A Hustler’s Art

September 12, 2012 — 21 Comments

I have three pieces of art in my house. One is a beautiful wax portrait of my hero William T. Sherman, one’s a painting done by an elephant and the other—my favorite—is a framed, signed original Joey Roth Hustler poster.

I’ve come to know Joey Roth since I discovered the piece. But even if I hadn’t, it would still be one of the most striking pieces of art I’d ever seen. It’s the only piece of art I’ve ever given as a gift (to Robert Greene, Neil Strauss and others). It’s one of the few things I’ve ever thought of getting as a tattoo.

Why? Because I think it properly defines the differences between a charlatan (all talk), a martyr (only action), and a hustler (action and talk in a feedback loop, fueling each other). The message was exactly what I needed at 22 or however old I was when I got it. I was a hustler then, and it’s taken me to where I am today. Now, I feel like I’ve internalized the message. I was ready for what comes next.

And now there is a second piece in the series. Where the first was about just one side of the equation. This one is about the whole thing. Inspiration, discipline, risk, humility. The virtues, the epithets of people who get shit done. Together, they form bullet, the bullet that if assembled properly, if struck correctly fires at four thousand ft a second.

To me, the second poster unpacks the hustler column from the first poster—perhaps, a more accurate version of it too. There’s no better metaphor for a hustler than a bullet. Lethal, vicious, a machine. All these things, yes. But as a hustler gets better, they realize there is more to the game. They decide they don’t want to be a casualty of it. They can start to transcend the rules they understood and manipulated.

As Roth writes, they learn to “design your project to cut through apathy and reach those who will appreciate it, but realize that once it’s in the world, its success and failure are no longer yours. Temperature, dew point, and Earth’s rotation affect a bullet’s flight as much as the shooter’s intention.”

A young hustler is supremely confident. A wise hustler is confident, but detached. They know that nine of ten projects will fail—rounds will miss their target—and they’re ok with that, they can see the bigger picture. They’ve moved from the short play to the long play.

I find myself wrestling with that transition now. So this poster will go on my wall alongside the others.

UPDATE: I can’t believe this happened but Joey actually collaborated with me to create a poster based on The Obstacle Is The Way. There’s only 1,000 of them and his stuff usually sells out. Hope you like it. 

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

21 responses to A Hustler’s Art

  1. I really like this post, but looking at the first poster, I’m not sure I understand the Matyr metaphor. We all know someone who only talks (a Charlatan), and they are awful and useless. Are we saying Matrys are the people who do the work, but never understand the importance of communication and promotion and therefore never become successful?

    Just want to make sure I fully appreciate the piece.

    • It’s art so we’re all going to have our own interpretation of it, but I would disagree with yours that martyrs are never successful. Charlatans can be successful too. So I don’t think that’s the point. What I think Joey is saying is that neither is good enough. To talk a good game, but do nothing? To be willing to do all the work/effort/pain but get none of the credit because you’re too busy suffering?

      • Thanks for clearing that up. Honestly I didn’t get it other. I don’t like the “Hustler” analogy too much, because I was thinking of it as like half bullshit and half actual action. I was thinking charlatan “all bullshit” and martyr “all action.” But talk doesn’t have to be bullshit, you’re right, it can include taking credit for your actions (without being obnoxious about it).

  2. Please tell me you’re seriously considering getting this as a tattoo.

  3. Excellent piece, thank you. I practice Zen and I found a correlation here with some of the things I’ve learned. What you are describing as a charlatan fits with what we describe as someone who ‘knows what to do, or say, but can’t actually do it.’ What you are calling the Martyr we describe as someone ‘who can do, but doesn’t know what to do.’

    I completely agree that there must be a mutual reciprocity. I especially like the mention that a wise hustler is confident, but detached. Impersonality is such a huge asset, especially in a world where most take things personally. Thanks again.

    • There’s hardly such thing as “what you are calling” and “we describe as” when you’re merely stating the definition of the word. Nor can there be a “correlation” between one and itself.
      The only line is what you fallaciously create yourself, drawn in the sand.
      And all merely for the sake of your “teachings”.

      It’s disgusting, but since that opinion’s only limited to me I doubt you’ll be losing any sleep let alone give it a second thought.
      Impersonality re~mem~ber~? You have to think about the biiiiiig picture!
      Except, that’s just a bent. tool.
      Set in place only so you don’t inevitably spiral into the depression that would be caused by what are only the simple truths you know.
      It’s a method of running away. Tricking yourself because your weakness would overcome you otherwise.

      Utterly amusing at that, your twisting of the original device to supplement for a lack of proper judgement only leaves gaping holes.
      But what would a poor little misled 18 year old know anyway.

  4. I try not to swear but this post and the posters are fucking brilliant. The first poster is bang on the money, the second almost so, but your post beats both..eg.

    “Inspiration, discipline, risk, humility. The virtues, the epithets of people who get shit done. Together, they form bullet, the bullet that if assembled properly, if struck correctly fires at four thousand ft a second.”

    “There’s no better metaphor for a hustler than a bullet. Lethal, vicious, a machine. All these things, yes. But as a hustler gets better, they realize there is more to the game. They decide they don’t want to be a casualty of it. They can start to transcend the rules they understood and manipulated.”

    “A wise hustler is confident, but detached. They know that nine of ten projects will fail—rounds will miss their target—and they’re ok with that, they can see the bigger picture. They’ve moved from the short play to the long play.”

    That’s most of your post that I’ve highlighted. Usually when I read an author I take away only a few sentences not multiple paragraphs.
    Thanks.

  5. Thanks for the tip to Joey Roth. I hadn’t heard of him. The posters are great and I just pre-ordered his self-watering planter.

  6. this lack of art is just evidencing your lack of culture and refinement. does a hustler spill his inner life to the internet?

  7. Thank you for introducing to me to these posters.I really liked the first poster, it made me realize that I am a charlatan and now thanks to the poster ( its my desktop background now) reminding me everyday what I am and what I want to be, I have started my journey towards being a hustler. Thank you again.

  8. http://www.fastcodesign.com/1670781/infographic-an-entire-tome-worth-of-innovation-advice-in-one-chart

    Looks like a “version” of your post is now on FastCompany. After reading TMIL I can’t help but laugh.

    Cheers

  9. All a gun does is focus an explosion in one direction.

  10. Great post. Any tips on how to develop the confidence of a consistent hustler? Seems like a tough gig to pull off regularly.

    BTW… Just finished “Trust Me I’m Lying” a week ago… Feel like I am seeing fake news everywhere:)

  11. Good stuff Ryan. Now let’s see this elephant painting.

  12. Hi Ryan, I have to say that you intrigue me. I first heard of your book navigating around the web in search of ways to refine my Darker skills. The 48 Laws of Power was my Bible and still is a reference point for me …while I handling Life before Life handled me .. I have a bunch of questions I’d love to ask you, can I do that here or shall we go into a closed discussion someplace else?

    Christina

  13. Ryan,

    Long time fan, first time commenting.

    The link for the second piece is broken. All the posters can be found here.

    http://joeyroth.com/posters/

    Thank you for all the inspiration. I always find myself back.

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