Confessions from a Class-A Hustler
I’m a hustler. So first of all I must warn you that everything I’m about to tell you regarding hustlers is most likely biased. No comments or description here must be taken literally. But trust me, hire the hustler.
I always considered myself a jack of all trades, constantly jumping from one big project to the next; getting bored with whatever I had in front of me for too long. If you’re the same, I have good news for you. The world needs you. Keep reading.
Growing up, this relentless search for the “next new thing” sometimes felt lonely, negative. Sometimes I thought I was too restless, I felt too incapable. I saw others around me with a stronger focus capacity but most importantly, people around me seemed to have one or two big passions. These passions defined them. I had not found mine.
At school they seemed to really like maths, music or a very specific sport. I didn’t. I tried soccer, registered in my local team and after a hard training season I was summoned over my first match on an early Saturday morning. I didn’t show up and quit the team. I wasn’t interested any more. After I tried basketball for nearly a season, I quit that too. In between, I did Judo for a couple of years, Karate afterwards and Aikido as a teenager. When I was 18, I even landed myself a job in a summer camp in the US, to teach “Personal Defence” to little kids, but didn’t end up going after I got a “more-interesting” new job back home in Edinburgh.
In the meantime, all these teenagers followed their one passion; both in sports and within senior school walls. Today, it’s their finance career, sports on their leisure time and the world cup. But I? I never had that.
Far from apathetic I enjoyed plenty of things, too many things; but I got bored easily and jumped onto the next shiny thing. Never too long on one to become good at it. Experimentation over improvement.
As a teenager, many times I doubted my future. What was I to do with my life? What could I possibly do that include all the vast -unrelated- things I loved? I’d read Dostoyevsky with a smile when he said:
“I could not become anything; neither good nor bad; neither a scoundrel nor an honest man; neither a hero nor an insect. And now I am eking out my days in my corner, taunting myself with the bitter and entirely useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot seriously become anything, that only a fool can become something.”
And there I was, on my teenage years identifying myself as “an intelligent man”. At a very basic level, human intelligence can be described as the capacity to relate concepts. What’s learned from one field of study can be applied to other areas in various environments.
So before and during my software college years, (spoiler alert, I did not commit to 4 years of uni after that.) I worked in a supermarket, sold tour guides at Edinburgh Castle, worked in a restaurant, cofounded a small translation company which failed to acquire new customers after six months and worked in more bars than I can remember; until I landed my first “serious job” at the age of twenty-three in the alcohol industry. Since then I’ve worked in tech, fashion, film, beverages and marketing.
I was lucky enough to pursue my multiple passions and “change careers” several times. Along wonderful teams I organised events at places such as Toronto International Film Festival, BAFTAs, Michelin Star Dinners in Paris with Alain Ducasse, fashion weeks in several countries or a wonderful charity gala event at Sir Elton John’s house for EJAF.
I’ve produced a short film and a full length thriller, because a movie is not a lot different from a startup. -The talent the promotion and the product.- I cofounded an NGO in 2016 which helped a school in Calcutta stay alive and we keep working. I cofounded a Salesforce Consultancy in Spain in 2017 thanks to a wonderful founding team. I’ve dealt with press, investors, CEOs and celebrities all around the world. And I did “fake it ’til you make it” every single time. I’m a proud hustler.
And so I learnt along the way many things I could never explain with words. But I remember when I was shamed every step along the education system for not following “the standard path”. For being a bad student in a broken system. For being a hustler… shame on them. I’m not saying one path leads you to a better life but rather, than standardisation is hardly the way. If you don’t share this opinion you should read more on the matter online and get this book by Todd Rose, a Harvard Professor.
Specially when preparing kids for jobs which don’t exist yet, (more on that later) or when the “it thing” is to work at a Startup. As part of a small -underfunded- team, you’re not anything. You’re not one single thing. You’re the CEO / COO, the sales director, the marketing intern and head of HR. You’ll also be crunching numbers with the dedication of American Express’ CFO and dealing with clients and partners as if you were Kofi Annan. You’ll manage Social Media, bank accounts and possibly the website. What could possibly prepare you for that?
In prehistoric times we hired based on studies/institutions, then came the “world experience” recruitment and “college dropout” geniuses, and lately the “culture fit” that Silicon Valley made popular -at the risk of sometimes making companies very little diverse-. Here’s why I want to make a bet on the future.
I foresee a future of work where people don’t think of “jobs” but “projects”. Our middle-class parents worked a handful of jobs in their entire career; in our thirties, we’ve already surpassed them. In the future, our kids will sometimes work on a series of short projects back to back and sometimes will work on more than 1 project at any given time. Their role within such projects will change. The future of work is more flexible, more aligned with our family needs, with its moment in life. I see the future of work as more holistic and rewarding. And no set of skills in your 20s will ever set you up for that. The future will be based in continuous learning. This way, innovation in one field will rapidly be applied to other industries. This is the time of the hustlers.
Today, while not there yet, we already are on the most rapid-changing work environment the world has ever seen. Old industries are disrupted at an exponential rate; new jobs are created every day. I was in a tech event recently and somebody from Sage mentioned something that got stuck into my brain; 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. I’ll let that sink in.
Now this is why it’s more important than ever to have a very transferable set of skills. Having had to hire -and let go of- people in the past, I’ve come to realise a few things; mostly that what we really need is Hustlers. As employees, as friends, as bosses. I don’t know what you do, but trust me. Hire the hustler.
The hustler will ask you to explain something twice if she didn’t get it. No problem in acknowledging it. A hustler will come back with a problem and three possible solutions. A hustler has experience in more than one industry and role, hence she’s a native “out of the box” thinker. A hustler always knows someone who “can help us with that.” A hustler is sometimes annoying. So annoying. But she’s extremely creative and has firm opinions, taking responsibility over her own decisions.
A hustler knows that biases exist and fights them from within, is willing to revisit her own opinions and will sometimes row in your direction, even if that’s not the direction she would have chosen. But try to “make them” and they’ll be the first to abandon ship.
But I love to work with Hustlers, I wouldn’t hire the best people to tell them what to do. What do I know? I always hired the best in their fields so they tell me what to do. How to get to where we want to be.
- Are problem solvers.
- Are straight arrows. (They have a “No BS Attitude”)
- Have a network of contacts.
- Have a very transferable set of skills.
So trust me. Hire the hustler.
I’ll finish up with a metaphor, I heard it first from Chris Tottman, from Notion Capital, a few years ago, in a fintech event back in London. Among many interesting things, Chris gave us what I call “the bus, short metaphor”. I’m sure I’m misquoting him but he essentially said; just make sure you have the right people on the bus, invite them in and don’t worry about where they’ll sit. They’ll eventually find their seat.
If that’s not hustling, I don’t know what is.