In The Era Of The Side Hustle, Is The Hobby Dead?
Why we should resist the pressure to constantly optimize for profit.
In the era of the gig economy, we worship the side hustle. It’s productive, it’s profitable, it’s creatively challenging. But we can’t talk about hustle culture without acknowledging that it’s also exhausting. In the U.S., it’s an incredibly widespread habit: 49% of the under-35 population claims to have a side hustle alongside their full-time job. That means that after a 40-hour work week, almost half of the country is burning the midnight oil — for freelance clients, personal projects they hope to monetize, and the like.
Capitalism encourages this sort of working-ourselves-to-death culture, to the point where companies are even offering classes on how to get better at it. We’re taught that we’d do well to prove our worth by contributing to the economy in the form of labor — and that, if we’re especially smart and hard-working, our side hustle could become a successful startup. It’s a modern manifestation of the American Dream: if your idea is good enough, and the right people buy in, you can escape the mundanity of a regular 9-to-5.
"It’s a modern manifestation of the American Dream: if your idea is good enough, and the right people buy in, you can escape the mundanity of a regular 9-to-5"
But here’s the thing: most side hustles are not destined to mature into full-grown startups, and even when they do, 75% of startups fail. Don’t get me wrong — this is not an argument to dissuade would-be entrepreneurs. I am only advocating for us to consider why we feel compelled to optimize for profit, and what that might be doing to our hobbies.
Remember the pure joy of working on something without the hopes of it turning into a paycheck? It’s hard for me to recall the last time I wrote something that was genuinely — and exclusively — for myself, and not an assignment I took on in order to pay rent. It doesn’t make this a craft I love any less, but it changes the stakes from pleasure to profit. And when we constantly deprioritize our own pleasure, we risk forgetting why we loved our hobbies in the first place.
"Some of the most rewarding aspects of life have absolutely zero monetary return"
Millennials love to brag about being busy. It feels good to know that we’ve squeezed every ounce of productivity out of a day, and, in the gig economy mindset, value is defined by the profitability of a thing. But I’d argue that some of the most rewarding aspects of life have absolutely zero monetary return. Consider doing work toward self-betterment without having any obligation to also make that work for the sake of a paycheck. In doing so, you can recapture the original pleasure of the task, sans capitalistic constraint.
So, when a hobby is rid of external financial pressures, the hobbyist can experience pure joy for their craft. And with that comes an incredibly high return on investment: an ever-increasing understanding of oneself that allows for a cultivation of skill, empathy, and, simply, pleasure. We’d be remiss to forget how vital that untainted joy is to our self-betterment.
You may also like...
Give Your Pantry a Second Chance: Redefining the Way You Cook While in Quarantine
Reclaiming the hobby as the highest form of self-care in the new normal of 2020.
Why You Can't Stop Looking at Your Work Emails After Hours (But Should)
If you're lucky enough that working from home has become your new normal, the compulsion to check your work emails outside your ...Read More
Shopping in a State of Fear
How advertising is weaponized to take advantage of our greatest insecurities.
6 Ways to Stay Stress-Free If Meditation's Not Your Thing
Meditation can help you feel more mindful of your surroundings and deal with the world’s myriad stresses, but what happens when ...Read More
Being Sad Doesn’t Mean You’re Ungrateful
Yes, you can be grateful for your blessings and feel sad, angry or anxious sometimes, too.
Finding Calm in the Eye of the Storm
On learning the values that will withstand any disaster more than ever before.
7 Things A Creative Director Learned From 10 Years Of Working With Nonprofits
Michael Yuasa created an agency for an ever-growing list of nonprofit clients desperately in need of a refresh. Here’s how he co...Read More
4 Diets That Are Still Talked About in 2020
What they are, why they're relevant, and how to approach them.
Reclaiming Womxn's Wellness Spaces from a White-Dominated World
How The Villij built a collective that their community can connect to.