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You're going to see more people downsizing their relationship with work

The one truth of all our emergencies is that people want to fundamentally downsize their relationship with work
You're going to see more people downsizing their relationship with work
Photo by Nathan Anderson / Unsplash

Sustain issue #29 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking both for my writing and my day job about how to describe the macro changes happening with people and their relationship to work. You’ve heard lots of conversations about hybrid work, The Great Resignation, DEI, and employee well-being. But none of these important areas alone completely capture what appears to be going on, especially for knowledge workers.

Put your oxygen mask on first

On a plane you're told to first put on your oxygen mask before helping others in case of emergency. As much as we had been told to do this in life, we didn't.


There hadn't been an emergency so we chose work, we chose others, then (finally) we chose ourselves. Then an emergency happened, actually several. Pandemic, racial justice awakening, political unrest, and climate disasters.

We’re now seeing more and more people write their own story. They are making the courageous choice to put their mask on first. Maybe this is you?

Downsizing work

Tangibly, what does it look like for work when people put their mask on first?

We’re seeing a rise of people choosing to redefine success. As we’ve been discussing in our Fall Reset series, the once-normal money & power definition of success is giving way to the agency over time definition of success.

These success redefiners are willing to work hard enough to get enough, but no more. It’s a conscious rejection of the notion that to get ahead you must work crazy hours and say yes to all the things, because this group doesn’t care about getting ahead in the money and power sort of way.

When success looks less like keeping up with the Joneses, we’re going to see more people spending less time with the typical means to unlock that: Work. We’re going to see more of what Deep Work author Cal Newport has termed Career Downsizing.

Just as you should downsize your house when its size has reached the point of diminishing returns, you should also aim to downsize your relationship with work when the added size & scope isn’t serving your life positively.

What would your life, your health, and your happiness look like if you made the brave decision to put your oxygen mask on first and downsize your relationship with work?

At a sustainable pace,


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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