What I Learned About 'Building a Better Business Brain' from the Garbage Man: A Love Note
Today I witnessed a sanitation engineer doing a fantastic job of picking up what was a sloppily piled, leaking set of gross looking bags at one of his stops: he carefully handled each one, placing each in an orderly fashion in the back compaction area of his truck, stopping at one point to re-tie a bag curb-side, so it wouldn't leak on its way as he placed it in. About 15 feet away, at his next stop, he opened a bin, threw the un-bagged contents into the back and carefully and specifically re-lidded the cans and organized them neatly in a straight line so as to keep them out of the pathway of future pedestrians or vehicles and in a position for much easier hauling by their owner(s) at day's end.
I've seen a hundred refuse collection agents pick up thousands of bags of trash in my lifetime, and I've almost never stopped to really observe their methods, though have on occasion idly remarked what a hurry they were in; how haphazardly they threw the trash bin back onto the owners lawn; what disarray they had left behind in their hurry; perhaps that they had missed a bag or item or two; etc. Though all was forgiven: It's likely a hard job to love and harder still to do to everyone's liking - everyone's a critic, aren't they? Tiring, smelly, thankless, repetitive and never-ending - being a waste management professional seems to have more cons than pros.
Which is why, this trash removal specialist was remarkable to me: for no extra pay, while he believed no one was watching, for no direct personal gain, to his greater expenditure of effort, attention, and time, he was doing a fantastic, thoughtful, orderly, conscientious job. And this got me thinking...
I love when I see normal people doing an abnormal job of something - when they really apply themselves; try hard; pay attention; give their whole head, heart, and soul to something - it gives me renewed faith in life and civilization, and it gives me that all-over-tingly feeling - the 'warm and fuzzies' - that I just love.
In my head I refer to this self-application, labor, effort, pride of craftsmanship, ownership, attention to detail, initiative, and energy as 'hustle' and in my mind's definition it doesn't include qualities like 'used-car-salesmanship', 'taking advantage', 'forceful action', 'applying 'spin'', 'enforcing undue influence' or 'hurriedness' - it means just good old, old-fashioned, hard work.
And there's absolutely no shame in hard work, no matter what that hard work is - even and especially in rubbish removal.
It all got me thinking - why do I like 'hustle' so much - what about raw talent? Why does hard work tickle me so pleasantly while 'talent' often prickles me? I'm reminded here of Einstein's assertion "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration"...
In my work as a professor, academician, theoretician, expert, professional speaker, 'talent' is often taken to mean intellectual capacity - formal intelligence - the 'smartness' of the naturally advantaged; while 'hustle' is the labor, repetition, work, and effort of the less-so.
But here's the rub: the most successful people I know or have ever met, and indeed the ones comprising the subjects of the vast majority of 'great' biographies I've read, weren't, aren't, the most 'talented' folks.
The most successful were the hardest working - the 'hustlers', according to my definition: the longest suffering; the ones who got knocked down 8 times but got up 9; the ones who kept at it with consistency, patience, focus, pride of craftsmanship, discipline, responsibility, ownership, self-application, psychic investment, attention to detail, interest, task absorption...traits that could easily be ascribed to the debris collection administrator I witnessed today.
So, to him - and to all of you out there 'hustling' in thankless, lonely, never-ending, potentially-boring, patience-draining, challenging endeavors - I say bravo, and keep at it: I see you, value your efforts, and believe you deserve all the rewards that will inevitably come to you through your labors. You give me life - thank you for doing it, for trying so hard, for perfecting your craft, for keeping at it when no one was watching or asked you to.
So I'm on your side, but so is the relevant research - those with the cognitive wherewithal, discipline, focus and patience to do a good job for the purpose and satisfaction of having done so are much more likely to succeed in this world - with or without formally recognized 'talent' and ahead of the non-hustling 'talented' folks for sure. it turns out you really do create your fate and success - one effortful, laborious, difficult, challenging moment at a time; one foot in front of the other even when the going gets rough.
I hear you, I see you, I thank you, I'm with you: Here's to you Mr. Garbage Man!
I leave you with this:
"Hustle in silence. Let your success make the Noise."
"Hustle isn't just working on the things you like. It means doing things you don't enjoy so someday you can do the things you love."
"Success is never owned, it's rented. And the rent is due every damn day."
"Hustle beats talent when Talent doesn't hustle."