Hustle: Serious lessons from a joker


Many young folks take their hustles for granted.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

Several weeks ago, I asked Joker* to bring me water. Joker is one of the many water vendors in my neighbourhood. He has a mkokoteni which he uses to ferry water from the borehole to his customers.

Joker is in his mid-twenties. When we exchanged contacts, he told me he opens his business at 8am. That sounded odd to me. I think this is a business one should open at the crack of dawn. Water is an important commodity. It’s needed round-the-clock. Besides, if customers know you are reliable, you will be steps ahead of competition.

Well? To each their own.

I called Joker the next day at around 8am. From his groggy tone, I could tell I woke him up. He’s the type of person who has grown up thinking it’s hip to pepper his conversation with four-letter words. He liberally sprinkled curses and nonchalantly told me to give him half an hour.

Fourty five minutes later, I called Joker. He spewed curses and told me he couldn’t bring me water.

“Sina mtu wa kuwacha hapa,” he sleepily informed me.

“You should’ve told me you didn’t have anyone to hold the fort for you, instead of making me wait for nothing,” I said and hang up, but not before Joker threw in a four-letter word.

From my interaction with Joker, below are serious lessons that can help young cats who are hustling in the ‘hood.

Treat your hustle like a Fortune 500 company

Many young folks take their hustles for granted. Ditto their customers.

This attitude comes about when one reason that what they are doing is just a temporary trivial gig – yakushikilia – until something better comes along. Having no accountability partners worsens this rotten attitude.

Your hustle will treat you how you treat it. Treat it right, and it will treat you right. Treat it like yakushikilia, and it won’t be long before you have no pot to piss in.

Your hustle is your numero uno CV

When I got my first gig as a newspaper columnist, the editor asked about my experience. She was especially interested in knowing what I was doing while pursuing my writing dream.

I was selling second-hand clothes. I was not ashamed to admit it. All my life, I have been big on honest labour. Which is something I got from my dad.

“That’s great,” the editor said. “You were doing something with your life. And if you can run a business, you can run a column.”

The rest is history ... and “his story” which is still unfolding.

Under-promise, but over-deliver

Whatever hustle you are doing, keep your word. Scratch that. Go beyond your word. If you promise a customer that you will provide a service by 8 am, do it a quarter of an hour earlier.

Unfortunately, some budding businessmen are okay with wasting other people’s time. Time isn’t money; it’s life. And that’s because our lives are composed of tiny demarcations – seconds, minutes and hours – by which we experience this thing called life.


A business is a conveyor belt, where you bump into all sorts of people. Always treat people with common decency because, who knows, that stranger or customer may be your destiny helper.

Someone may not give you a big push, but he can help you with solid advice. Or he may know someone, who knows someone.

Mind your language

Whatever hustle you are doing, mind your language; whether spoken or written. Cursing may be cool when you’re hanging out with your boys, but it’s unacceptable when you are talking to customers.

(Note to the honchos at the Hustler’s Fund. Before you dish seed capital, dish out serious training; followed by monitoring and evaluation. Or else? Jokers will play you a bad card).