My cousin once asked me “Out of all of the cousins, how is it that you got the least handed to you in life but became the most successful?” My answer to her was that it was BECAUSE I did get the least, that I became successful. It is difficult to muster up hunger when your belly is full and as such it is hard to develop a sense of hustle when everything is provided for you.
Growing up, money was scarce in my family and it was the source of a lot of stress for my parents. In early adulthood, I shared their monetary woes as the sudden death of my mother sent my father into financial ruin. A sobering realization came over me: with no connections and clearly no trust fund, it was ALL up to me; anything that I was going to make of myself would be solely based on my own abilities.
I was hungry and I learned how to hustle.
As human beings we are wired for survival which instinctually motivates us to always get what we need; even if we aren’t consciously aware of what that need is. For my own survival, I needed to eliminate that feeling of dread that I felt around the topic of money. Attaining security through wealth was paramount to me and it became the source of my ambition. That directly translated into the hunger I felt and it gave me the hustle that was required to satiate that hunger.
My story however, isn’t unique as we all know that some of the world’s most successful people came from the humblest of beginnings which they themselves attribute as the fuel that drove their success.
These same behavioral traits that have been deemed as success factors are visible early on in one’s career. I even see these behavioral patterns emerging with many young professionals whom I mentor. I could always tell the kind of background someone has had based on their level of hustle – how quickly they respond when I offer to help them, how assertive they are with pursuing follow-ups and how persistent they are with follow-through. Years later, as I check-in on their careers, I am never surprised by who among them has achieved great levels of success.
So can hunger be taught?
I often joke with my friends as they look for ideas and advice on how to raise successful children. My comment to them is this “The best thing that you can do for your kids, is to give them nothing.” I know that sounds rather harsh and of course I don’t mean it literally but there does seem to be a correlation between growing up with lack and your level of hunger.
Of course parents aren’t going to deprive their children in order to spawn some killer instinct. While hunger may be inherent based on motivations developed though the conditions of our upbringing other success factors can be taught - a strong work ethic that rejects complacency chief among them.