THINGS MAY COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT, BUT ONLY THE THINGS LEFT BY THOSE WHO HUSTLE. – ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Hustling, more commonly known as “working hard,” is a behavior of which all successful entrepreneurs bespeak. It is a way of life: the belief system which aligns truly-determined founders with their potential.
Hustling is Required
For thousands of aspiring CEO’s, hustling is the critical skill that precipitates their undoing.
Success and hustling are inextricably tied. Myriad celebrities and business tycoons have noted: it is impossible to be successful without ample hard work. It is one truth you cannot argue, or cajole into changing, or detour around. There is no escaping it. Laziness and indolence have no room in the house of abundance.
Industry is the only key to the front door.
All Successful People Hustle
The evidence of hustling is everywhere around us:
“I’m a real hard worker. I work and work and work all the time.” — Martha Stewart, Author and TV Host
“It’s all hard work. Nothing comes easily.” — Rupert Murdoch, FOX News
“We work our fingers to the bone.” — Dave Lavery, NASA
“I never see daylight. I’d come into work at 5:30 in the morning when it was dark and leave at 7:00 or 8:00 when it was dark.” — Oprah Winfrey, TV Host and Celebrity
“Work is a big part of my life. I think about investments… 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” François Parenteau, Financial Analyst
“I wasn’t the funniest guy…[but I] worked on being funny the hardest.” — Chris Rock, Comedian
I think you get the point: successful people work hard. Yet, it is the corollary which you may find most illuminating: no one can become successful without working hard.
Some synonyms for hustling are: hard work, industry, busting your butt, productivity, or efficiency. But hustling comprises of much more; no thesaurus can evince this magical superpower.
This is the definition of hustling:
“Working a lot — nonstop — and pushing yourself even when you don’t want to, while maximizing every second, using speed and focus to your benefit.”
Hustling, Rule 1: Work a lot
I recently discovered Donald Trump’s treatise, The Art of the Deal, on a bookstore’s 99¢ rack. In fact, I had read the book as a teenager; this was our second encounter. From the cover, it appears to be a tawdry and trite work. But standing in the bookstore, I was drawn to reread the first chapter.
I was interested to discover Mr. Trump had perfectly illustrated the first hustling tenet:
I wake up most mornings… around six… [I then] arrive in my office by nine.
9:00 A.M. My first call is to Alan Greenberg, [CEO] of Bear Sterms.
9:30 AM. Abraham Hirschfeld calls me, looking for advice…. We set up a meeting for Thursday.
10:00 A.M. I call Don Imus to thank him… [for helping] to raise money for the Annabel Hill fund.
11:15 A.M. Harry Usher, the commissioner of the United States Football League, calls.
12:00 noon Gerry Schoenfeld, head of the Shubert Organization… calls to recommend a woman for a job.
Donald Trump’s day is filled with work. Work, work, and more work. He epitomizes the first rule of hustling. He does not stand idle; he acts, repeatedly, and amply.
Hustling, Rule 2: Work nonstop
Hustlers work nonstop.
A respected hustler wakes at 5am, and is employed until midnight. There are no pauses throughout the day, large or small. There is only work.
Hustlers understand that hustling sporadically is futile. Going to the gym once or twice produces few results. Change comes about through repetition.
Hustling, Rule 3: Push yourself (even when you don’t want to)
Yesterday, I had a busy day. At around 7 am I had the choice of eating breakfast at the local deli, or cooking it at home. Eating at the deli is easier, and more tasty. Cooking breakfast at home is healthy and sometimes boring. While eating breakfast at the deli costs $10, cooking it at home costs $2.
Cooking breakfast at home is the right thing to do. In that moment of choice, I pushed myself. In my kitchen, I made an omelet.
But pushing oneself selectively is analogous to working out once a month; we know, from rule 2, that hustlers work nonstop. Hustlers push themselves nonstop, too.
Hustlers push because they recognize that resistance is proportional to opportunity. Where a task lies that one seeks to avoid, one also stands to gain; the quantity of the avoidance is the quantity of the gain. A hustler knows that a task never gets easier, and putting off any unpleasantry produces only a short-term benefit. Hustlers push themselves — incessantly — to do the activity of most resistance.
