5 Lessons From Hesiod on Hustling

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I just read Hesiod’s Work and Days; and found lots of great practical wisdom on working hard and hustling.

Funny enough, Hesiod was a Greek philosopher from around 700BC, over 2,700 years ago. His words still ring true today, very much like what a lot of rappers would say (hustle hard).

5 Takeaway Points

Long story short, here is the summary points:

  1. We need to work hard and hustle to make a living
  2. We need to hustle upon hustle to gain prosperity
  3. We cannot stop hustling even when things are going well
  4. Those who idle will suffer.
  5. At the end; enjoy the fruits of your labor.

For more details, here are some extracts, notes, and quotes from Hesiod:

On the importance of work

Don’t hold my heart back from work

Don’t raise dispute and strive to get another goods.

Zeus forced us to labor; because Prometheus screwed him. Promotheus hid fire.

The deathless gods— same as mortal; but don’t die.

Mortal men used to be golden

Golden race of mortal men.

Live like gods without sorrow of heart; remote and free from toil and grief.

When (golden race) of mortal men died; it was like they were overcome with sleep.

They dwelt in ease and peace in their lands ; rich in flocks and loved by the blessed gods.

Strength from hard work

Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs.

Their armor was of bronze, and houses of bronze; and bronze were implements — no black iron.

Terrible though they were; black Death seized them, and they left the bright light of the sun.

Blessed life

They lived untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed along the shore of the deep swirling Ocean; happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year; far from the deathless gods.

Thank the Earth

The earth bears food for us to live:

Grain-giving earth; bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing 3 times a year!

Bounteous (beneficial) earth.

Never resting from labor

The horrible fact of men having to labor (things they aren’t passionate about):

‘Race of iron’ and men never rest from labor and sorrow by day; and perish from night.

Latin word for food

Food is ‘victus’ in Latin; which means ‘vivre’ — to live.

Food is for living. Not pleasure.

The earth provides all

We will always have our basic needs met:

The earth will provide enough food; have clothes (wooly sheep with fleeces)

The grain-giving earth bears them fruit.

Sweat of our brows

We need to sweat, to gain Goodness:

Between us and Goodness; the gods have placed the sweat of our brows.

Life is rough in beginning; but when I reached the top; life is easy.

Don’t be idle

Both gods and men are angry with a man who lives idle.

Don’t waste the labor of bees; eating without working.

Work hard; to fill my barns full of victual (food); to live.

Through work, men grow rich in flocks and substance— and working; I’m more loved by the immortals.

‘Work is no disgrace; it is idleness which is a disgrace.’

Hard work; more prosperity

If you work; the idle will soon envy you as you grow rich— for fame and renown attend on wealth.

Even if I wasn’t born with much; hard work can give us anything:

Whatever the lot of fate has given you; work is the best.

Ignore others

Ignore the property of other men; attend to my own work and livelihood.

If I’m confident; work hard— I will be wealthy.

Call your friend to a feast; but leave your enemy alone.

Good friends

‘He who enjoys a good neighbor has a precious possession’

Not even an ox would die for a bad neighbor.

Don’t get wrongful gains

Don’t get wrongful gain; wrongful gain is as bad as ruin.

Give to one who gives; but do not give to one who does not give.

The more you give; the more you will receive in return:

‘A man gives to the free-handed; but no one gives to the close-fisted.’

Give more than you take

Give is a good girl; but Take is bad and she brings death.

GIVE more than I TAKE.

‘The man who gives willingly, even though he gives a great thing rejoices in his gift and is glad in heart.’

I rejoice in giving gifts; and feel gladness in my heart.

Whoever gives to shamelessness and takes something; even though it small; it freezes my heart.

Keep adding to what I have

‘He who adds to what he has, will keep off bright-eyed hunger.’

Keep adding to myself; i will never go hungry.

Keep adding little on little

‘If you add only a little to a little and do this often; soon that little will become great.’

Don’t wish for anything else

It is a good thing to draw on what you have (borrow from myself).

It grieves my heart to need something and not to have it.

‘Take your fill when the cake is first opened and when it is nearly spent; be sparing.’

Keep promises

‘Let the wage promised to a friend be fixed’

Work with work upon work

‘If your heart within you desires wealth; do these things and work with work upon work.’

Gods ordered men to work

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‘Work the work which the gods ordained for men.’

I bid you to find a way to pay your debts and avoid hunger.

Preferable things in life

  1. House
  2. Good wife
  3. Ox (for the plough) — computer?
  4. Slave technology

Don’t procrastinate work


‘Do not put your work off until tomorrow and the day after.’

A sluggish worker does not fill his barn; nor one who puts off his work.

Always keep hustling:

Industry makes work go well, but a man who puts off work is always at hands-grips with ruin.

‘Remember to chop your wood.’

Practical ancient advice on farming

Get two oxen; bulls of 9 years — for their strength is unspent and they are in the prime of their age; best for work.

Let a fellow of 40 years old work; with a loaf of four quarters and eight slices for dinner. He will keep his mind on work.

Take care of your oxen

The crane vexes the heart of the man who has no oxen.

What is today’s equivalent of oxen?

Take care of my “oxen.”

Don’t wait on empty hopes; seize victory

‘The idle man who waits on empty hope; lacking a livelihood; lays to heart mischief-making.’

Keep hustling; being industrious:

The industrious man can greatly prosper his house.

Build barns now, while the weather is good:

‘It will not always be summer; build barns now.’

Ancient winter instructions

‘Lace on your feet close-fitting boots of the hide of a slaughtered ox; thickly lined with felt inside.’

In winter; let oxen have 1/2 their normal food. But let men have more food; for the helpful nights are long.

Advance in my journey

Never stop hustling:

Dawn advances a man on his journey and advances him in his work.

Don’t forget to reap my rewards

Let me drink bright wine, sitting in the shade.

When you work hard, you can reap the rewards:

When my heart is satisfied with food; turning my head to face the fresh Zephyr, from the everflowing spring which pours down unfold thrice pour an offering of water; and make a fourth libation of wine.

Measure grain and store it in jars.

Take off the yoke (harness) from the oxen.

Treasure in life

‘Man wins nothing better than a good wife’

‘The best treasure a man can have is a sparing tongue’

If you speak evil; you yourself will soon be worse spoken of.

Common food

Have simple dinners, simple feasts with friends:

Common feast the best— the pleasure is greatest and the expense is least.

Avoid the talk of men

Avoid gossip, social media:

Talk is mischievous; light and easily raised- but hard to bear and difficult to get rid of.

‘Talk never wholly dies away when many people voice her.’


Back then, men needed to hustle to make a living.

To gain more prosperity; work harder.

To make a living; we need to work hard.

But once we make a comfortable living, and no longer fear poverty, famine, starvation, etc— we need to enjoy the fruit of our labor.

Hustle 101 >

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