Why ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ is Bullshit

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dont-work-hard-play-hardDeep down you must have felt it too.

That gnawing sense of irk when confronted with the quote: ‘work hard, play hard’.

Unconsciously you knew something’s fishy.

And you’re right.

Apart from the quote being contradictory – working hard often comes down to having no free time – it’s a mantra that may be hurting you.

I mean hurting you existentially. Damaging you to the core of your being.

Here’s why..

1. You are trading your life for money

“So what?” You may ponder. “Money is what makes the world go round!”

Well here’s the thing..

For many of us the reason we’re working hard is to buy things we don’t need. What’s worse, these things make you unhappy.

Unhappy? You might say.

Yes. Because you can never get enough of what you don’t need. So, frustrated and hastily, you keep on racing the rat race.

While deep down you know this isn’t the way. That it’s not an intrinsically rewarding path.

” The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life” . – Eric Hoffer


Not only are you foolishly chasing the dragon, you are selling your soul to the consumerist devil.

From childhood you have been sucked into a dream-stealing, soul-sucking scheme.

“Go to school, get job, save money, live frugally, invest wisely in stocks and whatnot, and one day, when you’re about 65 years old, you can retire wealthy and start enjoying life.”

You are partaking in a scheme not designed for your wellbeing at all. In fact it’s a system that uses you at your expense. You are the battery in the Matrix.

“The price we pay for money is paid in liberty”. – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Money often costs too much”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau


“Don’t work hard, you die at the end, didn’t anyone tell ya?” – Doug Stanhope


Ask yourself: what do I really need?


2. Most jobs are useless anyway

extracts of David Graeber's 'On the Phenomena of Bullshit Jobs'

Just think about it, our modern culture with its excessive consumerism has led to a proliferation of pointless jobs. Chances are you are working such a bullshit job too. Just to get by. Not realizing that meaningless work is the worst kind of torture as it kills your soul.

In “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs“, LSE anthropology Professor and activist David Graeber maintains that much modern employment is pretty much pointless. Working these jobs takes a toll on everyone’s mentality.

During the 20th century the number of  workers employed as domestic servants in farming and industry has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.”

” They talk of the dignity of work. Bosh. True work is the necessity of poor humanity’s earthly condition. The dignity is in leisure. Besides, 99 hundredths of all the work done in the world is either foolish and unnecessary, or harmful and wicked.

What people needed was not work: they needed values. To recite poetry, to contemplate quietly, on the maintop – work was good if it made these things possible, and bad if it blinded one to them, or made them impossible”.  – Herman Melville.



We need useful, meaningful jobs

“We got sidetracked and diverted into these boxes that are called companies or corporations, stuck in these containers they call cubicles or offices,”  “So instead of investing your time in a passion, you’ve sold your life to work for an uncaring machine that doesn’t understand you. That’s the problem with our society. And what’s the reward? Go home and get a big TV.” – Joe Rogan

Image subway: activists plastered the tube with extracts of David Graeber’s ‘On the Phenomena of Bullshit Jobs’ (photo by @alexiscalvas).


3. Work  is not that important

Chances are you have lost your sense of perspective, by letting work take over your life. No one on their deathbed says they should have worked more during their life. The top 2 regrets are:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles”. – Doug Larson.


Of course, once you’ve been lured into the debt trap (or the financial ties trap for that matter) work is important to you. You have no choice. You gotta work to keep paying for the car, the house, the clothes, the fancy parties, and so on.

“The money you have gives you freedom, the money you pursue enslaves you”.  – Jean Jaques Rousseau

Contrary to the idiom, hard work can kill you.

What really counts in life are friends, family, experiences, hobbies, relaxation, rest, health and love.


4. You don’t have to work hard

If you choose to, of course that’s fine. But when you feel that you “should”, which is an accepted moral in modern day society,

because you’re supposed to, you’re not free. But even you are financially free, it’s hard to choose leisure over doing ‘something useful’.

You may not even want to be able to buy the latest shiny gadgets or need to keep up with the Joneses because you don’t give a rats ass about that but you may still feel the pressure to achieve. What worsens the matter is that we aren’t used to spending our free time in a joyous way.

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. – Will Rogers

Nonetheless, it’s essential to always remember that this is your life, and it’s up to you to decide how to live it.

I say waste your time. Time enjoyed wasting was not wasted at all. In our free time we do what we truly want to do, we discover what we, as humans, are really about.


we need more demotivational posters

We need more demotivational posters.


Cultivated leisure is the aim of man. – Oscar Wilde

To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual.  – Oscar Wilde


You may first have to make sure to unshackle by cutting financial ties and becoming debt-free. That’ll make things more pleasant.



