Some call it perseverance. Others call it tenacity. However you slice it, a wise man once claimed that you couldn’t knock it: the hustle, it seems, is in your DNA. Either you’re born with it and you thrive on the ups and downs, or you float along through life in a constant state of complacency. I’m not really certain what makes a select few more inclined to pursue their goals with sharper laser focus than most, but I do know that life’s obstacles make it far easier to wave the white flag and pack in your dreams for good than actually give them a shot to come alive.

Why do we fail? Give up on our selves? Short change our abilities and divert our chosen paths?   Is it that we aren’t good enough? Strong enough? Smart enough? Pretty enough? Is it that our desire for validation runs deeper than our passion for progress? Is it that we’ve been burned too many times before, and would rather sift through the embers than blaze trails aflame? Why do we devolve from childlike butterflies into tightly wound cocoons, growing in reverse with every change of a calendar page?

Success is defined in many ways, and while it sounds like a load of bullshit, it’s quantifiably amplified by failure. I consider myself ambitious in my pursuit of whatever the hell I am compelled to achieve at the moment, but having enough grit for the grind isn’t enough to define the essence of how to hustle. And to be fair: I’ve failed to bring my thoughts and dreams to life on countless occasions. I have fallen short. I have quit at the beginning and stopped in the middle and given up in the eleventh hour. Despite oh-so-many “could have” and “should have” moments, I’ve discovered creative ways to hustle in my own way, and I believe this quality has helped me to reach new personal heights in various arenas. That being said achievement without ownership is like a cake without the frosting: it diminishes your hard work, intellect, and strategic planning. We very well might work toward our goals and bring our dreams into reality…but then we fall short. Where we fail is in the freedom to express pride in the fact that our dreams are actualized, and for any number of reasons, the sense of accomplishment and self-worth we deserve is, in turn, devalued. We find all the right ingredients; put them all together; whip up something wonderful; but can’t seem to treat ourselves to the icing on the cake.

At this point you’re probably wondering: what the hell are you talking about? Allow me to clarify. Have you ever gotten an A-plus on an exam during school, but hesitated to share the news for fear that you might make others upset? Have you ever earned a promotion or won an award that was completely justified and well deserved, but kept it a secret nonetheless? Have you ever sensed the fact that your permissive pride was being stifled by the crowd you keep? Quite frankly: have you ever achieved your Technicolor dreams, only to see them dulled by doubts and fears and reservations? Have you ever worked hard and played smart and fought the odds and made a name – the art of hustle, plain and simple – only to have the rich flavor of your success dulled and diluted?

I bet you know the feeling: I sure as shit do! And if you don’t? Well, then you’re probably male. I don’t mean this sarcastically: I am being genuinely honest in this claim. It seems to me that men are lauded, commended, acknowledged, and praised with the expectation that they take (and keep) the credit they deserve. Women, on the other hand, may be judged for the very same reaction. While men can simply say “thank you” for a job well done, women feel compelled to thank everyone else for their accomplishments. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that females are traditionally viewed as less dominant: we are polite and we’re passive and we’re gracious and we’re humble. But are we, really? When we do something totally badass, should we really feel the need to divvy up our delicious cake and claim kudos for the crumbs? I have struggled to navigate this bizarre dynamic for pretty much ever, and the more I check items off of my own accomplishment bucket list, the worse this conundrum becomes. Am I ever allowed to simply own the fruits of my labor? Can I seem proud and not boastful; can I be brave and not a bitch? Can I honor the hallowed spirit of the hustle with my head to the sky, or must I fall to my knees in the dirt once again?

If dreams are the seeds and achievement is the trees, then ownership, in its ripest moment, is most sweet. With every twist and turn – with every badge I earn – I’m plucking the fruit for a taste. The hustle is hard. The hustle is constant. The hustle is full time work on top of a full time job. Set your goal: then dream it, achieve it, and own it. Savor every drop of praise: you fucking earned it.

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