Thabang Mekgwa is your typical Motswana “hustler.” The Gaborone tricenarian juggles a nine-to five job at Capital Bank in Gaborone with a chicken breeding business.
Botswana is caught up is a wave of glorified moonlighting which has become a full-on culture complete with its values, mores and language. In popular the popular slang, you do not hold down two jobs, you have your regular job and your “side hustle” or “second gig”.
In hustleese, the second gig is “an optimistic endeavour, something that makes life easier, a way to grease one’s most ambitious life track.”
Thabang Mekgwa explained the hustles code to the Sunday Standard Lifestyle: “to make your side hustle a success, you need to put in the time. It can be tempting to borrow a little work time, especially if things are slow which is what most people do. What many people fail to realize is that if/when you reach a point where you feel like you’re only doing it for the money, you’re more likely to get burned out.”
For many millennials, work itself has become not just a means, but an end. Hustling means constant working. It means devoting as much of your day as possible working. There is no time out or time in at work. Work is done in the office, outside the office, at home, at coffee shops — anywhere. When you talk of hustling, the more you work, the more celebrated you are.
Never mind that you miss meals, sleep, and other important events. In hustle culture, taking a break is for the weak. Working on and on may seem like an attractive thing at first glance, but in actual fact, not much is accomplished.
Thabang Mekgwa warned that, “Instead of taking a step back and recognizing that something is wrong, they push themselves to work that much harder to land the next client or finish a big project. All that pressure and stress has a cumulative effect that can do a lot of damage. The sense of detachment from the business and loss of enjoyment can spread from your side hustle to activities with family and friends. You need rest, exercise, nutrition, and time with family and friends. Otherwise, you’re likely to get sick and tired of both your jobs—and maybe just sick and tired, period.”
Botswana’s growing hustle culture may actually be a ticking time bomb. Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’Speaks says, “for some, a side hustle is a chance to earn some cash from doing what they love. For others though these aren’t passion projects, but a way to make some desperately needed money because your current job isn’t paying enough to make ends meet. “Side hustles” might seem like they offer flexibility, but in reality, many offer insecurity, unpredictable pay and the line between work and leisure becomes increasingly blurred. Technology means that many people are feeling like they can’t switch off even when they leave work. And, for some, there’s a constant need to try to be more productive. A side hustle is time-consuming. If you are working a full-time job and hustling on the side, time management becomes a serious issue. This effect can spill over into your personal life. Many aspiring business owners burn out before they even get started.”
Working overly long hours results in poorer mental health and increased anxiety. Hustle culture promotes accomplishing as many tasks as possible, with little regard to workmanship.
This culture creates a toxic environment that pressures people to be working constantly. People want the reputation and to be viewed as being able to handle everything. The number one killer in the hustle culture is the comparison factor- comparing yourself to others as there is a constant need to be the best by doing more and achieving more than those around you.
It easy for hustling to go from being a push in the right direction to straight into a burn-out. Between trying to balance school (for some), having a social life and looking for jobs/internships, it can seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day. With the world’s weight on our shoulders, millennials find it easy to prioritize everything except themselves, so they keep grinding it out, feeding into the hustle mentality. We live in a society that glamorizes being busy all the time, when what we should really be thinking about is how to be productive. The digital age has provided a support of hustle culture that didn’t exist before. What most hustlers don’t know is burnout isn’t like normal work-life stress, it isn’t just a long busy day at work, or an exhausting week filled with never ending errands, burnout is a longer term slow-creep of physical and emotional exhaustion, negative feelings and actions, and chronic stress brought on by a lifestyle of consistent high-performance and high stress situations.