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The New Breed Of The American Dreamer

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The New Breed Of The American Dreamer

Want to Succeed? Become a Hustlepreneur
Jeff  Henderson
Jeff Henderson More by this author
May 22, 2014 at 07:30 AM

Get Your Hustle On

Back in the day, things were pretty simple. You had a dream, you worked hard, you got a good shot to make it happen. But today, access to the American dream is no longer guaranteed. Getting straight A’s in school—not enough. Getting a college degree—not enough. Even working your behind off—not enough. Back then, anyone with a pretty good idea and a decent amount of drive had a fighting chance to carve out a place in the world—the classic American-dream success story. But that isn’t enough anymore. The paths that many of our parents and grandparents walked to find success have largely disappeared. To succeed today, you need to be a new breed of American dreamer. You need to be what I call a “hustlepreneur.”

The words hustle and hustler  have gotten a bad rap. When we hear them, most of us think of scams or something shady or illegal. Dictionary definitions of hustler include “streetwalker,” “wheeler-dealer,” and, as Merriam-Webster  puts it, “unscrupulous person who knows how to circumvent difficulties.” Now, I’m not saying these definitions are wrong. I’m saying they’re limited. In the words of author Supreme Understanding, the core definition is simple: “To hustle means to work strategically toward success when the odds are stacked against you.”

Inspirational Quote Overcoming Obstacles

Find A Way To Beat The Odds

Now, maybe you’re asking, what are hustlepreneurs? They’re successful entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, or strivers in any lane who have beaten those outsized odds to make something new of their lives. That might sound like some kind of a riddle, but it’s really just the truth about the world we live in today. A hustlepreneur is someone who dreams big—and eats, sleeps, and breathes his or her dream until it becomes reality. A hustlepreneur is what you need to become in order to make your dream of success a reality, no matter what your dream may be. Let’s take a closer look at the traits of this uniquely motivated, highly skilled individual who’s found a way to beat the odds.

If we take the negative stain away from hustlin’, we see all kinds of people who provide for their families and support their communities using the core skills of the hustlepreneur. The mother in the projects who cooks and sells soul food out of her apartment to make a few extra dollars is a hustlepreneur. The father who works a 9-to-5 gig, then turns around and works odd jobs from fixing cars to doing minor home repair, is a hustlepreneur. The Latino mom and dad who work seven days a week cleaning people’s houses so their kids can go to college—they’re hustlepreneurs. These people know how to make it happen against all the odds. And they make the time to figure out how to overcome obstacles and challenges—big and small. Hustlepreneurs aren’t afraid to be first in line to try something new. They are creative problem solvers who never flinch at a no. They understand how to provide what people want and need and turn it into a revenue stream. They understand the concept of supply and demand and actually get pumped up instead of depressed by new market trends. They are always on alert and ready to outdo the competition. The very best hustlepreneurs—on the block or in the boardroom—are visionary, persuasive, and charismatic. Their “brand” is so powerful that people want to follow where they lead. Below is a video that shares my personal journey of being a hustlepreneur, overcoming being a drug dealer and prisoner to a successful career as a celebrity TV chef and motivational speaker:

A Hustlepreneurs’ Hall of Fame

I said that the hustlepreneur is the new breed of American dreamer, and that’s true, now that more of us have the odds stacked against us than ever before. But it’s also true that the street-smart skills that will take you down the hustlepreneur’s road go way back in our history; they’ve just gone by different names over the years. Just think of Madame C. J. Walker, or Henry Ford, or John H. Johnson, or the late Reginald Lewis, who built TLC Beatrice International, or former basketball great turned business mogul Magic Johnson, or Sara Blakely, creator of Spanx.

