Twilight, "The Hustler", CCL

Making Money: The Hustler’s Waltz

J.C. LaCroix Personal Finance, Power Tactics 0 Comments

Twilight, "The Hustler", CCL

Twilight, “The Hustler”, CCL

Right now, things being what they are, almost everyone is feeling the squeeze. Wages are stagnating and going down while prices are rising. Forget the numbers on inflation and unemployment, with current politics those are damn-near useless to you. The truth is, economic conditions are causing jobs to be more and more scarce and with automation pushing in those jobs are less and less likely to come back. Politicians, across the board, belong to the 1% — they are not coming to save you any time soon. At best, you can expect some sort of below-subsistence transfer payment, a concession made for the sake of social stability.

Again, at best. Jail cells seem to be the current default response.

But, if you accept that fate, it pretty much reduces you to survival mindset: Fighting for scraps while your dreams and aspirations go floating on down the river of life.

Your other option is formal education at some kind of institution. But, I think we can all see that is a crap-shoot where the game is rigged. Keep in mind, I say that as a degree holder that did it “right”. I am here to tell you, to assume that you will beat everyone else out and crawl your way to the top of the acedemic heap, go to the “right school”, pick the “right major”, make the “right connections” is a tall order. But, even if you do all that — you’ll spend years going after this only to be saddled with so much debt that the reward for your efforts is effectively siphoned off at a level that is a net-loss to you. Finally, if you’re okay with that as a specialist surgeon or something — you’ll face the last trap. Work with big price-tags comes with big concessions: 60-80 hour weeks, impossible pressure and deadlines, and so much leverage that you effectively don’t belong to yourself anymore.

Congratulations!

There is another way. We do live in a Capitalist society. Now, I don’t care if you or I like this fact or not — it is a fact. Oligopoly it may be, but markets still pull the strings. The powers-that-be have to leave markets somewhat open, or the whole thing loses cooperation from the populace at large. You can count on that. There is a whole geo-political aspect to it. They might capture the commanding heights, but down here on the ground, there will always be opportunities. Even if you dislike this fact and work actively to change it, there is no reason why you cannot do so while also operating within it to thrive. Because, spoiler alert: There may be better alternatives, but until a majority of people see that fact, Capitalism isn’t going anywhere.

And, what that means is — owners will always have more options and better outcomes than non-owners.

Thus, given the current state of things, we would predict that self-love would be pushing more and more people into Entrepreneurship. And, that is exactly what we do see, at least in terms of attempts. But, people are failing at it. Which, is not a bad thing. The problem is, in their mind, their failure has no context. They assume their failure means they aren’t cut out for it and walk away from the entire game. That’s the tragedy. Because, when they go back to the above routes, it is with “tail-tuck syndrome”, and from that point forward everything tends to turn to crap.

The reality is, they are failing because of one root cause: Putting the cart before the horse. I can say this because I’ve been around the block with Entrepreneurship. This is a fancy way to say that I’ve lost (a lot) and had wins (a little). The important part is that the overall trend from fewer losses to more wins is rock-solid in my attempts. But, this is happening precisely because of those failures and is a direct result of what I have learned from them. If these individuals would get up and stick with it, they would learn these same things and experience the same trend, eventually.

However, I am a Darkworking Instructor. Part of my job is to accelerate that learning curve, for you.

So, after looking at both my failures and the failures of others, I have isolated the six root causes. These are general and across-the-board, no matter what specific product, service, or offering we are talking about:

