Clubhouse, Grind Culture, and the One New Trick You DIDN'T Need to Know
So, I heard you wanted to learn a secret. You must be like me because I did too.
During my freshman year of college, I essentially chain-read everything self-help and productivity. I consumed everything from top experts about mental acuity, time management, productivity, and relationships, from books to podcasts. I wanted to learn the secrets to these skills now. I did learn a lot, I did grow a lot, and I’m better for it, and I’m grateful for it. However, I eventually realized that I had reached a plateau for the insight I was gaining.
That’s because I had reached the “point of content addiction” — an exhausting cycle where you believe one more book, podcast, or article will get you the extra understanding you need to solve your problems.
And this effect is overflowing into digital social spaces — the most notable being grind and hustle culture on platforms like Clubhouse. In the wrong circles, which are easy to stumble upon, these platforms are digital audio-scapes of one-upmanship. Discussion provides users with an outlet to flex their “toil” stories and provide “secrets” to “life-hack” our way to the top.
As a full-time student and young founder of a small AI startup, I felt I needed to double down on this lifestyle. I got so motivated that I woke up at 3:30 every morning just to get my rowing workouts, homework, and self-help reading all done before my morning classes. And if I were to share that on a Clubhouse discussion, that would be pretty mundane. Take The Guardian journalist Brigid Delaney’s experience, for example. During her time on the platform, “Speakers shared the secrets to success – which included getting up before 4am and doing all sort of Silicon Valley-esque biohacks like fasting and ice baths.”
Yet, what’s wrong with that?
Yes, it’s fun to talk about how hard we work — I mean, I did earlier. However, as UNC Charlotte professor Dr. Bryan E. Robinson aptly put, we “bathe in the same glamorous light that advertisers poured over the cigarette and liquor ads of the 1930s. In movies and commercials back then, it was considered sexy to smoke and drink until they realized it caused cancer and stroke.” The same is true for grind and hustle culture — the idea of committing to outrageous (and truly ineffective) work ethics sounds and looks sexy. That possibility for public recognition and internal stimulus of listening to something motivational because of its intensity makes us feel closer to our goals. But unfortunately, all it does is create a false sense of security and imbalance in our life.
Daniel Gefen, author of The Self Help Addict: Turn An Overdose of Information Into a Life of Transformation, observes that:
“When you get to that last page, suddenly there’s a sickly feeling inside. While you’re reading a self help book you’re telling yourself you’re being productive. The problem is when you finish, you’ve got to take responsibility, and instead you just go onto the next book and the cycle continues.”
That isn’t to say that self-help content is useless — I absolutely still read from this genre. Nevertheless, it’s our approach to this content that makes it so dangerous.
Our addiction is further worsened by the Clubhouse’s free-form nature, making spreading misinformation too easy. In an interview with Clint Smith, Discord’s chief legal officer, he points out that “Audio presents a fundamentally different set of challenges for moderation than text-based communication. It’s more ephemeral and it’s harder to research and action.” That compounds the difficulty of mitigating self-proclaimed and misinformed experts on the platform, particularly that of self-help. So not only are we addicted to the same content, but we’re also freely listening to content that could be completely inaccurate.
I like to think of this addiction cycle as Potential Energy vs. Kinetic Energy. We have amassed a lot of unreleased energy because we’re so adverse to actually using it. So, we just collect more. We hope that this new trick will be the one that will get us what we want. But really, we just need to do something with the knowledge and experience we have already gained. No extra podcast, book, or article will be the one that sets it all in motion for us.
So how do we convert our Potential Energy into Kinetic Energy?
Stop wearing “busy” as a badge of honor. Stop wearing any badges, actually. Instead, ask yourself, if I couldn’t talk about my work approach, would it immediately lose its value?
But what makes a work approach valuable? Healthy work approaches are systems that are incremental and scalable, not necessarily sexy. That means that you can sustain incremental progress, even if it’s tiny, over the long-term.
How can we create these systems? We can start with this: For every few pieces of advice you consume, develop ways to incorporate those changes into your daily life. If you can’t, it could mean you need to focus on executing rather than absorbing more self-help.
Join communities that promote these guidelines. Communities that support healthy work will help sustain us during turmoil and celebrate us during a triumph. It also means we can share our own strategies, making others better, which is a win-win for everyone.
Start on whatever it is you want to accomplish. There’s no more time for extra prepping or worrying. It’s time to execute now.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rah-rah of new productivity secrets that claim to hold you back. We consume and consume, maybe become a little intimidated, and ultimately seek the next big thing before getting down to business. But that stops now, with you. You have everything you need to start. Incremental readjustments are natural and necessary, but you’ll never get there unless you convert that Potential Energy into Kinetic Energy.
You must begin now.