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What's the difference between a hustler & a scammer?

Believers in 'hustle culture' tend to end up on the wrong side of the law, and many exposés have proven that billionaires use illicit means to accumulate and conceal their wealth
Thu, Oct 07, 2021

It says a lot about the times we live in that one question that still sparks debate even though it has been asked, polled, disputed, and contested fifty-eleven million times over countless years on Twitter is, "would you rather be given $500,000 or have dinner with Jay-Z?"

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For those fortunate enough to have never encountered this, it's essentially the millennial version of the proverb, "give a man a fish and he will be hungry again tomorrow; teach him to catch a fish, and he will be richer all his life". The thinking is, having dinner with Jay-Z, a self-made billionaire, is the same as being taught to catch the proverbial fish.

The question comes up so often it's become a meme.

Even Tidal, the music streaming platform which up till recently Jay Z was the majority shareholder in, has given its take.

When I consider why people have wasted countless hours bickering over this question though, Elizabeth Holmes comes to mind.

She famously dropped out of Stanford at 19 years old to start Theranos, a blood-testing company which, for a while, wowed the entrepreneurship and technology worlds. Gracing the covers of Fortune and Forbes, at one point she was one of America's wealthiest self-made billionaires with a net worth close to $4 billion and lauded as the female Steve Jobs.

But today, along with her fortune and any acclaim she once had, Theranos is gone. She now faces up to 20 years in jail as she defends herself against charges that Theranos was nothing more than a scam which hoodwinked and bamboozled the likes of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger alongside real companies like Walgreens, which is America's second-largest chain of pharmacies.

That Jay-Z question reminds me of Holmes, not because Jay is a scammer, but because when you watch The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley which details the jaw-dropping rise and fall of Holmes and Theranos, what's clear is that she never intended to end up as a hustle culture cautionary tale, which is what I see in her story.

At one point, as she infamously said of herself and her company, she believed that "first they think you're crazy, then they fight you, and then all of a sudden you change the world". To get to that point of changing the world, she hustled and started telling one lie, which became two, and then three…

That those who'd pick dinner with Jay-Z over $500,000 are big believers in hustle culture is why the question makes me think of her.

But if Holmes is perhaps too foreign a cautionary tale, perhaps you should look to DJ Euphonik. In addition to being an incredibly successful DJ he also sees himself as a property guru of sorts, going so far as to actually offer the kind of mentorship those who'd pass on $500,000 want, but Jay-Z has never offered.

But on top of the rape allegations, all that hustling he once said would bring "good things" seems to have landed him in a spot of legal trouble. On Sunday City Press reported that SARS served him with a final letter of demand for R11 million.

In all seriousness though, I don't understand how when one reads revelations "exposing an alternative financial world where the super-rich can hide their assets and pay little or no tax" as we're currently seeing in the Pandora Papers, they can think is that all it takes is some hustling and perhaps a dinner with Jay-Z for you to become a mogul.

If anything the Pandora papers – following on from 2016's Panama Papers and 2017's Paradise Papers – are proof that there's truth to the Twitter joke about billionaires being like human dragons, asleep on their treasures and hoarding more resources than they could ever use in 100 lifetimes.

So even if you could get that dinner with Jay-Z, explain to me again why he, also a billionaire, would share his secrets to building wealth when he could just keep hoarding more wealth for himself?

If anything, instead of becoming a Jay-Z, a belief in hustle culture is more likely to leave you like a Ja Rule whose involvement in the infamous Fyre Fest debacle led to the famous words, "I too was hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, lead astray!"

  • The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley is available to stream on Showmax