The infamous hustle culture seems like a concurrent theme of the 21st century, with prominent entrepreneurs bombarding our social media timelines with huge seven figure revenue figures, speaking of their endless anecdotal grinds like a broken tape record.
As a result of the compelling nature of these often sugarcoated statements, millennials are getting stuck up on conventional measures of success and burning themselves out. The metrics of any successful business is profit, there’s no denying that, but on an individual level, is that all there is to a business?
Read through these two scenarios and tell me which one sounds more appealing to you:
- A business churning in millions of dollars but burns you and the team out?
- A business that gives you enough margin to read for pleasure, go on vacations, and keep your health on check?
If you’re the kind of person who thrives in the former scenario, then good for you, maybe the grind culture is for you after all. But if you’re like most people out there, you might think of the second option as the better sounding one. A business that gives you space to breath and enough room to stop and enjoy the flexibility you’re working so hard for.
And that road takes us to another bifurcation. You’ve either already subscribed to that kind of lifestyle — which again, good for you — or you’re still somewhere within the corporate ecosystem, in crossroads on whether to jump ship to a more fun and sustainable working environment. Or perhaps you don’t know how to.
A couple of weeks ago, I came across an interesting newsletter from Ali Abdaal, who runs a weekly podcast series with his brother, and is also a youtuber. In it, he posits the idea that life is a lot like the games we play. In every game, there are a set of predetermined rules, characters, and victory conditions.
In games, the victory conditions are mostly predetermined. A win in chess is earned by checkmating your opponent. A game of Scrabble is won by the person with the most accumulated points. Fortnite Battle Royale is won by the round’s remaining survivor(s). There’s no bending your way through these set of conditions because they are unchangeable.
In life, these victory conditions are a little bit more malleable. The problem is that sometimes, we tend to fixate on a predetermined, classic victory condition when we try to define success. Mostly because we’re so used to playing along the lines of these mental models growing up.
“Sometimes we’re so focused on our original strategy that we overlook the bigger picture, the other ways to play and win the game”
Going back to business example in the beginning, an example of a classic, predetermined victory condition could be a fixed sum of money we wish to earn annually, say $250k, perhaps to fulfil your ever-inflating expenses.
A redefined victory condition is a slightly more unorthodox approach to the pre-decided rules of conventional success, forcing you to be more creative. In this case, it could be to move somewhere less expensive, invest your money in the real estate market, or simply to spend less money.
“The point is to discover our own alternative paths to happiness and meaning”, as Ali frames it. “Sometimes we’re so focused on our original strategy that we overlook the bigger picture, the other ways to play and win the game”
It requires additional headspace to wrap your head around these kinds of life plans, but setting clear goals in life helps preserve your sanity and bring fulfilling joy. For one, the goals you deliberately set for yourself is built around your personality and lifestyle, and should by design, be more attainable and relevant.
Think of it like the difference between self-prescribing a medication after reading a tabloid article — which you shouldn’t attempt, by the way — and a bespoke, well-calculated prescription written by your physician. The latter will be more efficacious besides being safer and more worry-free.
Other reasons why suiting your life’s victory conditions according to your own capacity is the promise of a greater sense of empowerment and control, because they are after all, your active decisions. Decision-making will also generally be easier, because you have clear goals, and you’ll more easily spot things that aren’t aligned with said goals, and those go immediately to the bin.
The more defined set of goals can also be a source of additional motivation, as you no longer live by society’s utopian standards, but by your own set of redefined victory conditions, one that you have so deliberately set out yourselves, in order to transition from your exhausting career to one that gives you more breathing space.
As we’re setting ourselves up for a new decade, one that I’m guessing will be bedecked with novel technological advancements and bold new surprises — which will make it all-the-easier to fall into the hustle culture trap — it’s good to do a bit of self-introspection.
What am I really aiming for in life? What does ‘winning at the game of life’ look like to me? Are my actions aligned with these goals? Are there alternative paths to victory that are better suited to the cards in my hand?
Give yourself some time and mental space to think and ponder upon these questions, and perhaps you’ll make a change that you can look back upon in thirty, forty years, and force in nothing but smiles.