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.

99 Comments

  • The Atlantic says:

    What about you? Do you derive meaning from your job? Watch more stories about the delicate work-life balance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hb28kAavh0M&list=PLDamP-pfOskN229Te8FUmH9yeSnCjGvG3&

  • CJ Thibeau says:

    Ooooooo sounds interesting! Can't wait to see what other episodes come out of this!

  • bay wolf says:

    The youtuber you used as an example is a total scammer. She constantly cries about depression to gain views and sympathy. Did you do any additional research before making this video?

  • imacg4 says:

    Actually, workism works. Soon (maybe in 50 years) AI and robots are going to take over most of the jobs, and humans will become useless – literally, we will be of no use to provide living foundations for the society. How do we prevent us from suicide as a species – like violence epidemics, global-scale addiction, or unwilling to procreate?
    We have to figure out a way for every human being to have a purpose while not hurting others. The most promising candidate? "Follow your passion." Workism works.

  • Stephen H says:

    Workers of the World > Wake Up !

    Never Forget that that “$$ Check” that You Receive is not an Allowance from Your Parents .

    It represents a $$ Value which is Subordinate in $$$ to Your Value to that Company.

    The Minute that Your Value to the Company Exceeds your Contribution .. or another Individual can Add the Same , if not More Value .. is the Day the Company says > Good Bye.

    Companies have 1 Mantra > That is to Maximize Profit for their Investors.

    As such, Companies have No Loyalty to You and View You are an “Asset” which is Treated InAnimately.

    Presently, in Today’s Global Economic World, there is a “Fight” between Globalists who see the World, its Resources and People as “Assets” to be used / Abused / Discarded in the Name of Profit.

    And there are Nationalists, who recognize these $ Dynamics, but NOT at the Expense of their Country, their People, and their Cultures.

    Work the New god ?

    Friendly Reminder > Worship False gods at Your Own Peril

  • Scarlett Symetria says:

    Robot: What is my purpose?
    Rick: You pass butter.

    An example of how Rick leveraged his tedious menial mindless task of getting the butter by himself, by passing the job to the Robot to do the passing.

  • WrinkleinTime42 says:

    I’m studying to become a teacher, something I am passionate about that makes very little money for the professional job it is. :’)

    I don’t know how I would feel about directly working for a company or corporation … and not that there isn’t burnout in the Education sector! But at the end of the day, good teachers are those who actually care about the people and children they are educating! And that’s what matters to me!

  • garrett tedeman says:

    Outstanding video on a very key issue.

  • Holographic Sentience says:

    Its unlucky to go back to work the day after youve been off 😎

  • Holographic Sentience says:

    America and Japan are two uber competitive devil take the hindmost shitholes

  • Guillermo Carrasco says:

    Modern life is no longer sustainable.

  • lambent ort says:

    I had to walk away from this way of thinking after so many years of not seeing how it was slowly destroying me. I ended up depressed, neurotic, bipolar, and cultivating self-harming behaviour. The only thing that probably saved me was that I genuinely loved what I did at the time. But the attitude was totally misguided. Nowadays, I only work when the spirit moves me. I don't mind living with less… or not being at the centre of things anymore. My health and sanity, and my relationships with people I care about mean much more to me than anything in the world. Everyone else in the world can hustle and grind as much as they want to… but I've taken the slow train.

  • acajudi100 says:

    Work paid for my living, travel, and helping non beggars with my limited excess. I do not beg anyone for anything, so now I have been retired since 2001-2004,and the again at 2004-2012. I always took all the vacation I could and I travelled. I loved my jobs, but I learn to ignore the demons, who worked with me, for My job supported me. There were nice people on the jobs also, but no one can ride your back, unlessyou bend over, and SMILE and drive your enemies crazy. Always be unfuckwithable. Put a d before anger and you get danger

  • ThunderboltTangerine says:

    sick culture.

  • Theomite says:

    The fucking Japanese warned us about this over 20 years ago! How did people not fucking listen?!

  • Miriam Eclipse says:

    So very true

  • E.Regina Gomez Aldea says:

    so good and too short! 🙂

  • JBI JBI says:

    Overwork only is a thing in capitalism countries, unless you climb your way up to become rich. If you’re still a low income worker, only socialist country can keep you from overwork.

