You Can’t Teach Hustle

December 31, 2012

Hustle can make up for a boatload of flaws.

If you’ve ever followed basketball, whether pro ball or college, you’ve probably heard a losing coach say (at least once every season), “we got out-hustled.” Some of the most talented teams have lost simply because they didn’t move like they meant it. A championship contender can lose to a run of the mill team because of hustle alone. Basketball is a sport that demands hustle. Talent and flashy moves look great, but if the other team is outrunning you, out-rebounding you, and gets to the ball faster than you, you won’t win.


In leadership, someone with “hustle” is someone who is motivated, energetic, and determined. Hustle is all about an innate sense of urgency. It’s that special quality of the go-getters. 

Imagine your company has an open position and you’re in charge of hiring. Your HR people have filtered the resumés and have narrowed the search down to two nearly identical candidates. So, to break the tie, you have them take a test that measures their hustle and their proficiency. The results are in. Candidate A scored 100% proficiency and 80% hustle, while candidate B scored 80% proficiency and 100% hustle. Who do you hire?

I’ll take candidate B in a heartbeat. Here’s why: you can teach proficiency. You can’t teach hustle. If you want long term success, invest in the hustle. Just like it can make or break a great basketball team, hustle can make or break a great organization.

A leader either has the innate sense of urgency to get things done, or he doesn’t. Motivating those around you who lack hustle is time consuming (and gets old quickly).

The payoff is much greater if you choose to invest in building proficiency, but hire hustle.