There’s something about oppression, restrictions, and being told, “No, you can’t,” that makes the hustlepreneur want to say, “Just watch me!” When Black slaves were freed but still faced discrimination, they rose to the challenge by creating schools for their children and businesses that offered the products and services that Whites refused to sell them. Hustlepreneurship cuts across lines of race and nationality. Irish, Italian, Jewish, and other European immigrants came to this country in the 19th and 20th centuries with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a dream. Most didn’t whine; they said, “Watch me,” and went to work.

Andrew Carnegie, the “father of American steel,” immigrated as a child with his parents in 1848, and before constructing his first steel mill in the mid-1870s, he worked in factories and spent time as a messenger boy, learning the hustle that would lift him to greatness. Since that time, new waves of immigrants—Asian, East Indian, Latino, African, and more—have used that same hustlepreneur spirit to beat the odds stacked against them and stake claims in areas where older generations of immigrant businesspeople have moved out and moved on. They’ve taken that sliver of opportunity and started import shops, grocers, dry cleaners, nail salons, and other small businesses in tough inner city neighborhoods. Their struggle, their skills, and their eye for opportunity are all part of the strong and sturdy hustlepreneur thread that is sewn into the fabric of American life. Now, maybe you’re saying, hold up—what do last century’s immigrants have to do with me right now? The point is that America has always been a nation of hustlepreneurs. But their special brand of hustle is more crucial than ever to succeed in today’s global economy.

Overcoming Obstacles

Let’s take a look at a couple of people living an ordinary life in our world today who found the hustle that made their dreams come true. When Tina Jackson got pregnant at the age of 17, before she even finished high school, any dreams she might have had seemed far away. Tina grew up in Houston, Texas, living back and forth between her divorced parents—both from the South, uneducated and from generations of poverty. Called “TJ” by her friends, she was always a smart girl academically; she had a sense of direction growing up. At the same time, Tina was schooled early in life about crime, drugs, and gang life from her younger brother—who eventually became a drug dealer.

Although Tina let her circumstances hold her back for many years, she was always aware of her surroundings and the direction she wanted go in life. She finally decided to follow her dream to become a hairstylist. She earned her certificate at a local cosmetology school, then used her skills in negotiating and persuasion to get hired in an upscale salon downtown, away from the environment that for many years held her and so many others back. Today Tina is working full time. She just bought her first home, and in her spare time she has taken up interior design and is turning it into a successful side business. Keme Henderson took a different hustlepreneur path. At 37, Keme had a master’s degree in social work with $100,000 in student loan debt and a job that wasn’t making a dent in paying off her loans. Now, Keme loves to bake, and her friends kept telling her that her cookies and cheesecakes were good enough to sell. But the idea seemed too far-fetched—until she dug deep into her reserves of guts and passion and opened Somethin’ Sweet, her own bakery operating out of her home. With basically no start-up money, Keme put her hustling skills into action. “I’d load my cookies in my car on Saturday mornings and go from beauty shop to barbershop, to meeting people at gas stations, at their homes, at churches and businesses, and I’d hustle cookies and cheesecakes all day. I’ve also done cold calling to larger businesses, asking if I could drop off samples.” At one point, Keme knew only the negative definition of a hustler. “I always hated the word, sounded like it had to be illegal.” Now, she says, “They could put my picture in the dictionary next to the word hustlepreneur, and I’d be perfectly okay with that.”

Your Journey Starts Here

True hustlepreneurship means that you’re aiming to operate at the top of your game, because you can see yourself as a success and you won’t give up until you’ve reached the point where you can be a success. In my book, If You Can See It You Can Be It, I walk you through all the steps you need to take to become a certified hustlepreneur. I show you how to drill down to the core of your dream—whether you can already see it or you don’t know where to start. And whether you’re from the mean streets or from Main Street, I give you a street-smart advantage that will put you in the fast lane to making your dream a reality.


About Author
Jeff  Henderson
Jeff Henderson was the first African American to be named Chef de Cuisine at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and executive chef at Café Bellagio. He hosted the The Chef Jeff Project, a docu-reality TV series; and is the author of the New York Continue reading