"Getting your hustle on"...what exactly does it mean? Many who immediately recognize this phrase when they see it, still may be hard pressed to concisely define it. Others have a vague context clue of what it might mean, but suspect their connotation isn't quite right...some hybrid of a Jay-Z music video and a smoky scene from a high-stakes billiards game in a Western movie.

I'll tell you what it means for me.

Hustling, as I define it, isn't about cheating people out of their money, rolling dice, selling drugs, or anything nefarious like that. It is also certainly not about mindlessly working, doing the minimum required for a job, or becoming complacent. My definition of hustling boils down to being focused like a laser on "my business." And I don't limit that to my professional career—it also includes my family, my spirituality, and my legacy.

The thing that I and most other people I'd classify as hustlers have in common is that we have hit rock bottom, or come mighty close to it. We have bent as individuals past the point that any of us thought we could handle, but ultimately didn't break. And that brush with failure taught us an extremely valuable lesson—namely, forcing us to prioritize what is truly important (e.g. family, friends, faith) and to view life from a more aerial view. This vantage allows us to realize that for the most part, being successful at things like Corporate America, politics, and wealth building, are almost never a matter of luck, but of understanding, and then applying and mastering, the rules of the game!

Whether learned from one’s faith or other life experiences, the adage "everything in moderation" is key to hustling. That's because true hustlers understand and respect a core life principle: Addiction is a horrible, powerful thing that can ruin even the most brilliant person. And I’m not talking about drugs, alcohol, or gambling here; I’m also referring to the less commonly acknowledged—but equally lethal—addictions such as money, status, and living beyond your means.

Hustling is about being smart. But every nerd certainly isn't a hustler (but make no mistake: nerds can be hustlin', too!). Rather, it's about being relentless. Working hard without strategy won't get you there.

Do you have the hustle? Here are some of the traits that I've observed hustlers in my life have in common:

  • Are resourceful and subscribe to the concept of "working smart, not hard."
  • Hear "no" but often register it as "not yet."
  • Have a long-term view of business relationships and work to cultivate them.
  • Have watched The Godfather multiple times.
  • Understand the value of maintaining their good reputation.

Hustling is certainly not the only road to success, but learning some of the traits associated with it may just help you recession-proof your career, and take control of other parts of your life.