“You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”
Raise your hand if this sounds like a description of… well, you! Or, at the very least, has ever sounded like you, but you’ve been wise enough to reform.
Fiverr, a hub website for anyone who works in a “gig economy” across a variety of professions, recently ran a subway ad with the wording above, accompanied by a black and white photograph of an obviously burnt out woman with a million and one hair flyaways.
While I first came across a photo of this ad via Twitter, and not on the inside of a subway car, I was immediately taken aback. I felt as though I was staring at words that have served as my own life’s philosophy for years upon years. As though if I wasn’t a mirror image of the woman photographed in the ad, I “wasn’t doing enough.”
From Busy-Bee to Burnt Out
I entered college eager to leave a good part of my high school life behind, and as a result, I metaphorically dove head-first into my courses and extracurricular activities. By my senior year, my daily schedule looked something like this:
8:00 A.M.: First alarm goes off. Roll over.
8:25 A.M.: Get up! Get dressed. Throw on enough makeup to make it look like you care.
8:30 A.M.: Drive roommate to internship approximately 10 minutes away from campus. Stop for drive-thru discount coffee. Drive back to campus.
9:00 A.M.: First class of the day.
11:00 A.M.: Lunch. Hole up in the corner of the dining hall with an endless supply of junk food and last night’s homework.
12:30 P.M.: Second class of the day.
2:30 P.M.: Third class of the day.
4:30 P.M.: More coffee. Sometimes, pick up roommate from internship (another roommate and I switched off on the return trip).
5:30 P.M.: First chorus rehearsal.
7:00 P.M.: Second chorus rehearsal.
8:45 P.M.: Run to Taco Bell for some semblance of “dinner.” Stop at home to grab books.
9:15 P.M.: Student senator “office hours.” (All student senators were required to keep an “open office” for two hours each week, when constituents could visit with concerns. Usually, my friends visited instead.)
11:15 P.M.: Go home. Continue to hit the books. Homework had been started during “office hours.” Talk to “home friends” in between studying. Answer emails related to extracurriculars.
3:15 A.M.: Shower.
3:45 A.M.: Go. To. Sleep.
My daily schedule in college was the epitome of what Fiverr would describe as the schedule of a “doer”. And while I don’t usually go to sleep by a quarter to four in the morning anymore, not much has changed since college.
I’m not the only one, either. I witness friends stuck in similar holding patterns. We’re always busy. If we’re not busy, we have to be “doing.” While memes about staying home on the couch over the weekend experience overwhelming popularity among millennials, my hypothesis is that they are popular because we don’t spend enough time staying home on the couch. When we do, on the off-chance that our schedules allow for it, that time is as close to sacred as it can get for a situation that is not, by nature, religious.
And they think our generation is lazy… ha!
How Fiverr Gets it Wrong About Entrepreneurship
Fiverr intends to show that in order to be a “doer”, you have to be busy, unhealthy, and burnt out. And though this likely doesn’t sound appealing to anyone, we keep falling victim to this mentality.
So, why are we doing it? Why are we perpetually chasing our tails in a career rat race, sacrificing our collective well-being? What for?
The obvious answer, of course. We’ve been hearing for years about how the economy during which we’ve entered (and are still entering) the job market is not the same as the economy during which our parents entered the job market. In order to avoid Robbing Peter to pay Paul, as the saying goes, we’re working increasingly hard at our full-time gigs in the hopes that we’ll be noticed by management, and in turn, ensure job security for as long as a company can provide it to us. For those of us not in full-time gigs (which, ironically, is the captive audience of Fiverr), we’re chasing around three and four different gigs just to pay off student loans.
The Societal Message
I started on this “doer” track from the time I was in high school, and as evidenced by my typical day as a college student, I started on it myself long before I entered the working world. It constantly felt as though nothing was enough, and I couldn’t put my finger on why. Now, it all makes sense.
The message of being a “doer” — whether that’s as a student, in a full-time job, as an entrepreneur, or in the “gig economy” — has been engrained in us for years. Based on what I hear from my young relatives of middle and high school ages, the mindset is only starting to impose its way sooner than it did for me. Between college applications, AP and IB-level courses, hoards of extracurriculars, sports recruitment, class rankings, scholarships, and overall marketability, high school has become The Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in your favor. Only the strong survive. That kind of atmosphere. And we’re talking about teenagers here!
All of the Above, and More
If pressed to answer the question of which reason comes out on top, I’d honestly have to answer that there is no definitive “winner.” Both reasons drive us to be “doers.” But the truth is that only one is truly essential, and that’s Money.
Yes, there are times where in order to earn the money that we need to afford all of our expenses (transportation, rent, credit cards, food, and of course… student loans), we have to force ourselves to be extreme “doers.” To run on fumes and pick up as many gigs as we possibly can. To earn money to spend money on our entrepreneurial pursuits. To work long hours and forget to have lunch. And while it’s not healthy, it’s understandable.
But, whether you’re working a 9-5 full-time job, an aspiring entrepreneur, or a fully-established entrepreneur, the mentality described in the ad is not a mentality to aspire to.
Sure, you have to work hard when establishing your business — but at what cost?
How many times do you hear the phrase “work/life balance” thrown around and laugh to yourself, because you have never known a world where that exists?
You’re Still a Doer
If you work hard, you’re still a doer. If you show up, dress up and never give up, you’re still a doer. If you have any type of entrepreneurial aspirations at all, and you spend as much time as you possibly can trying to turn those aspirations into reality, you’re still a doer.
Even if you have no idea what your next step is, and you’re spending every day trying to figure it out, you’re still a doer. And if you care about people, and do what you can to help them, you’re still a doer.
Society — and Fiverr — tells us that none of the above is enough. That your well-being doesn’t matter. Guess what: it does. And even if sometimes, you “pick you” first… you’re still a doer.
What do you think about this idea of the “burnt out entrepreneur”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!