  • No Ability to Negotiate: This skill is so, so critical. And, it’s a bitch, because this cause is hidden to the person jumping into the game, but obvious to someone having been around the block. While this includes sales skills, this is somewhat different and broader. In our normal lives, we walk into stores or interact with institutions as price-takers. That is, we look at what is offered and either take it or walk away. Thus, we develop no ability to negotiate. However, in business we are constantly doing this — everything can and must be, negotiated. Lack of skill here causes critical errors which spiral into every facet of operations, such that even if your product is solid, the endeavor will likely fail. On the plus side, having ability here can make a weak product triumph because it influences cost, and therefore price-point and customer acquisition cost.
  • No Perception of Production Quality: How your product is presented is just as important as the product. While this does include a sense of marketing — most entrpreneurs can recognize and deal with a marketing skills gap. This is something deeper. Consumers subconsciously react to production quality. Producers, invested in their product, have a tendency to think their awesome thing will overcome poor production quality. They are wrong. Also, their passion blinds them to the true level of their production quality. To illustrate this concept, take a look at this video versus this one. Both are essentially trying to do the same thing — help people in a bad spot emotionally elevate and move forward. They are both saying similar things. I want to be clear, I think they both have good information and I’m not knocking either of them. But, the difference in production quality is dramatic. And, so is the difference in the number of views. Consumer behavior patterns are clear. Frankly, the gentleman with lower production quality actually has higher inherent charisma, but none of it translates because of that lower production quality.
  • No Sense of Markets: Here, I am not talking about markets like some person droning on with supply-and-demand graphs, talking about shifts that change price and production costs, etc. That’s useful and ultimately a must, but chuck it out the window for now. Here, I am talking about the skill of being to identify a group of consumers and get to understand them. Markets are just people. Like people, an actual market is a living, fluid thing. One must adapt with it as the tastes ebb and flow. Many times, people offer the right right thing at the wrong time, or the right thing in the wrong way. Mainly, because they haven’t learned how to “read” a market.
  • Idea First, Market Second: Building on the above, most commonly, people get an idea for something they think is good, then turn around and try to find the people who are interested. This sometimes works, but is inherently risky and usually fails. First, because you might not find the right people, even if your product rocks. Second, because you might know the right people, but they ultimately are not motivated to buy the product. If you can read markets, you negate this risk entirely by targeting a market first, then developing a product tailored for that market. When done in tandem with analyzing the competition before roll-out, you can make Capitalism your bitch. But, again, you don’t learn this usually until you’ve done it the wrong way a few times.
  • Lack of Creative Adaption Impulse: This is an internal characteristic and most people walk into the door full of enthusiasm but ultimately lacking it. The nature of business, especially boot-strapping, is that you will face many obstacles and constraints. For example, someone could watch the above videos on production quality and say, “Well, even if I had the skills, I don’t have the money for a good camera or video editing software.” You’d be surprised how commonly I hear this from people who call themselves Entrepreneurs. This should not be what pings your brain. Rather, the instinct should be to say, “How then, without money, can I get access to those skills and equipment?” Do I have a friend who has a camera? Can I make such a friend? Can I get myself to the library and read books? Simple mental shift makes all the difference.
  • No Comfort-Zone Push-Through: This is our last item on the list and also internal. We all have a comfort zone. It is there to keep us safe from predators. And, buckling to it is a natural thing. But, in business, primal ancient roots of your neuro-biology count for precisely dick. The truth is you will constantly be forced to stretch your comfort zone. Often, when entrepreneurs make mistakes, it is because they rationalize making a choice in “X” direction for “Y” reason, when in reality that option was simply the one that allowed them to side-step dealing with stretching their comfort zone. Sadly, they don’t think they are doing this because starting a business itself is pushing against your comfort zone for many people. To them, that could not possibly be the problem. What is happening is, they are internally tired. They have pushed against their comfort zone so much, they think the rationalization is the reason. In fact, avoidance is the reason, and their previous stretching blinds them to it. The trick here is to actually get skilled at pushing your comfort zone, such that your relationship to doing so, itself, shifts and changes. With enough exposure before you undertake an endeavor, it no longer wears on you. You actually embrace it and look forward to it. Thus, you neutralize this potential issue.

When we look at the above list, smart-cookies will notice a few things…

First, that each item actually (even the internal ones) translates to a skill. That’s good news, because all skills can be learned. It sounds silly, but if you want to visit a friend and get lost on the road, you don’t stop your car and hold yourself while screaming towards the sky. No, you either keep trying randomly or do the intelligent thing and call for directions or bring up a map. If you didn’t know how to read maps, you’d google it and learn how. If the problem is knowledge, we close the gap and move on. Same here. Don’t quit. Recognize, adapt, and overcome.

