True Hustlers Know How to Adapt


Early into my first (and only) year at Princeton, I was a little hustler. I did freelance web design, graphic design and photography. Clubs and organizations would pay me to do all sorts of stuff – make their website, make posters, photograph their event. I was all over the place doing whatever I could to make a few bucks.

All the freelance stuff just wasn’t that scalable or interesting. I knew I needed to think bigger. I had a wacky idea of creating a photo-sharing web app that would enable Princeton parents to buy photos of their children. So if you were in a musical, your parents could buy pictures of you in that musical, etc. Anyone could contribute pictures and anyone could browse pictures. What parent wouldn’t wanna see/buy pictures of their children away at college? Seemed to make sense.

I quickly got the site up and running. To get it kickstarted, I needed to seed the site with photos. So I wanted to get out and take pictures at all the big sports games, musical performances and any other on-campus event. And I really needed a way to gain access to the exclusive eating clubs (huge mansions) — where they would often throw lavish parties and “themed” events. The best photo opportunities would be at these huge parties. I didn’t wanna have to pay to get into any of these events. So I needed some sort of “pass.” I needed access to the hottest events on campus.

I didn’t expect this to be a problem. Seemed simple. I talked to the Dean of this and the Dean of that, filled out all the paper work, did the full rigamarole. It was an excruciating process but all signs were promising.

In the end, it didn’t work out. I was denied. It was a huge punch in the gut. My new website was banking on this. I had to get these pictures to get the site going.

I wasn’t gonna let that stop me.

I decided to create my own press “pass.” I quickly designed it in photoshop, printed it on hard paper (thanks Kinkos), attached it to a lanyard, and wore it around my neck proudly. It was my “press pass into everything.” And it was “valid until graduation.”

And it worked.

With my home-made press pass, I got into anything I wanted — sports games, plays, dance performances, concerts, and last but certainly not least, the extravagant eating club parties. The bouncers at the front doors were always so confused at my pass. They had never seen anything like it before. I would confidently assure them that yes, I had access and they needed to let me in. The freshman hustler always got in the door.

If there’s one thing i’ve learned as an entrepreneur, it’s to expect the unexpected. Things rarely go as planned. We will be knocked down with surprises, time and time again. Our ability to roll with the punches and play with the cards we’re dealt with is critical. We gotta be adaptable, resourceful, nimble and relentless. Great entrepreneurs are like heat-seeking missiles, willing to adjust accordingly until locked-in on target.

These surprises and hiccups are part of what make startup life so great. Every day is a new adventure, a new challenge, a new wrinkle to the equation. Never a dull moment. It’s thrilling!

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Darwin

  • Dale J. Stephens

    The old fake press pass move. This tactic has served me well.

  • Ethan Parker

    No freaking way!! Oh my gosh man that is awesome. Yeah I remember reading about the pic sharing website and I won’t mention the name because you have it blocked out there, but I had no idea you got into all those events with a fake press pass.

    Well played, sir.