The Side Hustle

My side hustle is teaching a class each semester in the College of Business at Cal State San Marcos. I teach a course in organizational behavior for non-management majors. I do it because I love to teach. I do it because the energy of working with aspirational students is addictive and fulfilling. I do it because it makes me a better professional in my day job which in turn makes me a better teacher for my students, which in turn…well, you get the point.

For me, the side hustle has become an essential piece of my overall professional experience. It provides a perspective, an alternate point of view that allows me to see my work with fresh eyes.

The side hustle, I am learning, is much more common than I realized. As these diverse endeavors come up in conversation, I am struck by the shy smile that emerges as well as the actual twinkle in the eye. And while I know that many, many people have a side gig for the supplemental income, most of the people I talk to are doing it to satisfy a personal passion.

When I see that telltale expression of mischievous glee, I can’t help but ask: “what is it about your ‘9-to-5’ job that is not providing the opportunity to pursue that passion?” And then I wonder, what might happen, and I emphasize might, if that passion was known by the person’s team leader and the two of them talked openly and expansively about how their current job might be adapted to satisfy it?

What happens so often – why engagement at work persistently hovers around 30% – is that employees leave their passion at home because they either don’t associate “work” as a place where it belongs or their present employer fails to create an environment where passion, even seemingly unrelated passion, it is welcomed and cultivated.

I truly love that we live at a time when traditional ideas and modes of work have been upended. And I truly love and admire that special brand of person who will always have another iron in the fire, always driving to create and express outside the lines of typical employment.

The truth, however, is that most people continue to work within the circumstances and conditions we define as “normal.” They go to an office, put in their time and return home at the end of an 8-hour day. If this huge population of employees is not expected, much less encouraged, to explore and express their passions within those four walls, that organization will always go hungry for the creative energy that is just beyond its grasp.


photo of woman painting in brown wooden easel

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One thought on “The Side Hustle

  1. Hello Dave,
    “Funny you should mention that” re: the side hustle. I too taught college for 29 yrs at San Jose State Univ (Industrial Engineering), but not for the pay because there wasn’t enough to support a single person let alone a family of five. I did so because I couldn’t not do it.

    My day job was running WESTPAK, Inc., a testing laboratory I founded a year after I started teaching. WESTPAK kept my feet on the ground, the SJSU student interaction kept my head in the air. I am now retired from both. In retrospect, both were very successful and fulfilling, each in their own way but the student interaction certainly topped the list. Many of my students became interns in the WESTPAK lab (and life-long friends) and a high percentage stayed on as full timers who now run the entire operation after our ESOP transaction 6 years ago. The CEO is now my daughter who is a far better manager that I could ever have imagined, much better than me for sure.

    One on the core values of WESTPAK was always “work doesn’t have to be a 4 letter word”. We worked hard to develop and maintain a family atmosphere through lots of diverse efforts and always aimed for the highest level of customer service blended into our friendly family atmosphere. Did it work? Not perfectly, there are still a few “8 to 5’ers” but the majority of owners (the employees do OWN the firm – 75+ members & ~$15M rev.) realize the unique combination of benefits we enjoy because of that simple focus on the whole rather than the self. Yes, it does work. It’s not easy or simple or quick or painless, but it does work and the benefits are certainly worth it.

    Sorry this got more wordy than I anticipated, but you certainly struck a cord with your note today (which I always enjoy) and I felt empowered to respond and tell you how right on I believe your remarks and direction were, in my humble opinion….

    Best regards,

    Herb Schueneman
    http://www.westpak.com

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