8 Important Lessons I Learned From Growing Up Poor

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If there’s something I’m passionate about is the topic of poverty. Growing up poor gives me a particular perspective; in particular in the USA. I’m a first-generation professional. First-generation professionals are the first in their family to attend college and secure a white-collar job.

I never felt like a “hero” until I came across to this fact: 90% of low-income, first-gen students don’t graduate on time This was shocking to me. Then I kept reading more articles and realized that I defeated all of the odds.

I know for a fact that there was a special level of ambition and drive for success, ever since I turned 13 years old. I knew that I wanted to accelerate. I applied to a special high school program where students take college classes and for that reason, I started college at the of 15.

This month, in particular, I have done a lot of internal work, trying to refine my goals and making sure that I am driven and motivated for the right reasons. It’s one of my favorite things to do around my birthday.

One thing about me: I wake up excited every day.

I love my business, my people, and everything that I do to make it work.

Where does that unlimited motivation come from? How can I be so excited? What exactly is my recipe to be a high-performer?

I am convinced that growing up poor is related to the way I do things.

I believe that successful people don’t do different things. They do things differently.

Lesson 1: You Must Shift Your Paradigms

Maybe you don’t realize it, but you have paradigms that are holding you back. Those ideas about a new business that you can’t ever execute. Those conversations that you mean to have and, when the time comes, you can’t get it done. Those conversations with yourself when you say “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not like that.” All of those are paradigms.

When I go back to my childhood memories, I see money as an issue most of the times. I am forever grateful that my family did the impossible to give me a good education. However, we lived very limitedly. My grandfather would pick me up at school, walking. We took a bus every single day and some other days we walked. If I wanted new clothes, we needed to do a law-away plan where my grandma would add $5 every other week. The list can go on and on. But there’s something I learned that helped me shift my paradigms about the way I grew up.

You can’t control where you were born and the circumstances. Your parents did the best they could with the resources they had, PERIOD. Instead of resenting them, you shift your paradigm by accepting that you have options. It’s up to you to break the patterns that hold you back.

Lesson 2: You Must Be An Independent Thinker

Imagine that you have 20 friends and you’re the only one who wants to dream big, move out of your country, form an independent life, and soar. Your friends don’t know any better. They will try to convince you that you’re crazy and it’s your duty to arrive at conclusions following your intuition. That’s the only way you can break the patterns.

Lesson 3: You Are An Overachiever By Default And That’s A Problem

Everyone’s baseline is different and this is why success isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy. The lower the baseline, the harder you need to push to get out. A potential issue for someone with a lower baseline is to suffer from burnout. They only know that they have to move from point A to point B, so they work and work and work.

I had to refine the way I see myself. I’m not an overachiever. Instead, I’m a high-performer. I learned how to draw boundaries to reach my goals while having a life. It didn’t happen overnight (I wish!).

Lesson 4: Your Life Is Multicolor, Not Black & White

When you grow up in a poor environment, as a child, you are exposed to things that make you behave like an adult at a much younger age. I can’t be shocked at anything. I believe I have seen plenty in life; either from personal experiences or from my clients and I love it.

Your experiences give you contrast! You see the world with thicker lenses and that enables you to make decisions under the most difficult situations. You have thick skin.

Lesson 5: Avoid A Poverty Mindset

I put a lot of intentionality to avoid getting my mind to poverty thinking…

I learned that a scarcity mind can’t attract an abundant lifestyle. I avoid saying things like “I can’t buy that is too expensive.” “I can’t afford it.”

Do you want something? Make it a goal and get it. Never shrink your goals to the size of your banking account. Instead, keep them big and make a bigger list of brave movements! You will be surprised!

Lesson 6: Indulgence Is Necessary; Especially Education

I give myself permission to get indulged, in my way. Everyone has a different taste on that. Some go shopping for $1,000 shoes. Some get fancy cars. Others love living in a fancy mansion. That’s a personal decision. All I know is that you can’t be cheap with yourself; ESPECIALLY with personal growth and education. I’m not cheap in anything related to education, mentors, coaches. I’ve invested to work with the best and I’m not ashamed of that. (Keep that in mind if you and I work at some point, my brain is quite expensive !!!).

Education is the only thing that will give you 100% ROU. Education has been my obsession ever since I was a teenager. It paid off. It opened plenty of doors. Don’t go cheap here!

Lesson 7: Never Forget Where You Come From

When people go through hardships in life, they often become resentful and frustrated for having struggled more than others. Even when they make it big, they are selfish, arrogant, boastful, disrespectful, and so on. It seems that on the way to pursuing a better future, their hearts were hardened by the circumstances they had to endure.

Don’t be ashamed of your family background and cultural roots: Our world is so diverse, and no nationality is better than another. Not having had the best parents, the ideal childhood and the most prestigious academic education are not reasons to feel embarrassed about your life. You are at a better place now than you were yesterday, this is what counts. Do not let other people define who you are because of where you come from. No one has had a perfect family nor has had the perfect cultural and educational experiences.

Embrace your roots and your hardships by staying humble.

Lesson 8: Your Reputation Is Your Currency

Your actions plus what others say about you equals your reputation. This small formula is the most powerful leverage you have in business — and in life. I learned this lesson at a very young age. When you’re not the daughter of ____ or the niece of ____, you better build your reputation!

  • Do what you say you’ll do.
  • Go out of your way to help others reach their goals.
  • Make other people look good.
  • Go a step beyond what is expected.
  • Act with integrity.
  • Get engaged with your community.
  • Be likeable.

I have so many lessons that the list can be longer. For now, in closing, let me say that “poor” is such a subjective term. You can have all the money and still be poor. You can have little money and be rich. It’s the small things that really matter.

In fact, the most fulfilling things in life ARE FREE! Think about it! 

Marketing For Greatness- Jessica Campos, Forensic Marketing