Things My Mama's Hustle Taught Me

Mama 8
Mama 8

My mama hustled her entire life. She worked hard to get into an accelerated high school, so she could get into a good college, so she could get a sick job working at a newspaper, so she could keep getting promoted until she became City Editor of the Staten Island Advance. She kept hustling even after she left the newspaper to raise me and my siblings. She homeschooled all five of her children and did freelance journalism, editing, and ghostwriting on the side. She is now a certified counselor helping people find inner peace and healing so they can continue to hustle to the best of their ability. I've learned a lot of lessons from watching her hustle along the way.

  1. Be respectful, but don’t wait for permission

Nobody likes a steamroller. I’ve been a loud and passionate human for as long as I can remember, and a lot of people have tried to tell me to take it down a notch. Although I agree that working on communication skills is a worthwhile investment, I don’t think it’s about waiting for someone to give you permission to speak your mind. The greatest skill my mama has passed on to me is knowing exactly when it’s time to listen and when it’s time to speak up.

  1. Ask more questions than you answer

I’ve been a know-it-all my entire life. My parents homeschooled me and my four siblings for most of our lives, and since I’m the second oldest, I was often one of the smartest kids in the room. Eventually, I learned that just because you might be the smartest person in the room, doesn’t mean that there isn’t an endless amount of knowledge that you still haven’t tapped into. My mama taught me to never stop learning and to keep asking questions even when I feel like I’m an expert on a subject. This has benefitted me in ways I would have never expected. I often feel like it’s my job to impart a steady stream of wisdom to my 14-year-old sister, but she still teaches me things all the time. I would never know that if I didn’t take the time to ask her questions and wait for the answers.

  1. Do more than you say you will

Every time I come up with a new idea, I get very excited. I want to tell the whole world and get them excited about it too. When I was younger I would get ideas for short stories and immediately go tell my mom about the “amazing” idea I just had. She would always tell me the same thing, “That’s great honey, but you should really go write it down so you can read it to me later instead of standing here talking about it!” I know now that she said that because she was teaching me to be a doer, not a talker. So many of us never accomplish anything because we get so caught up in talking about our dreams instead of going out and living them. My mama taught me to make, write, create, and do so much more than I say I will.

  1. Become VERY comfortable with failure

I don’t like to do things unless I can do them well. The hardest part about becoming really good at anything is, you have to practice. Anyone who’s ever learned an instrument knows you’re not just born knowing how to play Beethoven perfectly. It takes study and practice. Growing up, my mother gave up little luxuries for herself so that she could pay for all five of her children to take piano lessons. I hated piano because, unlike some of my siblings, I was not naturally musically inclined. In order for me to even be considered “good” at piano, I had to practice twice as hard as my brother and it felt like I was a failure. Even though I wasn’t a prodigy, and even though I didn’t always put in the hours of practice that I should have, my mom kept paying for piano lessons because she believed that music was important and no amount of “failure” would change that. You have no idea how proud I was when I finally conquered Mozart’s “Turkish March.” The failure I felt while learning piano doesn’t even compare to all the ways knowing how to read and play music has benefitted me. Knowing how to invest in something important, despite initial inability, has benefit me even more so.

Mama 6
Mama 6
  1. Always find a way to improve

Once you identify what’s worth experiencing failure for, it becomes about identifying the ways you can improve from mistakes. My mama taught me never to walk away from a mistake or failure without identifying at least one way to be better next time. It’s not always fun, and sometimes it’s even embarrassing to admit a mistake or a shortcoming. But your future hustle will thank you for getting real with yourself and working on your imperfections in the present.

  1. Get naked (Be honest)

My mama didn’t raise a liar. The most notable affirmation of my life was when my mother said to me, “You have integrity.” I don’t think I fully understood what that meant when I was seven, but it has become a huge part of my identity and my hustle in my adult life. I have no interest in misrepresenting myself or my hustle because I don’t ever want to have to pretend to be something or someone I’m not. I don’t ever want to lie about something right now, because I know I won’t have time to backtrack and explain myself in the future. The best and most efficient hustles are the honest ones. The best advice comes from people who acknowledge that they are human. Be real and honest about who you are and how you hustle. No one is perfect, and we can all learn so much from each other’s mistakes.

Mama 7
Mama 7
  1. Accept gifts gracefully (Be financially independent, but recognize the difference between charity and a gift)

I love giving, but I am not nearly as gracious a gift receiver as I am a gift giver. My mama is often the same way, but I realized that this was hurting my relationships. I made my loved ones feel like I didn’t need them. We all need other people. Needing good and supportive relationships is not the same as being overly dependent on the people around you, and it doesn’t help anyone (especially not you) to treat them like they are the same thing. I have watched my mother learn how to receive so much better than she used to, and I am constantly inspired by her growth in this area. Just because you don’t NEED a gift, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it. Just because you feel like you don’t NEED your friends to support your hustle doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let them. Just because you’re a fierce, independent woman who don’t NEED no one, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t accept support and affirmation from people you love and who love you.

  1. You are NOT in control, but you do have a hell of a say.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life. I remember having severe control issues and obsessive behaviors when I was as young as three years old. When I was old enough for those behaviors to start affecting my life regularly, my mama taught me the serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

“God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.”

Any good Lady Hustler knows that there are always going to be things that are out of her control. Your job is to figure out which are the ones you can, not to try to change things you can’t. If you’re not sure, take it to a lady who’s been there before. I take a lot of my questions to my mama, but I’m lucky enough to have a whole list of ladies that I trust to guide me when I’m not sure about my hustle. It is invaluable to have people in your life who are ready and able to help you to have the courage to change the things you can, and comfort you when you need the serenity to accept the things you can’t.

I wouldn’t be anywhere without my mama. Literally, because she birthed me, and figuratively, because she has been my biggest supporter my entire life. Thank you, Mama, for hustling and paving the way so I can continue to hustle and pave the way for the next generation.

Mama & I at my Syracuse University Graduation
Mama & I at my Syracuse University Graduation

Tell us about the Lady Hustlers who paved the way for your hustle! We are all about that OG Hustle!

LIFESTYLEMimi GrecoComment