Ideas, Angles, and Hustle
Ideas people are motivated first by ideas. Their love of ideas is what leads them to action, and all their actions are rooted in some philosophical pursuit. They can get obsessed with an idea, lost in it, forgoing all else. They are often intellectuals, artists, or entrepreneurs. They tend to gravitate toward areas where they needn’t subvert their ideas to a grander scheme, or get on board with someone else’s. They need space to think and pursue ideas. They like to look beyond the dominant games and imagine new games. They have huge upside when ideas are translated into action. The risk is getting so lost in an ever-shifting amorphous cloud of intellectual exploration that it’s never applied to the real world and nothing gets done.
Angles people are motivated by finding the angle. Masters of exploiting the moment and expediency, they have a nose for power and a knack for finding those who have it and aligning with them. Anglers are in the right place at the right time. They identify and single-mindedly pursue an advantageous orientation around the next big thing. They are great at spotting a trend (not starting one), making a deal, and adapting to volatile environments. They thrive in large corporate, financial, legal, and political environments with lots of written and unwritten rules. They like to figure out the rules of the game and win within them. The downside is that they aren’t entirely trustworthy. Without a clear motivating philosophy, angles people are valuable but usually kept at arms length from real power. They are ready to be the right-hand to the new king at any time.
Hustle people are motivated by the thrill of the pursuit and come alive in the heart of the grind. They find ideas interesting, and pick them up and set them down easily, using bits and pieces that help them hustle harder. They are radically practical, philosophically open but minimalist. They want to build, and wherever they are, they’ll start building. They will play games or not play them with equal indifference while they focus on building new games, not for the ideas behind them as much as the challenge of building. They make great small business owners, salespeople, manual laborers, athletes, and bootstrap entrepreneurs. They are by far the most productive people and you want them on any major undertaking to drive the execution. The downside is their focus on action at the expense of philosophical foundation can lead to contradictions, or have them inefficiently violating the 80/20 rule.
I think everyone has some of each trait, but one is dominant. If you can identify your dominant, secondary, and tertiary traits, it will help you double down on strengths and structure your life to guard against weaknesses.
I’m an ideas>hustle>angles person. My brother is a hustle>ideas>angles person. I know good, successful, powerful people with all kinds of combinations, with one exception: I’ve never met someone dominated by angles who is really top-notch ascendant. They can be worth working with or around, and can get a lot done. But they’re not long-term partners or deep friends. You have to sleep with one eye open around them, which gets exhausting. Angles are incredibly important to understand, and the insight into power-relations and trend-spotting are invaluable. But if that’s your primary motivation, I worry.
I think you can alter your dominant orientation. If you do some exploration and figure out why you’re motivated as you are, you can find other ways to get it than through ideas, angles, or hustle. Do you hustle all the time out of guilt? You can deal with it in other ways. Do you exploit angles out of fear of being powerless? Other ways to gain personal power too. Are you lost in ideas out of anger towards falsehood, or fear of engaging the material world? Ways to address that too.
This trichotomy is useful for me in identifying people I want to work with and roles for which they’d excel. Early on with Praxis, we needed mostly ideas. Then more hustle. Now we need a solid mix of ideas and hustle, and we definitely need people with skill at seeing and exploiting angles too, as relationships increase in number and complexity.