  • yy xx says:

    Don’t build your career around social media. You won’t stay at the top for long

  • Dinar AndFriends says:

    Your "solution" was that the government should force your employer to pay you more than you are worth.

    Any more senseless drivel you would like to share with us?

  • Eliane Keller says:

    Clicked on this video and got a Get Help Anxiety commercial… YouTube algorithm is on point but also kinda scary

  • R K says:

    Work is the new religion because we are worshippers by nature. Drop God and it goes to something or someone else. The solution? Make God the centre of your life.

  • Vandit Panvelkar says:

    I think your staff writer just discovered Alain De Botton

  • Nicki nurse says:

    Where I work….in the hospital there seem to be 2 kinds of nurses those who try to be supernurses & run around as if they're on crack (really it's coffee). All they talk about is what happened on the shift prior…..then there are the burned out nurses who hate everything & everyone. They wouldn't care if the building burned down with everyone in it as long as they got out. Ive struggled very hard to be neither. I do the best I can when I'm there….love my time off & use it well. Counting the months till retirement and will then work part time at any other job….burn out is real though…..attitude is everything, control your thoughts.

  • KIM JOHNSON says:

    I go to work to earn the money to build the house that I'm never there to enjoy…because I'm always at work.🧟‍♀️

  • yesimemoin09 says:

    Jobs are more time consuming and employers expect round the clock availability so people have no choice but to try to find meaning in their work. It's not worship of work, it's accepting that you'll never have time for anything else.

  • lan nguyen says:

    Time for a video on "How to live happily for ever on welfare".

  • Emna Hmandi says:

    Can't relate

  • Jessica A. Miller says:

    We have to stop seeing each other as just our jobs too.

  • Migo STX says:

    Try going on a diet. Might make you happier

  • Bryan says:

    The problem comes when unscrupulous, rent-seeking employers/corporations attempt to promote the "meaningfulness" of a position IN LIEU OF providing a living wage. Fulfillment in the workplace is great if you can find it, but baristas and factory workers don't need to be told that they are "team members" who can change the world through their toil – they need to be paid well and have their sovereignty as humans respected.

  • Spoil Something says:

    It's called the "American Dream" because you have to be asleep to believe it
    -George Carlin

  • Claudia Marie Bermudez says:

    Im GenX. I work 32 hours a week and love it. I realized I can without a lot of stuff. I want to acquire experiences not physical possessions.

  • c cabana says:

    I subscribed because this episode. What a different perspective on this thing we call "life"…Great vid!

  • Cherith Brook says:

    I agree with this but we're talking about the people who have the choice to work less. We can't ignore the people without privilege who work several jobs for survival and don't have the option to do what they love or take time for themselves.

  • CheapAssReviews says:

    I forwarded this to my work email.

  • Rukayat Okunola says:

    I count the days until I can legally retire.

  • Michelle Despres says:

    I just acquired my third job and still feel incompetent

  • Oliver Ludwig says:

    I hate my job!

  • Gail Lewis says:

    Jobs and careers are not the same thing. We must work to live, not the other way around. Get money to fuel your passion, don't look for it at the workplace. You most likely won't find it there.

  • Mind & Qi are One says:

    Krow is the new dog.

  • Meow says:

    God and Productivity in America have always been linked. From the moment Europe started sending Colonizers; being productive is linked to puritanical goodness. The American class structure is based in this concept, manipulated by elites to convince people to produce capital for them, since their privilege is abstract labor. Which is code for my innate goodness ( or superiority ) allows me not to work. Our society keeps buying into this repeatedly with every technological "advance " to produce more.

  • jlg395 says:

    This is what happens when you spoil kids and tell them they're special and give them participation trophies. They're absolutely shocked when the world actually expects something of them and doesn't give a shit whether or not they feel like working. Lazy, entitled brats.

  • Alex English says:

    Yes yes yes yes yes – isn't this just the problem with unfettered capitalism?

  • Daniel Villalobos says:

    The truth, as usual, lies somewhere dead center in the middle between these contrasting viewpoints.
    Past generations had to endure hardships that millennials will never experience. There is some truth to this being the "snowflake" generation — many of 'em are "burning out" but I'd wager they don't really know what it's like to be really tested in life.
    On the other hand, for sure humanity is a primitive species, so we've naturally wound up together work and identity. This wouldn't even be so bad if we didn't kill ourselves competing under merciless stress just to outdo each other in the most trivial dumb ways. Acquisition of wealth for its own sake is infantile. It's children hoarding toys.
    Like I said, the truth is in the middle, and in the balance between opposites of hard work and leisure/enjoyment.

