Breaking Free from Hustle Culture

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Before Shannon quit her job in talent management, work was so taxing that she would dream of being admitted to the hospital, just so she’d have a good excuse to not answer her email. In this episode, explore the dissonance of a society that asks us to choose between health, family and our career. We also explore ways to help us survive and thrive in the midst of hustle culture.

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Anna Schaffner, Rahaf Harfoush, Connor Franta, Shannon, Kathryn Tanner, Dr. Gabor Maté, Peter Mancall

Connor Franta  00:00

We’re planning a movie night tonight. Who’s bringing snacks? Are we getting Chipotle?

Shannon  00:05

I think we’re gonna watch the Cheetah Girls.

Connor Franta  00:06

Oh my god. Okay, great. This is wonderful. I mean, the amount of times we had movie nights, and some, you’d be like, Oh, once I gotta pause the movie, I have something going on. And that’s not, you know, that’s not, it’s both not normal. And it’s become the normal for a lot of different jobs. But it shouldn’t be the norm of like, I’m not working. I’m with friends.

Shannon  00:26

Well, there’s this sort of like anxiety that comes with the job where you wake up and you’re on panic, I don’t want to look at my phone. But I know, I have to. I once got a call from a client who I don’t work with anymore on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. And it was the worst thing that ever happened. I was hysterically crying because like everything that could go wrong went wrong and like we were on break, but you still have to fix it. Like my job doesn’t stop just because it’s Christmas.

Connor Franta  00:55

That’s one of my best friends Shannon. And she’s not a frontline worker. She’s a work from homer, and attached to her laptop kind of girl. I’ve known her for six years. On paper, Shannon’s job is to help make influencers money. But of course, behind the scenes, she does so much more for them, she ends up becoming someone who manages their entire lives. But as glamorous as that gig might sound from the outside, Shannon was deteriorating on the inside.

Shannon  01:25

I was like a year into it. And I was like, oh my god, like, I’m gonna end up in the hospital. I’m absolutely not well, I did not have time to eat. I was sitting at my computer all day, if I stepped away for a minute, the world ended.

Connor Franta  01:41

But guess what? She did eventually step away. She jumped on the great resignation wave earlier this year and quit. And the world did not end. In fact, her world actually expanded. And it got a lot more peaceful.

Shannon  01:55

It was almost immediate of like, I was calm, I had this like wave of calmness come over me. I would, in the beginning, wake up with like this tick almost have like, go check my phone, like what’s going on? And then like, I think slowly, like, I felt like a subtle change or like, I no longer woke up with anxiety. I can’t tell you the last time I didn’t have anxiety like over the past five years.

Connor Franta  02:32

Can you imagine carrying the amount of anxiety that Shannon carried for five years and then suddenly wake up and it’s gone? Why do so many Americans find themselves addicted to hustle culture? And what will it take for us to break free? When we’re on the grind, we typically keep our heads down, we stay the course no matter how overwhelmed or depressed we feel, we chart a path forward that it leads to burnout. And by the way, this is Burnout. And I’m your host, Connor Franta. This week, we’re looking at the historical and cultural forces that influence our relationships to work.

Connor Franta  03:23

We don’t work just to make money in this country. We work to establish who we are to create an identity for ourselves. And maybe for some your identity isn’t what your job is, but how hard you work at it. How many times have you sat down to dinner with a friend ask them how they’re doing and the first thing they say is things are working so crazy. I’m so busy all day. Whatever it is complaint humblebrag maybe a mixture of both. It’s our pseudo greeting. Hey, here’s how hard I work. There’s something deep in our culture that values hard work, and something deeper that recoils from laziness. We are so repulsed by taking it easy that we will visit the emergency room before taking a step back and asking ourselves why are we pushing ourselves and each other past the point of exhaustion, past the point of burnout.

Dr. Gabor Maté  04:30

People need to ask themselves, what’s driving me if I’m engaging in stressful life choices over and over again? Is it because this is what I really want to do? Or am I being driven by some compulsion?

Connor Franta  04:46

That’s Dr. Gabor Maté. A physician who specializes in addiction and trauma. He says this compulsion that we have to keep producing, to keep climbing the corporate ladder and get rich. It’s actually an addiction. And it all starts when we’re kids.

