Learning to be a Humble Hustler

Boring – but I’m starting off this post with a definition. I know, how very seventh grade “Who’s Your Life Hero Essay” of me. Are you ready?

Hustle:
verb:
1. Force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction.
2. Obtain by forceful action or persuasion.
noun:
1. Busy movement an activity
2. A fraud or a swindle.

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I’ll be honest, the only reason I am discussing this word is that I have been fretting about the fact that someone I’ll leave nameless called me it yesterday. Nameless, because people are actually starting to read this blog, believe it or not. This person said, and I quote: “Oh you’re a Hustler now aren’t ya?” It was meant as a compliment, I think, but something about it caused this guilty twinge inside of my stomach. Now maybe that’s a reflection of my insecurities, but why do we associate such negative thoughts with this word “Hustle”? It’s bothered me ever since it was uttered. Though any other time in my life I would have thought nothing of it,  this year I have actually asked myself on multiple occasions, Lauren: What’s your relationship with work? I’ve questioned if it’s healthy, if it’s positive, and if I should change anything while I am in my twenties before I trudge into a lifelong unhealthy-habit territory.

I also asked this question about my relationship with work because… Rachel Hollis (you know, the author of Girl, Wash Your Face). Anyway, she discusses in her book the fact that she is indeed a “workaholic” in a good way but also in a way that has some serious impact on herself and her family. Around the same time that I listened to her book, I had started a new job, one in particular that many people have had many opinions about, including myself. So I considered the aforementioned question. What’s my relationship with work? Then – here I am, minding my own business at a GAS STATION, and someone asking about how I landed my “sweet new gig” says – those words…You’re a Hustler – aren’t ya? It didn’t sound like a question.

So briefly like Rachel did, I thought about my family history, psychologically that is, with work. I come from a family of business owners, born and bred. Most of my life the DOW was discussed over dinner along with work-talk amongst my parents who ran a business together. When my brothers joined the same business, the talking continued. It seemed our success as a family was largely based around the shared pride in that shared family business. Many family events are not that different now, besides the fact that I have a niece and nephew to distract from its intensity at times. When I decided, happily and decisively, to take a different path it was respected as much as possible – but I have spent much of my life trying to prove that my work was worth the same amount of pride as building something from the ground up for my future family like mine had done. Hense the “hustle”.

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So I became a teacher after a one year stint as a Technology Integrator (which at first was my foot in the door to a school) and fell in love. I obsessed, bragged, cried, and laughed about my classroom, students, and studies constantly. I felt like I was giving my entire life, being, soul, time, and heart to teenagers in my classes for four years – and I was. Often times I felt like this feeling of “giving” so much to others then ate away at my cravings for what some call “Hustle”. It even ate away at how I filled my own cup, and how I was forming my own unhealthy relationship with work like many teachers. I wanted to make a difference, I felt it was necessary and beyond my current bounds so I made a change.

Keep in mind, I have wanted “more” than a classroom my whole life. As a child, I dreamt I was going to be a large copyright Editor in the city, a Fashion Designer, a small business owner (coffee shop of course), Novelist, and the list could go on. I was NOT the child that woke up with a piece of chalk one day standing at a pretend blackboard and taught my Barbies. But it did suit me for the time being, and I breathed every bit of life into it that I could while receiving so much from the kids in return.

So when I felt compelled and impassioned to step back out of the classroom role as a Consultant on Educational Technology and Curriculum at a semi-private school, I was met with questions, concern, and even distaste. People expected me to empty myself to an exhausting and exacerbating classroom, bucking the system and “the man” pointlessly, instead of trying to do something about it.

My “hustle” to make a change and move on to a place of opportunity and insight into new parts of this complex field, turned wryly into comments like…”Must be for the money huh?” because of course in their eyes this could never still benefit “the kids” speaking of them, they also asked, “Do you know what will happen to the kids?”. I kid you not, Teachers apparently are not allowed to have “Hustle”. Even though for so many reasons I couldn’t even begin to discuss today, I knew this decision was good for me, every day I have met criticism or guilt in places it shouldn’t exist because leaving “the kids” will never be seen as a good decision to so many.

