If you're a business owner (especially the kind that reads magazines like this one), you hear it all the time. To make it big, you've got to be a hustler. The secret to rising to the top is to hustle constantly. If you're not a hustler, then you're a lazy bum who doesn't deserve to call yourself an entrepreneur.

So I'm going to say something that no one else seems to have the guts to: All this talk about being a hustler is flat out dumb.

Let's take a look at where the word hustler comes from. It's essentially street lingo used to refer to two types of people: prostitutes and criminals. The basic idea is that the Midnight Cowboys and Scarfaces of the world are out there working when everyone else is sleeping. And in the world of the hustler, if you ain't working, you ain't getting paid.

The desirability of looking to such figures as role models may have made some sense in the cocaine-fueled, Gordon Gekko '80s and before. Back then, information was limited and it was difficult to get your hands on it. By hustling, you had the best chance of monopolizing whatever information was out there and presenting the version of the truth that was best for your bottom line.

In the 21st century, however, information is everywhere. Before buying anything, customers survey the online landscape in minutes to get whatever facts they need to make a decision. In other words, people now buy on their own terms.

That's why the in-your-face hustler mentality is a less effective business strategy than ever. In a world where people can pick and choose who and what they want to deal with, pushing hard and fast isn't a way to get in front of people first...it's a way to get them annoyed.

Sometimes I think the only people making money from the hustler philosophy are the self-appointed gurus preaching it in their books. Try this: Instead of hustling, be helpful. Whether you're sharing what you know online or meeting someone for lunch in the real world, make it a point to figure out what you can do for them. Rather than trying to wheel and deal, make it your business to be helpful without trying to scheme an angle on how to get something in return.

When you position yourself as someone that people are always happy to hear from, you'll be amazed how often business will fall into your lap. And that certainly beats hustling.