5. Why not retire now (and work later)?

Or do like the Irish used to do..


The mantra of a fellow traveler from Brooklyn really stuck with me. When sipping our breakfast mimosa on the porch of our Ocean Beach hostel, some passersby frowned when he stated his life motto: “retire now, work later”.

Thinking about it it dawned to me that his bold, alcohol-colored statement actually makes perfectly sense. Or at least it’s less insane than merging into a corporation, working your life away until you’re old, stiff, sick and tired, or dead even. The so called ‘wealth in a wheelchair’ concept has nothing to do with common sense.

It’s like the George Carlin quote,

“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What’s that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first; get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home.

You get kicked out when you’re too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating …and you finish off as an orgasm.”


This book can help you retire early.

“This is simply one of the best books I have ever read. It is a life changer. The book has more than paid for itself. As a society, we tend to spend hundreds or thousands to make ourselves feel better (e.g., shopping sprees, “experience” vacations, expensive hobbies with lots of gadgets and gear) all the while returning back to a steady state of “getting by” after a few weeks. Instead, why not find a better steady state.”


Research shows that shorter work days result in better quality of work. Working less also makes happier and healthier.


Disclaimer: I, ocassionally, work hard too. But at least it’s for myself. And it’s because I want to. I really like what I do. I get to make my own hours, work on things that interest me and messages I think need to get out. I can work from anywhere, take days off or even months vacation whenever I want. Some days I will sleep out or stay up till deep in the night, and I am accountable to no one but myself .

Want this lifstyle too?


Here’s how to take the first steps into breaking free from corporate slavery:


How To Start A Location Independent Business


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  • To whoever wrote this article. It’s nonsense. The internet you posted on, the electricity and computer and all the various quotes and videos you stated came from people’s work. The world just wouldn’t function without work, period. Everyone can’t simply do whatever they want and expect there will be food, water and shelter. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s why there are millions of sick, starving and dying people on the planet. there’s a reason that societies and the people in them have had the roles they have because of the life/work cycle. Yes, some get to break free from this, but millions don’t. the majority don’t. So, although I’m all about finding new and different ways to approach life, this business of everyone should just stop working is B.S. The world hasn’t, doesn’t and never will work that way. Someone, somewhere is always going to have to do some things to make sure other things happen.

    • That’s a typical counter argument to “capitalism is bad” which this post is not about. I’m not advocating laziness or not working at all, I’m merely suggesting to put things in perspective.

    • I should let my colleagues at the hospital know that they’re all working too hard. After all, It’s just work and jobs are essentially useless.

      Why do we even keep the doors open on Christmas – or Fridays, for that matter?

      “Not only are you foolishly chasing the dragon, you are selling your soul to the consumerist devil.

      From childhood you have been sucked into a dream-stealing, soul-sucking scheme.”

      If that isn’t a “capitalism is bad” rant, I don’t know what is.

      I solve problems and invent solutions involving esoteric systems that only a relative handful of people in the world even know about. This, in turn enables our laboratory to ensure that every specimen is labelled correctly, that the right tests are run, that errors are caught and corrected, and that the correct results are delivered back to providers promptly. In this environment, one wrong result – or the right result too late – could cost a patient their life.

      No one dreams of doing my job when they’re a kid. Most of the people working at the hospital have never heard of my job. Yet, it’s a job that needs to be done. 50-60 hour weeks are common, more when there’s a project that needs completed. During a housewide crash, 24 hour days are not unheard of. Day or night, weekend or weekday – even on vacation, I have to be ready to answer a phone call, and possibly to head into work.

      I don’t even get overtime.

      And yet, this is not a soul sucking job.

      There is no thrill greater than chasing down the roots of an intractable problem when everything has gone off the rails. There is no greater validation than being the ‘go to guy’ when the ship hits rough waters. And no joy purer than the Eureka moment when you find the root of the problem, and devise a working solution.

      For all of that, my job is no more important than any other in the hospital. From the people in billing who keep the revenue flowing so bills get paid, all the way to the people in environmental services – without whom, every hospital would be an infectious cesspit covered from end to end with the world’s deadliest pathogens. It takes a lot more than just doctors and nurses to keep a hospital running.

      But that can’t really be the measure of what is important in a job, can it? What of leisure and recreation? The whole point of your post is that these things have value, right?

