It is natural to feel ashamed, belittled, and diffident about your hustle especially when it does not measure up to society standards, people’s expectations or your degree certificate. The enervating contemplation of ‘what will people say’ and the bamboozling fear of not ‘measuring up to a certain standard’ often cheat us from taking the needed step or staying steadfast to our hustle.
Yet, we often forget that the beauty of a ‘hustle’ is not in the fine clothing we wear or the aesthetic appeal of the environment we work in, but in how we apply our creative ingenuity and entrepreneurial sagacity in monetizing our value creation.
For context, hustling or ‘to hustle’ here is a job you are born to do or the work you can be paid to do. It is monetizing your creativity, skill-set, handiwork, and intellectual asset while creating value.
My life is essentially a by-product of many shameless hustles. In Nigeria, after graduating with a First Class and without a meaningful job, I turned to hustle. I understood that wearing a suit and tie would not feed my family and I needed to do more and be more. While applying for jobs and doing the first job that paid me a 25k salary in Abuja, I worked as a tutorial instructor, school teacher, emcee, certificate calligrapher, and bag merchandiser. Even when I relocated to another city, I still travelled 3 hours every week to hustle for 10-30k jobs because it put food on my table. That same hustling spirit took me to 31 states in Nigeria, mostly by road, for small-pay ephemeral jobs because it paid my rent, afforded my kid’s education and put fuel in my generator.
In the UK, my shameless hustle spirit waxed even stronger. I washed dishes by day and was a caregiver at night. Every other Saturday, I was a bartender and on Sundays, I waited tables in restaurants. I have cleaned stadiums, toilets and picked cabbage after musical festivals. I have worked in a bakery, meat processing factory while doubling as a cashier at Marks and Spencer, Footlocker and Adidas in the yuletide season. These jobs bought me clothes, paid for my countless trips to Europe, supported my family and gave me small pocket money. While doing it I met friends that knew me, MSc colleagues that schooled with me and neighbours that lived with and close to me and I was always…shameless. My circumstances may have changed now but the hustling spirit and creed remain the same.
In my travels to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand I have observed that the jobs that one would normally consider as demeaning, belittling and worthless are the ones these countries are looking for. They are always on their skills-shortage list and entitled to permanent resident permits. The gardener, butcher, electrician, carpenter, plumber, farmers, cook, mechanics, kitchen hands, welders and the likes are treasured jobs abroad. In the United States, UK, and Europe, knowing how to plait African hair can earn one good money while doing a regular day job.
Even in Nigeria, I am always surprised how much taxi drivers, restaurant operators, okpa and Akara sellers, some carpenters, and mechanics and even hairdressers make in a month. In Onitsha, the mansion owners have locked up shops in Main Market. In Lagos, many landlords have roadside businesses. In many parts of the North, most of the rich men are farmers.
So I say to you, whether you are selling beads, frying Akara, teaching school kids, plaiting hair or selling attachment. Irrespective of whether your workplace is inside the market or on the street where prying eyes see and cast aspersion at you, in all these be shameless.
For one thing, is sacrosanct, if you are diligent in your hustle, your hustle would elevate you in due time. Even though our hustle may not bring us good fortune and riches at the same time, it is better to be doing something than nothing.
In the end, we all have a choice, if you don’t hustle, life would hustle you.