‘Rise and grind’ mentality doesn’t determine success

By Clare Budin, Assistant Special sections editor

It’s a phrase on phone alarms, stickered on expensive water bottles and laptops and stamped on countless Instagram bios: “rise and grind.” It’s a phrase that, at face value, seems like an innocent encouragement to spend every day working hard to achieve your goals and celebrate your passions. However, as the motto has been endlessly trademarked and gained popularity from cutthroat college students to wealthy celebrities, some have begun to view a more insidious side of the slogan that only puts a particularly stressed-out Gen Z at greater risk of burnout, self-loathing and endless comparison of others’ achievements to their own. There are many reasons why the popularity of “rise and grind” culture is so problematic and why you can enter your career without being a slave to its expectations.

In her Oscars acceptance speech after winning Best Song for “Shallow” from “A Star is Born,” Lady Gaga attracted both praise and criticism when she sent a message to those at home to keep working hard and “if (they) have a dream, fight for it.” Of course, this message was well-intentioned, but many saw this, and other messages from fabulously wealthy celebrities and business leaders, many of whom came from privileged backgrounds, as yet another contribution to building the mirage of the American Dream, which supposedly rewards hard work and passion consistently and equally. Unfortunately, there is little to no evidence to support this American Dream existing, at least for the current generation entering into higher education and the workforce. For example, in Lady Gaga’s original arena of music performance, according to Digital Music News, “80% of artists receive less than one new Facebook like per day,” and, “overall, over 90.7% of artists can be considered ‘undiscovered.’” Does this major discrepancy between the no-name artists and superstars exist because the superstars are inherently far better and more hard-working? Of course not. 

And who could forget Donald Trump downplaying his support in business from his incredibly successful father as receiving “a small loan of a million dollars,” while other voraciously hard-working investors and business owners from modest backgrounds will never be able to lounge all day in their gold-plated penthouse eating KFC. The rise of “rise and grind” is yet another way for those on top to push those at the bottom to feverishly deny the reality that the American system is not, and never was, created equal, and cause them to believe that their failure isn’t due to a flaw in the system that must be changed, but a flaw in themselves. It must be they aren’t “grinding” hard enough and not because others working toward the same goal were handed unique privileges and benefits or maybe just had better luck. 

Endless self-comparison has already flourished under social media apps like Instagram, where you can spend hours ogling influencer trips to Santorini you can’t take, parties you’ll never be invited to, celebrities you can’t meet and mansions you can’t afford. Now, with the rise of “rise and grind,” muscled and tattooed influencers with “entrepreneur” in their bio can claim their Bentley and house in the Hills were earned after years of grinding and hustling without affording any time to themselves, leaving ambitious students and graduates feeling challenged to test how hard they’re willing to work, stress and sacrifice to achieve the same lifestyle. This growing “work hard, play never” mentality has contributed to a young workforce that is more stressed, depressed and lonely than ever before.

According to the American Psychological Association, “more than nine in 10 Gen Z adults (91%) said they have experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom because of stress, such as feeling depressed or sad or lacking interest, motivation or energy.” Additionally, “only half of all Gen Zs feel like they do enough to manage their stress,” which may include exercising, eating healthy and socializing that their non-stop lifestyles simply leave no time for. 

Contrary to what you may believe, reader, this article is not meant to discourage ambitious and passionate Gen Z-ers to give up on their dreams or stop working toward their goals. Rather, it is meant to encourage those trapped in the toxic “rise and grind” mindset to take a step back and begin to balance their goals with their health and happiness. While celebrities and influencers alike create an image of Nirvana-like bliss and personal achievement at the top, those who do reach their highest improbable goals at the expense of health, fun and relationships may be greeted with more loneliness and personal dissatisfaction than ever before. Instead of grinding or hustling, it’s time to push personal balance and happiness as a true measure of success and teach new workers to know when they’re being overworked or taken advantage of by a brutal boss or workplace rather than capitulate to pressures of being the best at all cost. In time, I hope Gen Z will be able to confidently “rise and live life” for all it has to offer, even inside a competitive workplace.

Clare is a sophomore in Media. 

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