A Hustler’s Art

I have three pieces of art in my house. One is a beautiful wax portrait of my hero William T. Sherman, one’s a painting done by an elephant and the other—my favorite—is a framed, signed original Joey Roth Hustler poster.

I’ve come to know Joey Roth since I discovered the piece. But even if I hadn’t, it would still be one of the most striking pieces of art I’d ever seen. It’s the only piece of art I’ve ever given as a gift (to Robert Greene, Neil Strauss and others). It’s one of the few things I’ve ever thought of getting as a tattoo.

Why? Because I think it properly defines the differences between a charlatan (all talk), a martyr (only action), and a hustler (action and talk in a feedback loop, fueling each other). The message was exactly what I needed at 22 or however old I was when I got it. I was a hustler then, and it’s taken me to where I am today. Now, I feel like I’ve internalized the message. I was ready for what comes next.

And now there is a second piece in the series. Where the first was about just one side of the equation. This one is about the whole thing. Inspiration, discipline, risk, humility. The virtues, the epithets of people who get shit done. Together, they form bullet, the bullet that if assembled properly, if struck correctly fires at four thousand ft a second.

To me, the second poster unpacks the hustler column from the first poster—perhaps, a more accurate version of it too. There’s no better metaphor for a hustler than a bullet. Lethal, vicious, a machine. All these things, yes. But as a hustler gets better, they realize there is more to the game. They decide they don’t want to be a casualty of it. They can start to transcend the rules they understood and manipulated.

As Roth writes, they learn to “design your project to cut through apathy and reach those who will appreciate it, but realize that once it’s in the world, its success and failure are no longer yours. Temperature, dew point, and Earth’s rotation affect a bullet’s flight as much as the shooter’s intention.”

A young hustler is supremely confident. A wise hustler is confident, but detached. They know that nine of ten projects will fail—rounds will miss their target—and they’re ok with that, they can see the bigger picture. They’ve moved from the short play to the long play.

I find myself wrestling with that transition now. So this poster will go on my wall alongside the others.

UPDATE: I can’t believe this happened but Joey actually collaborated with me to create a poster based on The Obstacle Is The Way. There’s only 1,000 of them and his stuff usually sells out. Hope you like it. 

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.