“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
When I began this adventure to use real estate investing to reach financial independence, I was a 23-year old rookie right out of college. Looking back, it’s almost laughable how little knowledge or experience I had! Yet, I was hungry for success, and I wanted badly to get better and to make progress.
Like the lion (or maybe I was the gazelle!) in the quote above, every morning when I woke up, I was running. I didn’t know as much as others in real estate, but I did know how to hustle. Day in and day out, I was willing to start earlier, stay later, and work harder in between. Fortunately, the hustle paid off for me as it usually does for anyone who applies it.
Hustle is something we can all do. It’s 100% in your control. And it can make all the difference between your success or failure in real estate investing or any other worthwhile ambition in life.
But despite the enormous advantages of consistent hustle, I’m still surprised to find that so few people truly do it. And I’d like to change that starting now.
I’ll begin by telling you a story about a person whose life and professional sports career defined the word hustle.
What Does it Mean to Hustle
Hustle is related to hard work, but it’s more. It’s a relentless type of hard work over a long period of time. And more than anything, it’s a state of mind and a way of life.
I grew up loving football. And one of the most famous players of my childhood was Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers. While Rice is arguably one of the best players of all time, few people realize that he was actually not one of the fastest players. According to his coach Bill Walsh, Rice only ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash, which was mediocre at that time in the mid-1980s.
But Jerry Rice was the definition of the word hustle. In this article, teammate and quarterback Steve Young described how several weeks after they won the 1995 Super Bowl, he showed up at the practice facility to find Rice running sprints and catching passes from the groundskeeper. It was 7 months before the regular season, and no one else was there!
Rice hustled at an elite level in order to practice and improve his strengths, not his weaknesses. And as a result, his unparalleled combination of endurance, route running, balance, and strength more than compensated for his apparent weakness of speed.
But you don’t have to be an NFL athlete to hustle. As Jerry Rice demonstrated, hustle is the great equalizer in any situation. It’s a secret superpower that you can use to maximize your strengths, overshadow your weaknesses, and increase your chances of success.
And unlike the economy, your competition, your background, or unfair social disadvantages that might exist, hustle is something that YOU can control. And it’s something that you can get better at.
So, if you’d like to maximize your chances of success, here are five of my favorite tips to improve your hustle.
1. Focus on Your Why
By why, I mean your purpose, cause or belief. WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?
– Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action (TED Talk)
An amazing TED Talk by Simon Sinek explains that most people and organizations know what they do. In my case, the what is “I invest in real estate” and “I teach people.” And still more know how they do it. Again in my case, the how is “I invest in a college town, rent affordably priced apartments, and use creative financing” and “I teach practical real estate strategies that people can actually use.”
But neither of these are my why. And for that reason, neither would truly motivate me to hustle over the long run.
So, what’s an example of a why?
In real estate investing, my why has always been about gaining more personal freedom, flexibility, and free time. I didn’t want money or a job to get in the way of doing what mattered. This motivation and energy pushed me through a lot of times when real estate was difficult and not fun.
With my Coach Carson business, my why is helping YOU win with money so that you can also do what matters. I want friends to join me in this experience of financial success! Yes, practical financial techniques and strategies are what I write and teach about (i.e. the what), but the underlying why keeps me motivated.
Finding your own why can be like fuel for your hustle. When you want something badly enough, you jump out of the bed in the morning, overcome obstacles, and work hard day after day. And amazingly, it doesn’t feel like work! It’s a joy, and it makes you feel like the luckiest person on earth.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a strong why you’ll be like a sailboat without wind. Apathy and laziness will zap your energy, challenges will make you quit, and you’ll find TV shows, internet diversions, and other “entertainment” to keep you busy.
So, what’s your why related to real estate investing and financial independence? Now is a good time to start thinking about it if you haven’t already!
2. Love the Process
“You must be the kind of man [or woman] who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences.”
– Ayn Rand
I vividly remember one hot summer day in high school. I was all alone, soaked in sweat as I finished wind sprints in preparation for an upcoming football season. The sun was hot, my body ached, and I was breathing heavily. But as I finished the final run of the day, I remember being deeply satisfied.
