From The Streets To The Silver Screen: What Hustling Taught Me About Leveraging Change
With change everywhere, it can be overwhelming and even disheartening to know that no matter what you do something will come along and change it.
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My story doesn’t begin with a hustle, but it was changed by one. Change is so often forced upon us that we cannot always pinpoint the moment that things go from what they were to what they will be, and yet we evolve every day. And so do our stories. This is mine.
Early on, my life presented many opportunities. Most of the people I grew up around (myself included) were taught about how many opportunities we were not going to have. It was easy to believe that life was all about shutting doors for us. That the rest of our lives were going to be spent watching metaphorical door after door get slammed in our faces. That life was going to be limited to what we were given by the world around us. But change is inevitable, which meant that even those lessons about possibilities being limited for someone like me might eventually change. All I had to do was follow the right set of changes and find the best chances that life was going to provide.
I didn’t start off following the right set of changes.
I was hustling cell phones, an unsavory practice that I knew at one point was going to end, hopefully while I was ahead. But at the time, I was going to keep the hustle going until I had to move on. I didn’t have a plan, but I knew what signs to look for. What I didn’t account for was someone changing my plan. When the new strategy for flipping phones turned into a threat of broken limbs and/or prison several feet away from my sleeping mother, that was enough. Not enough to change my mindset, but enough to change the hustle.
This was a pattern in my life — change smacking me in the face when I least expected it.
Not all change is forced upon us by evildoers or fellow hustlers, but sometimes with our best intentions in mind. Throughout high school, I had accomplished nearly nothing academically but truly set a place for myself in a social standard. With the constant influx of girls, sneakers and money, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Only attending classes when I wanted/needed permitted me a freedom that I always wanted and thought I deserved.
Expecting high school to work itself out, I thought I was on track for graduation, only to find out on the second to last day that I was going to fail. This was a change from the previous years; I had always waited until the last minute to apply myself, but unlike the previous years, this was not going to work in my favor.
After using the skills that I worked so hard on (let’s call it professional B.S.ing) I was able to graduate, after a 50-page paper. While some people could learn from this, and I saw it as another chance to grow. It invoked a different feeling within me. It created a strange form of confidence, teaching me that no matter what, I could do whatever it was I set my mind to. This was oddly satisfying to realize that all the change in my life had led me to an unintentional superpower — adaptability.
With change everywhere, it can be overwhelming and even disheartening to know that no matter what you do, how hard you work or even how much you care about what you are doing, something will come along and change it.
However, try to look at it from another perspective. It is freeing once you realize that change is neither good nor bad, but exists as simply a constant in this world. In fact, the only thing in this universe that does not change is the fact that things change. If every change is both an opportunity and a possible threat to our lives, then only our attitude is what will guide these changes to either a new opportunity, rife with possibilities and new outcomes, or into a threat that challenges our lives and new outcomes. It truly is what we make it.
Looking back, I could’ve easily stopped when any challenge changed my current path. I could’ve stopped when the Def Jam representative told me our label didn’t have it, but I turned that disappointment into a drive to join the military. I could’ve sat in that Marine recruiting office until another officer showed up to take my information, but I didn’t. I saw a change in my plan (a small change of 30 seconds) and turned that into the next great adventure of my life by walking down the hall to the Navy. Every change that has occurred in my life had a negative and positive outcome, but it was up to me to choose which direction in life to let them take me.
Change is inevitable, but the way you adapt and leverage that change, that is on you.
Remi Adeleke was born in Western Africa, but following the death of his father, he, his mother and brother relocated permanently to the Bronx, New York. After years of making regrettable decisions, Remi joined the Navy in 2002 and later became a Navy SEAL. Ending his successful naval career in 2016, he was led to pursue careers in writing, speaking and acting, including the 2017 franchise film ‘Transformers: The Last Knight,’ ‘SEAL Team’ on CBS and the 2022 Universal thriller, ‘Ambulance.’ Remi also served as a consultant on Netflix’s ‘6 Underground’ and the Apple+ TV series ‘Invasion’ (Summer 2021).
Remi is repped by APA and Loeb & Loeb.