      According to your Doug Larson quote up there, the world would be short of fishing poles if people focused on “what was important”. But by that logic alone, fishing poles are important. Which means the guy at Wal-Mart who sells you the fishing pole has an important job. Not to mention the people who design fishing poles – the world would definitely suffer a shortage of fishing poles if all of those guys retire early. Assuming you aren’t independently wealthy (fishing land ain’t cheap) you’ll need to drive to the lake — Car Salesperson to the rescue! That’s an expensive investment, so you’ll need Insurance Salesperson to make sure you’re covered. Thankfully the Gasoline Delivery Truckers are on the job so you’ll be able to fuel up for the trip. Fast food is a lifesaver on a road trip, so it’s fair to say Fast Food workers have an important job as well. Besides – what’s more comforting than a familiar meal with family in a car? All of those people, and countless others, all had to work to enable you to go fishing. In exchange, you remunerate them with the monetary fruits of your labor.

      All work, done well, is noble. If I had to choose between all of the nuclear physicists and all of the garbage collectors going on strike, I know which would impact my life more immediately.

      The problem with the “Don’t work too hard” cliche, is that we so rarely explore the flipside of that coin. If you aren’t killing it at work, they’ll hire someone who will. Your career stalls out and takes a nosedive and suddenly you’re working the same hours for a quarter of the pay. Or working no hours for no pay. That puts most people about 30 days away from total insolvency. They might be able to stretch that by racking up crippling credit card debt, but that’s just a deeper hole to climb out of. For people who rent, that’s 45 days from being forcibly evicted. Not everyone has someone they can turn to in times of crisis, and the older you get, the fewer of those people there are. For many, following this advice would be a sure path to homelessness.

      In the movies, people complain about the hard working father from their comfortable homes. Cram those same people into a car under an overpass in the dead of winter with no heat, and despite all the quality time they’ll complain he’s a worthless deadbeat who can’t hold down a job.

      • READ the article properly! It says “MOST jobs are useless anyway” MOST jobs. Saving lives isn’t useless. Christ they can’t list all the jobs that aren’t useless. Even working in a hospital doesn’t mean it’s not a useless job. Pushing paper around, all the red tape. Even if someone is a Nurse, Surgeon, they may feel that their job is useless. Operating on people to keep them alive when they’re just going to keep drinking, smoking etc. Unless someone is actually going to loose their lives and they want to live than even being a DR could be seen as useless. Because they’re just putting a band aid over the underlying issue, which is, they hate their lives because they’re working in jobs that are fucking useless!! LOL

  • Wow, a lot of hate for this article from people who didn’t seem to read the proviso that it’s fine to work hard if you choose to because you want to and not because you feel like you should. I’ve worked in soul sucking jobs that helped to saddle entire communities with debt they could never pay off, and useless jobs selling items filled with toxins in disguise that we all thought was great, I’ve studied to be able to have a useful career that I wouldn’t have loved and wouldn’t have helped many people but now I’m switching my focus to something I love which I think will be even more useful because it will be affordable to more people and make lives better, and it was free time wasting that helped me get there. I’ve always said time is the opposite of money, when I’ve had a lot of money I’ve had no time to enjoy anything and rushed from one experience to the next to be able to say I did that. Anyhow great article, I’ve thought all of this since I was in high school, we’re almost all proletariats, trading our time for money.

    • Interesting thoughts. Especially how wasting free time led you to a more sustainable and fulfilling path. Thanks for sharing!

  • “Work hard! Play hard!” is bullshit for several reasons not mentioned (or under-emphazized) here. Here’s a couple.

    1) The message itself seems to promote balance, but it actually promotes imbalance. “Playing hard” supposedly balances off “working hard”. But aside from some possible endorphin production, it just doesn’t. This isn’t an A-B= a more balanced C equation. This is more like A+B = an overexerted C. A better balance would be “Do one hard and the other softly”. Better yet, “Do both as gently as you can.”

    2) For fans of Spinal Tap and their amplifiers that “go up to 11” instead of a mere 10, people can only function at 10. Not just that, operating at 10 for long periods of time is unhealthy. Those who “work hard & play hard” tend to die hard…and early. Everybody knows job stress kills. But playing hard is unhealthy too. Thrill seeking is habit forming. How many thrill seekers wind up as “road pizza”, or die in a Willie E Coyote like splat? Mount Everest is littered with frozen bodies. And that adrenaline-seeking lifestyle leads to risk taking in all facets of life. (For example; cheating, bank robbing, going on the Interwebs, etc.)

    At the very least, working & playing hard is all-consuming and leaves virtually no time for friends, family, human relationships and something completely lacking in this day & age…contemplative thought. Critical shortage there! “Just doing it” requires not thinking about it. How well has that turned out for us?