A Formula For Hustle

Speed + Hard Work + Swagger

I sat down to write an article called “Hustle Marketing.”  A topic I mention frequently that revolves around the simple concept of working hard to build a business.  As I got into the research I quickly became overwhelmed with the amount of people online talking about “hustle.”  I don’t think it would be exaggeration to say that I see it used daily on social media.  #hustlelife, #hustlehard, #hustleharder, #hustlemode, #hustleandflow, #hustla, #hustletown, #hustlin, #hustlababy, #hustledaily, #hustlerespect, #hustleandheart, #hustleboss and #hustleandrepeat… to name only a few.  It seems like everybody is using “hustle” to validate their project, business, time, job and/or life.

So instead of writing an article about what hustle means in the world of marketing, I asked another question: What does hustle actually mean?  With so many people talking, it seems the definition is open to interpretation.  To some, spending an hour at night on their side project equals hustle.  To others, it’s getting up at 6:00 a.m. to hit the gym first.  Some see hustle as posting an inspirational quote to social media.  Others wouldn’t even use the word to describe their day unless they clocked 16 or more hours of work.  So what is it?

I recently read an article in Esquire Magazine where 50 Cent was interviewed as one of the 50 Men of the Year.  (By the way, when asked, he said, “It’s Fifty, not Fiddy.”  Good to know.)  When asked about his childhood, neighborhood and the dangers of growing up in urban Chicago, 50 said, “I never saw drug use as a good option.  I’d rather have an additional ten dollars than smoke.  It wasn’t a decision to not smoke weed.  It was a decision to hustle.  It was a business decision.  Hustling was my internship.”

Hustle was his internship. His teacher.  It was a decision to put business first.

I personally believe success is within arm’s reach for anyone (seriously), but… big BUT… it requires hustle.  In the words of the great American poet, Kanye West, “Everybody wants it, but they ain’t that serious.”  Those who are serious, hustle.

So in an effort to create some context around the concept of hustle, here’s a quick formula. (Completely from my perspective, of course.)

HUSTLE = Speed  +  Hard Work  +  Swagger


“Hustle, hustle, hustle!”  It was a chilly Saturday morning in April.  The first baseball practice of the season and you could tell the boys were sluggish from being locked up inside during an unusually harsh winter.  Parents stood behind the backstop with their hands shoved in their pockets and their shoulders scrunched up to their ears trying to stay warm.  

“Ben, hustle!  Hustle to the ball.  Do you know meaning of that word?”  The coaches were unrelenting that morning.  They were proving a point.  In baseball, especially at a young age, the team that moves the fastest is usually the team that wins.

Speed is an element of hustle not to be overlooked.  It’s about being in places and taking advantage of opportunities others miss.  Speed is about efficiency.  It possesses an economy of movement and actions to get to the desired outcome as quickly as possible.  Speed thinks through its movements.  Not just the next one, but the next three, the next five.  It’s piecing them together like a puzzle so they all flow together with as little wasted energy as possible.

Speed thinks about time in measurable blocks.  Ten minutes here, two minutes there, 30 seconds over here.  It knows that wasting 10 minutes a day in your professional life (8 hours a day, 5 days a week), wastes 50 minutes every week.  That doesn’t sound too bad initially, but add all that up and it turns into 2,400 minutes of wasted time every year.  2,400 minutes equals 40 hours.  Take it one step further: Wasting 10 minutes a day wastes an entire week every year.

I feel like I should say that again:

Wasting 10 minutes a day equals wasting an entire work week.  

And yet, the bigger problem is that most people waste far more than ten minutes a day.

Hard Work

“During the rainy season the natives would put their ear up to rotted wood like this and listen for rhino larvae.  Pound for pound they contain more protein than beef or fish and make the perfect survival food.”

Now say that in your best British accent and you can probably guess that I’m talking about the reality TV star Bear Grylls from the show “Man vs. Wild.”  Here’s another lesser-known quote of his:

“The difference between ordinary and extra-ordinary is so often just that simple little word - extra.  And for me, I had always grown up with the belief that if someone succeeds it is because they are brilliant or talented or just better than me… and the more of these words I heard the smaller I always felt.  But the truth is often very different… and for me to learn that ordinary me can achieve something extra-ordinary by giving that little bit extra, when everyone else gives up, meant the world to me and I really clung to it.”

Hard Work is extra.  It’s the “and one” when you’re driving the lane.  It’s that 1% more every day.  And sure enough, it will begin to outpace the competition.

Hard Work stopped doing it as a “hobby” a long time ago. The 10,000 hour counter on the wall never stops turning.  At 5:00 a.m. Hard Work is awake laying its plans before the rest of the world opens its eyes and it stays up until the very end shaking every hand in the room like they were giving out $100 bills.

Don’t be fooled, there’s an element of discipline to Hard Work that makes it appear elegant.  You know the old adage, “The more you sweat in preparation, the less you bleed in battle?”  It’s true.  The one thing most people miss is that Hard Work has a plan.  It’s prepared.  It creates a framework and a structure.  Hard Work sweats out all the details and then it meticulously executes through to completion.  It’s mesmerizing to watch.  


Apparently, Jay-Z did not “invent swag” like the song Otis suggests.  Turns out, the first use of the word is attributed to a poet that didn’t auto-tune his voice.   Shakespeare first drops it in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:  “What hempen home-spins have we swaggering here, so near the cradle of the fairy queen?”

Obviously, the concept has evolved since then.  

Today, Swagger is about holding yourself in a way that earns respect.  It’s less about colorful sneakers and dressing like a hipster and more about raw confidence.  

What I’m not talking about is swagger for the sake of a show or to get attention.  The Swagger I’m talking about is held up by a concrete foundation of confidence.  Swagger that says, “I’ve been there, done that, succeeded… and now I’m going to act like it.”  It’s strong talk, but Swagger backs it up. If the game’s on the line, it says, “Give me the ball.”  

Swagger is built from experience only.  There are no other substitutes.  It happens one small success at a time.  It’s built by taking risks, facing challenges head on and telling Fear to take a back seat.  You fight through to come out on top, then repeat.  And repeat again.

Swagger is never coddled and it certainly can’t be given.  It must be earned.  

Hustle Marketing

Let’s pull these thoughts back to marketing, because I think they certainly apply.  To hustle in your marketing requires Speed. It’s about being in places and taking advantage of opportunities others miss.  It’s about efficiency with your dollars and your campaigns.  It thinks through the next month, the next year and the next five years, connecting all the pieces together to eliminate waste.

Marketing has always been about Hard Work.  It’s the extra. It’s the 1% more every day that begins to outpace the competition. It’s stopping to sweat through the numbers and the details in order to create a long-term plan.  It’s marketing that’s smart and executed with discipline.

Last, great marketing has an element of Swagger to it.  A raw confidence that says, “We believe we’re the best.”  It’s compelling because it’s true.  It was built from experience and dozens of glowing reviews testifying the same.  It’s marketing that holds its head up high because you can back up what you’re saying.  

So there you go.  A quick, working definition of HUSTLE:  Speed  +  Hard Work  +  Swagger.  If you had to define hustle, what would you include?

Joshua Scott is a dental marketing speaker and consultant. He has been in the dental industry for the last 16 years and works with practices around the country to create confident marketing strategies.

He leads Studio 8E8 (pronounced “88”), a creative marketing firm specializing in brand creation and digital marketing solutions. He is also the host of The 8E8 Show — a regular podcast answering dentistry’s most important marketing questions.

Discover more about Josh’s approach to marketing at

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