Second, each of these skills are foundational. That means, basic-bitch as all get out. No matter what specific skills you need to develop for your undertaking, the above list will rest underneath and support them. In fact, your ability to build the floors above (advanced skills) will be directly dependent upon your strength in these foundational skills. The idea here should not be a mystery, and yet people quit because of it all the time. Let’s say we took a person with no professional dance skill whatsoever, never even tried to dance before, and dropped them into an advanced class on the tango. What would happen? Chaos and overwhelm. Logically, the person should go to the instructor and simply say, “Hey do you think we should start with something a little simpler, a little more basic?” The instructor should go, oh, you’re right, okay then — and will probably start them with a simple Waltz. This dance is the starting point for a reason. There are certain skills — sensing a musical rhythem, moving in time with it, working with and adjusting to a partner, and so on — that must be present no matter what form of dance you want to learn. And yet, people just quit.

Thirdly, each of these skills are idiosyncratic. This is important. What it means is — every negotiation is unique. Similarly, production quality is like the Supreme Court and porn, “I can’t tell you what porn is, but I know it when I see it.” Each market is unique and ever-shifting. Likewise, each entrepreneur has a different motivational set and psyche, so their internal methods by which they change to and maintain the positive internal qualities, is specific to them. Contrast this to learning how to change a tire, not at a level of mastery, but at a functional level. You can learn this theoretically, because it doesn’t change much across cars. Sure, with experience, you learn certain tricks to it, but overall, read and book, watch a video, try it and you’re done. However, these skills are not that way. It’s good to read books on negotiation, for example, because that gives you new tools to work with. But, ultimately, you have to do it repeatedly to get it under your belt. They can only be learned experientially.

Protip: Silence is your best tool in negotiation with people from Westernized cultures (US, Europe, etc).

Learn to stomp on your natural human tendency to fill it. Let it hang there. Trust me.

Which, getting back to the point, is the primary reason why with entrepreneurship many try and few succeed — the experiential price.

Of course, the blindingly awesome revelation of this is that it doesn’t come down to talent  or intelligence. Those help, but tenacity is the key.

As I’ve said before, I know more dumb rich people than smart rich people. Yet, they were all stubborn to a degree.

Is it starting to make sense yet?

What we need here is the business version of a Waltz. One that trains up these skills in a way that gives us a sandbox that has real-life consequence but not serious risk. You know who has all of the above skills? The street Hustler. Each and every one of the items on the list, those people are the business bard, jack of them all, master of none. Now, the term makes people think of “pool-shark” Hustlers. Of course, they are Hustlers. But, there are many types and most of them aren’t shady.

A friend of mine saw a warehouse trying to avoid disposal costs — offering to let people just take a surplus of wood pallets, “first come first get”. He stopped the truck over my objections and crammed it full of wood pallets. Back on the road, he’s calling up another guy he knows, one who runs a smithy and makes custom hinges and handles with it. Negotiation occurs. He takes a moment to clean up the pallets on the side of the road. Moments later, we pull up and unload — he pockets $150, tossing me $20 for helping unload. If we take out an exxagerated $20 for fuel costs and the like, that’s $110 for about an hour of work.

There are plenty of Attourneys who would like that per-minute bill-rate.

Now, the real kicker is my friend makes the kind of money that makes $110 something he could wipe his ass with. So, I asked him why he bothers?

“It’s how I got my start,” he said, “once a Hustler, always a Hustler.”

Ayup. Coming from the same stock, I must agree.

What makes a Hustler a Hustler is finding and benefitting from connecting “gaps”. For example, the gal who hustles you at the pool-hall is either directly creating or relying upon your gap in true knowledge of her skill level at pool. She then closes that gap, and has a nice day at the spa for her trouble. Of course, this deceptive angle is risky. For most of you, I don’t recommend it. But, like I said, many shapes and sizes of Hustler. The most risk-free and startup-friendly is the Reseller. It works like this: Party A has something and Party B wants that something, but they for any reason can’t seem to find each other. The Hustler facilitates between the two, profiting from solving the gap — like my friend with the wood pallets. Take a quick look at the list again, all 6 skills are at work there.

So, I present to you the Hustler’s Waltz. Follow the steps, one after the next, just like a dance number and the future becomes yours. The market becomes your music.

