Challenging Generational Beliefs about Success
Changing my mindset about success and wealth in my mid-forties.
A Mini Entrepreneur is Born.
I had my first taste of the entrepreneurial spirit when I was 9. I lived in Santa Elena, Yabucoa, a remote mountainous community in Puerto Rico. There were no phone lines where I lived; we lived off the beaten path. We communicated with our distant relatives by writing letters or making calls using a public telephone in town. Time seemed slow-moving, and back then, it seemed like there was so much of it to enjoy.
It was the spring of 1985. It was a time of incredible pressure, stress, and change for my family. My father, the sole breadwinner, abandoned us earlier in the year to pursue a romantic affair. My mother had to give up her dreams to support us financially. Times were tough. The telephone company was finally getting the mountain wired for communication. It felt like possibility awaited on the horizon. I marveled at the idea of having a telephone in our humble wooden casita.
I approached this marvel (telephone lines) with curiosity. This new development permanently changed the way of life in the remote countryside.
Once the telephone poles were installed, the telephone lines went up. As a result, the telephone company workers would often discard piles of colored wires on the side of the road. I would collect the discarded wires on my way home from school every day until I had amassed an assortment of colored wires.
Hungry for More
Creative as I am, I began making bracelets with my beautiful color wire supply; Colorful wired bracelets in orange, red, white, teal, and blue. I added necklaces shortly after. I proudly wore my creations to school and developed a following from my peers at school.
It was the mid’ 80’s. Neon was in fashion. Every girl my age wore hair clips. We had little financial resources, so my daily snack allowance for school was 5 cents a day, 25 cents for the week. In the mid-’80s, 5 cents could get you a lot of penny candy or limber, but not much else.
I couldn’t afford to buy the 50 cent bag of Doritos and 50 cent Coke that the other kids could afford. I had to settle for a daily limber or penny candy. Sometimes I would save my daily nickel by having a limber and Nutella on Fridays. One day, after really wishing I had more money and envying those kids who could buy whatever snacks they wanted, I decided to sell my wire jewelry during recess.
It was the eighties, so bright colors and everything Pop was in style. I had a market for my baubles. I sold individual pieces for 10 cents and sets for 25 cents. After my first week of sales, I enjoyed a bag of Doritos and a Coke from my earnings. I worked tirelessly making jewelry after school, using the only tools I had to cut and bend wire, my two small hands. I wanted something; I was hungry for more, so I found a way to earn the money I needed to get what I wanted; snacks.
The following week, I earned several more dollars. I was enjoying my newfound freedom upcycling discarded wire and having snack money of my own! I felt a great deal of pride and saw myself winning at life. I was hopeful that my lot in life would be better. I was optimistic for my mom, sister, and little brother. I set my intention on never being poor or lacking what I wanted. I was inspired.
Generational Poverty and Mindset
Having grown up poor and having experienced many hardships, my mother had a set of beliefs that she passed on and ultimately influenced my thinking and behavior. Generational poverty has a long-lasting impact on your mindset about success and wealth.
My foray into being a mini mogul ended after several weeks. My mom decided that a better opportunity for a single mother of three was on the mainland of the United States. On the day we moved away, I left my straw handbag of wire jewelry in one corner of the little wooden house, along with some of the hope I had newly discovered. My job now was to be a good student, get good grades, get a good job, and succeed at getting my family into a more comfortable socio-economic status. At that tender age, I felt the weight of that burden on my shoulders. Every decision I have made in my life until several years ago has been with that belief in mind.
The pressure of being the hope for my family, being the “smart one,” pushed that entrepreneurial spirit aside. I falsely believed that I needed the security of a steady job and a “good profession” to succeed. Risk-taking was discouraged. On paper, I’m successful. I have a professional degree and a good job. Personally, however, I have often felt like a failure. These generational beliefs about success and wealth had kept me anchored and stuck for a very long time.
I have been working on challenging old belief systems about success and wealth. I have been growing and doing lots of learning over the past several years. I have also let go of the idea of having to take care of others. I have begun to prioritize my dreams and my own little family (my daughter and me).
I’m redefining these constructs for myself. I’ve even lit the fire back up on that little entrepreneurial spirit that I had pushed aside long ago, and I’m excited for the journey ahead.