We get a lot of emails from men lamenting the fact that they feel stuck in neutral, and they ask for advice. Many of these men have great aspirations, but that’s all they have. Aspirations. Many don’t have any results to show for all their ambitious goals in life. Some are on year seven of a four-year degree, and others are stuck in a job that’s going nowhere. Maybe you know a man like this. Heck, maybe you feel like this.
Unfulfilled goals, of course, can lead to frustration, depression, and just a general dampening of your man spirit, which only makes it harder to get unstuck. When we dig a little deeper into the lives of these “stuck” men, a few commonalities appear.
First, there are the excuses. “The economy sucks.” “I’m not naturally smart/athletic/gifted.” “I don’t have enough time.” You get the idea.
The second thing we often see is that they’ve just been doing the bare minimum to coast along in life. A lot of them think “showing up” constitutes real effort, and that the chips of their dreams will magically fall into place.
We usually respond to these gents to stop with the excuses and start busting some ass. Some of these men take the advice to heart and get going. The others often counter with another excuse and ask for another way that doesn’t involve so much work
These guys will never understand a very important truth: the world belongs to hustlers.
Now, I’m not talking about hustling in the pulling-a-scam-on-the-naive-newbie sense. (Although it never hurts to have a little Fast Eddie swagger.) I’m talking about the work-your-ass-off-while-your-competition-plays-video-games kind of hustling. Hustling = doing whatever you have to do, for however long as you have to do it, until you reach your goal.
Teddy Roosevelt Hustled and So Should You
“Things may come to those who wait…but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln
Looking at the men that I admire from history, they all have one thing in common: they were hustlers. Theodore Roosevelt accomplished an insane amount of work because he lived the strenuous life, i.e. hustled. Thomas Edison patented thousands of inventions and perfected the light bulb because he spent all day hustling. Frederick Douglass was an orator, diplomat, newspaper editor, and author because he hustled. And pretty much every self-made man has the same story.
The interesting thing is a lot of these great men who succeeded through hustling weren’t born with natural talent or abilities. In fact, they were usually dealt a crummy hand from the beginning of their life. T.R. had a sickly disposition that weakened him as a child and plagued him the rest of his life. He had to hustle more than others to gain and maintain his vim and vigor. Edison was smart, but there were plenty of other men out there who were smarter. He just worked harder than the naturally smart guys and then hired them to work for him. And Frederick Douglass was born a slave, lived in a time of extreme racism, and yet still beat the odds because he hustled.
Here’s the deal. Most of us are average. Average intelligence, average athleticism, and average looking. And most of us have had some setbacks in our life that can serve as a disadvantage. In short, we’re pretty much on the same playing field as millions and millions of people. And yet despite our average minds and builds most of us believe deep down that we are destined for something extraordinary, that we’re special. But most men really aren’t. But not because they’re average. Because they won’t hustle to get what they want.
A man’s reasons for not hustling run the gamut from laziness to fear of failure. I think a lot of time men think, “I want what that guy has but I just don’t have his x,y, or z.” But while we don’t have any control over the number of natural talents and gifts we were born with, we do have complete control over how much we can hustle. You can’t control where you were born, how crappy or nice your parents were, or how homely or handsome you are. But nobody determines how hard you hustle but you. Wherever you are in life, you can hustle to get where you want to be.
My Personal Experience With Hustling
I can personally vouch for hustle’s ability to make up for average and even below average innate talent. Two instances in my life stick out where hard-work and hustling paid off despite my weaknesses.
The first was back in high school. Like many American boys, I played football in high school. Genetics, unfortunately, did not bless me with natural athleticism. Starting off in 9th grade I was slow, fat, not very coordinated, and weak. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of playing time early in my career. I was so bad that two coaches on the team made a bet with each other on who would be able to turn me into a football player by my senior year. I didn’t discover this vote of confidence until I graduated.
But what I lacked in ability, I made up for with hustle. I volunteered to be on the scout team at practice as much as possible. I stayed after practices to work on my technique. I ate a strict diet in order to lose the fat and put on muscle. I busted butt in the weight room in order to get stronger and faster. I did anything and everything I could do to get better. It took three years, but I finally got to start a game my junior year. By my senior year I started every game and even earned some honors at the end of the season. Granted, I wasn’t a blue chipper, but that’s okay.
I remember after the season was over, one of the coaches that made the bet on me pulled me aside in the hallway and told me about his friendly wager. He then put his hands on my shoulders and said, “McKay, there are plenty of other guys on the team that have way more natural athletic ability than you. You’re not a naturally athletic guy, but what you lacked in talent, you made up for with hustle and heart. You earned your success.”
Two lessons hit home to me from that conversation. First, if you’re a coach/mentor/teacher/boss, take the time to pay a sincere compliment to whoever is under you. That conversation I had with my coach was an incredible confidence booster for my young, insecure self. And even though the conversation happened 10 years ago, it still has an impact on me.
Second lesson. Hustle works! It turned my un-athletic self into a decent football player.
Now hustle can’t turn you into Michael Jordan if you just don’t have the natural talent. But it will take you farther than you and those around you thought was possible.
