I’m not naturally a hustler. I’m easy going can usually be found on cruise control. It’s my natural state when I’m not passionate about something. That’s true of many people.
I have moments where I can flip the switch and get motivated, too. It’s usually when I have my eyes on some short term goal or when other people are relying on me.
However, I’ve noticed something recently. Most of the people I admire, people who are rock stars in their field, and those who leave the scent of inspiration on you after engaging with them — they’re all hustlers.
This isn’t really news. We all know that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
But hustling is hard.
It takes remarkable amounts of willpower to do it over long periods of time. Charles Duhigg tells us in The Power of Habit that “willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder…”. You’ve got to understand how to strengthen it to keep it moving when faced with attrition.
A few days ago, a friend told me that I’m a person she thinks of when she needs some motivation. That was humbling news for two reasons. For one, that kind of feedback is emblematic of the legacy I want to leave when I peace out of this place. And two, she’s one of the people I think of when I’m running low on motivational mojo. She’s a hustler if I ever saw one.
That got me to thinking. What habits do hustlers practice? What traits do they embody? What do the symptoms of hustling look like?
Here’s what I’ve got so far.
“They say your attitude determines your latitude. So I’m high as a motherf***er, fly as a motherf***er”
— Kanye West
Whether you like Kanye or want to sew his mouth shut for the foreseeable future, he’s got the essence of a hustler baked into his belly.
Attitude as it pertains to hustling is about your mindset when it comes to overcoming obstacles. Whether you’re studying for an exam, preparing for a big presentation or trying to shed a few pounds, you’ve got to approach it with confidence, resolve and the mindset that you’re going to crush it.
And if you don’t, you dust yourself off and go at it the same way next time.
Hustlers take challenges in stride and keep their cool along the way.
“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”
— Peter Marshall
Many people that have a strong work ethic have something in common. They’ve been through some sort of strife or contrition and made it out okay.
Sometimes it’s escaping an impoverished upbringing or fighting and defeating some illness. Either way, they come out on the other side with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for what life has to offer. Life is too precious to waste time on the trivial.
Fortunately for us, tragedy is not a requirement. You can start being grateful and appreciative right now because it’s just a good idea.
It will do wonders for your outlook on life.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”
— Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Hustlers are opportunistic. They look at problems as opportunities to capitalize on. And they put in the time backstage so that when it is their time to shine, they make the most of it. Whether it’s a one-liner in the play or the leading role, the approach is still the same.
They also create opportunities by taking calculated and intelligent risk over and over again.
Have you heard of the concept of a Minimum Viable Product?
“…the minimum viable product (MVP) is the product with the highest return on investment versus risk.”
Note: Many entrepreneurs are hustlers. And for entrepreneurs, everything is an opportunity.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
— Bruce Lee
Remember, hustlers are only human. They’re fallible guys and gals vulnerable to distraction.
We’re surrounded by distractions, too. In the 21st century, they’re more prevalent than ever. From the more manageable technological distractions like always buzzing devices, to the inevitable ones, like managers making requests that we acquiesce to.
People who hustle move quickly past distractions because they’re able to focus on what’s essential. They develop systems for dealing with them and minimizing their impact. They’re also good at saying ‘no’ — respectfully and when it’s appropriate of course.
Focusing on the goal illuminates all the ways of attaining it.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. “
— Abraham Lincoln
In 2014, we lost an estimated 585,720 people to cancer. That’s jarring.
On January 4, 2015, we lost another one. Stuart Scott, one of ESPN’s pioneering anchors, lost his battle to cancer at age 49. But he didn’t see it as a loss and neither should we.
This year at the ESPY’s, he was honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. In his tear-jerking and uplifting speech he proposed a better lens with which to view death and cancer.
“When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live”
The ever-present awareness of the ticking clock that starts when we’re born shouldn’t scare us. We can’t predict how long it will run before it stops.
Coping with that uncertainty allows hustlers to live with the same level of urgency regardless of check out date.
Friends of yours whom you might identify as having symptoms of the hustle might not bring up their impending mortality at your dinner party (#buzzkill), but I would bet they’re unconsciously aware of it.
“There is no decision that we can make that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice”
— Simon Sinek
There aren’t too many decisions we make without an inevitable trade-off. Most of society has a hard time accepting that idea. Clients and corporations have an especially hard time swallowing it. And governments? They just disregard it altogether.
But it’s not hard to understand why. Trade-offs are just difficult to cope with.
Hustlers are great at coping with trade-offs. They make conscious decisions to give up X for Y on a regular basis. Whether it’s studying for a certification exam over time with friends or the predictably less satisfying greek salad over the burger and fries, they consistently choose the path that leads them towards their goals. All the while being well aware of what they’re giving up.
“It seems to me shallow and arrogant for any man in these times to claim he is completely self-made, that he owes all his success to his own unaided efforts. Many hands and hearts and minds generally contribute to anyone’s notable achievements.”
— Walt Disney”
Have you ever seen anyone accept an award for anything and not thank a single person? If you have, don’t tell me about it because it’ll break my heart.
That’s because great things aren’t accomplished alone. Any things, really. When you learned to poop, someone was there showing you the way to make sure you didn’t get poop all over your hands. When you went through a rough break up, there was a friend with you to sip cheap wine with on the couch and cuddle up if necessary. If you become a CEO, there will be mentors that guide you and colleagues who support you along the way. It’s usually when those support systems aren’t in place that things go awry.
People who hustle have the biggest and best support systems. Those systems wear many hats and make countless sacrifices. When the other symptoms of hustling are languishing, they kick in.
They urge us to keep our head up when confidence is waning. They remind us of what it is we have to be grateful for. They push us out the door even when they would rather keep us at home by their sides.
Now go call your mom and say ‘thanks’; Or anybody else that you love and care for that means something to you.
I mentioned before that I’m not naturally a hustler. After a bit of exploration, I know more about what it takes to manufacture it.
You don’t have to have all the symptoms, but you should start surrounding yourself with more people who do so their hustle rubs off on you. I know I am.
Let me know if missed anything and be sure to share this anyone showing symptoms of hustle.
Thanks for reading! If you got any value from this, it would mean a lot to me if you shared it with someone else. Pay it forward. That’s how we all got here after all!
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