Living the Hustle

The term 'hustle' is a term used often, and it means many things to many different people. Hip-hop artists talk about it, and so do coaches. Anyone who works hard or does something unconventional will mention their hustle. But what does it really mean?

Hustling is about realizing that it doesn't hurt to ask.

Los Angeles and Las Vegas are both famous for this kind of hustle. “What is it going to take to…” is their mantra and negotiation is their craft. When the party is packed with a line around the block, how do they still find a way in? They hustle their way in, using their contacts, clout or just cold, hard cash. For some people, this tendency to push the limits and bend the rules can be found abrasive. But I would argue that it will open many more doors than it closes.

Hustling is about working harder than anyone else.

Scouts and coaches love to talk about hustle as an intangible trait for tough, scrappy players. They love that they can count on their player to always give 100 percent in practice and still perform at their top level during the game. Hustle is as important as breathing when trying to make it through a hard day at the gym. Athletes are constantly pushing and working harder, because if they don't, ten other people are going to put in the work and take your place.

Hustling is about exuding confidence at all times.

I love Paul Newman's confidence here. The whole time he has nothing and he is able to convince everyone else to fold. Then he flashes that patented smile of his and says “Sometimes nothin' is a real cool hand.” He is right, sometimes it helps to give the illusion of strength when you are weak. Entrepreneurs have a term for this, “fake it 'til you make it.” It is an important fundamental of building a business or reputation. New college graduates can find that no one will hire them without previous experience, but they can't get any experience without being hired! Confidence is an often underestimated character trait.

Hustling is about getting creative.

This is what most rappers are talking about when they say hustle. They are usually talking about doing something illegal involving a combination drugs, money and stolen merchandise. But it doesn't have to be illegal or immoral. Maybe hustling is passing fliers out for a band in front of a grocery store. Maybe it involves stuffing envelopes for auntie's legal business while you watch television. Ebay, anyone? It is important to emphasize the word ‘creative.' Most of the time, if you are doing things that others aren't, that could be called hustling. Circumventing or completely disrupting the status quo can be a form of hustle.

Hustle is not a dirty word. No matter how it is defined, it embodies continuous progress. Hustle is proudly worn on the sleeve by everyone who continues to improve their life day by day.

Ben is new to Baltimore/DC area by way of a new job. He is an engineer who grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Ohio State. He is obsessed with music, football, dogs and meeting new people. You can read more of his writing at


  • […] Primer Mag: Living the Hustle […]

  • Reply June 9, 2010

    Matt Anderson

    I would like to say “a great posting” what a interesting post. This is really great. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Reply October 22, 2010

    Derrick Seagraves

    Great post; what an under exposed topic!
    I’d only add that hustling isn’t always a grind – but it is defined by focus. While one may not always be nose-to-dirt working, a hustler is always looking for opportunity.
    I like to talk about that; a life open to opportunity.

  • Reply October 22, 2010


    Hey Derrick! Thanks for the comment, that’s great advice!

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