The Hustle

Want to do something meaningful? Meaningful is hard. It is going to take hustle.

Meaningful is Hard

There is no truer statement than “if it was easy, someone would have done it by now”. Making change that matters and doing purposeful work takes effort. The obstacles are real. They are the real work.  Do the work.  

The effort begins with understanding what impact you want to have. Then you have to understand how you can fulfil your purpose. Lastly you need to find people to work with and opportunities to tackle. Finally you get to find out whether you can make a living through working on your purpose. Some times purpose is a living but others times purpose turns out to be a hobby or a calling.

To make matters worse, you need to do all that work in the wrong order and in overlapping steps. In many cases the answers are unclear or contradictory. You do the work and you learn a little more about where you are going.  You keep doing the work and you learn even more. The work sustains you and provides momentum & networks that matter. 

The Hustle Required

There is far more hustle required than you expect. Here’s one example of the hustle required to persuade others: 2% of sales are closed in the first meeting. Yes, 98% of the pitches fail when every failed pitch feels like time to call it quits. 80% of sales are closed after more than 5 follow-up calls, when every empty call feels like time to move on. No wonder 44% of sales people give up after only one follow-up. The winners are those who hustle more and hustle longer. Remember these numbers come from enterprise sales, if your change is more unique or more unusual it could require even more hustle to find your market.  The winners in change stay in the game and they hustle.

The hustle is just working intensively on your purpose: making connections, building relationships, identifying problems and offering ways to solve them. You don’t need to use sharp practices. There are no shortcuts. They will only cut you in the end. You need to do more than “build it” and “turn up”. You need to get out into the market and challenge people to listen to your pitch. 

Hustle. Work your purpose hard. Remember to take the odd break to reflect and reset yourself for the next burst of hustle. If you work it continuously, the hustle will become the Grind.

Away or Towards

Success is not avoiding an outcome that you fear. Success is moving towards fulfilment of your purpose.

I caught myself this week defining success on a challenge as avoiding an outcome that I feared. I had tricked myself and hidden the fear in layers of other goals. I knew immediately that I needed to change the way I approached the challenge.  

Running away from a fear is no guide. If all you are doing is running away how will you get where you want to go?

This is a common enough approach to work. For many people, the measures of success have a strong avoidance flavour:

  • achieving their targets to avoid losing their job
  • making enough money to avoid financial difficulty
  • comfortable relationships to avoid loneliness and conflict
  • keeping up with peers to avoiding embarrassment
  • minimising risk to avoid failure

Avoidance is a poor guide to what to do. Targeting safety and security often creates the exact outcome that you feared. 

Avoidance is not particularly fulfilling. The absence of a risk having been realised still leaves the fear.

Having found the hidden fear, my challenge was to redefine success in terms of my purpose. When I know that I am moving towards my purpose I am more engaged. I know that I will have measurable progress somewhere that matters to me. All of a sudden the vicissitudes of the journey matter less.

Challenge your goals to ensure that they are really moving towards purpose. There are lots of places to escape fear, but you don’t want to be in most of them.

The Network Navigator


The power of a networked world is shifting the emphasis of work from expertise to navigation. Are you ready to move from expert to network navigator?

From Expert to Navigator – a financial services example

Research into perceptions of an advice relationships in financial services consistently often comes up with a common theme. Usually, the financial services organisation is keen to build a trusted relationship with the client as an advisor and to demonstrate its depth of expertise in the advice process. 

However, these goals are rarely what the client is looking to achieve. The client is often more interested in building a relationship with someone who is responsive to their needs and who can to help them navigate the complexity to find their own answers. The complexity the client needs to navigate is not just the financial decisions; it includes the organisations own advice and service processes. In times of complexity, uncertainty & change, clients are reluctant to be dependant on someone else’s expertise. They want control. They want to be guided across the map of choices and find an easier way through the process.

The Network Navigator

Networks and the increasing pace of change that they bring about are having a similar disruption for the traditional model of expertise-based advice.

Relying on a proprietary stock of knowledge is no longer enough to justify an advice proposition. Knowledge is increasingly a flow. Stocks of knowledge are out of date too quickly as the network learns more faster by sharing.  If clients want access to stocks of knowledge, they can find the information themselves (& access a greater diversity of insight and experience) if they are prepared to put in the time and effort.  Doing that work for them on an outsourcing basis is a low value task.

The challenge of a networked era is no longer gathering a stock of knowledge. The challenge is leverage rapid flights of knowledge and guiding others through networked knowledge creation. The skills that rise to the fore are no those of hoarding a stock of knowledge. The skills are those of being able to connect people, share capability and create new knowledge together.

The 8 Skills of a Network Navigator

A network navigator does not need to know the answer. They do not even need to know the whole way to the solution. They need to be able to lead others, to leverage the knowledge of the network and to find a way forward in collaboration to create new value: 