Dr. Gabor Maté  05:02

That’s imposed by a culture that values certain things above the individual and childhoods where you don’t feel accepted and valued unless you’re productive and successful and beautiful and powerful.

Connor Franta  05:18

Many of us are victims of culture. Gabor says, a culture that tells us we need to be productive, successful and beautiful. And yeah, I can relate to that. I constantly feel like I need to have my life together all the time, everywhere in every moment. Perfect, whether it’s how I look what I’m doing, where I’m going, the plans that I have the way I’m feeling, it constantly needs to be the best version that it could be. Otherwise I feel like a failure. Otherwise, I don’t feel like I’m sizing up to the rest of the influencer world to the rest of humanity, frankly, and it can be absolutely exhausting. Just the word influence comes with this idea that a person in that role should be more powerful and persuasive than their counterparts. But this need to do better, work harder and be more powerful. The subconscious messages are around all of us from a young age, from standardized tests to honor societies, these messages seep into our brains and stir up our inner wounds of not feeling good enough, productive enough, are high achieving enough. And that pushes us to work hard in order to prove our value. Or, as Shannon says..

Shannon  06:40

Everyone is bred into this hustle culture.

Connor Franta  06:44

Hustle culture. You know, when your career consumes your life, when you feel guilty spending time on anything else.

Shannon  06:51

It’s this vicious cycle that starts before you even really have a chance to figure out how you want to work.

Connor Franta  07:23

But when people begin to recognize that compulsion, that drive, they can push back against it.

Dr. Gabor Maté  07:30

They’re a victim of the culture. But if they wake up, they have more of a choice in the matter. Don’t they?

Connor Franta  07:36

Don’t you love how relaxed Dr. Gabor Mate is while unpacking our collective work traumas, all we have to do is wake up. But how do we do it? To answer that question, we have to go back to the beginning. Back to Shannon’s relationship to her work, and why it became an addiction that she couldn’t shake.

Shannon  08:01

I started as an assistant at a management company that was like, it’s definitely the best if not one of the best management companies for influencers specifically, they were the first to ever really represent influencers.

Connor Franta  08:15

Before she knew it. She was promoted. Shannon started the TikTok division in her company right before the pandemic hit. COVID took off. So did TikTok. And so did Shannon’s career. Her salary was, well, just fine. But in her mind, that was a small tradeoff for the recognition she was receiving.

Shannon  08:42

Because written up in Business Insider multiple times. And you don’t want to stop because there’s sort of like a high that comes with signing a big talent and closing a big deal and working with these brands that you’ve dreamed of working with. It just keep going, keep going. And then you’re in a habit that you can’t break because it’s working and they expected of you. One of my clients at one point we were doing a lot at that time and she like turned to me and she’s like, I just can’t like you’re my manager, you’re my publicist, you’re my best friend. You’re my therapist. You’re my agent, you’re all these things. My mother and I was like, yeah, but I get paid to be your manager, but I’m doing all this.

Connor Franta  09:20

And she was doing all of that for 10 different clients. She was basically mothering 10 adults. Finding time with Shannon as her actual transaction free friend was incredibly difficult. Her schedule was insanity.

Shannon  09:41

I’d wake up at like seven, I would have around 60 plus unread emails. I’d probably wake up to like three or four fire drills as I would call them.

Connor Franta  09:52

What’s with the fire analogies here? Fire drills putting out fires, burnout.

Shannon  09:59

So just like things that are going in saying that need to be fixed immediately, or a building’s gonna burn down, which is absolutely not the case. But in that world, that’s what happened. So this is all at 7AM. This is before 9AM. And you’re to think I’m a crazy person from 9am until like, 2, 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It’s just answering emails going back and forth, on the phone with my clients on the phone with brands, negotiating offers, redlining contracts, making sure campaigns go live, fixing campaigns that didn’t go live correctly, I typically would go through all that look up and be like, oh, my God, it’s four o’clock, and I haven’t eaten yet. And then I probably email until like, 9PM, take a break. And then hopefully, nothing happens in between then. So that’s Monday through Friday, and then weekends and holidays and vacations didn’t really exist. Because campaigns go live on the weekends. Hopefully, nothing bad happens. But if it does, you’re on call. The second you wake up second, you go to bed.

