There was a time when work was grueling. It was dangerous, and it was physically taxing. There was a also a time when that physical labor went on for hours and hours in places like coal mines or factories. At that time, and in that place, it may have been possible to work too hard. It was very possible that you could hurt yourself physically.
Fortunately, this is, for the most part, no longer true (although carrying shingles up to a roof isn’t the most pleasant work you’ll ever do). For the most part, we have tools and technologies and rules and laws that make things a bit easier. More still, we are primarily knowledge workers.
This popular article about the gig economy suggests that we have to be careful not to glamorize hard work and hustle or we risk people taking it to heart and literally working ourselves to death. Literally.
The gig work the article is talking about? Physically demanding jobs like working on an oil rig? Labor intensive jobs in risky settings, like building a skyscraper? Well, not exactly. The work the article is complaining about is work like driving a car and graphic design. Not the kind of work where many people are at risk of dying of exhaustion.
Maybe there was a time when it made sense to suggest to people, “Don’t work too hard,” but if there was a time, that time is long past. The better advice to offer today would be, “Hey, remember to work harder. You’re not going to hurt yourself by working, but you are going to hurt yourself by being lazy and distracted and living in your inbox!”
The truth of the matter is that most people could stand to work a lot harder. It would serve them well, and it would serve their families well, too. They’d make more money, and they’d have a lot less stress and strife in their lives. People that give themselves over to their work are happier, too.
Since the beginning of human life, nature has required that one labor to take care of oneself. This is not a man-made phenomena. It’s not the result of any particular political or economic system. It’s the result of a company organizing people to drive cars, or finding ways to help artists support themselves through their art. It’s what has always been necessary for human beings to live, thrive, and survive, and it will be for some time into the future.
So, work harder. It won’t kill you.
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