  • X5pacemonkeyX says:

    Really timely piece for me. Thank you.

  • Rod says:

    We work to feed the machine and ourselves

  • AM Productions says:

    Elle, where’s Mike? And I’m sorry about your dad

  • Scott Pine says:

    Its called capitalism. You think top down solutions are going to work?

  • Joe Hernandez says:

    Subbed. Good job woody!

  • Derek Van Gorder says:

    "We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living."

    – Buckminster Fuller

    P.S. google Andrew Yang

  • Yubi K. says:

    Why I’m pursuing self-employment.

  • Roy Wessbecher says:

    Beast of burden to "work and earn" is only half of it.
    Milk cow is the other half – spending on unnecessary junk and having your behavioral data sold to advertisers.
    We are just being farmed, and farming some more. (Think ant farm.)
    Kind-of cultural actually. Defines us humans. Numbers also determine the intensity of "the farming". (Think factory farms.)

  • Timothy O'Brien says:

    Has anybody bothered to read Marx?

  • spiderfur says:

    I no longer ask people what they do. If they bring it up, I happy to listen, but I see people as more than their job.

  • Bun Baby says:

    My great grandfather was poor yet he would take any opportunity. He became a beekeeper because he loved to plant stuff and be in the outdoors. He didn't work for any honey company he would sell his honey out in farmer markets or even from the back of his truck. He said he lived a happy life with no worry. My grandfather also did something he loved. He loved coffee and he started selling coffee in his own house and created a coffee space and had a back room for him to sleep in. He knew he had extra room so he allowed college friends to rent the spaces he didn't need. After a while, he didn't need to even get up to start making the coffee since his colleagues were hired by him. He was not rich but he was well paid because he was the owner. I believe these momma and poppa shops are important to the community since these businesses are what keeps me hopeful. I know that not everyone will agree but I believe people should make a small business out of their passion so they can be whole since you got the control on when you want to work or not.

  • Laura Gadille says:

    It does exists

  • Rough says:

    Came here from the yang gang

  • MemoFromEssex says:

    I genuinely hate work. The only job I liked was when I worked as security on a building site, so it was mixture of doing sweet FA and some physical labour. I am a data analyst now and I spend most of my day dreaming of not working, working out ways so I can do more, so I can do less and thinking about how I can get fitter. If I didn't have to work, I'd be on the bike or in yoga classes or running. Work is hell.

  • jon gomez says:

    Yang brought me here 😎🖖🏽 #YangGang

  • Patrik says:

    Universal Basic Income is the answer, so people can get out of the hamster-wheel of work for survival and be more free to engage in pursuits that give real meaning: form relationships, recreational activities, improve health, explore life, improve environment, engage in social and community projects, worship and self-realization, art, beauty, romance and love… all the things our system currently places no value on. We are just meant to work and consume, that's it… it's one-dimensional and boring as hell. Time to liberate ourselves. Time for a Universal Basic Income.

  • Myles Gmail says:

    Andrew Yang is the best candidate, I donated to his campaign!

  • CartoonMan! says:

    My passion? Working minimum wage at a retail store, getting barked at by over-privileged people who think I am their slave. 8 hours a day, 4 days a week, part time, making $7,000 a year. Ah, the good times!

  • Rachel C says:

    This didn't go deep enough for me to be interested in following a new series. Nothing new was learned from it. Depth of history would have been nice to hear. Or maybe this just isn't my style.

  • asdfgasgwh z sadgsdgasdf says:

    This isn't new. This country was founded on hard work. Buncha whiners in the comments. Everything about this is wrong. Work adds meaning to life. If not, you're working the wrong job/industry/etc. I love going to work everyday. I work hard…frequently overtime. But I also have plenty of time to spend with my children. It irks me to hear this perspective. Technically I'm a millennial, albeit at the early end of the spectrum. Ya'll quick whining and go do something you love. If you love what you do, you won't work a day in your life.