Connor Franta  10:59

In the grand scheme of things, there’s really no such thing as an influencer brand campaign emergency. But when you’ve hitched your identity as a worthy person to the success of that campaign, it certainly becomes a personal emergency. I knew a lot of this was going on for Shannon, but hearing her talk about it really takes me back to the time as her friend. She was exhausted, stressed and constantly worried she was going to miss something important at work. It’s hard to watch someone you care about go through that. And I knew exactly how she was feeling. When I was close to my lowest point, I couldn’t tell up from down. I felt panicky and stressed. I constantly had sweaty palms. So to see Shannon go through something so similar. It was difficult. And I felt for her. To an outsider. It was apparent the life she was living was not sustainable. But it took her a while to have that light bulb moment. It’s like when you have that dream about falling. You always wake up right before you hit the bottom. That’s what happened to Shannon.

Shannon  12:08

I was at dinner with one of my clients. And I was the first time I was meeting her in person. She had like an incredible year we were celebrating; she was so sweet. And she turned to me and she’s like, so like, what do you do like for fun? Like what do you do outside of work? And I was like, I don’t do anything I like looked at her like dead in the eyes. And it’s like, I don’t know, all I do is work. I don’t think I’ve had a passion in two years. Like I don’t think I’ve done a single thing. But this job.

Connor Franta  12:35

She realized she hated her answer. And that was enough to jolt her awake. Not that the allure of hustle culture was easy to shake.

Shannon  12:43

I was on top I didn’t want to lose that spot.

Connor Franta  12:46

Her career had become such an important part of our identity, that it took precedence over everything else. And I’m sure many of you work from home computer people have felt something similar. There’s that feeling of panic when you miss an important email, or God forbid, take a sick day that it will be thrown us or docked points from an everlasting scoreboard between you and your coworkers. And that pressure can be even worse. If you don’t look like most people who run these huge companies, aka straight White men.

Shannon  13:20

You never want to be the girl that can’t hang and like the woman that can’t handle the workload. Like, you just have to keep going.

Connor Franta  13:29

Because if you don’t, you will be replaced. There’s heavy competitions for jobs like Shannon’s these are jobs that dreams are made of, their jobs that we theoretically love that are related to our passions and interests. You have to keep going because otherwise you’ll lose your status. But with that grind, comes exhaustion, which by the way, is totally normalized in our society. How centuries of workaholics continue to shape our work culture to this very day. That’s after the break. Picture this, it’s three in the afternoon. A gentle breeze blows through the vineyards. But it’s halted by a thick stone wall. Monastery arising out of the hills in Marseille, France. The year is 420 AD. Amid the buzzing activity of the monastery residents there’s one monk who just seems off, he’s slow and unengaged, just not carrying his weight. In this monastic community, it’s all about teamwork amongst within our isolated from outside people and self-discipline They simply depend on each other to thrive, which is why there’s a real anxiety among them about the socially corrosive effects of, the slacker monk.

Anna Schaffner  15:15

The monk lazy and sluggish affected by bodily weariness and longing for food, the monk seems to himself worn out and wearied, as if with a long journey or some very heavy work.

Connor Franta  15:29

This is Anna Schaffner, a professor of cultural history in the UK. And she literally coaches people on how to be less exhausted. She’s reading a passage by John Casson, a fourth century monk and theologian.

Anna Schaffner  15:42

Frequently gazes at the sun as if it was too slow in setting and some kind.

Connor Franta  15:47

the slacker monk is kind of a hilarious image. But as true significance lies in what he reveals about ourselves, how in the first writings about idleness, there is, dare I say, a tone of judginess.

Anna Schaffner  16:05

The experience of extreme exhaustion and anxieties about exhaustion are timeless.

Connor Franta  16:11

Exhaustion as a moral failing is a concept we’ve been toying with as a culture for a long time. For example, let’s look at our dear slacker monk, when he found himself fatigued, there was no sympathy from other monks or community members. There were only more things to do.

Anna Schaffner  16:31

The cure was actually not very helpful because it was just to ask monks to meditate even more, to do even more spiritual work, you know, to repent and to make up for their sins, because it was conceived of as a sin and as a bad attitude, a bad mental attitude like bad mentality.

