My father has been dead since September 12th, 2001. That was a bad month on a lot of levels. The country was reeling from the terrorist attacks and I was racing home from a trip to Monterey to be at my dad’s bedside as he was taking his final breaths. He was too young at 58 to be checking out, unfortunately, much of what got him to the hospital was self inflicted. After a long and prosperous career, he had become rooted in his job to the point that it was the only part of his life he identified with. His job had become more than what he did…it became who he was. When it was clear that the job was changing in ways that would challenge his well worn methods, prevent him from protecting the people under him and remove responsibilities that he had been trusted with for decades, it was too much for him to handle. His identity was shattered and depression led to drinking which led to strokes which led to death. My father didn’t indulge his hobbies, worse…he didn’t have side hustles. Side hustles keep you in touch with that pilot light of creativity within you and just as you can recognize an impending storm by the clouds and the uptick of the wind, you can recognize something unique and powerful welling within you the more you are in touch with passion projects outside your normal everyday routine.
Side hustles are life preservers.
I love being a journalist. Nothing makes me feel like when I’m crafting a story and immersing myself in another person’s life and experiences. Since I was 14 years old I’ve known it was my calling and I never had a plan B. It is a huge aspect of who I am and how I identify myself but I’ve always kept a side hustle going because it spreads my identity over more square footage and feeds my creative engine. As an undergrad I started a fitness business to pay for school, teaching fitness classes to college dorm girls three times a week. They avoided the freshman 15 and I was able to pay tuition…it worked well.
Later, while building my television journalism career, I wrote for magazines, wrote business plans for entrepreneurs and produced multi-media curriculum for a trade organization. I’ve owned a restaurant and produced a lecture series. Some side hustles were successes some failures but all were learning experiences that added to who I am. Each time I start one, I remember a quote from radio host Adam Carolla, “Does it make me money or does it make me happy?” If it doesn’t do one of those, I take a pass.
If you are feeling restless with your hours outside of work and experiencing a need to stretch yourself beyond a singular professional identity, you may be ready for a side hustle. Here are a few quick start tips I’ve followed:
1. Know WHY you want a side hustle.
As I said above, my criteria is: Does it make me money or does it make me happy? You may be feeling the need to stretch yourself intellectually or have an interest that is outgrowing hobby status. I know a producer at work who makes beautiful jewelry as a side hustle. One of our reporters fixes cars in his off hours; he grew up fixing vehicles on a farm in Oregon and has turned that passion into a side hustle. These pursuits obviously makes them happy or make them money which meet my criteria for a good side hustle.
2. Choose a viable passion
You know what you’re good at when it comes to your job. What else cay you do? What can you create outside your 40 hours at work? Make a list of what you can do outside your profession. I enjoy writing so a lot of my side hustles have to do with writing, however, fitness and organizational planning are also strengths that I leverage for side hustles. I’ve long had a desire to learn to do something with my hands…welding is of interest but so far I haven’t had time to learn. Thats on my bucket list. Learn to weld.
3. Educate yourself
There are many low and no cost ways to educate yourself on the promotional tools you’ll need to execute your side hustles. I’ve encouraged my youngest daughter to start side hustling and she is learning computer code through free educational sites. I love Lynda.com for tutorials on editing and website building. Fiverr has done several logos for me, including the ones I use on my website. Amazon will help you design and upload your books for free and if you really need to be set on fire with ideas, go back to school. A graduate program on leadership and communications has sparked a renaissance in my own life.
4. Your Side Hustle Should Make the World A Better Place
This sounds pollyanna and I have to admit it wasn’t my on the checklist for my early side hustles. I was entrepreneurial because I didn’t have the resources to pay for college and couldn’t work enough hours to support myself and finish school. At this point in my life I feel like I have something additional to contribute with each side hustle. I somewhere developed a taste for inspiring people. The same thrill I get from telling a story that inspires, enlightens or educates courses through me when I”m conducting a side hustle that is also adding something to the world. Jay Tevelow says it well in his book Hustle when he compares risk to a roller coaster, “When you feel the fear, enjoy the excitement, trust that you’re not going to fly off the tracks. At some point your trip to the amusement park with end and you’ll feel like an idiot if you spent the whole time complaining instead of enjoying the ride”. Risk something with your side hustle that will benefit someone else.
5. Don’t Short your Employer
Never side hustle at work. Your employer is paying you for 8 hours a day and you owe them that. You owe them what you promise in any contract. However, many companies understand that your side hustles will make you a better employee. There is nothing like a little off hours creative thinking to spark new ideas and methods that will benefit your employer. Many large companies are encouraging their employees to be more entrepreneurial because they know that will benefit them in the long run. Loyalty may be lacking these days on the part of large companies toward their employees but integrity will never go out of style. Have the integrity to keep your side hustles where they belong…on the side, unless of course you decide to take a side hustle full time.
Dad could’ve had side hustles. He had forgotten more than most people will ever know about dignitary protection and law enforcement, he was also a talented bass guitarist, an excellent marksman and he loved model trains. There were opportunities over the years for him to turn any one of those interests into a teaching gig, write a book, or buying/selling collectables. He had already dabbled in teaching and mentoring. However, those things didn’t conform with his singular vision of who he was to himself. I often wonder if I hadn’t been a frazzled young wife and mother of a 4 year old and a newborn, working on my own full time career, maybe I could’ve helped him see his other possibilities. I will always regret that I didn’t try harder.
He taught me so much about reading nuances, strategy, integrity and how much more power there is in work ethic vs. raw talent. I watched his rise and fall and took many lessons from the small town boy from Los Banos who protected presidents and governors.
His final gift to me was something St. Thomas Aquinas called, “Negative judgement of Separation” or “Don’t do as I have done”. I miss him tremendously but am thankful for the lesson and for one small understanding of life: Be more than what you do in one part of your day. Be what you do with all parts of your day. Here is to side hustling!