My idols growing up were people who hustled. People who pulled themselves up from their bootstraps. People who didn’t have much, but were able to empower themselves, with their own resourcefulness.
1. Poverty makes experiences
I grew up in (kind of) poverty. I never went hungry at night, but I remember as a kid in middle-school/high school — worrying whether my mom would be able to pay the rent. My dad was a chronic gambler, so growing up as a kid was always tough.
I remember sad memories. I remember when I worked an entire summer at Sushi House in Alameda, working as a busboy. I earned around $3,000 that summer. My dad told me that he was going to LA to get a job, but needed money. I loaned him that $3,000 I earned that summer, because I believed in my dad. Apparently my mom told me that he gambled it away. Apparently he never even went to LA. Probably went to some casino.
Anyways, I still love you dad. I forgive you. I have nothing but positive vibes for you.
But essentially the reason I’m sharing this story is that growing up as a kid, always being uncertain about money is what empowered me.
Poverty is what made me.
I learned to become resourceful.
Nothing was given to me on a silver platter. I had to hustle hard to get what I wanted. So in a sense, I am grateful that I grew up pretty poor. Because if I was raised by rich parents, I wouldn’t become the person I am today.
2. Necessity is the mother of all invention
I remember when I was 15 years old, and I wanted to have my own car. I started to tutor in high school, earning about $10 an hour in side-income. I taught myself to build my own computers, and would sell them to other people for a profit. I made my own eBay account to sell these computers.
I finally was able to make about $1,000 at the age of 15, and used that money to buy my first car (1991 Nissan Sentra, XE, 4-door, 5-speed). I was so proud of myself.
3. Make your own toys
I took pride as a kid that I was a self-made kid. I bought my own car, I earned my own money, and I didn’t depend on my parents. Of course I did, for love, compassion and support— but everything else, I felt I had to pave my own path.
I remember even further back — when my family didn’t have a lot of money, I made my own toys. I made my own army men parachute toys, with plastic bags at home. I made my own spaceship with the cardboard boxes from the TV at home.
4. You control your destiny
For me, I learned how to ‘hustle’ as a means of necessity. The biggest lesson I learned as a kid was this:
You can control your destiny.
If you worked hard enough, hustled hard enough, and was persistent enough — you can achieve anything you wanted in life.
This is essentially the American dream. Put your mind to it, and you can move mountains.
5. The formula to ‘success’
Now it is true that the American dream is a bit false. There are many people who hustled hard their entire lives, yet still live in poverty, and were never able to climb out of the black holes of their lives.
A lot of luck is necessary with hustling. I know I am grateful to all my adult mentors, my local community, and lady fortune. I was in the right place at the right time when I started my blog (focused on street photography) — which helped me make a living from teaching street photography workshops. I’m lucky that the internet existed when I was a kid, or else I wouldn’t have learned to blog, to program, HTML, social media, etc.
But my ‘formula’ for ‘success’ is the following:
Hustle x Luck = Success
Hustle: how hard you work. The hours you put in studying. The hours you put in creating stuff. Taking risks. Putting yourself out there. Learning how to brand and market yourself.
Luck: Being at the right place at the right time. Being given a ‘lucky break.’ Being born in the right era. Meeting the right person, or having the right connections.
We cannot control luck. But we can control hustle.
6. How to hustle harder
a. Treat each day like it were your last
If today were your last day on earth, how harder would you hustle?
I know for myself, I have worked a lot harder in life, when I treat each day like it were my last.
I always ask myself each morning:
If today were my last day on earth, what would I do, and what would I not do?
This gives me focus, determination, energy, and passion.
b. Don’t wait for permission
To hustle, you don’t need nobody’s permission. You can do whatever you want, right now.
You don’t need permission to start a YouTube channel, blog, or share photos on social media. You don’t need permission to start your own business from your family, partner, or friends. You can control your own destiny, and do whatever you want.
The biggest problem many of us suffer is that we wait to be chosen — like when we are kids, and we wait until we are chosen for a team.
The truth is that we can make any decision we want to make. The only thing holding us back: fear of looking stupid. Fear of failure.
But you don’t need anybody’s permission. Whatever you want to do in life — whether business-related, creative, or artistic — you can do it right now. Right now. Not tomorrow. Now.
c. Best leverage digital tools and social media
It is hard to make your own clothes. It is hard to print your own books. It is hard to make your own products.
But it is easy to create anything with digital tools. To create illustrations with Photoshop or Illustrator. To create photographs with your smartphone. To create music with Garageband. To create blog posts with Google Docs. To share and publish your ideas on Medium.com, on WordPress, on Facebook, whatever.
If you want to be a digital entrepreneur — leverage digital tools to the maximum. Because it is all ‘free’ — all you need is your own creativity, imagination, and hustle.
7. One foot in front of the other
The last thing about hustling; it is a marathon, not a race.
If you want to survive a marathon, you just need to remind yourself:
One foot in front of the other.
My mom taught me this lesson when she backpacked through Nepal for 21 days. This is how she motivated herself:
When I looked up to the peak of the mountain, I would become discouraged. What I would do instead is to just keep putting one foot in front of another. One foot in front of the other. Then eventually, I made it to the peak of the mountain.
Thank you mom.
Conclusion: Never stop hustling
So friend, in hustling in life— how can you keep just putting one foot in front of another?
Kanye West would make 3 beats a day for 3 summers, until he finally got signed as a producer.
Apparently Thomas Edison had to made hundreds of different versions of the light bulb, until he got one that worked.
The same for you. Keep iterating, keep experimenting, tinkering, publishing, uploading, and sharing your art.
Life is a marathon. The finish line is death. Focus on hustling until you die.
Learn how to make a living from your passion:
- How to Sell Yourself
- How to Do What You Love for a Living
- How to Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
- How to Fail Big
- How to Invest in Yourself
- How to Be Bold in Photography and Life
- Mission: Cover Your Rent and Food
- 1,000 True Fans
- The “10x Principle”: The Only Difference Between “Success” and “Failure”
- Make More Value Not Money
- We Live in a Photo Utopia
How to be a Full-time Photographer
- How to Make a Living From Photography
- The 3 Principles of Making Money With Photography
- Advice for Aspiring Full-Time Photographers
- Don’t Go Into Debt For Your Photography
- How to Brand Yourself as a Photographer
- Trust: The Most Important Thing You Need to Succeed as a Photographer
How to Start a Blog
- How to Make a Living with Blogging
- 50 Blogging Tips For Beginners
- How to Start Your Own Photography Blog
- A Photographer’s Guide to SEO, Blogging, and Social Media
How to Teach Photography
- How to Become a Photography Teacher
- How to Teach a Street Photography Class
- Why I Teach Street Photography Workshops