Connor Franta  16:50

Fourth century monastic life might seem like a long way from today’s hustle culture. No one was turning a profit off the monks religious devotion; the way today’s employers reap financial benefit off our collective grind. But still, there’s something familiar about the slacker monk, the disdain of his peers. Not to mention the expectation of self-sacrifice, no matter what’s happening inside his body. Have you ever hit a wall at work? And instead of asking, why am I hitting this wall? Why am I so exhausted? Your instinct was just to tell yourself, drink more coffee, work harder, do better. historically, we’ve looked for any possible reason to explain away exhaustion without asking the big questions about our own well-being.

Anna Schaffner  17:42

We tend to blame exhaustion on causes we don’t like, you know, the emancipation of women really stressed men out, you know, or so for example, male doctors will come up with that one, or you have concerns about speed, you know, like too many cars, trains, and that’s something that a lot of people found threatening when that first appeared on urban scenes.

Connor Franta  18:06

The stories we tell about exhaustion tell you more about the values of the culture than they do about any given exhausted individual. As time passed, and culture evolved, the stories people told about exhaustion collide with the stories they told about work, and the stories people told about work collide with the stories they told about God. Then the Protestant religion came along and 16th century Europe and stirred all those ideas up in one big sanctimonious pot. Let’s just say those early Protestants in Europe, they were devoted to work.

Kathryn Tanner  18:47

Protestants initially, were concerned about work because of what it demonstrated about your character and whether you were favored by God or not.

Connor Franta  18:57

Kathryn Tanner is a theologian at Yale Divinity School. And she studies how religion is connected to economics. She says the Protestant Reformation during the 1500s was, of course, a defining moment for Protestants in Europe, but also for America’s work ethic. Here’s why. When Protestant split from the Catholic Church, they formed their own ideas about how to serve God. Those newly minted Protestants believed that spirituality was not centered in the church, in this new religion, everyone could have their own relationship with God. And that came directly through their work.

Kathryn Tanner  19:34

You don’t necessarily have to become a priest and have a congregation you don’t necessarily have to be a monk in a monastery. You could be serving God and in that sense, have a calling in all kinds of everyday ordinary occupation. So if you were sweeping the floor or cooking meals or whatever that could be a kind of religious vocation and that you were attempting to serve God

Connor Franta  20:00

Work was thus considered a higher calling. That’s surely one way to stay motivated. I mean, that would get me out of bed every day. So it makes sense. The Protestants were an ideal group of people to serve capitalism, as it began to emerge in the coming centuries. They had this drive to work all the time, which is exactly the drive that capitalism needed.

Kathryn Tanner  20:21

Capitalism to get started, needed, the right sort of people who are willing to abide by its directives, and they found those people in the Protestant community.

Connor Franta  20:35

As capitalism became more dominant, the religious motivation behind our work ethic faded, and an economic one prevailed. And you know, what else prevailed? The moral judgment.

Kathryn Tanner  20:47

So yeah, so capitalism has a has a culture, it might not be explicitly religious, necessarily. But people hold certain values, they abide by certain norms, and that capitalism strongly encourages that.

Connor Franta  21:05

She says, capitalism encourages a culture where if you’re not working hard, you’re not a good person. And this feeds the myth that we’re expected to be happy about it all. Like those cursive memes that say, do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Kathryn Tanner  21:20

That’s like, it’s important to see the way in which that’s a kind of management tactic. I mean, if you love your work, if all your passions are poured into it, I mean, you you’re going to be a very devoted worker, you’re going to be willing to, you know, do your job 24/7. And, you know, somebody is benefiting from that, not necessarily you, certainly the corporation that you’re working for.

Connor Franta  21:48

It’s a pretty sick management trick, but it’s hardly a recipe for health and happiness in life. In the meantime, the Protestants are having a hell of a time in Europe. They’re getting persecuted, burned at the stake, even some of them make their escape, hop on boats all the way to the new world, bringing the Protestant attitude with them. There’s a faux optimism happening here, in this land of opportunity we call America, when you move the Protestant work ethic from a Euro framework to an American one, the sky’s the limit.

Peter Mancall  22:25

It’s this mythic sense that everyone in America, if you work really hard, maybe someday you can be really rich.

Connor Franta  22:36

Yes, the American dream.

