Of the many thoughts churning my stomach these days, I wonder one quite often: Is it best to get a conventional job or a cut of your own? The sentiment of the entrepreneurial struggle, a.k.a. the hustle, is everywhere these days. We see it in the popular HBO special, How To Make It In America, a series following a bunch of twenty-somethings struggling to escape the rat race and make it big in New York City. We also see it in the literary/academic field, like in David Smick’s, The World is Curved, a book discussing the financial crisis that applauds the effort of the American entrepreneur as our greatest hope for continuous innovation, a critical ingredient in the fight to stay viable in a globalized economy.
I have lots of personal stories to draw on too. I met with my cousin on Friday and he told me how in his community of highly religious people, many are uneducated, at least in the way desired by the secular world, and have large families to support. Yet they survive, and many survive well. They know that the conventional road won’t work for them from the get-go. And, in their opinion, conventional jobs making only $40K a year just are not good enough, especially in expensive cities like New York. So they work really hard to find and execute an idea. They hustle all the time. In fact, my cousin knew a few non-conventional self-made successes, some millionares. One friend started a successful Internet retailer, another refurbishes expensive office chairs, one started a business cleaning windows in New York and makes close to $15K a month, etc. The way my cousin explained it, these people had to succeed, as they had no other choice.
Of course there are those who are educated, earned high degrees, but just don’t want to work a 9-5 (or more aptly, 8-11, in today’s professional caste system) or for a boss. They seem allergic to that kind of lifestyle. These people are spurned by a passion to be their own bosses, set their own schedules, for them the stakes are also high because they cannot endure another way of being. I have such a friend who is creating a successful high-end cereal company called, [Me] & Goji, and one of my best friends right now is trying to decide whether to join the team upon completing his JD/MBA.
These are the people who have to hustle, and if you ask them what this means, it means, going out there, being out there, eventually something comes up, an idea, an opportunity, and you go for it. So, it’s a pretty elusive thing, being able to hustle, being an entrepreneur, something like just diving in, and being willing to stay out in the ocean until a nice wave comes.
So clearly, the conventional route can be less taxing especially where the academic part is already complete. It requires less chance, less luck. It involves more (immediate) prestige, recognition, and you don’t have to wake up every morning reminding yourself of your mission, because the corporate mission replaces yours nicely, and with a marketing finesse to it as well. Its easy to see why this would be more palatable to most who also cannot afford to fail and have the background to get good (enough) jobs. Though by now this pool has to be depleting considering how difficult it is becoming for even highly educated folk to get adequate jobs, many of whom have been forced to take jobs lower than the ones they were fired from or finding no work at all. All this will likely spring forth a whole new beast, the unintentional entrepreneur.
Still, no matter where you sit in your decisions, I believe we all love hearing these hustler stories of success because it either compels some of us to move forward with an idea, or for others, provides the hope that even if we hate our jobs, we too will be able to recognize a golden opportunity when it is presented.