To hustle or not to hustle?
Currently the use of the word "hustler" is thrown about as a positive way to describe oneself as having an entrepreneurial streak, or starting a new business.
From the 1800s, hustler meant "thief", and in particular, someone who was aggressive with their victims. Nowadays, the dictionary still holds this definition true, describing a hustler in a negative light: a thief or criminal; a gold-digger or prostitute; an overly pushy salesman (OED, 2015). In modern music (mostly ghetto rap), "to hustle" refers to a way of making money and doing it against all odds. Maybe the latter is where startups are drawing their inspiration from?
Hustlers work for immediate gratification to obtain cash-flow, without a long-term vision. It's about a foot in the door, a constant drive to keep making the money – it's all about making the next sale.
As an entrepreneur myself, I would NEVER like to be referred to as a "hustler".
Why hustle when you can "undertake enterprise"?
Being an entrepreneur may involve overcoming odds and making money, but it's definitely NOT hustling. Startup entrepreneurs find ways of making money, but do so ethically and in terms of a defined growth strategy. Entrepreneurs build a business, own the business, delegate, strategize, and think ahead. They link things – they are connectors: businesses, ideas and people. Entrepreneurs create systems, contingency plans, they develop others, and (probably most noteworthy) entrepreneurs consider exit planning.
The actual meaning of entrepreneur?
It stems from Old French, "to undertake enterprise". What's enterprise? Well, that's work. The characteristics of an entrepreneur were added in the 15th century: a person with "adventurous disposition, readiness to undertake challenges, and a spirit of daring" (Harper, 2015). In recent definitions, "One who undertakes an enterprise; one who owns and manages a business; a person who takes the risk of profit or loss" (OED, 2015).
Which side of the coin are you on?
Hustler vs Entrepreneur …
Words change in meaning across time – that's a common thing. But shifting from a negative use to a positive usage (pejoration to amelioration) is very rare. Between entrepreneur and hustler, we need to reflect. From a linguistics perspective, something to watch here. From a new business perspective, you should decide which side of the coin you're on.
I guess the choice lies in this –
Are you undertaking an ethical enterprise as owner and manager, with adventurous disposition, readiness to undertake challenges, spirit of daring taking risks of profit and loss?
Then you're an entrepreneur NOT a hustler.
-Harper, D. (2015). Etymology Dictionary Via http://www.etymonline.com/
-OED – Oxford English Dictionary (2015). Via http://www.oed.com/