How Chris, a Busker-Turned-Hustler, Taught Himself About Motivation

Editor’s Note: Everyone tells us to be motivated, but no one tells us how. In this essay, Chris shares the story of how he learned to stay focused and succeed by taking a small peek inward and then putting himself out there.

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Hustling is a word that is thrown around a lot these days. With the 2006 release of Rick Ross’ song of the same title, is it no surprise that many associate the word with street gangs and their obscene behaviour. Urban Dictionary defines ‘hustlin’ as “The act of one breaking the law to get more money, which may or may not result in mo’ problems.” While this may come up with your buddies at the bar, in the startup scene, hustling carries with it some different connotations.

This story will illustrate the four key concepts that explain what I believe hustling is, and what it isn’t:

1. Motivation versus taking massive action
2. Being busy is not being productive
3. Letting go of your ego
4. There is never a right time

At the age of 18, everyone tells you to be “motivated”; what they DON’T tell you is how to be motivated. Personally, I think that the notion of motivation is ill-defined, and largely unhelpful for people, particularly at a young age. We are never told a practical way to become motivated, and yet we all struggle with it.

Instead of being motivated, I believe the secret to our drive as humans, and particularly as hustlers, is taking massive action. That is what this story is about.

I’m a university student. Being in uni is one of the toughest times to be “motivated.” From the depths of high school, you’re spoon-fed every last piece of information to get you that elusive score, and then you’re suddenly thrown in the deep end:

No one tells you what to do, and no one particularly cares whether you do it.

Having fully experienced this spoon-feeding during school, I naively thought that having a job and gaining money would just come naturally. While these thoughts were largely subconscious, I still had the underlying belief that the gods would reign down and land me a prestigious job at McDonalds, and that this would somehow shift its way into a CEO position at Apple.

It didn’t happen. Nothing happened. No one cared, and nor should they have; I was just another kid in the crowd of millions.

I was running out of money, and I had to do something about it.

Having always done well academically, I took it upon myself to start tutoring. This was an okay job, but there was barely enough work to keep me afloat financially. One day at uni, my friend Ryan was telling me a story about how he used to do busking on the streets, and how much money you could make from doing it.

My ears pricked up. Being a musician myself, I immediately told him that I’d be willing to join him in busking over the next few months. While I was compelled to take on busking, over the next few days, a stream of negative thoughts ran through my mind: What if I’m not good enough? What if Ryan and I don’t gel together musically?

What if we don’t make any money? And the list went on. Days turned into weeks, and my “motivation” ran dry, so to speak. I had done a few things to prepare for busking, like watch busking videos on YouTube, or look up the rules and regulations regarding permits. Having said this, it occurs to me now that I had literally taken no real action at all. Nothing had gone wrong, but nothing had gone right either: I was exactly where I was before.

This is an inertia that often plagues us, and it involves making ourselves busy to avoid the problem. We all do it. Think of that time when you had an important deadline coming up, but then you suddenly remembered that your room needed cleaning. Or that you needed to clean your teeth. Or that your dog needed walking.

Or that you needed to do one of a million other things that wasn’t the core task. While doing the busywork, you told yourself that you were “doing essential things to prepare yourself,” but deep down you knew that it was absolute crap. In the back of your head, you knew the thing you’d been fearing was the exact thing you needed to do. Being busy does not make you productive.

Back to the story. While my unproductive streak was truly lingering on, I did do one thing right: I read a book by an author named Tim Ferriss, entitled, “The Four Hour Work Week.” It was an incredible read, and I learned a lot of things about lifestyle design, business and startups. More so than all the business systems laid out in the book, there was one particular line that stuck out to me:

“The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you… If it’s important to you and you want to do it ‘eventually,’ just do it and correct course along the way.”

This flicked a switch in my brain, and I immediately contacted Ryan and told him we needed to start busking, that weekend.

We did it. It was awesome. We made a decent amount of money and had a great time doing it. All this lack of “motivation” was really just a bunch of excuses in my brain that had little basis and was simply holding me back. This is not to say that hustling is a smooth ride; it’s not. But every time you take action you work your muscle of resilience, which, over time, regardless of the outcome, will help you overcome adversity and achieve great things as a hustler and a human.

Let’s rewind – back to those limiting questions I was asking myself before the busking took off.

I feel as if a lot of these questions came down to my inability to let go of my ego. I didn’t want to look silly in front of people. I didn’t want to be wrong. I wanted my life to just work, with no bumps along the way. It’s funny, because you can actually almost engineer your life to look like this, but it will likely be bland, unfulfilling and, ultimately, you will have little freedom. Anything revolutionary that you do in your life is probably going to backfire and make you look foolish in one way or another.

But that’s the beauty of it.

Learn to embrace the obstacles in front of you, and see them as feedback rather than failure. Once you can do this, hustling becomes more natural, and you will learn to actually enjoy the process. Busking wasn’t some crazy idea that no one had done before, but it did give me a snippet- a snippet of what it’s like to try something new, what it’s like to let go of the ego, and what it’s like to set yourself apart from the bland life that everyone tells you is “the way it should be.”

Over the next six months our busking career went through highs and lows. There were the nights of cash-laden fun, with just as many cold nights where nobody even looks you in the eye. We had drunk people throw fruit at us, we were reported by security guards, verbally abused and praised, and sometimes given jam donuts at the end of the night. All of these experiences made us grow- not just as musicians, but in our personal lives as well.

The funny thing is, no one will tell you to jump into the dark, and there’s never a right time to do it. There will always be the assignment that’s due, the family holiday you have to plan, the girlfriend you need to call. Ultimately, these excuses are usually a result of your own fear and have nothing to do with the action that you know you have to take.

So do it.

Find something rad, let go of your ego, and walk into the unknown with courage.

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