Because Educators, and I’m sure many other careers, are meant to serve the public and help others, it seems like the word “Hustle” or my translation of it: “Cravings of Success and Impact”,  is seen as a negative attribute. If I was a Sales Representative for a Company that Sold Rubix Cubes for the same four years I had been teaching, and I took on the responsibilities I had (leading groups, planning events, boosting morale, running a website, and more) I most likely would have been compensated, but I probably would have also been recognized and promoted. I may even have my own Digital version of the Rubix cube in Beta (just kidding I know things don’t move quite that fast). But as a teacher, in a public school, you earn the same “scaled” rate as the person across the school, who hadn’t done a single thing but had the “same” amount of experience (years) as you. But, “it’s for the kids”. So Hustlers, stay home.

fullsizeoutput_5abRegardless of school or field – I am no longer saying no to the part of me that wants to work for what I have and go after every dream and you shouldn’t either. I have accepted the fact that I genuinely feel like I can move beyond classrooms of kids to impacting a full school of them, district of them, and hopefully someday State of them.

And please people, don’t be one of them and mistake my passion for greed. I love being kind and faithful. Graciousness is an important virtue and expectation in my Faith, and I don’t plan to stop that. There is SO much to be said about all of the things in the Bible that discuss our relationship with work, but that’s also for another day, regardless a craving for work is healthy and intentional just as is our individual purposes here on Earth. But am I going to punish myself by not seeking out larger audiences, or more resources, or more opportunity because I’m supposed to stay somewhere stifling since “it’s for the kids”, or the town, or the whoever the world is telling me to stop “hustling” for that day? I am going to seek out my own purpose and place on this planet.

By the way, this definition of “Hustle” that was given earlier… I’m not a fan. If the person who called me a Hustler was insinuating that because I chose to better myself and my opportunities by getting a new job through “fraud” “force” or “persuasion” well… I guess they’re not wrong. I guess I’ve been a fraud for not showing the world what I truly want instead of hiding from dreams afraid they wouldn’t come true, or that I’d be judged for them. News flash – I was judged anyway. I’ve forced this future to happen for me because I have zealously pushed the bounds of what I have defined myself as in the workforce, and I am forcing the parameters of my career to reflect my upbringing and beliefs. And I am currently trying to persuade others that it is possible for me and that it can be for anyone else too WHILE being gracious and kind and not a swindler or phony.

The best example I can set for those students in that classroom that I left behind is the kind that shows young men and women that this Hustle never stops. It’s not resting on your reputation, living beyond your means, or resorting to poor decision making to get you where you think you want to go. It’s also not giving up on those hopes and dreams because of your fears.

So am I a Hustler? If it means… showing up early? That’s me. Saying yes to extra projects? Always. Asking clarifying or important questions in a meeting? Yes, I’m that girl.  Does it look like making connections and networking and then using those to my advantage? Sure. Does it also look like leaving a comfort zone, a safe space, and a place that others think is “more helpful” because we are “called to it” in their opinion? I believe so – as controversial as that may be. Is it selfish? Maybe – that’s for me to live with but can it also result in Charity, Purpose, and Promise? Yes.

Regardless, the chances are that I am going to seek out opportunity in my field that fills my schedule, maybe my pockets, but definitely my soul. And friends, my soul is filled by setting goals and chasing after them, seeking out that Impact, spinning some change into this Education System, and yes, Helping The Kids! That is what this field is all about – I never forgot that point once – I promise. So sign me to a record label, come up with a cool hashtag (#LearningtoHustle ? #HumbleHustler ?), and please don’t judge me – because I guess that person was right – I’m a Hustler.

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