In a World Under Quarantine, Hustle Porn Isn’t So Sexy Anymore

Its top influencers have largely remained quiet about a challenge that no amount of rising and grinding will be able to overcome

Like pretty much everything else in the world at the moment, the Gospel of Grind has ground to a halt. The hustle porn meant to oil those gears is dormant, and its greatest evangelists — Gary Vaynerchuk, Simon Sinek and Jay Shetty — have gone silent. After all, how do you convince people to feel inspired and fulfilled by a capitalistic system on the brink of total collapse (and which is bringing down with it whatever riches they’ve earned from all that rising and grinding)?

Just last week, for example, Ryan Serhant, a real estate broker, star of Million Dollar Listing and the epitome of a New York Hustle Guy, released a video without the usual tropes of 5 a.m. gym sessions, putting in extra time at the office and running around NYC to sell luxury apartments to Saudi princes. Instead, he simply urged his followers “not to sit on the couch and watch Netflix” during quarantine and to try doing some breathing exercises until things get back to normal.

Meanwhile, there’s little mention of coronavirus on Vaynerchuk’s YouTube channel and social feeds. In fact, his latest posts are an old recording of a boardroom meeting about growing businesses on social media and why being rejected should “fire you up” — videos presumably meant to encourage viewers to still find ways to grind from home. For his part, Shetty, the British “former monk” turned motivational speaker, has offered up some bland generalizations about COVID-19 — mainly, how we should use it as “an opportunity” to “revitalize” through meditation and serenity. 

And so, a new group of YouTubers and podcasters has sensed — you guessed it — an opportunity in the quiet of the genre’s giants. As such, they’re proselytizing a special quarantine edition of the Gospel of Grind, encouraging those who’ve had to self-isolate and work-from-home to use the opportunity to build a side hustle, learn how to code and, of course, to start investing in gold and cryptocurrencies. Basically, they’re preaching that rather than suffering the consequences of hyper capitalism, we should reinvent ourselves over the next few weeks of quarantine so that by the time we’re allowed out again, we’ll have dozens of valuable new skills to offer whatever corporations are left standing.

Along these lines, followers on Vaynerchuk’s Facebook page have taken up the mantle for him. Case in point:

Gary Vee couldn’t have said it better himself. 

I did, though, find at least one guy who had begun to question Vaynerchuk’s wisdom. “I used to watch his videos and Instagram posts daily,” says Ryan, a 33-year-old former line cook from Portland. “But I watch Gary’s videos now, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, the dude has a great life, and he’s gonna be fine.’ He has money, his own company, all that. I don’t really remember any time he’s talked about guys my age who have lost their jobs and what they can realistically do.” 

Such a post would certainly be pertinent to Ryan’s life now. He lost his job a couple of weeks ago when the barbecue restaurant he worked at closed due to COVID-19. Ryan had anticipated it might happen, but he’d hoped that his diligence and work ethic, as well as the fact that he’d put in extra — and it should be noted, unpaid — hours would protect him. 

Still, he hasn’t completely abandoned the Vaynerchuk way. Because at a time when people deeply distrust the government, mainstream media and other forms of authority, Ryan still believes Gary Vee is a force for good who mostly “wants to give hope and inspire people” — something Ryan thinks we need now more than ever. “When I watch the news, all I hear is doom — that people are going to die, that Trump is making things worse,” he tells me. “And that can get you down. Sometimes what I need — what we all need — is someone to tell us that we can make things better.”