Hustling is a hard game that needs appreciation


Hustlers sale their wares along Thika Road. [ Courtesy, XN Iraki]

Academics and other armchair strategists love analysing issues and events from a romantic, not realistic point of view. Take risks and returns. They argue convincingly that the higher the risk, the higher the return. But just a minute…

Risk is about uncertainty, not a standard deviation. You can’t be sure that your business will pick up and get you profits until you start it. If you invest more and the business picks, you are handsomely rewarded. 

If it does not, you lose. Most entrepreneurs take incremental risks. If an enterprise picks, you keep investing more. But think of hustling. You have no time for such analysis. You live one day at a time. Think of a car wash.

You hope someone will bring the car for cleaning. The same applies to hawkers, someone might buy your merchandise. I see hawkers at 6.00 am on Thika Road! 

The barber does the same. For all hustles, uncertainty about income is hanging somewhere. But they have faith that tomorrow will be better and take the risk by trying again or something else.

Some persist till they break even. Others try to escape from the hard realities through drugs, alcohol or religions (mostly cults). 

Unfortunately, we never prepare our students for the hard reality. The debit and credit are not numbers, its real money earned through sweat. To those who never get jobs, hustling can be a “shock.” 

Those who get jobs immediately after school escape that baptism by fire. They may probably take things for granted. Does that explain why lots of employees look demotivated and disinterested in their work?

  They never got the shock. That is why meritocracy is a national asset, the shocked get a chance to excel by serving the society.  It’s worse when someone has a protector or got the job through ‘connections’ not a meritocracy. Did I hear lots of Kenyans got jobs through fake documents? How, when verifying certificates is so easy? 

Some argue that examinations and job interviews shock one into reality. That’s contestable. 

The vast majority of Kenyans live with uncertainties, unsure of tomorrow. That’s why the informal sector has 80 per cent of the jobs.

Do we ever spare a thought for this vast majority beyond voting? Some rationalise they get used to uncertainty and we should not worry about them…

Our key decision-makers have protected jobs, be they politicians or other leaders. Some have never gone through shocks. Would they really empathise with hustlers? Think of it: someone is skipping lunch to lose weight, another for lack of food. 

To transform our economy, let’s appreciate the hustlers’ hard work and the uncertainties they live with. Let’s support them with ideas, facilities, regulations, and recognition. And buying their products. Ever hustled? Share your experience. 

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