4 Things My Mom Didn't Tell Me About How to be Successful

by Tameka Jo

Like many of us, I come from humble beginnings. I grew up in a small town in rural Georgia. My parents divorced when I was twelve, leaving my mom to raise a teenager by herself. She attended school at night and worked two jobs to provide a roof over her and her child's head. While I was never homeless or wanted for food or clothing, I watched my mom struggle to make ends meet. She robbed Peter to pay Paul, borrowing from loan companies just to make sure rent was paid. This vicious cycle inevitably created more debt, putting her in a deeper financial rut. Late payments to the landlord led to a mortgage at the bank, as my mom was adamant about home ownership. Despite not being financially stable, she instilled in me how important it was to save and set aside a few dollars for a rainy day, even if that meant only putting one dollar out of her paycheck into a savings account.

Having spent her late teens working at a local seafood chain, she told me to never work fast food, to find a job in retail or an office, where I could dress nice and not have to worry about getting off work and my clothes smelling like food. I took her advice to heart and steered clear of restaurants. At age fifteen, I started working in a department store in the mall, selling women's clothing. Although my mother insisted I go to college, after graduating high school I landed a full-time job at the bank, the same year I moved out into my own place. By twenty, it was time to spread my wings and leave everything and everyone I knew if I was going to create a better life for myself. I decided to relocate to Atlanta in hopes of better opportunities. A change of scenery made me dream bigger, and at 26 I began pursuing a career in broadcast journalism, a path most people don't imagine taking where I come from. Along the way, I realized there were some words of wisdom that my mother did not impart upon me. While I took away quite a few valuable lessons from my mom, she didn't tell me how to be successful.

These 4 crucial things I wish I had known sooner:
1. Plan

I didn't plan for success, which is why I'm in my 30s still seeking guidance and direction on how to achieve the things I desire in life. Had I put my vision on paper, along with a detailed course of action on how I would accomplish those goals, chances are, I would have a solid foundation and secure future.

2. Find a Role Model/Mentor

Growing up there was no one around me at home, church or school that I looked up to or aspired to be like. I found inspiration watching television, as TV was an escape from reality. It helped me to see beyond my limited circumstances. As a young girl, singers Tameka Cottle-Harris and Tamika Scott, formerly of R&B group Xscape, were the first images of Black women with my same name, from my same home state who I could identify with. Later in life, women such as Oprah Winfrey and Free (106 & Park), motivated me to tap into my inner journalist. But I was missing that person, someone to help push my talent forward, in real life. Not having a mentor, I've had to figure out and navigate situations on my own, which I feel has been a disadvantage in both my personal and professional life.

3. Build Relationships

My mom knew the importance of the company you keep and encouraged me to hang with the "smart" kids. But I gravitated towards the "hip" kids with no curfew because they were wild and carefree. Needless to say, that wasn't a wise decision. After being betrayed by those so-called friends I became a recluse because I didn't trust people. Being a loner stunted my career growth. I let how a few people treated me affect my ability to make new friendships and/or connections. Although I've done my share of networking on-and-offline, I was ignorant to relationship-building. Opportunities don't just fall in your lap. Ultimately, It's not what you know, but who you know.
4. Enlist Support

Life doesn't always go as planned. I thought by thirty I would be settled in my career, finances and relationships. Therefore, a strong support system is necessary for those days you feel like giving up and want to throw in the towel. Over the years, I've wanted to quit pursuing my dreams numerous times. Unfortunately, I haven't had supportive people by my side when the road gets rough and lonely. Rejection has been the hardest pill to swallow. Eventually you grow tired of going on job interview after job interview and never hearing back, or receiving that "we selected another candidate" email.

Before becoming adults, we look to our parents to love, protect, provide, support and guide us into adulthood. Not every kid gets their needs fulfilled in each or all of those areas by mom and dad, but I didn’t let that deter me from pursuing and working hard towards my dreams, and neither should you. Despite the many obstacles I've faced, I continue my pursuit of success.

What are some secrets for success that you learned from your parents or others that have help you get to where you want to be?

Photo: Shutterstock

Tameka Jo is an Atlanta-based lifestyle and relationship writer with over eight years experience creating content for the web, for a number of leading digital magazines, websites, and blogs. Her work has been featured online at Upscale Magazine, Clutch Magazine and Necole Bitchie to name a few.

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