I started Collegewise by myself in 1999 and went from zero to over 100 students in less than 18 months. When asked, I’ve often said that I was simply willing to hustle more than my local competition was. They had businesses. They had years and years of experience. They had the history and the reputation in the community that comes with it. They didn’t need to hustle. But I was starting from scratch. Hustle was all I had.
But there are two kinds of hustle, and it’s important to choose carefully.
The first kind is for people who believe that the end justifies the means. In independent college counseling, these hustlers spam potential customers, over and over again. They press their current clients for referrals. They’ll inject fear into their marketing messaging, disparage high school counselors, and generally do just about anything to benefit their business in the short term, even if it shrinks their trust and credibility in the long term.
But the other kind of hustle plays the long game. This is the independent counselor who’s always looking for ways to delight their current customers, not just to entice new ones. They’ll create a helpful resource and give it away for free to as many people as possible. They care more about pleasing the organizer and the audience at a presentation than they do about wedging their sales pitch at every turn. They follow industry news and attend conferences because it makes them more informed and aware.
Their version of hustling is doing those seemingly little things that might have little or no impact today, but collectively make an enormous impact tomorrow. That’s what makes the little things so hard to do, and why it takes hustle to do them.
Students, parents, counselors, and everyone else have the opportunity to inject a little hustle into their important work. It’s an advantage available to everyone. But you can’t just make the choice to hustle. You’ve also got to choose which kind.