Hustle, Not Muscle: The Key to Lifelong Success

Services for Real Estate Pros with Suplari, Inc.

Warning Lynn CanyonHas anyone with true hustle ever failed?  Have ever you met or known anyone who hustled and did not achieve their goals?  Me neither.

I was recently asked to speak on a panel to MBA's from the University of Utah talking about Seattle, technology and entrepreneurship.  We had a GREAT panel of speakers: Kevin Nakao of MeritShare, WhitePages, RealNetworks; Will O'Brien from Big Fish Games & TrialPay; Edward Yim from ClassifiedAds and Blue Moon Ventures, and Meredith Turner from PitchBook and WhitePages.

Much of the panel was the standard stuff - how did you end up in Seattle, how does Seattle compare to Silicon Valley, and what is the hiring environment like?  Inevitably you get down to the question of: what advice do you have for finding a job or for life in general?

Down the line, every panelist gave the same answer: HUSTLE.

It is very rare to put five people on a panel and they all agree that pure and simple hustle and effort are the keys to success.  Kevin gave an example of how he broke into the music industry by showing up in LA, knocking on doors and working for free, until someone gave him a job.  Will talked about how he managed to open up the "London" office for his former consulting company by cold calling companies in the UK until one of them listened to his pitch.  He landed a $15m engagement from this UK company, which ended up being the largest consulting project for his employer.  Edward talked about raising a search fund out of business school by asking people he did not know for money to go buy a company.   Hustle is at the heart of every example.

Lynn Canyon StairsWhen I think about my own career, I would say hustle and fear are a powerful combination.  Throw in serendipity or luck and you have a recipe for success.  As the CTO of my former company Bio Architecture Lab Yasuo Yoshikuni would say, "The more shots on goal you have, the more you score."   When I was CEO of Bio Architecture Lab, we were commercializing a technology to convert seaweed into low cost biofuels and chemicals.  I started with the company in March of 2008.  Shortly thereafter oil prices peaked at $140 per barrel and then crashed below $60 per barrel, making it that much harder to commercialize new clean technologies at a price competitive with oil.   Simultaneously, Lehman Brothers failed and the financial crisis ensued, taking the entire financial system with it, making it even harder to raise financing for a speculative cleantech venture with unproven technology.  

The fear of not raising money and having Bio Architecture Lab fail pushed me to be more aggressive in seeking out financing.  Though it wasn't pretty, we threw immense amounts of spaghetti against the wall to see what would stick.  We continued to speak with venture capitalists.   Additionally, we sought out commercial partnerships and government grants.  AND we looked internationally when things looked bleak in the US.  In the end, we ended up raising $8m in venture capital from Norway, Chile and the US, we raised $12m in government grants from the US and Chile, AND we raised $15m in a commercial partnerships with Statoil & DuPont.  All in all, we raised $35m in financing (only $8m of which was dilutive from venture capital), in the WORST financial market in history.  

Though luck played a big role, hustle was our muse and fear was our motivator.  We spoke with 120 venture capital firms to get three yes's.  Similarly, we spoke with any oil or chemicals company willing to speak with us and applied for every government grant possible, even in Chile.

In the title of the blog, I talk about "Hustle, Not Muscle."  Many times, we get very used to resting on our laurels or the success of our last job or education.  Every now and again, each one of us has a moment, generally when interacting with someone younger than us, when crudely we think, "Do you know who I am?"  

Just like lifting weights, we can become really good or skilled at a very narrow competency or skill set.  We can become blind to competition or major changes happening in the industry.  That young, inexperienced person who has no idea who you are is going to want it more than you and they are going to OUT-HUSTLE you to the prize.  

Yes, you may be a twenty year veteran of the industry, but times are a changing my friends.  There will always be someone who wants it more and is willing to work harder to get it.

At the same time, behind every success is a successful person with HUSTLE.  

Philippa Ellaway Memorial

Work hard.  Throw lots of spaghetti against the wall.  A few strands will stick.  Those few strands can make all the difference in life and a career.

(I was hiking in Lynn Canyon outside of Vancouver and came across this memorial bench to Philippa Ellaway who said, "Running is the greatest metaphor for life: you get out of it, what you put into it."  So true, so true.  I had to Google Philippa Ellaway when I got home.  She sounds like she was an amazing woman.)

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Nikesh Parekh

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Comments (20)

Rich Cederberg
eXp Realty - Albuquerque, NM
eXp Realty Agent Albuquerque

Remember Pete Rose? They called him Charlie Hustle. Now, he made some bad decisions after his best playing days were done, but he's still the person I picture when I hear the word hustle. He ran every play out like a maniac! It was so fun to watch. He was greatly admired-before the scandal anyway.

I also think of Walter Payton. I saw almost every game he ever played, and I remember how at the end of every run, whether he gained 10 yards or 2 yards, he would extend the ball in front of himself trying to maximize each and every run. Most of the time the refs would pull the ball right back to where it really belonged, but not always. He was a great running back always hustling and always hungry for just one more yard.

Most of us don't have that kind of motivation every day, but if we could find it within, the sky is the limit.

Thanks for your inspirational post Nikesh.


