissa Mayer)在2016年的一次采訪中說,一周工作130個小時是有可能的,“如果你對什么時候睡覺、什么時候洗澡以及上廁所的頻率進行全局安排的話。”

Ultimately, workers must decide if they admire or reject this level of devotion. Mayer’s comments were widely panned on social media when the interview ran, but since then, Quora users have eagerly shared their own strategies for mimicking her schedule. Likewise, Musk’s “pain level” tweets drew plenty of critical takes, but they also garnered just as many accolades and requests for jobs.


The grim reality of 2019 is that begging a billionaire for employment via Twitter is not considered embarrassing but a perfectly plausible way to get ahead. On some level, you have to respect the hustlers who see a dismal system and understand that success in it requires total, shameless buy-in. If we’re doomed to toil away until we die, we may as well pretend to like it. Even on Mondays.

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