I have a rich annual tradition that I only just became aware of this year.
Every year, around this time, Apple has some kind of conference or announcement or something. It’s the time of year when, for a day or two, an iThing getting smaller or losing a USB port makes everyone absolutely lose it and flood my news feed with opinions for a few days.
And I’ve only this year realized that this seems to happen annually and that it’s probably a pattern. But every year, including this one, I’ve mustered a strong, festive sense of complete apathy. I think.
The Nights and Weekends Platitude Heard ’round the World
This year, the event rocketed into my awareness not because of some new product or service, but because half of my Twitter feed started retweeting things like this:
Tim Cook just said thank you to all the Apple employees “who gave up their nights and weekends from their families” to build all the shit they just showed.
— Dan Kim (@dankim) June 3, 2019
It’s heart-warming how many people are noting @tim_cook’s celebration of working nights’n’weekends and refusing to applaud extractive sacrifices. Overwork isn’t cool, especially not on a regular, expected, and self-imposed schedule. Deal with a crisis, sure. A release ain’t that.
— DHH (@dhh) June 4, 2019
Whoah, okay. Curious, I spent some time looking for the transcript of wherever he said this, but to no avail. I couldn’t even find a video of it. (Though I did learn that this annual apple thing is called “WWDC.”)
The closest I could find was this Tweet with a quote, from someone who, presumably, had listened.
Tim Cook’s closing words: Thanks to all the people “giving up nights and weekends”. If this is Apple’s work ethic that’s really a shame ☹️😣
— Alex 🌚 (@alexmuench) June 3, 2019
So, from what I gather, Tim Cook, during the course of the obligatory shout-out to the little people, gave them thanks for working their little tails off during their little nights and their little weekends. And the world subsequently had opinions.
I Have Deep Ambivalence about Hustle Culture
Long time readers of the blog might remember this viral post about “sucker culture.” I let a CEO, “Victoria,” have it for bemoaning her employees’ lack of desire to work extra hours for no pay.
In fact, I’ve written at length about the standard corporate hierarchy and how it involves a cultural tricking of many people into over-performance in exchange for no value. Obviously, in the posts and in my book on the subject, I don’t treat this as a positive.
And, perhaps most compelling of all, I own a business with employees. And, along with my wife and partner, hold work-life balance as a non-negotiable governing principle. We view this as humanistic and simple, good business.
If we’re building a company that requires heroic efforts to exist or scale, we’re building something unsustainable and with artificially inflated value. It’s the corporate equivalent of wrestlers cutting weight just before a weigh-in.
And yet, I work a lot. Last week was a 4 day week, following Memorial Day weekend, and I managed to work a 49 hour week from Tuesday to Friday. In my management consulting life, I used to put in 40 hour weeks, run the business that would become Hit Subscribe in the evenings from my hotel, and still do things like write a book. And sandwiched between Sunday night and Friday night flights home.
So what’s my deal? Am I a hypocrite? Some kind of would-be martyr? I’m honestly asking myself these questions non-rhetorically, and this blog post is my attempt to figure out the answer.
Because I think it’s none of the above. I think, instead, that I’m fortunate enough to have continually hacked my career into situations where I both enjoy and benefit from work, thus rendering it all a sort of work/hobby mish-mash.