TEAM OF HUSTLERS
The hustler is a special type. An American original. He may crave success, fame, money or power. The real thrill, though, comes from playing the game and winning. For some hustlers, it’s the game itself that counts above all else – gratification comes from beating the system even more that beating others.
Hustlers are in perpetual motion. They are compulsive schemers – plotting strategems, working angles, recalibrating them. It’s a non-stop activity. They are never at rest – physical or mental. Hustling has no obvious starting point, no point of resolution. Hustlers are utterly self-centered; it’s the hustler against the world. Everyone else is a ‘player’ in the game, whether witting or not – a few close family members excepted. Their ego mania is of the narcissistic sort. Everything out there is screened so that it can be fitted to a mental map where he is the only pole. That self is the one fixed reference point. Convictions are alien to his personality – stable convictions anyway. With the hustler relentlessly assaying everyone and everything, the field of play is in constant flux. He is always evaluating but never committing – to people, to ideas, to any external standard.
Totally lacking critical self-awareness, the hustler counts on quick reads and agility. Tactical course correction is the norm, but the pattern remains the same. He can't change. His nemesis is a streak of lucky breaks. Success inflates self confidence – and recklessness. The predestined fall comes out of the blue.
Hustlers can team up. The mastermind and the nuts-and-bolts operator; the designer and the salesman; the aspirant and the fixer. They both admire the fit. Each overestimates the other; they overestimate themselves. Politics is a natural habitat for the hustler – especially
The hustler is drawn to other hustlers. He understands them, he respects them – especially those good at the game. Those whose trappings of success signal that they’ve come out on top irresistably attract him. They also can serve his own unending craving for self-esteem. The reflective, the habitually honest, the earnest, the selfless hold no interest for him – except as they figure in his calculations.
Mr. Cinderella Man, come forward. Yes, please bring Mr. Emanuel with you.
Professor of International Affairs
University of Pittsburgh