Work Is the New God

Work Is the New God

Narrator: Elle Mills always wanted to be a YouTuber. After high school she got to work, posting videos nonstop. She even came out in one. Elle Mills: Hi, I’m Elle Mills, and I’m bisexual. Imagine if Ferris Bueller had a YouTube channel. Narrator: Millions of people tuned in. Do you guys know who Elle Mills is? Elle Mills! Have you discovered Elle Mills yet? She made her passion into a career. Work became her whole identity. And then one day she posted this. Elle Mills: This is all I ever wanted and why the fuck am I so un-fucking-unhappy? Narrator: Elle’s story raises an important question. Should a job provide a paycheck? Or a purpose? Derek: This idea of bragging to people I had an all-nighter last night. We are essentially the workaholics of the world. Narrator: This is Derek. He’s a self professed workaholic. And he recently wrote about why work is making us miserable. There’s a psychology behind it. He calls it workism. Derek: Workism is the idea that work is the centerpiece of our identity, the focal point of our lives and really the organizing principle of society. A lot of people have essentially turned to work to find the very things that they used to seek from traditional religions; transcendence, meaning community, self-actualization, a totalizing purpose in life. And so I think that in many ways, we have essentially made our work our God. Narrator: Workism was pioneered by the rich. It started with college educated elites who were raised to turn their passions into careers. Derek: In the last 35-40 years, what you’ve seen is that the rich are choosing to work more, and that is a really ahistorical shift. For the vast majority of history. The rich have always worked less. Narrator: Now it’s not just the rich who are working more. It’s everyone. Derek: You see it trickling down not only in the workplace but also in social media with hashtag hustle culture. There’s this bombardment of other people’s successes, so that you’re constantly aware that other people have more status than you. And this I think, is a kind of poison. Elle Mills: So I started uploading consistently because I knew that for every video I posted, I gained subscribers. That is how I gained an audience. Once the numbers started growing faster and faster. I’m like, Okay, I need to keep this up for that to continue, or else if I stop, it will stop. It was not sustainable. Narrator: This obsession with being constantly plugged in and looking for meaning from a job is relatively recent. Derek: 150 years ago, Americans tended to work on farms. I did what my father did what my grandfather did what my great-grandfather did. Narrator: A job was just a job. The idea of career advancement didn’t exist yet. Then in the late 20th century, an explosion of big business changed the game. Derek: You had finance take off you’ve had the beginning of the tech culture. With the invention of bureaucracies and multi-part companies we invented that which we now call a career. This sort of narrative arc toward a series of acronyms, you know, CEO, CFO, CMO. That is a very modern invention. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve evolved from jobs to careers to callings. Narrator: You can actually hear this gospel being preached to the next generation. The single most common piece of career advice and commencement speeches is “Follow your passion!” “Love what you do!” “Take a chance on doing what you love!” But most of the available jobs in the economy are not designed to stoke passion. Derek: A lot of jobs suck. They’re designed to sell stuff to people and make money for their bosses. Narrator: And this is where the central problem lies. Derek: I think at the end, we’re being sold a false American dream. We’re being sold a vision of how life works out for a minuscule few of Americans and telling all Americans that this is what they should pursue. And it’s setting ourselves up for the anxiety and the frustration and the worries and the spiritual and psychological burnout that so many of us are feeling. Narrator: Most full time employees report feeling burnt out on the job. And the WHO recently decided that burnout can now be diagnosed as a medical condition. So if workism is leading to this epidemic, what would it take to change the mentality? Derek: I don’t think anyone has ever been able to provide a clear and final answer to the question. “How do I balance my life between love and work and family and friends?” But here are two answers. The top down solution is we should change public policy. We should make it easier for people to work less while still making a living wage. But there’s also bottom-up solutions. Therapy, Buddha, existentialism. Elle Mills: From my experience, I’ve been learning to create boundaries for myself to protect my mental health my career, and privacy. Derek: The work of detaching ourselves and detaching our identities from what it is that we do is the sort of experience that everyone sort of has to figure out on their own. Hey, thanks for watching. This is the pilot episode of a new series at The Atlantic where writers like me talk about topics that fascinate us. If you liked what you heard, and you’re not sick of hearing me talk, please subscribe to my tech podcast with the Atlantic Crazy/Genius.

