You already know that I think the word hustle has gotten abused, bruised and a bad rap it doesn’t deserve. I started this site in part to take that word back but also to expand the common understanding of what it means to be a hustler.
A true hustler works hard, is self-motivated and gets the job done.
But beyond people thinking a hustler is some kind of charlatan, no better than a used car salesman, there’s also this idea that true hustlers are entrepreneurs, that the epitome of having a hustle is working for yourself. I couldn’t disagree more.
Now before you think I’m somehow anti-entrepreneur, let’s set the record straight. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I spend just about everyday surrounded by entrepreneurship - working side by side with an entrepreneur, trying to convince people across the country that what we need is more entrepreneurs. That’s my day job.
But beyond that, I’m married to a serial entrepreneur. And I am an entrepreneur myself, consulting on the side to help other entrepreneurs.
So let’s agree upfront that Antonia has absolutely 100% of nothing against people starting their own businesses.
My actual beef with the idea that entrepreneurs are the only real hustlers is two-fold - 1. makes it seem like having a job is somehow wrong or less than and 2. it holds up entrepreneurship as the only path to wealth, fulfillment, living the life you want or pursuing your dream.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Having a Job
I cannot stand this quote. It's all over Instagram and Pinterest and is just absolutely wrong. Just wrong wrong wrong.
There’s nothing wrong with having a job.
Read that line again. And one more time.
Got it? I don’t believe you, read it one last time.
There is nothing wrong with helping someone else build their dream, with getting your check on the first and fifteenth, with clocking out and truly clocking out and not taking work home with you.
But the thing that I really can’t stand about this meme, especially when it’s expressed or targeted towards people of color, is that is somehow sets up those who work for someone else as doing the wrong thing.
We need people of color at all levels.
You want to know the hardest part about being an entrepreneur of color? One of the challenges that we continuously face more than any other group? It's not the stress. Not long hours. Not the uncertainty.
It’s funding. Money. Investment.
The hardest part about being an entrepreneur of color is that we routinely face a harder time getting investment for our ideas. (Read one founder's experience here). If you can’t call up Big Mama and Uncle Joon and ask them to come up with $50,000 to help you get your idea off the ground, if you can’t walk into a bank and get a small business loan, you need someone with access to capital to believe in your ideas.
You need someone on the other side of the table that relates to you, that understands the opportunity behind your idea and believes in you as the person who can make that happen. By and large, that means you’re going to need someone with some decision making authority at banks, VCs, and major corporations willing to partner with you. Since most people make these kinds of investment decisions based on what they believe to be the opportunity for your business, you need someone who gets and another person of color sitting across from that table might be the difference between getting your idea off the ground and daydreaming for the next three decades about what could have been.
In the end, we need people on both sides - those out there taking the leap and those taking the more secure route to act as the safety net, to advocate for those entrepreneurs and to use their internal influence to give opportunities to those who wouldn't otherwise have it.
There's nothing wrong with going to work everyday for someone else, with showing up and doing a good job, with being a leader who uses their influence wisely. Nothing wrong at all, and in fact we need it just as much as we need people starting new companies.
There's More Than One Way to Get Money
Building something that lasts and can provide income for years to come is certainly a worthy goal. But owning a business isn't the only way to get there. Being fiscally responsible and smart with your money, not spending all the cash you get at First Fridays, Thirsty Thursdays and Sunday Fundays is another way to financial freedom. There are plenty of people in this world working hard, cashing a paycheck from their company and making smart investment choices with their funds.
And there are plenty of people who make goo gobs of money in their salary paid by their employers. I'm at the stage in life where I can look around and see that some of my friends are legitimately paid, in the 1%, rich now and hopefully on their way to true wealth in the future. Most of those people work, at jobs, with bosses, for someone else. I only know a handful of people who have reached financial heights through entrepreneurship. Why?
Because most businesses fail. Most people who've made it past the first few years on entrepreneurship live comfortable but by no means extravagant lives. And most would admit that they if money were the only consideration, they could have made more by being traditionally employed.
Again, I am 1,000% supportive of more people starting their own businesses. But what I do take issue with is the idea that it is the ONLY way to achieve certain goals. There's always more than one way to skin a cat (sidebar, who came up with that phrase and why the hell are we skinning cats?).
So there it is, if you don't want to be an entrepreneur - you can still call yourself a hustler as long as you work hard, add value and give your best to what you're doing. We're taking that word back.
And if you do want to be an entrepreneur, stay tuned. November is National Entrepreneurship Month and this post is the first in my Cubicle Hustler Entrepreneurship series. Check back for the other parts soon!