If You Really Want to Make it Big You've Got to Hustle
Whenever a consulting gig ends and I need new work, a funny thing always happens: somebody calls or emails with a new opportunity. Just like that. How does it happen? I really don’t know; it just does. Like magic, it never fails. Poof! Somebody offers me a job.
Had you going there for a minute, didn’t I? Come on, you know it’s never like that. Opportunity never just comes to you; you have to go out and make it happen. You have to hustle for it. As the fairy tale goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that one proverbial prince that actually pays off.
You can read all you want about how to become a millionaire before you're 30. The behavioral traits of powerful CEOs. The daily habits of famous entrepreneurs. How to build the perfect personal brand. The power of positive thinking. And how to be crazy productive. But none of it will pay off unless you hustle.
It doesn’t matter if you’re self-employed, a startup founder, or a small business owner. It makes no difference if you’re a corporate worker or climbing the corporate ladder. You can be right out of school or 20 years into your career. It makes no difference. If you want a kickass career, you’ve got to hustle.
Now, the word “hustle” has lots of meanings. When I say hustle, I mean you’ve got to work your tail off. Really push yourself. Keep going when all the lightweights have run out of steam. Fight for every competitive edge you can get. Keep your eye on the prize and never quit until it’s in your hand. That’s what I mean by hustle.
You can ask countless successful business leaders how they got to where they are today and they’ll tell you. Powerful CEOs like Google’s Larry Page, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz and Softbank’s Masayoshi Son didn’t just drop out of the sky into cushy corner office chairs. They had to hustle every day of their lives.
Son’s family actually lived in an illegal shack in southwest Japan after emigrating from Korea. Talk about adversity.
He was so obsessed with outgrowing the poverty of his youth and becoming a successful businessman that he literally stalked Den Fujita, the man who brought the first McDonald’s franchise to Japan and grew it into a 3,800-restaurant chain. All Son wanted was some advice. Fujita told the young man to go to America. So he did.
In Berkeley, California, Son became fixated on the technology industry and got a degree in Economics. At 24, he returned to Japan to found software distributor Softbank. Today, Softbank is a global telecom and internet giant valued at close to $60 billion and Son is the second richest man in Japan with a personal net worth of $17 billion.
After all that success, Son is still hustling. Three years ago, he bought Sprint, even though former CEO Dan Hesse had spent seven years unsuccessfully trying to turn around the struggling telecom company. And it would mean slugging it out with behemoths AT&T and Verizon to regain a foothold in the U.S. wireless market.
God knows, I sure had to hustle to get to where I am. Every step of the way. There were no jobs when I graduated college, so I worked part-time in a local bank for $2.65 an hour. And once I got my big break to get into the high-tech industry, I did whatever it took to advance my career. I said “yes” to everything.
I worked 60-70 hour weeks, fought for every promotion and networked like crazy for every job opportunity. I was an engineer for a decade, carried a bag selling semiconductor chips and built a worldwide sales organization for a startup that ended up going public. I competed head-on with tech giants Microsoft and Intel. And finally, I found my calling as a senior marketing executive.
Along the way, I went to where the work was, moving from New York to Dallas to L.A. to Silicon Valley, back to Dallas, and back to Silicon Valley again. I once commuted weekly across the country for more than a year, taking red-eye flights every Sunday night to make Monday morning executive meetings. I’ve flown more than three million miles.
I’ve failed miserably countless times. Each time I got back up, dusted myself off, learned a hard-fought lesson, and tried my best to do better next time. Now I run my own show. And after thirty something years, I’m still hustling. That’s what it takes to make it in this world. If you want to be successful, you’ve got to hustle.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.