February 28, 2019
All my life I have been the runt of my family and friends (size-wise). I did not reach five feet in height until the end of my junior year in high school. So, if I wanted to be included in activities, I had to think differently. I could not necessarily depend on speed or brute strength. It was not simply about how hard I worked; it was more so about how smart I worked. At the time I was experiencing this reality, I was bothered by it. In hindsight, it pushed me to align myself with the ethos that had defined many people of the San Francisco Bay Area...hustle!
If you were raised in the Bay Area and your family wasn’t rich, you learned that if you wanted to have things or to achieve something great, you had to hustle for it. When I type the word hustle, I am not implying that you must do anything illegal. For me, hustle refers to finding ways to get resources to get what you want in life. At times getting the resources the you want/need means doing things you may not want to do; other times it might be doing what you love to the point of exhaustion. No matter the medium, if you can get the results you want (without losing your soul or ethics in the process), it is worth it.
My environment might have taught me that I needed to hustle to find success, but members of my family modeled for me the art of hustling. My maternal grandma and my dad taught me hustling. Ida Lee Johnson/My grandma was the bartering queen. She may not have had a lot of money, but she knew how to market her skills of cooking and bargain shopping. If there was something she needed (or I wanted), she would cook desserts, or can fruits in exchange for a service/item she wanted. And occasionally she would just outright sell her desserts and canned fruits. When she was not doing that, she was shopping for others (who did not have cars or who could not drive) decades before Uber Eats was around. My grandma was like if you can’t get it the way you thought you could it, find another way. Not her skin color, her gender/sex, nor her lack of formal education got in her way.
My dad did his best to not let barriers get in his way either. He taught me a different kind of hustle. He taught me about the art of hustling world systems. He showed me the game of the systems he was familiar with that influenced his world. He stressed to me (formally and informally) to learn the rules, master them, and use them to your advantage. He showed that if you know how to do something in a way no one knows else does, make sure others know about it...make sure they seek you out. So, for much of my life my dad did not have a lot of formal education beyond an associate degree. But he took what he could from each opportunity to make sure regardless of the economy, he could find a way to ensure the economy needed him.
As early as elementary school, I tried to market my skill sets and make sure people sought me out. By the time I got to junior high, I was sharing poems/rhymes, selling candy, offering academic assistance, and selling bus passes for monetary profit. This hustling helped me get things I wanted and needed. When I reached college, I was coached by others to think beyond using my skills for simply monetary profits. I learned to use my skills to help me master systems of my world to create lifelong networking opportunities that would be priceless towards reaching goals in life. In my life I have constantly been given lemons. And time and time again, and I have repeatedly found ways to make lemonade.
As I have gotten older, I have learned when it comes to hustling, some things I must depend on God to handle. The rest is up to me. Right now, I’m using the skill sets I know best to help my family get by. I’m schooling my kids on the importance of working smarter, not harder and finding outside-the-box strategies to get results. At the same time, I am using those same skill sets to market myself for the end game. My current discomfort is not permanent; it is just temporary. Being afraid of a little hustle is NOT an option for me because I don’t want to miss my shot! Don’t be afraid of the hustle...your dreams are depending on you!
Elgrie Jones Hurd, III is originally from eastern Menlo Park, California. He holds a master’s degree from San José State University in sociology, with an emphasis in sociology of education. He also has a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly Pomona University in sociology. During his studies at San [...]