  • Setting a course: In a complex world often the purposes, goals and questions are as unclear as the answers. Helping people clarify their objectives and questions before and during their engagement with the network is a critical role that the network navigator can play.
  • Seeing the big picture map: Navigators are people who can hold the network system in view and manage the micro detail to guide people forward.  A navigator creates new value with an understanding the broader map and new & better paths that others may not have considered.
  • Make new connections: Increasing the density of networks can be critical to creating new knowledge and value from network interactions.  Bridging weakly connected groups is another role that navigators can play to realise new insights and value.
  • Recruiting a crew and local pilots:  Building community matters in new network ways of working.  Community takes connection to a deeper and more trusted level and begins to accelerate learning and change.  Network navigators know how to recruit crew to their travelling community and add local pilots as they need to learn faster in new parts of the network.
  • Translating strange cultures: Connecting diverse groups often means that there are differences of context, language and culture to be bridged before conversations can create new knowledge. Network navigators have the skills to understand and share diverse inputs.
  • Logging the journey: A network navigator works out loud to record their journey and let others contribute and benefit from the record.  A network navigator nows there are many others seeking the same answers or looking for better paths forward and makes that possible by sharing their work and inviting others to contribute.
  • Weathering storms & avoid shoals: Journeys through networks are not linear and often unpredictable.  The navigator has the experience and the confidence to see others through the storms and to sustain others in their journeys. Most importantly, when the storm is darkest, they have the passion to keep pushing and keep experimenting.
  • Navigating where there is no map: Network navigators need to be able to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity.  They need to be able to lead others forward to learning even if it is dark and there be monsters.

Acknowledgements:  This post is in large part inspired by conversations with a wide range of participants that occurred during John Hagel’s recent visit to Melbourne for the Doing Something Good dinner and Centre for the Edge workshops that I attended.  It is also informed by ongoing conversations about new networked ways of working among all members of Change Agents Worldwide.  

Joining Sidekicker

I recently joined Sidekicker as an advisor, spending a little of my time helping this exciting startup grow their business. Sidekicker’s vision is to make it simple for businesses to be connected to local, talented individuals for short term jobs or projects. They supply the flexible and on-demand talent to help businesses grow.

Here’s a walk through why I am keen to spend time with Sidekicker:

Future of Work

I passionately believe we are reaching a turning point in the future of work. People are increasingly interested in new agile and flexible models of work, both businesses and individuals. Many people are more connected to their work than they are the organisation that offers a job.

Sidekicker is an important experiment in how Sidekicks can build portfolio careers that enable them to earn a living working on the projects that they choose and also pursue other projects.

Helping with Agility of Growing Businesses

The local businesses that I meet all struggle with workload. Work comes in peaks and troughs. The volatile nature of business confidence and market changes makes this more dramatic. Opportunities and crises arise at short notice. For safety’s sake growing businesses often hire behind the growth curve.

Adding another person as a full time hire is often a big deal. Most temporary agencies are structured for larger engagements. A casual workforce needs to be maintained. Having an easy ability to bring in talented people for a job or a task offers real solution to an urgent needs. Usually, these opportunities enable a business to realise a growth opportunity or solve a longstanding issue that current people don’t have the time or bandwith to solve.

Opportunities abound

The demand for the better streamlined digital service Sidekicker offers is already evident. A great pool of talented Sidekicks has been built. Local businesses are already taking up the service and seeing the value of jobs done. That’s a great platform on which to build Sidekicker, experimenting with new ways to streamline the processes and build value for all concerned.

Talent matters

Businesses run on talent. Talent is what enables a business to advance, close its opportunities and pivot when required. I’m impressed with the Sidekicks and the quality and diversity of the skills in the team at Sidekicker. You only have to see some of the recent media on Sidekicker to get a sense of the nous & hustle of the co-founders, Jacqui Bull & Tom Amos.

Making a difference

I am confident I can help make a difference for the talented Sidekicker team by sharing my experience in business and my networks. We have already had some really valuable conversations to accelerate growth.
In my experience, a frenetically busy & focused startup team needs the ability to call on others to provide perspective, help shape their thinking or to suggest other options. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I learn a little from each of those conversations and some of these lessons will find the way to this blog.

Conventional wisdom is not so wise

The enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events. – John Kenneth Galbraith

In life we are given lots of advice by well meaning friends and colleagues. Rarely is this advice formed from reflection, experience or debate.  This common advice is the conventional wisdom passed on to us.  

Conventional wisdom is usually a distillation of the way things used to be or how people think it should be. Conventional wisdom tells us how the system wants us to behave. Advice like this is full of platitudes and an implicit message not to rock the boat:

  • Look after yourself first
  • Do what your boss wants
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself
  • Knowledge is power
  • Make sure you don’t fail
  • Make things perfect before you share them
  • Take the credit
  • You only get one shot
  • Never admit you don’t know
  • Appear strong. Always grow your power

Conventional wisdom is rarely wise. Here’s why:

Don’t Judge the Future on the Past:  Change is happening faster than ever. Look around. There is extensive discussion of how rules are changing and the future requires different behaviours. Basing your behaviour on advice from the last century may not be much value.

Great Advice is Tested by Conflict, Reflection and Experience: Ask people why they are giving you the advice.  If the answer is ‘I heard it somewhere’ or ‘everyone knows’ then take it with a grain of salt. Conventional opinions rarely get challenged. They live long beyond their expiry date. Great advice is the result of personal experience and insight, usually where it has been tested against opposing views in conflict. Conflict, reflection and experience keeps advice relevant. Make sure you are not someone else’s guinea pig.

Conventional Wisdom Conflicts: Should I ‘Not draw attention to myself’ or ‘Take the Credit’?  Conventional wisdom reflects the complexity and conflicts of the system.  This advice can be used to support any personal opinion.  It has not been reconciled for your circumstances.

What Reflects the Average, Does not Reflect You: You circumstances are different to that of the average. You may well be trying to make yourself even more unique. Advice that reflects your unique purpose, strengths and opportunity will rarely be conventional wisdom.

Value the people who give you unconventional wisdom.  Go gain some yourself in debate, reflection and experience.