Like a lot of the people reading this, I grew up poor. Not dirt poor where I was worried about where my next meal would come from – more like, “drinking powdered milk and everything you own being from Goodwill” level poor.
What really sucked wasn’t so much BEING poor (the trivial stuff like not having the latest toy or whatever), it was FEELING poor… like I was inferior. Feeling ashamed, like other kids lived in a place where I wasn’t allowed to go.
And the really insidious thing is that when everybody you know is in the same situation, you accept it. You think this is just the way life is, so there’s nothing you can really do but suffer though it — like the line in “One With The Underdogs,” “taught to accept defeat.”
I know this because it’s how I saw the world until I was well into my 20s and realized I had the power to take control of my life and create the future I wanted. I figured this was my lot in life – that I was just unlucky and destined to stay poor, fucked up and unhappy until I died.
I’m guessing a lot of what I just said sounds real fucking familiar to many of you guys, and maybe that’s how you feel right now – and I am here to tell you it’s NOT true! That you CAN get out of that shitty “I feel like a loser so I might as well act like a loser, which in turn confirms that I’m a loser” cycle, which I’ve seen so, SO many people succumb to (and could easily have succumbed to myself).
Welcome to Connersville!
I think one of the biggest reasons people get sucked into that cycle is because they never see someone they relate to break out of it – so I sat down with someone who I think is a super-inspiring example of what you can achieve if you believe in yourself and work your fucking ass off: my friend and business partner Joey Sturgis.
Joey grew up on welfare in Connersville, Indiana (aka the middle of fucking nowhere) and taught himself how to be a music producer. After basically defining the sound of an entire generation of bands and getting a gold record (for Asking Alexandria), he decided he wanted to start a software company. So he taught himself how, and started Joey Sturgis Tones, which is one of this generation’s breakout audio companies giving the big guys a run for their money after just a few years in the game.
As if that wasn’t enough, THEN he co-founded URM Academy (along with our friends Eyal Levi and Joel Wanasek), which is the world’s best online school for rock and metal producers… and he’s probably got 10 more businesses in the works that I don’t even know about. Basically, to say he’s a hustler would be a massive understatement.
Cool, story, right? But this isn’t really about Joey… What I want you to understand and BELIEVE is that Joey’s story can be ANYBODY’s story.
If you are like us and grew up a poor kid, know that you do NOT have to accept it… you are not stuck, trapped, or doomed to be poor the rest of your life. You CAN get out, and the first step is to believe that it can be done. And that’s actually the hardest part – flipping that mental switch in your brain from “loser” to “winner.”
Then it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and grinding… putting in the work. Yes, it may require a level of grind that’s borderline psychotic and most people don’t have – but there’s nothing stopping you other than, well, you.
And this is where poor kids have the advantage: because we know how much it fucking sucks to be at the bottom – to feel trapped and hopeless, to see your friends and family members go down the drain from drugs and crime – we have a level of intensity that other people just don’t. Because we know what the alternative is – and we’d literally rather die than live like that again.
Our backs are against the wall, and that is our secret weapon— we have no choice but to make shit happen! And this is ultimately why I believe that growing up poor is an advantage. I almost feel bad for people who had a comfortable upbringing… how can they find motivation and urgency?
So if you grew up poor, don’t get mad – be grateful for it, because it will give you a fire that fuels you to do what other people can only dream of.
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