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MALIK: Be wary of idolizing lifestyle habits of world's wealthiest

Column: On the Good Life

In order to avoid getting caught up in hustle culture, we need to stop trying to emulate the lifestyles of billionaires like Elon Musk. – Photo by @streetmediatv / Twitter

In recent years, there has been a greater focus on hustle culture, which is being promoted by those who we would expect to need money the least: millionaires and billionaires.

Gary Vaynerchuk, known for his TikToks in which he constantly gives advice on how to be rich and work hard, is an investor and podcast host. He is popular for his statements that promote working hard, like "stop whining, start hustling." His appearance on social media, though, is part of a trend that pertains to more than just hustle culture.

One of the main aspects of hustle culture nowadays is the need for people to know billionaires’ secrets in order to learn how they, too, can become successful. From knowing what books they read to what time they get up to even knowing the inner workings of their thought processes, the fascination with rich people's wealth has turned into an obsession with trying to be exactly like them and emulate their behavior.

The odder thing is that the rich are willingly answering questions in order to supposedly help others. Jeff Bezos reveals his own reading lists by recommending books such as "Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies" and "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't," both by Jim Collins. Both books focus on making companies the greatest they can be by analyzing consistent traits.

CNBC reported that "nearly 9 out of 10 of the CEOs surveyed rise no later than 7 a.m." The point being made is that when we ask billionaires how they live their lives, we are consequently bombarded with information on how everything they do is for their focus on productivity and ultimately making money.  Famously, Mark Zuckerberg wears the same shirts in order to not get decision fatigue and to promote his productivity.

What we are being dangerously sold is the idea that these millionaires and billionaires were able to reach their current economic status solely due to their willingness to prioritize productivity — something that other people, theoretically, are just not prioritizing enough. What we are being told is that they are simply better than us, and we should strive to be like them in any way.

This concept is dangerously close to the ideas presented by Andrew Carnegie in "The Gospel of Wealth." In the essay, he argues that it is the duty of the rich to help the poor with the wealth that they have amassed. This general argument is clearly commendable because it not only displays generosity but also displays a duty to aid and help those in need.

But the argument Carnegie makes is made on the basis that rich people are inherently better than poor people and therefore must help them in ways that they cannot help themselves. This line of reasoning asserts that the rich deserve and work for their wealth while those in lower economic classes lack the capacity and the will.

This is mirrored in hustle culture's belief that the wealthy have worked for their wealth through discipline and a complete focus on their lifestyle, from their choice of books to the time they wake up in the morning.

The reality, though, is that many wealthy people have access to generational or familial wealth that has helped them get to their current economic standing. This also provides them the comfort and flexibility to try and fail and to wait for their company to grow. Their wealth affords them time, too, which many people do not have if they have bills to pay and people that depend on them for income.

For example, Vaynerchuk started off working with his family’s wine business and earned more money once making it more digitally accessible. Bezos’ parents invested $250,000 into Amazon and gave him time to grow the company, allowing for his acquisition of immense wealth today. Elon Musk’s family famously profited from emerald mines. For most people, the wealth that they have is influenced by the goals of hustle culture.

The truth is that while many of us could read all the right books and wake up at the earliest hours of the morning, we will not end up as billionaires or millionaires. We have been convinced that we should look up to those who are rich and that we should try to emulate them in order to amass our own wealth, but their wealth comes from several other factors.

At the end of the day, they do not really know how they would have accumulated their wealth without the money and privilege that was previously available to them, particularly through their families. Therefore, you should be wary if you think they should be your role model.

Sehar Malik is a first-year in the School of Arts and Sciences where she is majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and minoring in French. Her column, "On the Good Life," runs alternate Thursdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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