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The Lisbon Hustle [Unbelievable Fun in Portugal]

Lisbon Hustle

I love to sell. I love hustle and creativity. Its an addiction of sorts….always seeing the opportunities that lie before me. During our journey so far, I have found pleasure in watching all of the different forms of hustle that work the streets in the cities and towns we have visited.

From the seven-year-old boy that was selling roses out of his backpack walking the streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador to one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten (I ate 6 of them – photo on Instagram) from the older lady in Ayacucho, Peru making and selling them out of her wheelbarrow…..I freaking LOVE THE HUSTLE! So it was with great joy that I decided to flex my ‘Hustle Muscle’ in Lisbon, Portugal with the help of Nikki.

As we got settled into Lisbon and understood how lucky we were to be there during its most festive time of the year, we also found that the apartment we scored (using an Airbnb Search Tip) was in the HEART of the action in the Bica Neighborhood. We were settled into the new apartment on a Tuesday and the biggest parties were set to begin on that Friday. We spoke to a couple of locals that kept saying “Get Ready!” – the buildup towards the weekend was awesome!

When Friday hit I was excited to see what was going on with the neighbors and how they would prepare for the festivities. We knew that the neighborhood would transform based on what we were told all week but it wasn’t clear how. We had one established bar on our street and we were told that there would be a street full of bars by the weekend….so when we saw the construction of the bars happening, I was pumped!

I went into the streets to see if I could help anyone and thankfully a couple of guys took me up on my offer. Go figure, I was asked to do some of the hard-to-reach work with the lights (my height pays off once again). Just being around the action with a few of these guys as they prepared for the night ahead was a blast. Here is a cool video that shows the transformation of the street on that Friday from day to night:

That first night of the festivities was a blast! We walked the streets of the neighborhood and discovered that there were about 8 streets in our little area that were all partying like our street. It was one massive party! Local food, beer, mixed drinks, and different music every half block.

Dancing, loud conversations, laughter, and photos being taken from every angle of this magical festival. We couldn’t believe that we had stumbled upon this epic neighborhood at its most epic time of the year. We partied ’til about 4 am that night and heard the music through the walls as we went to sleep in anticipation of the hustle idea we crafted during our walk…..

Jello Shots! So brilliant.

When I made it clear to Nikki that I wanted to be a part of this madness and get my ‘hustle on’, she responded with ‘Jello Shots’. Our apartment balcony was close enough to the walking party-goers, it would be a low-risk investment, and we didn’t see anyone else doing it during our walk through the streets the night before. Genius.

After a quick Google search on how to make the best Jello Shots, I made a quick noonish dash to the liquor store and market to get the goods. Once we had the product in the fridge, we had to pick up a few random items: empty boxes (free) that we could use for signs to let the people know about these awesome Jello Shots, color markers for promotion on the signs (3 Euro), a bucket to be the Jello Shot delivery unit (1.90 Euro), and a rope for the bucket (ended up being free from a giving hardware store owner).

I then ran to the bank to pick up small coins (Europe has coins for 1 and 2 Euros) as I figured this could be a hassle when asked for change on big bills. Nikki used her flawless writing skills to make the promotional signs and we were all set to do business. That said, the typical Sunday Night Sales Jitters* were kicking in and we weren’t sure if we could pull this off.  But with about 150 shots in the fridge, it was going to happen….it was just a matter of when. *This is how sales professionals feel on Sunday Night when they are facing a brutal week of an empty pipeline or minimal selling opportunities. 😉 

Around 10 pm on that Saturday night, we left the apartment and walked around the neighborhood again to take in the jubilant celebrations. Action everywhere! It felt a tad crazier than the night before. Nikki and I discussed a couple of times if “we are going to do this?” referring to our Jello Shots plan.

Truth said the biggest fear was the reaction of the locals that were hustling their own goods (food, beer, drinks) from their stations. I didn’t want to piss anyone off as an outsider if they thought I was trying to ‘take a piece’ of their pie. Based on my interactions with them that week, my gut told me it would be cool and that they would get it. My desire, after being away from selling for the past 4 months, was to be IN THE ACTION! I knew the potential money was minimal but the THRILL of the HUNT and SALE was what I needed. My hope was that they would understand this and be open to me joining their party.

After a few drinks in the neighborhood, we made our way back to the apartment around midnight. I knew if I was going to do this, the timing was perfect. We got everything prepped in the apartment: my seat by the balcony door, the chair next to me where the shots would sit, the bucket with rope attached, shots ready in the plastic tray that the owner of the apartment just happened to have, signs ready for display, change cups full of coins ready to make change when needed. GO TIME!

I nervously, but with a bit of swagger, put out the sign – BIG JELLO SHOTS

My first instinct was to look across the street at my buddy Nelson whom I had been talking to the last couple of days. Me and Nelson are cut from the same cloth. He is a sports lover, a great bartender, and an entrepreneur managing a few properties. A born hustler. I knew if he got it, I was golden.

My gut was right. We made eye contact and he gave me a smile, thumbs up, and then helped me get the sign in proper order by passing me fasteners to secure it properly. Love that dude!

I was getting a lot of looks from the people below but they didn’t seem to understand the offer or how to take it. They weren’t sure if I was serious or not. I knew I had to get them to understand the concept and continue the party-type vibe that was going on all around us. I knew THE BUCKET would do the trick. I made a motion to Nelson that I needed a beer and, as he was pouring the beer into the plastic cup, I identified a party-goer underneath the balcony to help GET THIS PARTY STARTED!

As soon as the bucket was lowered with the rope, the people around the balcony were wondering what was going on. My ‘assistant’ below grabbed the money that I put in the bucket, walked over and paid Nelson for the beer, placed the beer into my bucket, and I gently pulled the rope up to the balcony. After I took a long drink off the ice cold beer, a bunch of smiles, laughs, and a whole lot of thumbs up followed.

Our first order came a few minutes later from one of the other bars on the street. Their fun staff of bartenders ordered 5 shots! I had to ‘deliver’ them a few times up and down with the rope because they wanted to take photos and videos of the action. So funny! It was a hit and I was officially accepted by my peers and locals in the Bica Neighborhood!

Over the course of the next four hours, I traded shots for beer, gave out freebies, danced along with everyone on the streets, laughed, posed for a bunch of photos with the bucket, and had a blast that ended with only three shots left in the fridge and enough money to buy a bunch more. But, most importantly, I got my hustle fix from the wheeling and dealing that took place that night.

We also captured some of the action during a Facebook LIVE event a couple days later. Fast forward to the 10:30 mark to see the bucket in action.

We repeated the process two more nights during that week of festivities and had so much fun doing it. Nikki was my “Oz behind the curtain” that made it all happen effortlessly. All of the money we made went right back into the pockets of the locals as we paid for food and drinks within the Bica neighborhood.

The kindness of the locals and the conversations we had during those late nights and early mornings is something that I will always remember. I needed to get my Hustle Fix and I found an extraordinary group of people to help me work through it. I was grateful that they took us in the way that they did. Lisbon, Portugal is a beautiful city and the neighborhood of Bica is a gem within it. Until next time…

If you want to hear this story in better detail, check out Podcast 18: Lisbon, Portugal (Our Second Trip to the Romantic & Festive City)

Traveled: June 2017 and June 2018

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