‘Grind culture’ or ‘hustle culture’ is a familiar term in the creative industries and refers to the societal standard that you must exert yourself at 110% capacity to succeed. You don’t stop when you’re tired; you stop when you’re done. And throughout all of this, you must embrace the façade that you absolutely LOVE what you do, no matter the pain it may cause. Think Emily in The Devil Wears Prada “I love my job, I love my job, I love my job…” 

In recent months, partially thanks to the blunt and bitterly authentic tone of TikTok, many of us are reevaluating grind culture in a way that’s pushing us to switch careers or change how we work forever. One TikTok in particular has recently gone viral. Published by Rama (@ramalauw) his video mocking capitalism and grind culture has attracted almost 2 million views and over 450k likes. 

The video hears its creator sarcastically quote the following iconic mantras “now I live in a society where my productivity matters more than my well being”, “I work 3 jobs and I still feel like I’m not doing enough” and, arguably the most relatable, “I’m left feeling anxious and depressed all the time’. 

One dynamic duo leading the way in Montréal is Ash Phillips and Miro LaFlaga, who runs Six Cinquième, a creative agency that’s pushing for change and doing things very differently.  They launched their agency, Six Cinquième, in 2018 to specialise in brand identity for entrepreneurs, startups and emerging artists who are driving change within their sectors. “We’re home to the mavericks who constantly look to uncover the next frontier,” says Miro. “It’s a launchpad for trailblazers who are ready to make their mark.”

On the side, Ash and Miro also host workshops to encourage young BIPOC creatives to enter the industry, building a local community as they go and giving talks to share their story on ditching “grind culture” and finding a new way of working.

Aidan Harper, creator of European work week-shrinkage campaign ‘4 Day Week’ has also spoken out about the toxicity of hustle culture. ““It creates the assumption that the only value we have as human beings is our productivity capability — our ability to work, rather than our humanity.”

Even though data shows that working long hours and multitasking lowers productivity and kills creativity, hustle culture exists because it is the search to justify the hustle for the future payoff of extreme success. But when is the payoff exactly? Hustle culture breeds an ongoing toxic environment where if you spend too much time on anything non-work-related, you feel guilty. It fuels cognitive dissonance. By overworking and living by the mantra of ‘rise and grind,’ you can end up contradicting your actual goals and losing sight of your ‘why.’ 

By forcing workers to be in a ‘go hard or go home’ mindset, hustle culture puts the body in a state of fight or flight. This constant stress releases the stress hormone—cortisol—in higher amounts and for more prolonged periods. To normalise these elevated cortisol levels, the body must enter a state of rest. But what if hustle culture doesn’t allow time for rest? Then burnout is inevitable. This continuous stress can be harmful to both your mental and physical wellbeing. Prolonged elevated cortisol levels are associated with various detrimental effects, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, memory impairments, and more. 

Breaking away from grind culture can be a challenge, but we suggest adopting the following. Clarify your goals and write them down. Take a moment to think. Are your intentions honouring your ‘why’?

Define what your ideal day looks like. With your true priorities established, plan how you can manage to achieve them while taking care of your wellbeing. Schedule in what’s mandatory for you to accomplish, for both your work AND your wellbeing.

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