Dec 28, 2012 02:17 PM
Sally Weatherley
Vancouver Home Staging, Home Stager Vancouver, B.C

Niki - What???  You were hiking in Lynn Canyon?  That's 7 minutes away from my house!  Call me next time!!!  Great post.  We all need to remember to "Do the Husstle"!  As you say, it's easy to rest on our laurels, but in reality, we need to get out there and build, build build.

Dec 28, 2012 02:20 PM
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes"

As soon as we get complacent, the game is over.  Hustle is an important component to remember.

Dec 28, 2012 02:40 PM
Fred Carver Personal Real Estate Corporation
RE/MAX Camosun Victoria BC Real Estate - Victoria, BC
Accredited Real Estate Consultant

Hi Nikesh.....Add Hunger to Hustle...we gotta want it. Great post.

Have your Best Year Ever in 2013.

Happy New Year



Dec 28, 2012 02:52 PM
Lanise Warrior-Johnson
Real Estate Brokers Services, Inc. - Compton, CA
Real Estate Specialist

Great blog.  Thank you for the inspiration and putting things in perspective for I ocntinue to fine tune my 2013 goals. 

Dec 28, 2012 03:21 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I would have to agree!  No matter what, they person who is moving and moving right is the success story more often than not!

Dec 28, 2012 07:52 PM
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

We see it all the time. Those with hustle move ahead of those who are smarter. It's because they don't wait for things to come to them but go after the prize. A good lesson to all of us.

Dec 29, 2012 12:52 AM
Elite Home Sales Team
Elite Home Sales Team OC - Corona del Mar, CA
A Tenacious and Skilled Real Estate Team

Very good point. It is hustle and creativity that will take us far.

Dec 29, 2012 01:20 AM
Melissa Brown
Helen Adams Realty - Charlotte, NC
Realtor - South Charlotte NC Homes for Sale

I totally agree.  When I'm hustling and moving, I achieve more.  I also find that those who want "it" the most are the ones to hustle more to get it.  Happy new year!

Dec 29, 2012 02:23 AM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Niki, this is very inspirational. We cannot rest on our laurels. Every game is up for grabs in this fast-paced life to the one who will out hustle and out maneuver the ones coasting and resting.


Dec 29, 2012 02:28 AM
Charles Stallions
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pensacola, FL
800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl.

I enjoyed the read and as grant writer I know how the system works and you are so right Hustle and Persistence did for me.

Dec 29, 2012 05:29 AM
Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®
Lewisburg, WV
Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate

I agree Niki, to be successful one needs to HUSTLE!

Dec 29, 2012 06:20 AM
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

All of a sudden I started singing "Do The Hustle" by Van McCoy.  Disco is not dead and neither is the hustle in music or business.

Dec 29, 2012 08:27 AM
Kristin Hamilton CA Realtor
Sun Lakes Realty - Banning, CA
(909) 557-6966- Specialize 55+ Communties Banning

Hi Niki,

Great post and I like that you found the memorial of a runner and went home and googled her. . Hustle is a good word as it really makes you feel what has been done. Happy Holidays. I am going to be singing that song "Do the Hustle" for the entire day...but I guess that is good.

I just googled Philippa too as I am a runner and read what was written about her. She sounded like a wonderful lady, loved by all, very successful, and sadly died of cancer.

Dec 30, 2012 02:30 AM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I think it's so cool that you hiked by the memorial and then went home and discovered her.  So very cool.  And yes, I believe in Hustle.  Always will.

Jan 01, 2013 12:54 PM
Nikesh Parekh
Suplari, Inc. - Seattle, WA
Technology Entrepreneur, Executive, & Investor

Thanks for the comments everyone!  2013 will be the year of hustle!

Sally, sorry I did not give you a heads up when I was in Vancouver.  I was with my family and my cousins.  I promise I will come up again soon!

Jan 02, 2013 01:23 AM
Kelly Collins


This is GREAT!  Thank you so much for summarizing the panel discussion and for taking time to meet with our students.  I couldn't have paid you to be more perfect in your messaging!  All the best in 2013!!

Jan 02, 2013 04:10 AM


Thank you first for being at the UofU tech panel, and secondly for this great post.  Many of us in our second year of MBA School are feeling the fear of getting out there and finding the right job. I think you're right about the combination of hustle and fear, and how it can be the route to finding success. I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on hustle and I'm eager and excited for what lies ahead!

Thanks again, Nima (UofU MBA2)

Jan 04, 2013 06:30 AM
Nikesh Parekh
Suplari, Inc. - Seattle, WA
Technology Entrepreneur, Executive, & Investor

Kelly, Nima,

It's an honor to speak with you at your event.  if there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.  I am always happy to help!


Jan 06, 2013 02:52 PM
Lynda White
Bluegrass Homes & Farms Realty, Agent Know How - Louisville, KY
Admin. Mgr., Keller Williams Realty

I love this. My father-in-law was a "hustler" the sense that you mean lol. When I met him he had 5 jobs. He never had to worry about money because he always had multiple sources of income, and not just from his jobs. He was an inspiration to me. Thanks for the reminder.

Jan 06, 2013 10:29 PM

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