The second instance of hustle paying off was my career in law school. I’m not naturally smart. Take a look at my Iowa Test of Basic Skills and every other standardized test I’ve taken since elementary school, and they’ll show how average I am. This was a source of frustration for me growing up because it seemed like all my friends were geniuses. I would study my butt off for a test, and they would waltz in on test day without even cracking the textbook, and still get a better grade than me. Frustrating.
Anyway, when I decided to go to law school, I made it a goal to graduate in the top 10 of my class. Pretty lofty goal for a guy who’d always ran in the middle of the pack.
I knew there were going to be some smart people in my class. Definitely smarter than me. My only chance at reaching my goal was to out-hustle everybody else. While other members of the incoming class spent their last summer of freedom hanging out and having fun, I was busting my butt reading study guides and supplements on all my first-year classes. Because your grade in a law class usually depends on a 3-hour essay exam, I studied and practiced how to write law essays that earned A’s. I continued hustling throughout my first semester. I had a study schedule that I stuck to like clockwork. I was at the law library from morning until night. I carried my law outlines and a deck of flash cards with me everywhere I went so I could study while I was waiting in line for lunch or walking to class. I went up to the library on weekends. I hustled as much as I could.
It was tiring, but in the end it paid off. When first semester grades came out, I was the number one student in my class. I was shocked. I had never been number one at anything in my academic career. I didn’t maintain the number one ranking throughout law school. But that’s because my second year I started the Art of Manliness. It required an incredible amount of work, so I couldn’t study quite as much. But I was hustling even more than before. I hustled with my classes. I hustled with my part-time job as a student rep with Westlaw, a legal research company. And I hustled with the Art of Manliness. And I wrote a book as well. I spent each day at the library from 9 in the morning until 9 at night with no breaks working on law school stuff. Then I would come home and spend several hours working on the blog and book. And then I would do it again the next day.
When I graduated from law school, I had become one of the top Westlaw reps in the country, grown AoM to thousands of subscribers, and wrote a book. And I graduated summa cum laude in the top ten of my class. I was tired. Really, really tired. But I accomplished what I set out to do. Because I hustled.
Turn Off the TV and Start Hustling
Now, I hope this doesn’t come off as some jackass, self-congratulatory, “I’m awesome!” thing. That’s not my intent at all. The truth is, I’m not that awesome. Like I said, I’m pretty average. Like most people, I have a lot to work on personally in order to become the man I want to be. My hope is that other men out there who feel stuck in an unfulfilling personal situation can see that it’s possible to do extraordinary things despite your averageness and even below-averageness as long as you’re willing to hustle. And hustle hard.
If you’re tired of your crappy job, hustle your way into a better one. The economy is in the crapper and unemployment is dismal. You’re going to be competing with a lot of people for limited jobs. With all things being equal, the job is going to go to the man who hustles. Maybe you’ll need to go to night school in order to beef up your resume. Yeah, it’s going to be hard, especially if you have family, but it’s been done before. It’s just going to take some hustling.
If you’re tired of working for “the man,” start your own business. Most people that hear this bit of advice balk, because they think they have to quit their current job with all its security so they can devote themselves completely to building up their own business. But you can do both. Spend the day working your day job, but then moonlight with your own business until you’re established enough to quit your corporate job. You’ll have to hustle to get to this point, though. You’ll have to forgo a lot of sleep and spend your evenings and weekends working. No more 30 Rock or Monday Night Football or playing Command and Conquer 2.
If you want to do something more out there like become a professional blogger, writer, musician, etc., then you’re really going to need to hustle. Ignore the “get rich quickly with minimum hours” gurus out there. Take a page from a guy like Gary Vaynerchuk from WineLibrary.tv. He recommends blogging way into the night, until your eyeballs bleed. That’s really what it takes. There are no shortcuts in life no matter what you dream of doing.
Whatever your goal is, you can accomplish it if you hustle. I know you can. I’ve seen it in my own life and in the lives of men around me.
The World Needs Men Who Hustle
Things are pretty rough right now. We’re facing some big problems that are going to take a lot of work to solve. We need men to step up and be leaders in our communities and families. We need more entrepreneurs to start small businesses and employees who bust butt to help get our economy going again. We need men who hustle.
So many aspects of our lives have speeded up from fast-food to the internet. So much of the world is now only a few keystrokes away. We don’t need to break a sweat to see what’s happening in China. Having the world at your fingertips is wonderful — what a privilege to live in this time. But we must vigilantly guard against “expectation-creep.” Expectation-creep is our ever increasing expectation that everything in life will come to us quicker and easier than before. That fortune and fame is only a google search away. While a lot of things in this world have changed, the need for hustle has not. The requisite brow sweat may be more figurative these days, but time, focus, dedication, and determination will remain the eternal principles of success.
So, here’s a challenge I’d like to issue to all of us: Let’s hustle more. I know if we all start hustling we can make things happen — in our own life and in the world around us. It won’t happen right away, but it will happen.
Last updated: February 8, 2016