The Hustler’s Waltz

  1. First, scrape together about $40. This is your working capital. You don’t need much. Creative adaption may come into play here — don’t say “I’m broke”, say, “How can I get $40 together?” Can I borrow it? Can I sell things I no longer use? Can I rake leaves? Somewhere, there is a solution, you simply need to find it.
  2. Yard Sales (the best for our purpose), Goodwill, Thrift Stores, Pawn Shops — these are going to become your new best friends. You’re starting to learn markets on the seller-side of things. Start developing new eyes and scouting places where either:
    1. The sellers probably don’t sell things for what they could be worth.
    2. The sellers are moving things in bulk for big discounts.
    3. What they are selling doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. If the above critera are true, they may be useful.
    4. Compile lists of these places as you find them.
  3. When you’re ready (Comfort-Zone Push-Through may be an issue), spend your money — BUT, only spend $20. It could be on anything. A lamp. A chair. A bundle of sheet metal (I’ve seen it!). Anything you think might have a buyer out there, somewhere. Now, look, you may guess wrong. You don’t know buyers very well yet. That’s okay, it’s part of the process. Through this whole thing, never spend more than half your working capital at a time to acquire something.
    1. Do NOT buy anything at the listed price, even if you think you can profit.
    2. Only buy things that you can get at 60% of the listed price, or better. You’re trying to learn to negotiate, the profit is secondary. The only exception is if people are giving it away for free.
  4. Having your stuff, we need to find a buyer. If you can (or had in mind), someone local — great. Do that. Sell it for as much as you can, but resist the urge to take a loss and dump something. Literally fight to make at least a penny. But, local buyers will build over time. You’re gonna start seeing the world with new eyes, and will notice them more. Otherwise, Ebay is your new BFF.
    1. Presentation comes into play. Clean up the item. Then, get what you need together to take good photos. Do it like catalogues do it, just the item with a solid-colored background. Usually, white. It matters, that’s why they do it.
    2. If you have issues with bank accounts — solve that. Or, if there is someone you trust, get them to step in and be the listor for you.
    3. List the item on Ebay. Only ship domestically, not internationally for this purpose. Be sure to specify that in your listing and in the check-boxes on the forms. Also, specify that buyer pays shipping, and do what everyone does with that. I’m not going to tell you, figure this out on your own.
    4. Specify a minimum reserve, so that whatever it sells for must be greater than what you paid for it, plus anything you had to buy (boxes, packing peanuts) to ship the item.
    5. When the item sells, spend the $20 you held in reserve to ship, but get that back with the shipping cost.
    6. Be attentive. Dicipline may be an issue for you. Ship promptly. Keep your rating high. Reputation is everything in business.
    7. If the item doesn’t sell, take a step back. Look at your presentation and listing text. Tweak it and try at least four more times to see if it will move.
    8. If the item doesn’t move, don’t freak out. You guessed wrong. Sell the item at a loss and start over from step #1.
  5. At this point, your item sold at a profit. Take a moment to congradulate yourself — you just opened a profitable business.
    1. Wait for all your money, shipping and otherwise, to come back from the seller. Withdraw it from the bank, roll around in it on the floor, then get back to work.
    2. Take your $40 and set it aside, replenishing your working capital. Look at your profit. Take half of it and ADD it to your working capital.
    3. Set aside the other half of your profit. You keep this for personal use. Eat a steak. Get a massage with a happy ending. Treat yourself somehow. Hell, even if it’s 0.50 cents, go buy a piece of bubble gum and celebrate yourself on being a master of the universe while you blow bubbles and pop them.
  6. Now, repeat steps #1 – #5, until you have 20 “wins” under your belt (items sold at a profit).
    1. Yes, 20. No less.
    2. No matter how many “losses” you end up taking, tally up 20 wins before you proceed.
    3. Remember, learning is the goal here. Even if at win #20 you’re at a net-loss overall — we’re about to address that.
  7. Good job! Step back and look at ALL your “wins and losses”. Look for patterns, they will be there.
    1. Did something sell better? Did something sell not at often but made you lots of profit?
    2. Some items lost a lot, can you see a reason as to why? Can you turn them into winners? Presentation or ad text? If so, try, and come back to this step with that new knowledge.
  8. Looking at everthing — pick a “specialty”. You’re now going to focus in on buying and reselling that item, scaling up your operation a little.
    1. Study the buyers, reflect on the sellers.
    2. If you can, talk to the buyers. Realise what they say might not be accurate — learn to read behind the lines.
