How To Be a Hustler

Sunday is the day your competition rests.

If you are a small business owner, do you imagine what your competition is willing to do to win market share? To launch their next product?

I’ve imagined the owners of competing companies in extreme detail. Khaki shorts and t-shirt, beer in hand, half-bored with some friends on a Sunday watching a concert in the park.

Maybe they are slightly uncomfortable. Maybe they sense that @AnythingIan and I are jamming it out on our phones and laptops. Maybe they know we are cutting in to their market share while downing Diet Cokes.

Say what you want about work/life balance– business does’t care. It’s the only game that never stops.

365. 24. 7.

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This week I’m working on some articles about why we’ve based our internet businesses in Hong Kong. I’m also working on a series about how I made over $200 USD for each blog post I’ve written. No shit!

Subscribe if you’d like to follow along.

Also, if you don’t know already you can live in the Philippines for free if you apply for TMBA VIII. Applications are due next weekend.

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So far 3 listeners have suggested I write up a post on our recent podcast discussion about hustle. I didn’t think that podcast would go over so well. I still lack confidence when it comes to pure “mindset” stuff. It’s not that I don’t think mindset is important– exactly the opposite. It’s just so much easier to feel confident about concrete business tactics.

So here it goes.

Hustlers build skills by aggressively pursuing discrete and relatively ambitious goals.

Not by reading books or blogs.

The way you develop skills is by choosing discrete problems, and then providing solutions that prove you are capable of achieving results.

Let’s take SEO for example: the way to learn SEO is not to read SEOMoz’s quick start guide to SEO and 10 other similar resources.

The way to learn SEO is to pick a webpage and a key term.

For example: Tropical and “bali business.”

Now get that site there. 

SEO, by the way, isn’t a particularly marketable skill. It’s okay.

PHP is better. Python is better still. You get the idea.

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Just the other day I was ranting about how generation y-ers should focus more building marketable skills and one of the TMBA guys calls me out– “so what are your marketable skills?”


My first response was: deal making. I can make good deals. Well that’s pretty damn vague. So let me take a stab at what it takes to make good deals.

Let’s call somebody who can make those deals happen a hustler.

Deal making requires that you become adept at working with people and organizations who have more power and resources than you.

“Networking up.”

How do you get traction from people who have more of it than you?

Knowing your shit.

In the business world, “knowing your shit” means having a track record. If you are a newbie– telling me how you can save 10 bucks a month on an adwords account is way more valuable than giving me general marketing principles.

Everyone knows you don’t know what you are talking about.

This is the internet age baby. If you think something works or is useful show me the proof. Somebody who can point to SEO results can charge 5X what somebody with “SEO skills” can charge.

Hustlers take 100% responsibility for everything and everyone in their networks.

If people are going to trust you with big deals or partnerships, they want to know you’ve got killer integrity. That means you over-communicate. You only ask for help from others when totally necessary. You respect other’s time. When something goes wrong– you find the source, solve the problem, and take responsibility for it having gone wrong. You’ll also take the emotional responsibility for all of your deals– you’ll never offload that burden on to others. Working with you will be easy.

Hustlers are a force of nature.

My favorite metaphor for creating a compelling deal is a ship that is about to leave the harbor on a potentially lucrative expedition to an exotic land.

You are the captain. You are in your best captain gear, and you are standing on the docks.

Your ship is leaving.

If people don’t join you, they are missing out on an inevitability. You have taken all the emotional risk for the person opting in. You have decided the opportunity is worth going for. You aren’t waiting for feedback, resources, or a stamp of approval.

It would be great if you came… but we are leaving anyway.

Hustlers speak simply. They speak persuasively. They speak for you.

Over qualifying your assertions– especially in a business context– creates endless patty-caking, brainstorming, and bullshit spitball sessions.

Make clear your assertions about the way forward. You’ll create a barrier to entry for others who want to waste time by speaking their mind. If they want to weigh in, they’ll have to make it good. When they do, they’ll be reacting against concrete plans. Their thoughts will be making a difference.

If you want to brainstorm, be clear– “tell me what’s wrong with x.” 

Hustlers correlate their actions with results (but don’t take the credit).

Construct success narratives around your actions. Play the part the shepherd. You are quick to draw implications for the future.

“If you give me X, Y is highly likely to happen based on what we have seen so far.”

Hustlers never ask for anything more complicated than a yes.

When a signature, check, or purchase order is required, you’ll never require anything more than a yes. You’ll arrange for everything so that nothing will cause last minute hiccups or second guessing. Your preparation inspires trust and indicates that you’ve thought it all through and your partner can sign away and rest easy.

Think about this when making any kind of deal.

“Can a buy you a cup of coffee?” becomes “I’ll be at Starbucks 8PM tomorrow evening, want to join me?”

Hustlers show up when bad shit happens.

When bad shit happens, you report it. Even if it wasn’t your fault.

You never sweep bad stuff under the rug.

Any hint of that and all the trust you have built up would be spoiled.

One time I lost $4500 of my boss’s money. I promptly walked in to his office first thing in the morning and let him know about it. I told him why it happened, what led to the error, and what I intended to do about it.

He never let me forget that anecdote– going forward, he knew he could trust me.

If somebody else is at fault, you address your errors in dealing with that person. You don’t blame the 3rd party.

Transferring blame is the same as transferring responsibility– something a dealmaker can never do.

Hustlers invoice.

Don’t count subscribers, comments, hits, links, shouts, shipping volume, ANYTHING until you’ve got an invoice plan. Period.

Sprinkle in some persistence.

Talk soon,