(Max Thayer is currently a Technical Marketing student at the Startup Institute. He is interested in stories, systems, and people.)
We’re a month out from the end of the Startup Institute Boston’s second class. I’m on the technical marketing track, and let me tell you: this program inspires me every day. Every instructor brings actionable insights that I can (and am!) using to create value for startups on day one of joining their team. But so far, I daresay the most important lesson SIB has taught me regards the nature of Hustle, the fundamental resource of the startup ecosystem.
Hustle amounts to grit and determination: the force of will to accomplish and achieve. As a term, hustle gets thrown around a lot, and until now I chalked it up as analogous to “productive” or “networks a lot”, but now I see it more as a mindset. One can convert hustle into anything: skills, connections, resources — you name it. Give me time and the will to power, and I will move mountains.
Failure drives learning, and learning to handle failure constructively is essential to your success in life (however you define success). I see failure and success as aspects of the same skill: proper meditation on one illuminates the other, and empowers us with the grit and determination to drive us further. Equally, hustle inspires us to plow through failure, much like the Bene Gesserit stand against fear: failure is feedback, and informs our next steps, but it does not stop us. Nothing can stop us but ourselves; so long as there is a will, there is a way.
Complex as the human mind and body are, hustle is a limited resource. When entrepreneurs talk about burnout, they mean they ran out of hustle. They pushed themselves too hard, and broke. When this happens, we fall into depression, fear, and sloth; it can take weeks to get back on our feet. Hustle regenerates differently for different people: as an extrovert, I draw energy from my community, so I get my hustle by spending time with others who have lots of hustle. SIB brings together brilliant, capable, and driven people from all over the world, and every day I spend with them is a day I spend topped off on hustle. Every day, I grow my limits, and go farther, harder, and higher.
In order to maximize your effectiveness, learn where you get your energy from: what activities, what people, what places inspire you. Then, surround yourself with those things, and use that energy to blast through challenges, accomplish your goals, and discover yourself more deeply. Though you may not know what inspires you now, or what your goals are, hustle elucidates. The act of pursuing accomplishment will illuminate what you want and what you don’t want; what you love and what you don’t; what empowers you, and what dulls you. The path of self-discovery is not clear, direct, or easy, but it is wildly important. Do something, and the rest will come.
But hustle isn’t blind. In different words, every instructor or speaker we’ve heard from at SIB has told us to dig data out of the world around us, and use it to direct our actions. Be humbled by the data; don’t let pride blind you. Seek feedback everywhere you can, in every way you can: track your activities, and their results; mark your decisions, and their outcomes; observe your path, and learn from its history. We live in a magical age where we have an unprecedented power to measure and quantify phenomena; the key to creating value lies in using that information to guide how you apply yourself. In the absence of that data, we are sprinting with our eyes closed.
First and foremost, SIB has shown me the nature of hustle: what it is, where I get it from, and how I can transform it into anything. It has shown me how to learn from failure without fear, how to know myself through my actions and my environment, and how to steer my passions with data. I have learned more in these two and a half weeks than I have in years. I am excited, impassioned, and wildly, vividly alive.