Hustling, Rule 4: Maximize every second of time
Over the course of my consulting career, I observed CEO’s who maximize every second of their day. These leaders have little patience for shenanigans, charades, waste — or the people behind them. On the contrary: they make phone calls and check email in traffic; they push meetings to conclude faster; they avoid unnecessary discussions and projects. When it comes to managing minutes and hours, they are impatient and ruthless. These CEO’s aim to achieve maximum return-on-investment for every second of time.
I inquired on this topic with one particularly strong CEO, who simply stated, “I respect time.”
Hustling, Rule 5: Work faster
There are two methods of working faster: at the 10,000 ft. altitude, and at the 50,000 ft. altitude.
Hustling at the 10,000 ft. altitude requires rapid physical movements. It includes walking from parking lots into offices, taking showers, typing, and speaking — all of which may literally be done faster. Recently, my secretary has referred to me “Flash Gordon” when I scale up the stairs in our office at a rate of one foot per three steps. Added up over the course of a day, this kind of fast work recovers fifteen to thirty minutes.
Hustling at the 50,000 ft. altitude requires careful life management and project management. Time can be saved by discovering the shortest path to your major life objectives, and avoiding unnecessary projects along the way. Savings earned at this altitude are measured in months or years.
Hustling, Rule 6: Focus
Hustlers are singularly focused on the task at hand.
When a hustler lifts weights at the gym, he is focused on pushing his body as hard as possible. He is not thinking about a meeting scheduled for next week. And when a hustler attends a meeting, he is focused on achieving his objectives. He is not thinking about his workout routine. In whichever activity the hustler is presently engaged, he is one-hundred percent focused. Focus allows the hustler to maximize effort, in the same way that Rule 4 allows the hustler to maximize time.
One may observe that focus itself happens at varying altitudes. The experienced hustler focuses on all of them. If, at the 10,000 ft. altitude, the hustler is writing an email, he is focused entirely on it. Simultaneously, if at the 50,000 ft. altitude the hustler is focused on building a $1B company, he is focused entirely on it. In this manner, the hustler is focused on many things and one thing at the same time.
Before You Start Hustling
Successful hustling will require prerequisites, two of which include:
- Positivity. A hustler with a negative, or even neutral, outlook will buckle under pressure. A fiercely positive attitude, complete with ample confidence, optimism, and self-respect, must be established before undertaking a hustle. Most importantly, the hustler must believe in himself, his plan, and his progress towards achieving it. For anyone who wishes to learn more, I recommend Tal Ben-Shahar’s excellent Harvard lecture series on Positive Psychology (PSY 1504).
- A Master Plan. When asked on Twitter how to be successful, Donald Trump replied, “Get a great idea, then work your ass off.” Successful hustlers first possess an underling asset, with significant value, that requires work to actualize; around it, they develop a plan; then, hustling commences. Without that underlying asset or master plan in place, hustling will yield minimal results and the hustler-to-be will lose motivation. Hustling is a serious commitment. It is best suited for individuals with a rock solid plan.
About The Critics of Hustling
This discussion would be remiss without a survey of anti-hustlers. Here are a few of them:
- A man who tells you that you only need work four hours a week, and he’ll tell you how if you just buy his book
- Proponents of the “Pomodoro Technique” or “Timeboxing,” who advocate frequent breaks
- The “work smart, not hard” movement, where thinking is equivocated with doing
- Self-help authors who emphasize that you need to take breaks, neglecting to explain how someone like Donald Trump is able to work 19-hour days
- Newspapers who herald anything longer than a 40 hour work week as deadly
- Friends and family who warn of burnout, despite the fact that research psychologists have proven burnout to be an entirely self-fulfilling prophecy
- Bloggers who say that people “need” breaks, and that working all day isn’t “natural”
- Indigenous tribes on islands in the Pacific Islands who never work and live to be one-hundred years old
- Holistic medicine practitioners who label a life of work as “unbalanced”
There is one legitimate claim worth pursuing: long work days are statistically correlated to early death. This is due to a sedentary lifestyle and high stress. Therefore, a healthy hustler stays on the move, and manages his stress proactively through positive psychology.
Hustling is a choice. It is your choice.
There are different types of success, and the definition is cultural. And, therefore, any discussion regarding hustling is subjective.
The smartest, most capable people, often don’t hustle. They learn to lean on their intellect, while less talented individuals surpass them by hustling. In this vast world of ours, there are lots of ideas and very few hustlers.
Which will you be?