100 thoughts on “Work Is the New God

  1. What about you? Do you derive meaning from your job? Watch more stories about the delicate work-life balance here:

  2. When alive, one keeps sitting without lying down. When dead, one lies without sitting up. In both cases, a set of stinking bones! What has it to do with the great lesson of life?

  3. This is so much motivation to NOT work, I’ve been out of work for basically 100 days, & basically The whole idealisms in the USA & capitalist America are all against us. I’ve already been the poster child of burnout & already tried all the “fake it to make it” shit, it doesn’t work. Trust me, ALL entry level and/or retail jobs have shitty micromanager/breath down your back style managers!! I’ve so had it with that style of doing business it seems like all the good reviews of businesses to work for on indeed & Glassdoor come from the people in supervisory and managerial roles & all the shitty reviews come from the pond scum sales reps like what I used to be. #Bernie2020

  4. Work wouldn't be the new god if people put their faith in the living God instead. Stress is real and really trying at times, but if you shift your focus from "what is this doing for me" to "what is this doing for others around me" then your entire life gains a new perspective. The song "Through Heaven's Eyes" from the Prince of Egypt is an excellent illustration of this. You don't need Budah, yoga, or to detach from the world. You need to understand how great our creator, Yahweh, is and how he can use you to influence the lives of many through everyday acts of kindness and good will.

  5. For a step in the right direction, check out Timothy Keller's talks on idols. They help a lot with issues like these.

  6. In my field it is RARE to find a position with less than a 50% travel requirement, with some in the 60 to 75% area. I work in a technical field, NOT a sales job! Also, I have a family, and would like to do things that are NOT related to work, so I'm just done. I'm 51, unemployed, and going to a different profession 🙁

  7. If a man does not work, then let him not eat…Bible.
    The motto of western society. In south America, Africa and middle east there is the mandatory afternoon nap and the so called Siesta. They do not worship work. In some religion non stop work is a sin because it leaves one no time time to fulfill his true purpose.. And tat is to pray meditate show gratitude and worship his Creator. Non stop work is in the relm of Satan who swore to keep working unceasingly to win all souls unto himself for all eternity.

  8. At the end he pretty much just recommends figuring out a way to put your mind on autopilot and forget about the job you have to do. That’ll probably just cause a lot of people to be shitty at their jobs if they don’t keep their head in the game

  9. The amount a single employee is expected to produce in one day is increasing as well. The pace of work keeps getting faster and faster. This leaves employees in a constant state of overwhelm, with the employer pusher for more, faster, better.

    It's not just self employed people who are stressed and burned out and lonely. It is the nurses, teachers, police officers who are also being asked to do so much more with less help from co-workers.

    I understand the need for a skeleton crew when a business is failing, as many went to during the great recession. But that skeleton crew model has stuck when it comes to hiring despite the economy just roaring right along.

  10. The Bottom Up solution isn’t therapy and and buddhist meditation. Rather, it’s a radical restructuring of our values. Employers compete for workers and if workers demand flexibility and higher wages then slowly but surely we can have create the demand that the market will cater to.

  11. Its programming such as this – which is programming the masses (of drone workers – "something like – but unlike me") – in the wrong direction. Permaculture practicing Food Forested village populations of computer segregated to be categorized as compatibly like minded village design and maintenance groups for creating and maintaining (size limited for efficiency) self-sufficient self governed which are designed to be completely self-sustaining – free of charge – without the use of – or need for money – excepting the funds needed to pay village population acquired property Taxes to whichever Over-lording – Landlord Governments jurisdiction of bureaucracy – who's borders the village will be constructed within. And those funds can easily be raised via the accomplishing the only miserable chore of rotating duties which the village population is required to perform – from their computer divulged daily weekly monthly etc. lists – of tasks required for accomplishing Non-Capitalistic self designed to be self governed via true consensus voting at a specialized website where segregating automatically occurs as preferred village attributes and village governance preferences become voted on – with regards to designing – free of charge well provisioned safe, comfortable & contented, peaceful natural – lifestyle.

  12. Most of the jobs and work that people do is rather pointless and does not lead to personal actualization. Social media and the expanding of bandwith are two of the worst blights on humanity.