Peter Mancall  22:52

Embedded in colonialism. Is this idea of people who think our society is terrific. Maybe not for everyone. Oh, maybe the people who aren’t making it here can go and create a new version of our society somewhere else.

Connor Franta  23:07

Peter Cooper Mancall is a historian at the University of Southern California. He says the American dream came before America. With colonialism came slavery and the genocide of indigenous populations, violence and forced labor were the engine of those early colonialist dreams. But that horror is frequently left out of the story. This, Peter says is the seed of our individualist culture.

Peter Mancall  23:35

I think that over time, by the 19th century, at least into the 20th century, it has really come down to it’s all about me, you know, it’s also about this bragging culture like what I did, and that it creates a climate where you know, people grow up thinking, this is the goal, the goal is to be rich. It’s really important to realize that as what seem obvious, one person’s dream could be someone else’s nightmare. That pursuing economic gain for yourself often means taking something from somebody else.

Connor Franta  24:10

Peter makes a great point. Forget about those who heard along the way, because this is America, where every man for themselves kind of country. Think about people today who have reached the pinnacle of riches and power. They haven’t done it on their own. No one builds an instant delivery mega giant all by themselves. The goal is to be rich; we don’t care how we get there, or who we mistreat along the way. And the worst part of it is, we glorify every step of it. And over the last 15 years, a whole new layer has been added on top of that psychological mess. The ruthless hustle is now a performance. That’s because of our phones because of email and social media, and all the ways we constantly connected share information, aka all those humble brags.

Kathryn Tanner  25:06

I’m not saying that working hard is bad. I’m just saying that the standards that we’re holding ourselves up to were never meant for our type of work.

Connor Franta  25:15

Technology has made our relationship to work more of a nightmare. But there are plenty of ways to wake up from it and learn some boundaries. That’s after the break.

Shannon  25:36

I just quit my job. For the past five years, I’ve been working as a talent manager for all of your favorite people on TikTok, the past year, I really neglected my physical and mental health. So my goal for this year is to set healthy habits and boundaries. And I figured what better way to do that than documented on tick tock to hold myself accountable.

Connor Franta  25:53

That’s my friend Shannon, who you met at the beginning of the episode. In true millennial fashion, she’s broadcasting her road to recovery after quitting her job earlier this year.

Shannon  26:03

Number one, mental health goes without saying top priority, always make time for it. Number two, physical health. I did not work out, go outside, move my body, probably for like the past eight months. And I’m really not kidding. If you know what you know. Number three, healthy friendships and relationships. I’m in a very loving relationship. And I have wonderful friends, but I haven’t been able to give them the attention that they need. So that is a priority for me this year.

Connor Franta  26:30

Shannon switched careers. She now works as a casting director at a production company where work boundaries are encouraged. She’s getting her weekends and evenings to herself. She finally woke up from the toxic dream of hustle culture.

Rahaf Harfoush  26:43

The problem with hustle culture is we started glorifying, working hard just for working hard sake. We glorify getting tired, we glorified not eating, we glorify not sleeping. And so what ends up happening is we actually are training people to ignore important signals and warnings that their body gives them that says, hey, maybe you should take a rest.

Connor Franta  27:05

That’s Rahaf Harfoush she’s a digital anthropologist.

Rahaf Harfoush  27:09

Instead, we say, wow, your dedication to your success is evident in your sacrifice. And the more you sacrifice, the more you’ll succeed. We literally tell people over and over again that if they want to be successful, they have to work hard. And for the US specifically, this is a very big part of your national identity, the American Dream that your success is directly proportional to how hard you work. But what that also means is something that I call the shadow dream, which is, if you’re not successful, it must be because you’re not working hard enough.

Connor Franta  27:45

Rahaf helps people understand how technology is impacting the way they live, behave and work, which is maybe exactly what we all need right now. And that’s why I was so excited to sit down and talk to her. Now when I’m at my brother’s house, and he’s making dinner, and easier off the clock, I see still he get work emails, and even though he’s not answering them, I’m like, it’s crazy that you’re getting work emails, while you’re like flipping a pizza right now, like it’s wild that that’s happening, because that hasn’t happened before. It’s a very recent phenomenon, that you are reachable at all times. And the decision is now left to you. If you should be answering those emails, even though you’re not working. And frankly, the employer is not really going to tell you should or you shouldn’t. So what do you think about the technological aspect of hustle culture, as well as the employer-employee relationship? How does that come into play with us?