Did I love pain and heat? Not exactly.
But I did love the process of getting better. I loved being able to run and move my body athletically. And I loved the person I became as I pushed through the obstacles of pain and heat.
When you study people who get excellent results in their craft, sport, or profession, you’ll usually find the same theme. They love the day-to-day details and process of what they do. And in many cases, you’ll find they love the process as much or more than the final results, like making money in business or winning games in sports.
So, do you love the process of what you do? Or does it bore you to tears? I don’t recommend beginning a career, real estate investing, or any other long-term project just because it makes more money or because someone told you to. Life’s too short.
Do something because it uses your talents. Do something because it fascinates you. And do something that’s so fun you’re willing to stick to it for the long-run. Because if that’s true, you’re also likely to hustle and to become successful at it.
3. Build Grit – It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
“Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
– Angela Duckworth, TED Talk – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Angela Duckworth made the buzzword “grit” famous. She’s a psychologist who studies why certain people with the exact same circumstances achieve more than others. And she found that grit, roughly defined as passion + perseverance (aka hustle!), is the deciding factor. Gritty people see their goals as marathons, not sprints.
For example, she studied new cadets at the US Military Acadamy (West Point) during their first grueling 7 weeks at school (aka “Beast Barracks” or just “Beast”). She found that factors like SAT scores, grades, leadership ability, or athleticism could not tell her who would drop out or make it through. But grit (or lack of grit) could predict who would make it and who would not.
To learn more about grit, I highly recommend Angela’s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and the grit test on her website. But my key takeaway is that you can build and improve your grit.
How to Improve Your Grit
In her book, Angela recommends two main paths to becoming more gritty.
The first and most effective is by hanging out with gritty people and gritty communities. It’s the idea that you “average up” to the people you spend the most time with. So, you should seek communities – both online (like CoachCarson.com!) and offline (like sports groups, entrepreneurial meetups, etc) that have grit as one of their core values. It will inevitably rub off on you.
The second is that you can also work on grit from the inside-out by focusing on these things:
- Interest – Find something that you’re intrinsically drawn to. Sounds a lot like the previous section on “love the process,” doesn’t it?
- Regular Practice – Part of grit is about discipline, or showing up every single day. The more you practice and make something a regular habit, the more gritty you will become over the long run.
- Purpose – Do something you’re good at and passionate about, but then connect it to something bigger than yourself. It’s about doing what matters. Does that sound familiar, too?
- Hope – Angela’s idea of hope is more than just wishing. It’s about believing and resolving that you will work to make things better than they are today.
So, how’s your grit? And are you willing to work on improving it from the outside and from the inside? And remember that business, investing, and life are marathons and not sprints.
4. Do Less, Hustle More
In the book The One Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan point out that many people get less done because they are trying to do too much. When you spread your energy, focus, and hustle among too many activities and goals, your effectiveness dwindles.
Instead, Keller and Papasan recommend narrowing your focus. Instead of 5 or 10 things, focus on 1 or 2. Yes, I know that may seem impossible. If you’re normal, your life is probably a swarm of activities pulling you in every different direction. But that might be why you’re not as effective as you could be.
Accomplishing worthwhile goals in your life requires ruthless focus. It requires saying yes only to the most important and saying no to everything else. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. The question is how you allocate that time.
So, if you find yourself tired and lacking the energy to hustle on your most important activities, see if you can start saying no more often. Look at all the activities of your life (including those “must watch” TV shows or that internet social media time), and begin cutting out the ones that aren’t as important.
5. Redefine Success
“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
John Wooden was arguably the most successful coach in any sport at any time. During a 12-year period in the 1960s and 1970s, his basketball teams at UCLA won 10 national championships (including 7 in a row)! But what’s even more amazing about him was that he didn’t focus on winning.
What?! He was a championship coach who won more than anyone else, but he didn’t focus on winning? Strange, but it’s true.
Instead, Coach Wooden focused on his own definition of success. It was an internal measure that said you ARE successful when you’ve given full effort and tried to be your best (even if you lose). And you ARE NOT successful if you did not give full effort and did not try to be your best (even if you win).
