Students learn how to hustle within their own identity by Katie Herchenroeder

The City College of New York is often called one of the most diverse colleges in the United States. On November 1, students learned the difference between knowing to know and knowing to grow. This was the theme at the TEDxCUNY event on Tuesday in the NAC Ballroom. It tackled how to go deeper into your individual diversity, as well as how to thrive in your uniqueness. The Zahn Innovation Center and the Entrepreneurship Club partnered in this event. Together, they organized inspirational speakers, pre-recorded informative TED talks, as well as self-developmental activities.

Ben Kassoy, the Editor-in-Chief of, was the first speaker. He is a massive proponent for what he calls “Blissful Productivity.” He explains the way in which humans are optimized when they are working on something they love. He relates this to his own life by saying, “Writing [for me] doesn’t feel like my work, it feels like my hustle.” Kassoy finds that differentiation between hustle and work is vital to see. He describes an eight step course of action for which work becomes a hustle. 

Kassoy starts his action plan by encouraging those in the room to follow their fires. He continues by telling the audience to love their bad ideas, be themselves, and to find a safe space. He then introduces a metaphor he called “Clean. Your. Fridge.” Kassoy insists the revelation that comes from “leading yourself through a perpetual fridge toss.” Subsequently, he says to “Squad up,” which is a modern day way of saying to edit those whom you choose to be around. After the first six steps are completed, he says to give your hustle a name. Lastly, Kassoy calls on everyone to “Play on, Player.” He encourages all those thriving in their hustle to stay young at heart.

The second speaker of the event was Linda Villarosa, the CCNY Program Director of Journalism. Professor Villarosa is a journalist, author, editor, novelist and educator. She is a writer and editor for many publications such as Glamour, Health, and the New York Times Book Review. She has won several awards from countless organizations, including the New York Association of Black Journalists, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists’ Association and the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.

During her talk at the TEDxCUNY event, she touched on two main social issues: authenticity and identity. Under the main umbrella theme of the event, she reminds the audience to “make your identity work wherever you are.” Villarosa knows this first hand. She divulged into her erratic past of being judged based upon her skin color and her sexual orientation. From elementary school to her professional career she found a way to stay true to herself. She dedicates her success in her treacherous journey to learning how to: Own it, Live it, and Slay it. She owned her ethnicity.

Throughout the event, the audience engaged themselves in interactive activities. This encouraged participants to self-reflect on the points made. The final activity prompted audience members to find a real struggle that they’re facing in their life right now. After identifying a current storm, they tried to find the strengths that come from it. When our two main speakers were asked their answers, they did not fail to impress.

Kassoy was asked to examine his current situation and find a struggle. He explained his vulnerable fight with anxiety. He was quick to explain how he chooses to change this all encompassing feeling into fuel for his writing. He elucidated his ability to drown out all noise, saying that one should “put all energy towards a stimulated distraction.” He has come to find that his anxiety has helped him to breed his most successful of hustles. Villarosa was also able to find motivation and acceptance in a problem she’s currently facing. She finds herself committed to so many things, too many things. Yet, right after coming to this problematic conclusion, she immediately inputed that she “wasn’t made to do just one thing.” She knows that even when she feels overwhelmed, she needs to remind herself to be thankful for her ability to do so much.

Entrepreneurship Club President, Mahmoud Khedr, concluded that “our struggles make us unique.” This underlying theme was evident throughout the TEDxCUNY event. With the positive response it received from students, more events like this may be in the future for CCNY.

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