Rahaf Harfoush  28:39

People don’t understand that even passively receiving notifications on your phone, when your phone lights up, it depletes your energy. It’s not like you have a work tank and a personal energy tank, you have one tank, and everything that you do that depletes you depletes from that tank. So what’s actually happening from the rest and recovery cycle is we’re preventing ourselves from ever entering true recovery, which means we’re not actually getting replenished, which means we’re setting ourselves up to fail for the next performance cycle. Let me ask you this. How many times have you sat down intending to like relax, but you just can’t relax. So you spend like an afternoon not able to relax, not able to disconnect and it’s a waste of time. Your brain needs to daydream your brain needs time to wander, your brain needs de-stimulated time. And if you think about your day, most of us are getting something piped into our brain all day long. Notifications, podcast, books, games, videos, emails, like everything.

Connor Franta  29:42

Well, now I feel implicated. Hello audience that chose to listen to a podcast at this moment. Well, here’s a moment of silence you didn’t ask for just to let your brain rest. You’re welcome. Back to your informative distraction. Rahaf says that from a neurological standpoint, the brain needs to wander and to daydream, not only for creativity, but to integrate what we’ve learned that day.

Rahaf Harfoush  30:19

It acts as a restorative process for different parts of your brain for your amygdala, for your prefrontal cortex. There’s all sorts of things that happen.

Connor Franta  30:26

Sure, it would be great if all of us could go without notifications on our phones, or take a full afternoon for our minds to wander. But can we just acknowledge that this is not possible for so many people?

Rahaf Harfoush  30:39

So you can have a leader that talks about work life balance, but if your boss sends you a message on Sunday, socially speaking, you’re not going to answer your boss. Unless that’s been explicitly cleared, you have permission to do so.

Connor Franta  30:50

Most people subscribe to the 40 hour workweek. But a lot of us work even more, nights and weekends, Sundays when our bosses email us. But Rahaf says the number of hours we work, it’s not sustainable.

Rahaf Harfoush  31:04

The 40 Hour workweek, the nine to five is absolutely arbitrary. And what we’re starting to see is that for high cognitive tasks, so high cognitive tasks are just like, you’re not on an assembly line, pushing a button, right, you know, 30 hours, six hours a day is probably the most you’re gonna get done before your brain taps out. We have the policies, we have the technology, we have the capacity, we have pilot programs and research. The biggest resistance is the belief system.

Connor Franta  31:36

For my friend Shannon, part of her motivation to grind through work was because she didn’t want to be seen as the slacker of the group, especially because she had a dream job, not just her dream job. But the evolved American dream job, the millennial dream job, working with high profile social media influencers, closing big deals, having a hand and the endless stream of content, filling people’s feeds, she was really frickin good at her job, she kicked ass at her job. But we don’t work in a system that rewards efficiency with rest. When you check every last item off on your to do list, you don’t just get to go home for the day.

Rahaf Harfoush  32:17

Now, when you talk to any business CEO, they will swear up and down that they make their decisions based on data right? And yet, you will come to them. And you will say we now have like over eight countries that have successfully run these pilots. The data says that four day workweeks are better for mental health or better for output, productivity doesn’t drop. Why don’t you do it in your business? And what you will hear is, oh, no, that just doesn’t feel, I just don’t believe it could work.

Connor Franta  32:46

And that’s the biggest barrier, not just for companies, but for individuals, until you actually get your butt out the door for that lunchtime walk, you’ll never understand why every mental health expert on the planet recommends it in the first place. You’ve got to have enough faith or at least curiosity just to give it a try. And this is hard given all the cultural and historical forces working against us. All the forces programming us to hustle, non-stop.

Rahaf Harfoush  33:15

I heard this term hustle and float from a friend whose father is a river guide who takes people out on whitewater rafting trips, hustle and float is the perfect recipe of how you get the best whitewater rafting trip. Because there are times when you hustle, and you have to paddle as hard as you can against currents to get to where you want to go. But then there are key moments of rest and recovery where you lift the paddle out of the water and you let the river do the work. And too much hustle, you get tired, you make mistakes. It’s very dangerous and too much float. It’s not challenging enough. And it’s boring, and you don’t control where you go. And so the perfect mix is to have both and I thought wow, that is the perfect metaphor for how we should be working. But our culture is all hustle, no float.

