Performative workaholism, the art of the "soft no," and writing a New Year's letter in September

Victor Saad


Welcome to issue No. 18 of Work Different — a weekly summary of the top articles focused on workplace culture and career development.

On Performative Workaholism

We live in the world of hustle culture. Young professionals are working 18-hour days and feel guilty when they’re not working. Our society has learned to “glorify ambition not as a means to an end, but as a lifestyle.” Working long hours does not improve productivity or creativity, so why do we still keep at it, day after day? Tech companies with romantic visions such as “making the world a better place” and “unlocking the potential of human creativity” have got their employees to venerate work and worship their grueling work ethic, leaving many feeling burned out and unhappy. Many of life’s joys come from time spent outside of work, such as being in nature and with loved ones. For the workaholics out there, it’s time to rethink our relationship with work. New York Times.


On the Art of the Soft No

In this episode of NPR’s Lifekit, Natalie Lue shares useful tips on how to curb our people-pleasing habits. People pleasing, just like anything else, is a habit that we can learn to change. Here are some things you can do: 1. Observe. Notice how you spend your energy. How are you responding to others’ requests of you? 2. Understand your bandwidth and learn to respect it.  No matter who you are, you have a limited amount of time and energy. Before responding to a request, notice how you’re feeling both mentally and physically.  3. Learn the difference between a desire and an obligation. “If you do things from a place of guilt or obligation. It’s guaranteed to lead to resentment.” 4. Before you say yes, pause. Consider if the other person is making a suggestion or a demand of you. Often, it is a suggestion that you do something, which means you have the choice to take it or leave it. 5. Learn the art of the soft no. Learning to stick to an elegant decline of a request such as, “Thank you but I do not have bandwidth for it at this time.” Do not be overly apologetic. I have found these tips helpful, I hope you do too. NPR.

Image credit above: Klaus Kremmerz

On Writing a New Year’s Letter in September

This year has been a tremendous year of change for all of us. As we approach the end of 2020, I invite you to pause and recalibrate through an annual exercise I do every year. Before October 1st (Thursday), take a moment to sit down with a pen and piece of paper, and write a letter to yourself to be opened on January 1st, 2021. There are no limitations to what you can write, but some questions to help guide your thinking: What do you want to remember about your year thus far? How have you changed this year? What do you wish were different? Where do you hope to be this time next year?  This writing exercise has been a tradition of mine for many years. I have found it to be surprisingly centering and rewarding. Learn more about this exercise and sign up for a reminder here.

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Victor Saad


I’m an author, educator, and community builder living in Chicago. I started Experience Institute, an organization helping college students and career professionals learn and grow through short-term, real-world experiences.

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