Back in the day, things were pretty simple. You had a dream, you worked hard, you got a good shot to make it happen. But today, access to the American dream is no longer guaranteed. Getting straight A’s in school—not enough. Getting a college degree—not enough. Even working your behind off—not enough. Back then, anyone with a pretty good idea and a decent amount of drive had a fighting chance to carve out a place in the world—the classic American-dream success story. But that isn’t enough anymore. The paths that many of our parents and grandparents walked to find success have largely disappeared. To succeed today, you need to be a new breed of American dreamer. You need to be what I call a “hustlepreneur.”
The words hustle and hustler have gotten a bad rap. When we hear them, most of us think of scams or something shady or illegal. Dictionary definitions of hustler include “streetwalker,” “wheeler-dealer,” and, as Merriam-Webster puts it, “unscrupulous person who knows how to circumvent difficulties.” Now, I’m not saying these definitions are wrong. I’m saying they’re limited. In the words of author Supreme Understanding, the core definition is simple: “To hustle means to work strategically toward success when the odds are stacked against you.”
Find A Way To Beat The Odds
Now, maybe you’re asking, what are hustlepreneurs? They’re successful entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, or strivers in any lane who have beaten those outsized odds to make something new of their lives. That might sound like some kind of a riddle, but it’s really just the truth about the world we live in today. A hustlepreneur is someone who dreams big—and eats, sleeps, and breathes his or her dream until it becomes reality. A hustlepreneur is what you need to become in order to make your dream of success a reality, no matter what your dream may be. Let’s take a closer look at the traits of this uniquely motivated, highly skilled individual who’s found a way to beat the odds.
If we take the negative stain away from hustlin’, we see all kinds of people who provide for their families and support their communities using the core skills of the hustlepreneur. The mother in the projects who cooks and sells soul food out of her apartment to make a few extra dollars is a hustlepreneur. The father who works a 9-to-5 gig, then turns around and works odd jobs from fixing cars to doing minor home repair, is a hustlepreneur. The Latino mom and dad who work seven days a week cleaning people’s houses so their kids can go to college—they’re hustlepreneurs. These people know how to make it happen against all the odds. And they make the time to figure out how to overcome obstacles and challenges—big and small. Hustlepreneurs aren’t afraid to be first in line to try something new. They are creative problem solvers who never flinch at a no. They understand how to provide what people want and need and turn it into a revenue stream. They understand the concept of supply and demand and actually get pumped up instead of depressed by new market trends. They are always on alert and ready to outdo the competition. The very best hustlepreneurs—on the block or in the boardroom—are visionary, persuasive, and charismatic. Their “brand” is so powerful that people want to follow where they lead. Below is a video that shares my personal journey of being a hustlepreneur, overcoming being a drug dealer and prisoner to a successful career as a celebrity TV chef and motivational speaker:
Chef Jeff Henderson
A Hustlepreneurs’ Hall of Fame
I said that the hustlepreneur is the new breed of American dreamer, and that’s true, now that more of us have the odds stacked against us than ever before. But it’s also true that the street-smart skills that will take you down the hustlepreneur’s road go way back in our history; they’ve just gone by different names over the years. Just think of Madame C. J. Walker, or Henry Ford, or John H. Johnson, or the late Reginald Lewis, who built TLC Beatrice International, or former basketball great turned business mogul Magic Johnson, or Sara Blakely, creator of Spanx.
There’s something about oppression, restrictions, and being told, “No, you can’t,” that makes the hustlepreneur want to say, “Just watch me!” When Black slaves were freed but still faced discrimination, they rose to the challenge by creating schools for their children and businesses that offered the products and services that Whites refused to sell them. Hustlepreneurship cuts across lines of race and nationality. Irish, Italian, Jewish, and other European immigrants came to this country in the 19th and 20th centuries with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a dream. Most didn’t whine; they said, “Watch me,” and went to work.
Andrew Carnegie, the “father of American steel,” immigrated as a child with his parents in 1848, and before constructing his first steel mill in the mid-1870s, he worked in factories and spent time as a messenger boy, learning the hustle that would lift him to greatness. Since that time, new waves of immigrants—Asian, East Indian, Latino, African, and more—have used that same hustlepreneur spirit to beat the odds stacked against them and stake claims in areas where older generations of immigrant businesspeople have moved out and moved on. They’ve taken that sliver of opportunity and started import shops, grocers, dry cleaners, nail salons, and other small businesses in tough inner city neighborhoods. Their struggle, their skills, and their eye for opportunity are all part of the strong and sturdy hustlepreneur thread that is sewn into the fabric of American life. Now, maybe you’re saying, hold up—what do last century’s immigrants have to do with me right now? The point is that America has always been a nation of hustlepreneurs. But their special brand of hustle is more crucial than ever to succeed in today’s global economy.