Available October 10, 2023
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“Hustle culture” has become synonymous with trying to cram more into a day, emphasizing productivity over humanity and valuing achievement over well-being. But what if there were a kind of hustle that upended all of those values, and instead, focused on becoming the most centered and fulfilled version of yourself? A kind of hustle that prioritizes inner work, understanding who you are as a person and a community member, and asks how you can bring your greatest gifts to the world? That, according to this episode’s guests, is creative hustle.
Co-authors sam seidel and Olatunde Sobomehin join Tim Fish for a discussion of their book Creative Hustle: Blaze Your Own Path and Make Work That Matters. From the outset, sam and Olatunde are clear that this is not a how-to or self-help book in the traditional sense. Instead, they say, they’re delving into how everyone, at any age, can be intentional about “crafting a life that is guided by purpose.” That work is a journey of self-discovery and continual re-evaluation, and it requires examining—and perhaps breaking free from—the paths that society has already drawn for us.
One of the inspirations for the book was a class sam and Olatunde designed to bring together students from disparate environments: Stanford University and Street Code Academy in East Palo Alto, CA. Describing those two environments as “geographically very close, but in terms of access to resources, kept very separate,” the authors talk about their belief that the ability to move between traditionally segregated communities, and to uncover what each can teach to the other, is critically important to helping create more “permeable boundaries.” With fewer barriers and greater understanding and collaboration between different communities, creative hustle becomes a more accessible and enriching concept.
Although people from different communities may face different systemic barriers, Olatunde points out that a commonality across all social positions is the individual need to identify gifts and goals. What are the gifts that we have to share with the world? What are the things that matter to us that we want to impact by using our gifts? These universal questions are the basic framework of a deep practice that continually changes and grows with us, creating a flexible blueprint that may look different as we mature.
The idea of creative hustle is not to be a traditional self-help model, sam says, but rather to be a study of the ways in which people achieve meaningful lives through leaning into self-knowledge, creativity, love of community, and breaking barriers. To that end, he speaks about the pillars of principles, people, and practice—and, he points out, despite being accessible concepts that can help students unlock self-discovery and agency, they’re challenging to enact in traditional K-12 schools. Yet bringing the ideas behind creative hustle to schools could be vitally important in helping prepare young people for an uncertain future. As sam says, once students reach college and adulthood, they’re expected to know how to make big-picture decisions for themselves and their lives—but how can they know how to approach those decisions if they’ve spent their childhood in environments that narrow their choices, restrict their movements, and prescribe their paths? Reimagining schools as places for relationship-building, family engagement, and exploration is at the center of creating educational environments that will help every student recognize their gifts, goals, principles, and purpose.
Some of the key questions Tim, sam, and Olatunde explore in this episode include:
- What does creative hustle mean, and how is it different from what we commonly think of as “hustle?”
- How did a class created for Stanford University and Street Code Academy grow into a book?
- What are the main drivers of “principles, people, and practice?” How do those ideas manifest in the book and in the work of creative hustle?
- How can school leaders integrate the principles of creative hustle into school? What gets in the way of doing so in many educational environments?
- “I think that one of the things that Tunde and I connected on very early in our friendship, colleagueship, was how much better we believe our own lives are, how much richer they are, and how much more we've been able to do in the world by being able to move between parts of our society that are often really segregated. … And how can we open that up for more people? Because too often folks are just kept really separate by some of those boundaries and the walls. So how do we make those boundaries, those borders more permeable?” (6:15)
- “Capture the biggest way that you could think, right? What are my principles? What moves me? What grounds me? What am I going to hold onto in the moments of transition, in the difficult moments, the challenging moments, and the moments that are really tempting for me to kind of steer left or right, what's going to really be my anchor?” (23:11)
- “We've just been sent from one period, to the next, to the next, year after year. And then all of a sudden we're supposed to have a framework for making these big decisions. And we're out in the world and we need to have a network. We need to know what principles are guiding our decisions. We need to have built these resilient practices. But that hasn't been asked of us up to that point really, or invited.” (30:54)
- “By bringing in the family, we see the benefit of people. Because who knows our kids better than the families? Who knows our journey, who will follow, who will be there. We talk about class to class, but year after year we're changing teachers. … But who's staying with them is the family. And so I think there are some institutions that are, that have been successful in bringing in families. And I think when we can do that, I imagine a world where teachers are considering the inputs of what happens with a family.” (32:49)
- Keep up with sam’s work and ideas on his website.
- Learn more about Olatunde’s work at Street Code Academy.
- Get a copy of Creative Hustle.
- Read sam’s first book, Hip Hop Genius.
- Watch sam and Olatunde discuss Creative Hustle on ABC News.
- Check out sam and Olatunde’s Big Think interview on What School Could Be.
- Read a thought-provoking interview with Olatunde on the power of rest.
- Watch sam’s keynote address at Deeper Learning 2022.
- Read the full transcript here.
- Episode 40: Student Voice and Agency in Education
- Episode 37: The Dignity Lens in Education
- Episode 23: Designing Schools for Self-Directed Learning
- Episode 19: The Role of Failure and Risk in Designing Deeper Learning
- Episode 15: Inspiring Wonder and Community in Schools
- Episode 8: Schools as Practice Zones for Adulting
- Episode 2: Schools for Safety and Well-Being
About Our Guests
Sam seidel co-directs the K12 Lab at the Stanford University d.school, teaches, reads and writes books, speaks publicly, and consults with foundations and organizations. Sam has spent over 20 years working in, designing, and writing about schools and youth programs at organizations such as AS220, Big Picture Learning, and City Year. After his first book, Hip Hop Genius, was released in 2011, he spent several years touring the world, speaking with educators and students, and leading professional development sessions for and consulting to school districts, nonprofits, and foundations.
He attended Graham & Parks Alternative Public School, Cambridge Rindge & Latin, The Mountain School, and Brown University, from which he graduated with a degree in education and a teaching certification. He is an adjunct professor at Stanford and was a visiting practitioner at Harvard Graduate School of Education, a scholar-in-residence at Columbia University's Institute for Urban and Minority Education, and a community fellow at the Rhode Island School of Design. Sam has been a member of the Circle for Justice Innovation for over 10 years.
Olatunde Sobomehin has a lifelong commitment to youth and community development. A native of Portland, Oregon, Olatunde grew up in a family dedicated to public service and eventually carried that lens to Stanford University, where he he majored in urban studies, led a public speaking class in the engineering department, and played on the top 25 men’s basketball team, where he was also voted Most Inspirational Player (2003).
In 2014, Olatunde co-founded StreetCode Academy and has remained CEO since. He is responsible for crafting and carrying the vision alongside board, staff, and key partners. Most recently, his work in tech education and community building earned him recognition as a 2018 Aspen Institute Scholar, a 2019 Praxis Fellow, and a 2020 Social Entrepreneurship Fellow at Stanford. He and his wife, Tamara, have four children: Olatayo (15), Temilola (14), Tatiola (13), and Olataiye (8). They reside in East Palo Alto, CA.