  • round about says:

    We need to redefine the ideas of value and work in our society #Yang2020

  • Nick Papsi Lam says:

    Two things. Being a farmer especially a non industrial farmer( home farm) is not a job. It’s life. It’s providing for yourself, toiling the ground. It’s not a job. It’s how you survive. And two. That Elle girl is one of the many millions of people living a lie. You have to give life a “‘meaningful” purpose. Why would you be happy posting garbage non informative video?

  • Nick Papsi Lam says:

    THIRD! Obviously you guys don’t understand what’s going on. It’s called inflation. It has us slaving away. We could work 5-6 hours and be off handsomely if we were interested in ECONOMICS AND GOVERNMENT

  • yamspaine says:

    We are what we do. Much of the work people do isn't constructive… So many people do motions that are counter-productive and wonder why they are working long hours. Working smarter (probably by caring about what we do, going to school doesn't change how much we care, especially if we just party) is better.

    Many hobbies and tasks done for self are still work, they just aren't counted towards GDP??. These are fine.

    For the youtuber, Promoting sport fornication and non-productive things isn't going to lead to a fulfilling life. I'm glad she figured out that she needs to shift what she is doing. Lets hope she finds ways to help build the society up.

  • PinoyAbnoy says:

    for example google "your lifestyle has already been designed"

  • Ivan Daniel says:

    I'm here because Andrew Yang (the presidential candidate) retweeted this video

  • 381Beatz says:

    How can we change? Seems like their is no other way, unfortunately. Money runs the world.

  • Loud Girl Productions says:

    I have been working for 30 years and will be retiring at the end of this year. I consider myself fortunate to retire! This video was great!!! Work was my God for about 29 of those years. It took a medical event to wake me up. People need to learn this earlier than I did.

  • Nathy F. says:

    Mandatory paid vacations is another idea

  • Meh Tell says:

    I want to be a youtuber: becomes a youtuber: Well, theres your first problem, being a v-blogger on youtube. Like a kiddo saying they want to be a superhero, or a rockstar one day, making it by a slim lucky chance, and discovering it was a dream you had as a teen before you even ever worked a real day in the life of the masses, and discover you have no meaning, because who cares if you are a v-blogger, do you add any true essential fabric or essence to the culture as a whole or society, probably not on any level, other than being more white noise entertainment brain drain.

  • danger stranger says:

    Burn out the official fragrance of broken Americans dreams drowning in capitalism.

  • Ellisha Masters says:

    Because capitalism

  • Kieran Jaymes says:

    anyone wanna move into the woods with me and ditch society

  • everything under the sun says:

    This is a 21st century phenomenon. In the 80s it was still understood that work was a meant to sustain your life( housing, utilities and yes the credit card bills). It wasn't until the millennium hit that suddenly a job wasn't good enough. It change to "find your calling" because the Holy grail college degree printed with gold plating became the marker of the upper class. So here we go… we stopped hiring for skills and started hiring for credentials. Then that credential skyrocketed in cost which meant hey; I have a $80k degree in finance and 60K in student loans. You need to hire me in as a VP of border collies or what whatever… plus you need 2 extra gigs on top to pay those loans off
    Now society sells a bogus vision of the workplace to millenials and gen-y as a utopia where they can work from home in their jammies and change the world. It's all a farce folks…

  • Hank Kuya says:

    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?

  • Royfi De La Cruz says:

    Zoz9

  • Gary H says:

    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

  • Caitlyn says:

    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.

  • Kevin Louis-Jean says:

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

  • Nad 89 says:

    Not work as much as money is the new God

  • Pigdoc1 says:

    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 🙁

  • Becoming Vincent says:

    Arbeit macht frei

  • springer k says:

    So cute: Work IS the new God – ummm…it has been for decades.

  • whyno713 says:

    What you do does not make who you are, but coming from a GenX, the opposite was sold to us from all angles.

  • Carol Green says:

    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.

  • faded fella says:

    So basically Japan?

  • C. Lincoln says:

    ..snowflakes.

  • Richard Cook says:

    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

  • Gary Henzler says:

    Forty years of capitalism running amok and left unchecked. Is anyone really that surprised?

  • Tacitus of Mylasa says:

    Everyone: Just how postmodern are you gonna be?
    The Atlantic:

  • Ms_Gen_Xodus says:

    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.

  • rodriguez alex says:

    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.

  • Amara Jayne says:

    #Arbeiterroman definitely has become our modern quest for meaning

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