cover image by dan freeman
I’m not sure if you’re ever truly prepared for the hustle. It’s like the undertow when you’ve gone just a bit too far out into the ocean. It pulls you along, and you’ve no choice but to follow. Or drown.
Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, the hustle is what your uncle was known for. He was invited to every picnic, family reunion, and Thanksgiving dinner, but everyone knew—even down to the kids—that he was always trying to “holla at-you for a minute.” He was friends with the kinda guys who could get you some new Nike-s fresh off the back of the truck for a discount. “Nobody goin’ to notice the swoosh’s the wrong way round, youngin.” He seemed to be in perptual need of money to kickstart this idea that was going to make millions. And he always, always had an incomplete set of encyclopedias in the trunk of his car, a few decades out of date, but hey, “Knowledge is timeless, right?”
You never thought you’d actually have to hustle. After all, you paid attention in school. Got yourself educated. A college degree to prove that you could focus, follow-through, learn and adapt. A second one to prove that you could master something (mostly time). Sure, your student loans were intellectually excessive, but it was how the game was played. Besides, what choice did you have anyway?
Fast-forward twenty/thirty years later, and you just can’t get that uncle out of your mind. For the first time in your life, you’ve developed a newfound respect for him. Sure he was good fun to talk about, laugh at, but he was a man trying to be about something a little different than the beaten path you aspired to. He was trying to set his own course, avoid the detour created by the illusion of good-paying corporate jobs, with their dwindling benefits and robbed pension funds. He knew, even if he couldn’t articulate it, that if you wanted to live your dreams, well, you had to hustle a lil bit.