  13. You touched on one thing that rings quite true.
    But missed the entire backup to it.
    Don't be afraid to have many a skill set
    it only means you are trying to find the one thing in your own life that fits.
    It may take many years for you to find it
    But when you do
    You'll never really feel the burden of daily pressure.
    I've got 12 different jobs that I can be effective in.
    But the one I love the most,
    Has given me the opportunity for Independence from financial burden
    Life after all
    Should be an experience
    Not a race of distance

  14. This is why I chose to work in government job. Less money but happier in life, more pride and more time with family.

  15. I've been saying for years that "follow your passion" is bullshit for most people. Most people either don't have a true "passion"' or cannot earn a living doing what they love. That's why we call them hobbies. Truth is, most jobs aren't all that fun. Of course, you shouldn't hate your job, but having work that is your passion is unusual. For those individuals who can actually earn a living doing what they love, I envy you. But my true passion is spending time with my family and friends and having the money I need to enjoy and support them, which I earn from my job.

  16. wasn't the replicator in star trek lore the main reason to people not having to work as much and pursue their passions? 3D printed food is just around the corner.

  17. Being a workaholic is only worth it if you can save and invest. That is a little bit difficult nowadays. Possible but difficult. If you are just working to pay for everyday expenses then it's all a waste of your life.

  18. I wish it was possible to work 20-25 hours a week and make a living wage. It's just so soul crushing to work what feels like 80% of your week, just to catch your breath on your day off and then go right back to it again. It's just no way to live a life. We only live life once and it feels like such a waste to spend a majority of it working a job you hate to make someone else money just to survive.

  19. A nice start, though I hope you give yourselves a chance to talk more on where to find inner peace outside of the job. Perhaps give case examples of those who successfully did so, even in unusual ways.

  20. The higher up the corporate ladder you go, the less quality sleep you get, the more hours you're available for work, and the less time you have for family.

  21. This video does the history of work a massive injustice and is wildly generalized. Work has always been the centerpiece of existence because things naturally decay, the only thing that really shifts is our definition of work and the "jobs" offered. Once automation takes over the only market will be personal creation.

  22. I love my work, it gives me meaning to life (not saying in a profound way, but sitting at home watching Netflix is too boring)

  23. I've burnt out a few times; usually ends with me quitting the job, needing to take ~6-months off to recover, and as I age I become only less able to cope with burnout.

    Cynicism is one of those aspects of burnout that once you have becomes a bit like herpes. It spreads to other colleagues you're close with and it sometimes may never go away fully, often leading to outbreaks when under stress.

    I think for some companies, perhaps rapidly growing startups, burnout is just part of the job. With experience, you learn how to delegate work better, which helps, but you can't easily succeed without experience and hard work. Going to the gym, getting enough sleep, eating well, and making enough time to accommodate for the other important things in your life will help. Being too invested in the company and work, not making enough time for yourself, and dealing with extended hardships within a company will break you eventually.

    I enjoy working with small teams, on fun projects, and not being too concerned with making money or being successful. If you're having fun, you can often stumble onto success, but it does take some persistence. Most people can't afford to not think about making money, and for those people, I suggest just get a 9-5 job until you can afford to just work on something for fun.

  24. Just 60k viewers? This video deserves to be seen by each and every college student, every employee, and every socially active person on this planet.

    However, It is actually nothing new, as a graduate student in the IT management field I have been taught that we should involve employees as much as we can in the company activities. We should have more and more portions of their life allocated to our activities. The ultimate goal has always been "to give them a corporate identity". But this is not in favor of people. You know who benefits this the most…?

  25. Are constantly aware that nature is competitive and everybody wants security. Crypto jobs available🎊

  26. "Work less while still making a living wage." Holy! Now it is the fault of the US Government. This is so misguided. You earn a living to pay for all your expenses, rent and other incidentals. That is so lazy!

  27. Its pretty obvious, to many people sitting around for years at jobs they hate just saving money instead of going after there dreams. Making an environment where uninspired people have all the money and dreamers are starving trying to live off of scraps about what they're passionate about.