Connor Franta  34:03

Grab me a lifejacket I am here for this metaphor. And just to keep it going a little bit. Let’s say we’re all on this river. We’re hustling. We’re floating. But we’re all not the same kind of paddler. Some people are more genetically inclined to have huge biceps and others, maybe they’re the ones with longer legs. So when we hit the gym to train, we all have to focus on strengthening different parts of our bodies. We’re not all the same, you know, our strengths are in different places. Which means we have to be the ones to figure out what actually works for us, for our own bodies.

Rahaf Harfoush  34:38

And so what I think many people don’t know if they don’t really know themselves. So for example, I’ll just speak to myself here, but I’m a night owl and I spent so much of my life feeling bad about myself because I wasn’t waking up at 5AM and journaling and meditating and going on like a 10k and then like you know, I wake up and it’s just like I’m dead. I’m dead on the inside for like the first two hours that I’m awake, that’s just how it is. And I drink my coffee, and I watch an episode of The Office. And that is my morning routine. And I’m fine with it. You know?

Connor Franta  35:11

Coming to terms with what works for each of us as individuals is the key to success. For me, my morning routine is waking up early, going about my day slowly, having some coffee, reading some news and beginning work when I’m ready. But this will be different for each of us. Because how are you supposed to find out what works for your body when you have three screaming kids to get out the door, or a second job to work? Our advice is to start small, very small, like 10 seconds small. Remember that betta silence We gave you earlier? Why don’t we do that again. But this time, let’s make it a little different. I just want you to breathe in for four seconds, pause here at the top. And breathe out for six. Pause again. Do it once, right now. Guess what, that’s enough to help reset your nervous system. If you can do it more than once, that’s even better. The more often you do it, the more you’ll give yourself a moment of rest to simply ask yourself, How am I doing?

Rahaf Harfoush  36:29

You have to unravel your work story. And you have to find out what your body needs, what your brain needs, what your soul needs, then you can build a productivity system that actually makes sense for you. And that’s the only way. And what sucks is that it’s not a fast process. It’s uncomfortable. You have to ask yourself hard questions. You have to face your ego, your need for validation, your professional identity. And all of that is ironically, hard work. But it’s the most important work.

Connor Franta  36:59

This was so hard for me, because it’s so tied up in moral judgment. If I slow down, I had to not only faced the judgment of those outside of me, but also the judgment from within myself. Understanding why it felt so good to get validation from strangers on the internet through likes, comments, subscriptions. That took a lot of therapy. During that time, it made me think, why do I want validation from strangers? How can I cope in a world where I need other people to make me feel good. I needed to do the work to love myself if this all went away tomorrow to appreciate myself if I had none of this the next day. It sucked. It was hard. There were so many ugly truths lurking around the depths of my brain, I wouldn’t have been able to start back up again, if I hadn’t asked myself a lot of questions and put in work to answer them. In the end, I’m still doing the same job I was doing before I got burnt out. It’s just that now it’s a lot healthier. I structure my day differently. Because I now know what my brain, my body and my mind need to function at their best.

Rahaf Harfoush  38:09

We have to start from the basics and ask ourselves, who am I what am I creative? What do I know about my energy? What do I know about my creative cycles, what replenishes me what drains me? Understanding that you have this story and relationship with work that you might not be aware of. And to free yourself of this brainwashing you have to understand where it came from so that you can name it and let it go. Productivity isn’t the point, right?

Connor Franta  38:35

Can we just play that again? Productivity is not the point. And productivity doesn’t give a hoot about your life, your family, your hopes, your dreams. And I know you’ve got all those things, even if you’ve lost sight of them in the hustle,

Rahaf Harfoush  38:51

are so obsessed with achieve this goal than achieve that goal. And what happens is you’re obsessed with one point in time, and then you hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle. And then there’s another goal and then you hustle, hustle, hustle. But you know what happens in between those two points, your entire life happens. Your friends, your family, your health, your social engagements, your hobbies, your spiritual practice, all of that happens between these two points that productivity systems don’t care about. So how do you build a system that gets you from point A to point B, while still being able to live a meaningful, joyful, healthy, happy life?

