You don't need talent to hustle

I like to think that over the years I’ve developed my talent to the point that it’s extremely marketable. I hear that not just from my clients, but also when we do a book launch and I see just how many people are excited to consume our content. On top of that we have a podcast that is gathering steam, a mailing list that is exploding right now, and I’ve been asked to speak at more events this year than I have in my entire life combined, and it’s only March.

Somebody even recently called me the “King of Kickstarter”, even though I’ve never had a Kickstarter raise more than $10,000, because they know that I’m living, and living comfortably from my audience built through crowdfunding. At the end of the day, what matters isn’t the gross revenue, it’s the profit after remaining once all the rewards ship.

That was one of the best feelings of my career, because people know me as the guy…and it’s in the exact niche I want to be known. I spent months upon months imparting knowledge about crowdfunding, and how to make your project a success. Now, from sheer grit and determination, people know me as an expert, all because I hustled more than anybody else to carve out a name for myself.

That being said, it wasn’t always this way.

For years, decades even, I was just some guy who had a dream of being a writer and speaker. I was banging on doors. I was showing my stuff to people. I was talking about what I wanted to do, but I had nothing to show for it as far as “talent”.

I don’t even think I have a lot of raw talent. I’m not the best project manager. I’m not the best writer. I’m not the best editor. I’m really not the best entrepreneur overall.

What I always had though, was hustle. And since I hustled more than anybody else, I learned the rest. I learned to write by writing all the time. I learned to edit and manage projects because I took on tons of projects. I was always asking people to if I could help and they let me just because I hung around.

I never stopped. If there was a convention, I was there. If there was a meetup, I was there. If somebody was speaking, I was there. And just by being there, in the presence of my friends who were greater than me, it started to make me great. Something rubbed off, over the course of a decade.

But that never would have happened without hustle, without the dogged determination to be in the right place even if it wasn’t my time, and to never give up.

Here’s the thing.

Most people are going to quit. People more talented than you. People with better connections than you. People with more money than you. They are all going to give up for one reason or another. And if you can just outlast them because you want it more, doors are going to open to you. Doors you never would have expected.

And people will know you as they guy (or girl) who wants it more than anybody. They’ll respect that, because you got where you are on sheer force of will. I’ve never worked for DC, or Marvel. I’ve never written for Disney. I didn’t have a big audience from some movie I wrote for Lionsgate to help boost my credibility.

Every shred of that I have is from sheer determination to do it better, cheaper, faster, and with more heart than anybody else.

It does pay off.

Trust me it pays off. It might take a decade, but it pays off. I always took the path of most resistance. Instead of staying in popular novels, and working from popular public domain characters, I chose to make my own characters. Instead of finding a bunch of other writers to publish, I built an audience from my own stuff.

Whenever an easier path presented itself, I almost always stayed away from it and went for the harder way. Now doors have opened up I didn’t even know existed.

And I get more people coming up and complimenting me on the hustle of just still being here, and respecting the fact that I built a cash flow positive business in one of the absolute hardest places to build one, spec fiction comics and novels, than I do about the books…though plenty of people tell me how much they like those too.

And do you know how much that hustle cost me?


It costs no money to hustle. It costs your time, which is valuable, but it costs you nothing to hustle. And when you get some respect, you still have that hustle. It doesn’t go away. You can use it forever.

They say that you need two of three things to get by: Extreme talent, the ability to hit deadlines, or being likeable. Only two of those three and you can be successful. You can’t help talent, but you can be likeable and hit deadlines. Then, if you work on the talent you can have all three.

If you throw in hustling more than the next guy, you can supercharge your career into the stratosphere.

If you are just starting out, remember that. Remember there are things you cannot control, but there are things you can. Affability, punctuality, and hustle are just a couple of things you can develop now this minute that will pay off in the long run.

Hustle isn’t a short term time horizon payoff. It’s something that will pay off years from now, but if you have it you’ll be successful because people can’t stop you. Because talent can’t stop you. Because you will succeed on force of will.

And eventually the talent will follow. Eventually it will all come into place, but if you have hustle it’s a great start. If you just show up for long enough you’ll earn respect…and earned respect from your peers is a wonderful feeling.

Russell Nohelty is a writer, publisher, and consultant. He trains people how to build an audience that you can monetize, and leads by example with his company Wannabe Press. He also has a membership site called Kickstarter University, which is the premiere crowdfunding membership site on the internet.