  28. There is something about yourself that you don’t know. Something that you will deny even exists, until it’s too late to do anything about it. It’s the only reason you get up in the morning. The only reason you suffer the shitty puss, the blood, the sweat and the tears. This is because you want people to know how good, attractive, generous, funny, wild and clever you really are. Fear or revere me, but please, think I’m special. We share an addiction. We’re approval junkies. We’re all in it for the slap on the back and the gold watch. The hip-hip-hoo-fuckin’ rah. Look at the clever boy with the badge, polishing his trophy. Shine on you crazy diamond, because we’re just monkeys wrapped in suits, begging for the approval of others. ( Revolver )

  29. When contrasting the last couple of generations with the ones preceding them (of white farmers, black slaves etc) you ignore the fact that the current generation has the ability to dream, and some to achieve it. Everyone obviously can't be successful, unless the definition of success is changed to a more inclusive one (and then, it could be argued that this more inclusive definition of success would seem unattractive to most). However, even if (say) 30% of the population has the chance to achieve their definition of success, it's much better than 50 years ago, where you could not define your own success at all.

    Remember, a few thousand years ago, success meant not dying of starvation or a failed hunt that week.

  30. If we continue to ignore God. He will continue to ignore us. Keep on calling him religion. Smh 🤦‍♂️

  31. Our country is not so much a country as it is a 'country club', it’s very much a members-only affair. Our duty, as Americans, is to serve our oligarchy for as long as we can remain useful to them. After that we are free to blow our brains out or die on the streets as homeless bums.

  32. The result of the Cold War is that socialism, communism, and specifically the brilliance of Marx and Engels are completely lost to Americans. Instead, we believe our brand of "shareholder" capitalism is chiselled in stone as an axiomatic rule from nature or heaven. The average American believes that we a) have free will, and yet b) are unable to change the system of political economy because it is fate. Democracy is just an expression of meaningless vanity. The 0.1% control the 99.9% regardless of the fact that the majority of Americans are absolutely miserable in the work and social lives. As long as work is for profits of the owners of capital, and not for the needs of people, life will continue this way. The chief mechanism for wealth creation from ownership of capital is money. We produce in order to sell what we do in the 'market.' The buyer uses money to purchase what we do. The owner takes his cut, and the workers are given the least the owner can spare. At the end of the work-week, we workers are expected to be grateful to the job-creators, salute the American flag, praise god, and return to 'home-sweet-home' for some good old family values.

    Really, what a crock of #$*%!

    Industrial production capacity is so enormous that we have the ability to feed the planet for a year with the labor of one day. We have the ability to 3D print a house in 24 hours at less than $10,000! Technology enables us to have a higher quality material life and spend more time with family and friends, yet because every thing we use is owned by a private owner, we must pay a fee to live. At this rate, all of nature will be privately owned and people will be massively in debt before they are born. Every breathe of air will be the property of someone, and its use will result in a monetary transaction from user to owner. Does anyone remember the Nestle CEO telling us that access to drinking water should not be a human right? Google it.

    What this video is doing is showing us how mentally ill America is. Work as religion started with the Protestant revolution. Sterile, sadistic, self-righteous morality has given us the justification for so much oppression and repression. It must stop. The question is how.

  33. Why do you quote Buddah as an example of a solution? Why not Jesus? Have you heard or read what Jesus preached? Have you ever read what he said to the woman by the well in John 4:4–26? He provides the solution to this very same problem!

    I believe you fall in the same trap when you use Buddah as an alternative to burnout, because he's not a real solution, he's only an escape route, an "in-the-mean-time" strategy. Why not Jesus? I don't understand you, guys.

  34. Capitalism will never let people rest, most people work to secure money, not because they have a choice to or because they want to.

  35. I totally have been noticing this. Both coasts in the US are like this. I think it comes from fear. People think they have to do the whole HUSTLE AND GRIND thing and brag about how hard they work out of fear they will be left behind. It's like being the happiest-acting, hardest working slave to keep from getting punished. It comes from a weak place when millennials do this. I'm not impressed with your lifestyle. That you don't make any plans during the week, don't foment relationships, and can't stay out on a Thursday night past 8:00pm. But then to look down on people who have structured their lives more reasonably is just so condescending and gross to me. We're going to turn into Japan or South Korea before we know it.

  36. That reminds me. There’s a practical philosopher who writes about this, but he calls it Total Work. or this video:

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