Connor Franta  39:27

Also, I need to come to one of your speaking engagements here. Absolutely. Like I’m pumped up by the words that you’re saying because it feels like you’re preaching to the choir. You’re preaching to the masses. I’ve said it in a previous episode, but I’ll say it again here as a different type of humble brag. I constantly tell my friends to put their phones on airplane mode when we’re all together, turn it off, throw it across the room and don’t look at it. I have to do this for myself. And I know it works. And when I started doing this, it made a huge difference. In my life so watching my friend Shannon come back to life was such a cool transformation. I feel like I’ve gotten my friend back those movie nights, she actually watches the movies with me now. Can you believe that?

Shannon  40:14

I’ve definitely shifted my mindset from this is my whole life to this is my job that pays my bills. And this is what I’m doing from 9am to 5pm. And then outside of that, like I’m me, I think I’ll always be like a wake up and check my phone. But now it’s not like a wake up and check my phone in fear. It’s like wake up and like, oh, like, who is my parents text me anything like what’s going on with my dogs like things like that, which is like, healthier. For like, the last year, I really didn’t go outside ever. So like that has been like going outside and getting fresh air and being in the sun has been such a calming thing for me. That that’s kind of been like my meditation in the sense.

Connor Franta  40:53

So do you do you feel like it’s still like a work in progress for lack of a better phrase?

Shannon  40:57

Yeah. Because it’s years of like, borderline like, abuse to my body and to my brain that like takes time to figure out. I’m learning everyday like, Okay, I really don’t like this, but I enjoy this. I’m gonna incorporate this into my day. So I think it’s just like trial and error for a while for me. And then like years of unpacking, like bad habits and restructuring them. So day off work in progress.

Connor Franta  41:27

You don’t have to quit your job like Shannon to get out of your cycle of burnout. Well, unless that’s what works for you. Which is the point, there isn’t one end all be all solution. It’s just like physician Gabor Mate said earlier in the episode, we all have a choice. It’s a matter of noticing that we’ve been pulled into hustle culture, stopping to ask ourselves what’s driving us to constantly produce? What is the motivation behind our compulsions? For Shannon, it was status, bragging rights. And that probably rings true for many of us. But when Shannon noticed what she was giving up to get that status, the calculus changed. Our desire to do better, make more money and work harder. That’s just what society tells us is right. But it might not be right for you. And honestly, your devotion to your career is feeding a culture that’s not only hurting you, but likely someone else to the question to ask yourself is, what are my values, forget the values of American culture. Think about what you want, what fills up your energy tank, and listen to your body. Your body knows before you do when something is off. So cancel out the noise and take time to figure out what you need rather than what your employer needs. Because those notifications and those emails, they will always be there when you return. Our culture has primed us to work all the time. But now we understand how to redesign the small moments of our days just to maximize our float and to make the most of that hustle. Now, there’s just one little hole I’m gonna poke in that story.

Dr. Gabor Maté  43:14

The person who’s doing three jobs as a single mom that has to commute two hours a day each way to work leaving her child in some poor daycare. She’s not choosing to be that way. She just forced to be that way by the system.

Connor Franta  43:28

It’s really the system. At the end of the day, we are all a part of this toxic system of inequality. But that my friends, is next week.

Connor Franta  43:43

Burnout is a production of Lemonada and Mindful. Ray Solomon, Rachel Lightner and Claire Jones produced this episode with help from Kristen Lepore. Isaura Aceves is our associate producer. Mixing and Sound Design by Rachel Lightner. Music is by Hannis Brown, additional music by APM. Melinda Wright is our story consultant. Our VP of narrative content is Jackie Danziger. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Special shoutouts, to therapists, all the amazing therapists of the world you are doing God’s work. You can find Lemonada on all social platforms at @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me Connor Franta at @ConnorFranta across all social platforms. You can also get bonus content and behind the scenes material by subscribing to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. Burnout is created in collaboration with mindful.org. Mindful is a public benefit organization dedicated to sharing the gifts of mindfulness through content, training, courses, and coaching. Visit www.mindful.org/burnout to find a curated collection of Mindfulness Based meditations courses and resources to help you prevent and work through burnout in your life and work. I’m Connor Franta. See you next week.

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