Being a ‘hustler’ in today’s business world

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

If you are like me, and love musical dramas, you should be a fan of Lee Daniel’s Star. If not, oh well..

Expectedly the star of the series is Star, with all of her drama, fire and spirit. But my favourite character has remained Jahil, a washed-out music talent-manager, always looking for who to sell “the next big thing!”, and often coming close to mainstream success, but having it slip through his fingertips.

Image result for jahil star
Benjamin Bratt as "Jahil" in Star
 Notwithstanding his inability to sustain his trickling conquests, I have admired his (blindly?) optimistic spirit over the past three seasons; always up and about one new deal or the other. The one thing I took exception to was his ‘shady’ personal lifestyle, which though separate from his ear for genuine talent, raised eyebrows.

But everyone in the show acknowledged him as a ‘hustler’, and for some reason, even though he worked genuinely hard, this was not always made in the most positive light; he attracted scorn with the use of the description.

Why? Is being a hustler a bad thing??

While more conventional (online) dictionaries such as Oxford and Cambridge see a hustler as a person who “tries to trick another into giving them money”, a hustler is also defined in other sources as a street-smart person, working hard to make ends meet by “using his smarts, and outcunning everyone out there” (  

(Sounds familiar?)

Keeping it real… a lot of us would well fall into this latter definition of hustler, especially in today’s business world where certificates simpliciter no longer suffice to keep one ahead in their chosen field.

A hustler is that person who is always one step ahead of everyone else, finding the next untapped potential, and turning it into a thriving business opportunity.

Argue all you want, keeping one’s head well above water in the business world requires being a (well-bred) hustler. For example, people like me, who new to a particular environment, will put themselves out there to sell their exceptional products, services or skills, in order to compete equally with other professionals in their field, and carve out their own niche.

In case you missed the memo, “Networking”, “Entrepreneurship”, “Consultant”, “Contractor” and even “Politician” are all bourgeoisie euphemism for describing the art of hustling.

You know that inventor always looking to sell a new invention, or app?? That too  is a hustler.

So hustling - or being a hustler - is not a bad thing in itself, per se.


(You knew the ‘but’ was coming… right?)

There are ways you can go about your hustling, which would ensure it is a totally good thing, and not subject you to the scorn and derision with which Jahil was always met.

For starters, your hustle has to be legit.

I mean, this goes without saying that if you are known to hustle in things that would pit you against the law (or your side-hustle is pseudo-illegal), you would be a pariah, and a lot of legal businesses would want to have nothing to do with you.

Even if your hustle is legit, do not be like Jahil and maintain a rather unattractive personal lifestyle, which could invariably affect your professional hustle, and make potential investors or business associates question if they want to be associated with you.

Secondly (and equally important), you have to gain integrity in your hustling i.e. ‘street-cred(ibility’).

In other words, it is okay for example, to be that Nigerian contractor who is always looking to execute one contract or the other. But also build a reputation around yourself, and ACTUALLY execute your contracts, to the standards promised in your proposal.

It is not enough for you to “network” (or hustle) your way into a job. You cannot network through your career.  You have to actually bring the goods, i.e. know the stuff for which you are employed, or build that knowledge on the job.

For you to gain credibility through your hustle, you have to develop actual substance. The hustle may only get you a foot in the door. But it is the substance of the products or services you are selling which will guarantee you a permanent seat at the table.

Finally, as a hustler, you need to know when to stop hustling, and consolidate on the acquired fruits of your hustle. You need to know when to stop chasing shadows or “the next big thing”, as this could affect your focus on things you already have on your plate.

(Remember that proverb about the bird, and the hand, and the bush??)

Sean Combs. JayZ. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Oprah. They all were hustlers at one point or the other. But they knew the right time to stop hustling, and consolidate on what they had attained, even diversifying when necessary.

This does not imply that you do not exploit avenues for improvement or development. Rather, do not place your sights so narrowly on (unguaranteed) future ‘deals’, that you fail to adequately develop the ones sitting squarely in your laps already.

Calm down.

You got through the door. You got your product out there. Now, develop your product or services into something formidable.

Grow your brand. Grow your personality also. Build your empire from your hustling, and make it as attractive as possible.

Then, let the hustle come to you. Let investors, employers, clients be the ones to seek after you, based on your proven track record of delivering on your products/services, and the niche you have carved for yourself.

And when you recognize young (legit) hustlers just like you once were, just smile to yourself, and provide some mentorship/guidance to them when you can.

But you cannot forever aim to just be a hustler, if not, you would be doing yourself a huge disservice, and limiting yourself in a world of otherwise limitless possibilities.

Be more than a hustler; be phenomenal.

Now that you have read this, go and hustle properly.  

And may the odds be in your favour!



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Photo-credit: Wilford Harewood/Fox

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  1. Boom! Perspective change on hustle(ing). In all I understand that it calls for balance just like everything we do in life. Let me Goan hustle Thank you.

  2. Now I know the right way. Oluwa bless my husstle

  3. You should change the title of this article to "Hustlers' memo"... lol