Who unearthed the word “hustle” and made it an anthem?
Hustle and grind. The hustle never stops. Hustle harder. You gotta hustle.
We exalt the hustle. We celebrate the hustlers. We say that successful entrepreneurs, from Jay-Z to Oprah, had to hustle to get where they are.
Somebody took a term about aggressive pushing, forcing, jostling, and shoving and turned it into a charming motivational motto, catapulting it to the front pages of our cultural lexicon, where it now poses on its lofty platform and shouts at all of us to DO MORE, BETTER, FASTER, NOW.
If you search for “hustle” on Urban Dictionary, these are a few of the top related words:
Money. Scam. Cheat. Con. Steal. Swindle. Grind.
I’m all for breaking boundaries and kicking down walls. I’m all for big leaps and boldness. I’m all for striving towards ambitious aims. And I understand that Jay-Z and Oprah didn’t become Jay-Z and Oprah by crawling through their careers in slow, timid steps.
But the more we glorify the hustle, the more we praise the pursuit of personal goals above all else — the more straight A’s trump simple acts of kindness, the more promotions take precedence over poetry, the more we aspire to get our names in lights instead of in other people’s hearts.
There’s something so insidiously harsh and shamelessly self-focused about the word “hustle.” It feels inflexible and unapologetic. Though it slips gently from the tongue like something cute, its true connotations are sharp.