Have you ever heard of a conscious hustler? It has nothing to do with Gwyneth Paltrow (who made the phrase “conscious uncoupling” famous), but it has everything to do with getting ahead in life and business. Tiffany Hardin—an award-winning executive and marketer—coined the term in 2018 when she walked away from a corporate job where she had endured some confidence-shaking experiences as one of the only Black leaders in a global organization.
Fast forward to today and Hardin is now CEO of Gild Creative Group, an independent Black-owned woman-led agency that specializes in strategy and influencer marketing. She is known for working with ambitious brands like Airbnb and HBO to help build community and culture—and she got to where she is and became an emotionally intelligent, mindful leader by embracing the idea of being a conscious hustler.
“Being a conscious hustler is about the alignment of your intention, ambition and pursuit of excellence,” says Hardin. “I realized that the kind of human, the kind of leader I wanted to be was someone who is conscious of myself and how I show up in the world—what I say and what I do and how I move—and then matching that with high performance and being competitive in ways that support the work and the growth of the organization and the other people I work with.”
Travel is a big part of Hardin’s DNA: She was born in Germany and grew up in seven different cities. “I realized that for me to survive, I needed to build networks,” she says. “It was unconscious at the time, but when I look back on it, I realize that I learned to network in order to have a sense of belonging.”
In the spirit of education, Hardin is launching a conscious hustler curriculum, a mindset development course meant to support a new generation of mindful leaders in competitive industries. “Tiffany helped me get clear on how to approach the challenging journey of entrepreneurship. Her accountability, grounded wisdom and sense of levity through the process is remarkable,” says Lauren Ash, a wellness entrepreneur who has worked with Tiffany.
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Here, we got the scoop from Hardin on what it takes to be a conscious hustler.
My Inspiration: “I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur. My mother was the first entrepreneur I ever knew. She was a software analyst. She dropped out of school and taught herself. As I grew into womanhood, I learned that she was a real visionary.”
A Natural Networker: “I was born in Germany and lived in seven different cities growing up until I left my parents’ home. It’s been more since then: I spent my career in the Midwest and New York City and I recently moved to Tennessee. My dad was in the army when I was zero years old, but that’s not what moved us around. Instead of an army brat, I like to say I was a corporate ladder brat. As a result, I’ve always been culturally curious. I had to understand people and what motivated them. People would alway tell me I was a good networker. But I didn’t realize that networking was a helpful skill to grow in your career or your relationships. It’s funny how sometimes we overlook what’s so natural to us.”
A Conscious Hustler is Born: “After working in the corporate world, I realized that wasn’t for me. I left to work on my own company and that was when I coined the term ‘conscious hustler,’ because I realized my hustle is on point. My being conscious of what’s going on is on point. And I need to work with people who understand this mentality and care about the human behind the hustle.”
How to Become a Conscious Hustler: “You have to be willing to get curious about yourself first. I’m willing to bet the people who take take the course are pretty good at the hustle. But they’re either on the verge of burnout or in a transition time or are in a toxic environment or they need to grow in their leadership. When you do the conscious part, this is where you’re truly looking for that deeper alignment.”
The Difference Between a Conscious Hustler and a Networker: “Being a networker is a skill, being a conscious hustler is a mindset.”
A New Way of Meeting and Greeting: “Instead of asking the old ‘what do you do,’ [a conscious hustler would] ask a different type of question, like, ‘What’s the why in your life’ or ‘What makes this work meaningful to you?’ It takes an emotionally intelligent person to start the conversation like that.”
How To Answer the “What Do You Do” Question: “People get lost in their title. Start with your story. Instead of saying, ‘Oh, I’m the VP of sales at the gingerbread company,’ you can say whatever your past has been and you can integrate your mission. That’s the connective tissue. People want to know the best way they can work with you and integrate you into their world. So you have to say something that reflects your presence, not just your title. It allows people to get curious about you.”
Practice Being Vulnerable: “If you’re in a room and you don’t know anybody, look for people who like to laugh because that’s magnetism—it means they’re open to communication. It takes audacity to walk up to people you don’t know. What you are doing is practicing being vulnerable.”
On Travel: “Before I went to college, my mother said to me, ‘Tiffany, you’re young. You don’t have mortgage. You don’t have a husband, you don’t have kids. But you have a passport—you can do whatever you want to do. Travel gives you the freedom to show up in different places and spaces and be curious about other other cultures and realize how big the world is and how small it can be at the same time.”
Motivational Trip: “I went to Israel and it was amazing to see another side of the country that we don’t often see on TV and in the media. There’s a lot of awesome hospitality with people doing good work and trying to help people. And when I got back home, I asked myself, ‘Are you working as hard as these guys are? Are you as thoughtful as these guys are? I was a visitor in their country and they moved mountains for me; are you able to do that? What’s the level of your hustle related to how these people live?’ Travel changes you, and if you’re smart and intuitive enough, and if you are kind and clear enough, every opportunity that you have in your travels is an opportunity for you to tighten up your hustle.”