Working all the time — and bragging about it online — can be dangerous. So says Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit.
“I’ve spoken out quite a bit about things like ‘hustle porn,’ and this ceremony of showing off on social [media] about how hard you’re working,” said Ohanian at The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival on Tuesday. “Y’all see it on Instagram and you certainly see it in the startup community, and it becomes really toxic.”
In particular, Ohanian says entrepreneurs who start their own companies brag publicly about their long hours.
“We see this play out, most toxically, among founders, who are already sort of emotionally broken. All of us who decide to start a company, we are kind of broken as people. And so when so much of your identity is wrapped up in your company already and you already feel so much pressure,” says Ohanian.
Ohanian, who is the husband of Serena Williams and the co-founder and a managing partner at venture capital firm Initialized Capital, has become a defacto spokesperson in the start-up community for calling out the glorification of working constantly without proper rest.
“You have this culture of posturing, and this culture that glorifies the most absurd things and ignores things like self-care, and ignores things like therapy, and ignores things like actually taking care of yourself as a physical thing for the sake of work at all costs. It’s a toxic problem … I know in finance and other industries there are versions of this,” Ohanian said.
“But social media has made it possible to sort of weaponize it to the point where, you know, if it gets hearts, you are incentivized to keep pushing it.”
Though the culture of working around the clock is not likely to end overnight, the conversation, at the very least, is changing. Ohanian is not the only voice in advocating for self-care.
Huffington Post and Thrive Global founder Arianna Huffington wrote a public letter to Elon Musk in 2018 when he was talking publicly about putting in 120-hour weeks to get Tesla through a particularly painful production hurdle. She asked Musk to take better care of himself.
“So Elon, the future of Tesla depends on you coming up with your masterpiece. It doesn’t depend on how many hours you’re awake. Tesla — and the world (not to mention you and your beautiful children) — would be better off if you regularly built in time to refuel, recharge and reconnect with your exceptional reserves of creativity and your power to innovate,” Huffington wrote.
“Working 120-hour weeks doesn’t leverage your unique qualities, it wastes them. You can’t simply power through — that’s just not how our bodies and our brains work. Nobody knows better than you that we can’t get to Mars by ignoring the laws of physics. Nor can we get where we want to go by ignoring scientific laws in our daily lives,” Huffington wrote.
PERTH, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 03: Serena Williams’s husband Alexis Ohanian, holds their daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. following the women’s singles match between Serena Williams of the United States and Katie Boulter of Great Britain during day six of the 2019 Hopman Cup at RAC Arena on January 03, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
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