How do you know if you’re successful? Wooden says it’s peace of mind. You’ll either be at peace inside because you know you did your best, or you’ll be anxious because you know you did not give full effort.
Wooden did not use the exact word hustle. Instead, he used “industriousness,” which he defined in his gem of a little book Wooden as “the most conscientious, assiduous, and inspired type of work … Without it you have nothing to build on.” Wooden felt that industriousness was so important that he made it the cornerstone of everything else he taught.
I think Wooden was right, and I’m working to redefine success for myself. Yes, I want to make money. Yes, I want to buy properties. And yes, I want to have certain experiences in life.
But the one thing I can really control in the process is my hustle. I either give as close to 100% effort as I can or I don’t. And the responsibility for this success is completely up to me.
So, are you willing to redefine success for yourself? Is full effort (i.e. hustle) a worthwhile standard for yourself? If so, I think you’ll find that the results will come in abundance as a byproduct of true, inner success.
Hustle Isn’t Only About Professional Work
So far, my examples of hustle have primarily been about professional work. Hustle might seem to be something you do at the expense of your family, friends, physical health, and personal well-being. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Hustle can apply to your personal relationships as much as it does to your work. It just looks different when applied to different contexts.
For example, one of the habits I’m working on (but not even close to mastering!) is time blocking so that there are uninterrupted periods of time for different types of activities. In my case, this includes work, family, personal (ex: exercise), and social time. A schedule can’t be too rigid or it’ll break during the chaos of normal life, but it’s nice to plan those blocks of time and the transitions ahead of time.
When this time blocking works, it allows you to be present and focus on the most important activity right in front of you – whether that’s work, your partner, kids, or a meal. And remember, hustle works best when your attention isn’t divided between multiple things.
It’s also important to realize that hustle can be grinding and personally exhausting. So, you also must prioritize activities that replenish your energy if you want to hustle over the long-run. My body has to constantly remind me of this lesson the hard way!
To help ingrain this concept into my life as a regular habit, I make a daily goal to do my personal fundamentals below. I also track and check them off in my planner/calendar as I do them.
- Sleep 7+ hours – This has been a tough one for me because I have a hard time winding down and turning off my mind at night. So, my #1 recent habit has been a digital sunset at 10:30 pm where the phone, computer, etc are turned off or put in airplane mode. This eliminates the temptation to do “one more thing” so my mind can cool down and prepare for sleep.
- A.M. Ritual – I’ve had some sort of morning ritual for many years. But last year I read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and became refocused on this important habit. I normally start the day with a 15-20 minute session of meditation, visualization, movement, and journaling. It’s an amazing way to “prime” your brain for a successful day.
- Good Nutrition – Nutrition is a big, complex topic that I’m not an expert on. But I do know that eating more greens and vegetables is one of the most important things I can do. So, I make a point to do this daily during my meals.
- Exercise – I’ve kept this habit up consistently since I was a kid. And it’s probably my most important personal fundamental. Studies have shown that exercise helps with depression (Harvard Medical School and WebMD). clear thinking, and higher energy levels. So, I make a point to exercise daily, even if it’s a small 15-minute session at home.
These are simply my important personal habits. You may have your own. The important step is to recognize them, prioritize them, and build them into your daily schedule so that your hustle is more balanced and sustainable.
Your Turn to Hustle
You’ve heard my stories about hustle, and I’ve shown you that all-time greats like Jerry Rice and John Wooden built their success on a foundation of hustle. So, now it’s your turn.
Whatever you want in life – money, financial independence, freedom, flexibility – hustle can help you get it. It’s a superpower that anyone can use, but not everyone will. Why? Because it’s hard. It requires sweat, discomfort, and pain, especially in the beginning.
So, are the benefits worth it to you? Are you up for it? Are you ready to hustle?
I hope so. Let’s be the kind of people who LOVE the process. Let’s build a community of gritty people who challenge and encourage each other to be our best. And let’s redefine success as full effort, whether the outside world thinks we’re winning or not.
Do you have experiences where hustle has helped you accomplish a worthwhile goal? What challenges did you face in the process? What is the hardest part about hustling?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.