To be called a hustler often comes with a negative connotation.
Drug dealers hustle, cheaters hustle -- and the guy who just snatched up your $20 at the pool hall? He hustles too. There’s a reason that crinkled $20 is in his pocket now, and not yours. It’s because he took it from you.
The act of earning something from seemingly nothing is the art of hustling.
But honest people can hustle, too. There are a lot of successful people out there, with good morals, who have mastered hustling and reaped big rewards.
Hustling, by definition, is not a crime. Of course, criminal acts are often associated with hustling, but success is, too. Hustlers don’t wait until they have something, they go out and get it. Whether it be drug money, job opportunities or that pretty girl who seems untouchable, sitting by herself at the bar.
What separates a good hustler from a bad one is the, “I’m taking this” mentality. It doesn’t always manifest itself at a billiards table, either.
It’s a life mentality, a mindset that all go-getters seem to be born with. Ultimately, when go-getters can’t get something, they’ll be forced to take it. And that is the hustle.
Some see hustling as a way to compensate for shortcomings. In the face of racial discrimination, "the ghetto hustler is internally restrained by nothing,” Malcolm X famously said. “The ghetto hustler is forever frustrated, restless, and anxious for some action. Whatever he undertakes he commits himself to it fully, absolutely.”
You’ll have to take risks in life to be successful, at anything, and hustling is just the same. If you see an opportunity, jump at it. Don’t wait. Even if you aren’t the most qualified for the task, take a lesson from Malcolm X’s “ghetto hustler” and commit yourself to it, fully and absolutely. No restraints.
Although Malcolm X was alluding to dope dealers, thieves and participants in other illicit activities, this same concept can transcend to your own life. Of course, with far less malicious intent.
Here are the 13 lessons we can all learn, to better ourselves, from the common hustler:
13. Be dangerous, without being threatening.
Be feared, but also don’t make yourself unapproachable. Let others know what you’re capable of, but don’t fully flaunt your killer instinct until the right situation presents itself.
12. Act the part.
Whether it be a new job in consulting or your “start-up” venture, conduct yourself as if you’ve been “in the game” for years.
First impressions can only delve so deep, so your physical appearance is key. Body language is just as important as any tailored suit. Be comfortable.
11. “Always clock late.”
Make note of the dope dealers Malcolm X was referring to, selling drugs by the park benches for all hours of the night. Think twice next time you feel like punching out of work at 5:00 on the dot.
10. Have a swagger.
Always conduct yourself with a quiet confidence; you may not always be the best suited for a specific task, but others don’t need to know that.
9. Be a Jack of All Trades.
Opportunities come and go, as do fields of work. Be ready to jump around. Today you might be doing something entirely different from last year, and tomorrow you could be doing something entirely different from today.
Life is unpredictable. Familiarize yourself with many different fields, so that when new circumstances arise, you’ll be ready.
8. Know when to give up; don’t try to win battles at the expense of the war.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in too deep. Know when to take a step back, and revisit the proverbial “drawing board.” If you place all of your eggs in one basket, without proper planning – if things fall apart – you’ll be left with yolk on your face.
7. Don’t be afraid to try on different “hats.”
It’s extremely rare that anyone will find their true “calling” on their first shot. Hustlers will often hold down many “jobs” at once before honing in on their one, true bread and butter. Even if those “jobs” weren’t clear paths to success, by themselves. The experience is a virtue.
6. It’s a long process.
Don’t get impatient. You think any “good” drug lord started out pumping kilos of coke from Cuba, a la Tony Montana? Hell to the no. You’ll have to sell “dime bags” in your own profession before hitting it big. It’s an analogy. Relax narcs.
5. Practice makes perfect.
You can’t hustle until your craft is perfected, even if that “craft” is the wonderful art of bullsh*tting. Spend time mastering whatever you choose to do, in private, before experimenting out in the wild.
4. Don’t show people your true cards.
Never expose your “hand” to people around you. Sometimes it’s better to downplay your own potential to certain people to maximize your leverage. Others, you’ll want to flaunt a certain savviness with regard to a field you’re currently lacking.
Most of the professional world manifests itself like a game, one where strategy is key. Don’t let others in on your “cheatbook.”
3. Know how to cut corners (when necessary).
I’m not saying “f*ck hard work,” but if there’s an “easy way” – and it gets you to your end game faster than the alternative – then, why not?
There are ways to bend rules without breaking them, and almost every maze has a shortcut if you do your research. Just do your research.
2. Always come out on top.
No matter what, always come out on top of whatever you’re involved with. This doesn’t necessarily mean walking out with a trophy, or even a W in the win column, but always strive to position, or reposition, yourself favorably after any enterprise. No matter how small the victory.
1. Street smarts always outweigh book smarts.
Book smarts are great for written tests, but life is far from written. Someone with street smarts will always be qualified for any of the unscripted story lines that life will hand him.
Knowing when to say something, and choosing words deliberately, are all encompassed under the “street smarts” umbrella – as is the notion of reacting, in general.
Book smarts are strengthened by repetition. Street smarts are strengthened by reaction.
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