    3. How can you reach more buyers of this item? More sellers?
  9. Take your current working capital and do precisely what you’ve done before, just at a larger scale. Understand that you have just unlocked a reliable cash-stream for yourself, that you will always have — this reselling niche.
    1. It may “dry up” on you. That’s okay. Run the routine and find a new one.
    2. Keep flipping until you have $2000 in working capital. You can speed this up by spending less profit.
    3. At this point, you should start feeling like a beast. Good. You’ve earned it, experientially.
  10. At this point, we need to culminate the Waltz, give it the “big finish” — partially for education, partially to be sure we’ve got this Waltz thing down. Some people out there are handy or crafty or the like. So, I will present you with three options. You must choose the one that is most outside your comfort zone (meaning, scares you the most and is in an arena where you know the least about the item). You can’t cheat here — if you’ve been buying and reselling coins, obviously the collectibles is out for you, or if you’re a mechanic the car is not your option. Too much advantage won’t force you to learn comfort with rapid-risk. Pick one, FIRST:
    1. Flipping a used car.
    2. Making and selling a crafted item to a specialty market (A victorian dress, a hand-crafted chest, etc). You do NOT have to make it from scratch, but you DO have to alter it in some way to make it “more attractive” to a potential buyer.
    3. Buying and reselling an antique or collectable to an ESTABLISHED buyer of that item (meaning, find a rare china set and sell it to an antiques dealer who knows their shit).
  11. Having chosen your option….
    1. First, step back and learn your buyers and sellers. Just study them. Auto-listings, used car auctions, people selling cars sitting in their driveway. Get to know locals who buy the specialty items, or dealers who specialize in certain collectibles. And so on, and so forth. Continue that study and monitoring of the market as you move through this step. This is, overall, identical to what you’ve done before, just at a higher money-level.
    2. Second, skill-up. If you chose cars — get Auto Repair for Dummies and learn up. Same thing for the crafted item. Lastly, if you chose the collectible, start learning about that collectible. Know your product category. Don’t tell me, “I don’t have a driveway, or tools, or a woodshop, or a garage”. Find a creative solution.
  12. Now, you’re ready. What you are looking for here is the “big win”.
    1. The objective is to Hustle just like before, but to “win” you must resell this single item at a 50% profit or more. No less. Otherwise, it counts as a “loss”.
    2. To DO that, you’re going to have to rapidly react to something. If you learned your market properly, this is safer. If you didn’t, you’ll have an opporutnity to learn. You’re gonna really have to see a sweet deal on the sell-side and already have a good mark on the buy-side, to make it work.
    3. For example, with cars, you’re going to need to spot a steal and snag it before anyone else does. With crafts, this almost always comes from targeting a specific niche buyer at the beginning of some new trend. Likewise, with collectables, the challenge is that the dealer isn’t going to want to give you that kind of margin, thus, forcing you to bring them a “honeypot” item. Something they can move at a large margin, and move quickly. I’m betting most people will pick the collectible option to avoid learning a new skill — trust me, you’re wrong to do that. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
    4. Spot your monetary zeitgeist, and snag it.
    5. Use your skills to polish the item. If its a car, clean the shit out of it and make basic repairs. If it’s a collectible, put it in a nice framing or format. Last, if its the crafted item, well, craft accordingly.
    6. Sell it.
    7. If you sell it at a 50% profit, you just graduated.
    8. If not — don’t worry. This normally takes a few times to find the right opportunity. Go back to your niche, get your working capital back up if you need to, and then try again.

If you undertake the Hustler’s Waltz and stick with it until it is finished, your world will be completely transformed. First of all, everything you see looks different and opportunity is all around you, constantly. The cash-streams you have unlocked here will be with you always. The Hustlers I know are not bitching in these times, they are looking at others with a half-feigned sympathy while they count their money. Markets always move. Someone’s loss is always someone else’s gain. It is dependency that causes you pain. This exercise is a massive step forward in self-determination and self-mastery. Take the reigns.

More importantly, you have unlocked the foundational skills for business. At this point, you are ready ready to start something Entrepreneurial, your endeavor, from scratch.

Not just a wish, but a real shot.

And, your odds of success just went through the roof.

Enjoy your wins. The world just became your playground.

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