The Death of the 9-to-5: The End of The Employee & The Rise of The Side Hustler

article side hustling Mar 22, 2022

The 9 to 5 was born in the early 1920s.

Henry Ford’s factories formalized the institution-centric, employee-driven structure that shaped the workplace of the 20th century. For generations, our lives have been designed for us, by a system that defined human beings as units of labour; as line items on corporate balance sheets. 40 hour work weeks. Capped salaries. Limited, linear growth. Working during the days. Living our lives in the evenings and on the weekends. 

For 100 years, people have been conditioned to see themselves first and foremost as employees: trading time for money, pursuing higher rungs on the corporate ladder, and chasing after dream jobs. Our school system teaches us this worldview and prepares us for life as an employee, a small part of a large institution. We have been punching clocks since kindergarten. As adults, we are fed a story that the best we can do is be employees by day and ourselves by night. At the centre of the holy grail that is work-life balance is the implication that our lives and our work are separate. We live our lives in the evenings, on the weekends, and in retirement. We are conditioned to believe that the best we could hope for is to control the edges of our existence. This fractured control over our time has meant generations of fracturing our identities: the best hours of our lives are spent on someone else’s terms, living within the constraints of the employee identity someone else defined for us, within the confines of a life we didn’t design. We have passively played by these rules, within the boundaries of this playing field, for a century.

The 9 to 5 died in the early 2020s. 

The Institution-centric, employee-driven world of work had a century long run. The onset of the COVID 19 pandemic accelerated the reshaping of the world of work and we are actively evolving our role within this new world. The great resignation is the canary in that coal mine. The era of the employee is dead. Jobs are over. The 9 to 5 has been obliterated. These shifts had been trudging forward inch by inch for the better part of a decade - shifts in individual perspectives opened the eyes of early-adopters to new ways of life, and emerging technologies started to make those new ways of life accessible en masse. The fire of change was already lit. The pandemic was gasoline that ignited a blaze. 

The workplace of the past is burning to the ground. 

This is the end times for the world of dream jobs. 

The destruction of the institution-centric universe. 

We are witnessing the death of the 9 to 5.

And we are building something new in its place … 

Welcome to the era of the side hustler. 

The side hustle era is coming to life in the early 2020s. In the wake of the collapsing 9 to 5 workplace of the past, the age of individual empowerment has emerged. I’m not talking about side hustling in the “work performed for income supplementary to your primary job” sense of the word. That’s the institutional, norm-corp, 9 to 5ers definition of side hustling. It’s impossible for institutions invested in preserving the workplace of the past to appropriately define ideas that serve to obliterate that world. A system won’t readily provide its members with the tools, skills, or language to bring it down. They don’t teach escape 101 in the prison system. They don’t teach side hustling in schools, or in the workplace. Schools condition us to be good employees. They are part of the system. For those of us who have left that world behind, who have rejected the old normal, side hustling holds an entirely different definition. We know that income isn’t the only currency worth chasing. And, we know that a worldview that positions jobs as the necessary primary thing is archaic. 

So, what is side hustling? 

Side Hustling is a way of life that is based on growing an adaptable portfolio of work in pursuit of multiple, alternative currencies.

It is a fundamental shift in perspective and lifestyle design, one that moves away from the single career path, single line of income, institution-centric world of the 20th century. It’s a rejection of slow, linear, salary-capped growth. It is a shift to embrace being multi-talented, multi-passionate people who want to control how we spend our days and how we spend our lives.

Side Hustling is chasing a dream life, not a dream job. 

It’s human-centric, not institution-centric.

It emphasizes portfolios of income, not salaries.

It acknowledges that time is our most valuable asset, not money.

The rules of the game have changed because we have decided to change them. We. Individual human beings. Not institutions. The 20th century belonged to them. The 21st century is ours.

Does this mean no one will, or should, have jobs, or be employees? No. Of course not. Many will still have jobs. Many will still be employees. The shift is away from jobs being our primary function as humans as we transition to growing adaptable portfolios of work. The shift is away from single lines of income toward growing a portfolio of work. It’s the worldview that our primary purpose as humans is to be employees in service of large institutions that is dead.  I’m not going to pretend to understand the purpose of life, but I sure as hell know it’s not to be a line item on a corporation’s expense report. We weren’t born to be units of labour. Another lesson the pandemic taught us in abundance is that job security is a mirage. It’s a freshwater lake in the desert. It doesn't exist. Solely relying on your status as an employee, solely relying on your single line of income, creates significant, unnecessary exposure to risk. 

We are all artists, creators, and entrepreneurs. We have to be. The realities of the 21st century being defined by unpredictable, volatile change, dictates that we need to learn to side hustle to defend against that uncertainty. Side hustling in that way is both an offensive and defensive strategy. It at once opens up avenues for exponential growth to all of life’s alternative currencies, while protecting us against uncertainty. By growing multiple streams of income and the skills needed to adapt by opening up new revenue streams when the world demands it, we put ourselves in the driver’s seat of our lives.  

As we head deeper into the 20s, empowered to design our lives and to control the entirety of our existence, learning becomes our life’s work. At its core, that’s the job of the side hustler. To learn. To evolve. To re-imagine and re-invent. Over and over again. Thriving in this new world means mastering the ability to build new skills & acquire new knowledge. It means building the muscles of entrepreneurship that allow us to identify & build business model mechanics to wrap around those skills so we can open up new lines of income and new avenues to the alternative currencies that matter. 

If this speaks to you … if evolving to that next form of yourself has been on your mind … if you’ve contemplated setting fire to the 9 to 5 life of the past where you only have control over the edges of your existence … here’s a match.

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