Updated: Jul 22
"The ghetto is not where you live. The ghetto is inside your mind. And anyone that tells you that you can’t get out of the ghettos of your own mind has no idea what they are talking about" – Frederick Lenz
"It takes nothing to stay in poverty, but everything to break free from it" – Odowu Koyenikan
In the content of a recent article in the magazine "Psychology Today", author, John A. Johnson describes the card game of poker as a metaphor for life. In consideration for this concept, we must acknowledge that not all individuals are dealt the same hand within the forthcoming of their existence.
There are some who happen to be born into a life of luxury or comfort, providing easier paths to profitability and amenity while others are left to deal with less fortunate beginnings. Nevertheless, if Johnson’s statement holds any sense of truth within it, then we must recognize and attest to the fact that good starting cards help, but they do not determine if you’ll win the game. In fact, they don’t even determine if you’ll survive!
Crime prevails in the slums; jails fill up in majority with individuals from the lower class and the cycle continues. Why is it that this seemingly never-ending pattern rambles on like an armored freight train, free from disturbance through the night? How can we as a people take a stance in reversing this unfortunate course of perpetuation? What can the individual who is dealt with a hand that is less than favorable do to get themselves into a more prominent position?
These important questions may hit a nerve, but they seem to continuously lack serious consideration. The avoidance in dealing with such issues opens the door for more harm and destruction to infect the lives of those around us. Consequently, it will take more than just a one-legged approach to combat this problem as both society and the individual must be called at some point to take responsibility for what is and for what has become.
1. Adopt and Accept a Warrior Mindset
This world can seem to be a harsh and unfair place, yet by honestly seeking to face and find the truth within our situation, we can begin to make things right. When one opens their eyes to the truth, they begin to notice that there is a way out and there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Every great individual that I have known or read about has either been born into significant hardship or they have encountered it along their course. Life is filled with ups and downs. Some are granted more difficulty than others but the individuals that rise to greatness use the strife of their past to callus their souls and they become better because of their difficulty. Such figures stood firm in their convictions and advanced when it counted.
The door of opportunity may be more difficult to enter or reach for those born into adversity, but desire and will can overcome all boundaries. It remains especially important for individuals born into hard times to adopt and acquire a certain type of mindset and identity early in life that will prepare them for what must be done.
"If I have no choice but to fight, then I must become a fighter. I will do whatever it takes and quitting is not an option!" The true acceptance of this motto and the absence of common blame that is placed upon others will begin to plant the seed of a rugged and accountable mind which is necessary to persevere through the midst of struggle.
When one acknowledges other positive influences through history who have gone through similar circumstances. When he or she reads and educates themselves about the lives of these figures, they will realize that they too can make it out!
Society rewards those who possess value, and we can become more valuable by working on ourselves! You can separate yourself from the majority by reading and by educating yourself consistently as the acquisition of ideas and information through books and educational resources can arm one with the tools necessary to advance their situation.
2. Do the Opposite of Those Who Surround You
It can be difficult to perceive of a life outside of your immediate circle. We are raised in households and neighborhoods that dangle and illuminate pathways in front of us that initially appear lustrous but almost always end up in ruination. It remains our responsibility to decide and to understand if the direction that others have traveled will in fact lead us to a desirable destination.
Are the individuals around you leading a life that you would truly desire? Are they existing with eminence and bliss or have they learned to settle? Have those around you chosen a path that will likely lead to an outcome that is less than favorable? Can you name one gang-banger or drug dealer who has gone on to live a long, healthy, and happy life outside of prison? Why then would we choose to follow along the path of those who have failed to amount to anything? What has hindered our spirit in such a way that has ceased our ambition to fulfill our potential?
Those voices that tell us that we will never make it are lies! The idea that we are forever doomed is false! We live in a world that is filled with opportunity for everyone, we must begin to view things differently! Has our lust and impatient desires acclimated toward flash brought us to a point of impatience and impulsiveness? If we are going to end up in a life that is different than the lives of those around us, then we need to begin doing things differently!
As we live differently, we must learn to block out or steer clear of the down casting, peer pressure, and negative attitudes from those around us. We must begin jumping at honorable opportunities that can potentially advance our situation and we must realize that it is not an overnight process. Watch and realize what those negative people around you are doing and make a conscious effort not to follow. Do what they have not done, what they are not doing and get to a higher place!
3. Use Your Situation to Your Advantage
American author and speaker Byron Katie quoted “life is simple. Everything happens for you not to you”. What we may think of as unfortunate or less than favorable can turn out to become an asset rather than a liability. Desire, hunger for growth, and a will to win have proven to manifest intensely in places where comfort is lacking. When you want it so bad that you can convince yourself that you will to do whatever it takes, you have assuredly tapped into a higher frequency!
Ambition and motivation are enhanced by visions of advancement and prosperity! Few forces will be able to halt the individual with a ravenous thirst for advancement when he or she has adopted an incontestable perspective and a ferocious will to persevere. Instead of accepting a hopeless perspective, try thinking of what those in your community are lacking, what is missing in their lives, and how you can help them. Perhaps you are the one destined to solve a particular problem or deficiency. This may be your ticket to prosperity! Could you have been born into a situation for a reason?
When one opens their eyes, they will begin to see that there is always opportunity in helping those around them. How can you as a person immediately or potentially help those around you to better their condition? How can you find strength in their failings? What strengths do you possess that you can use to serve others? What steps can you take to better understand yourself and those in your setting? What is needed by those who reside in your household, your neighborhood, or your family?
We often fail to notice how lack of resources can at times aid us in generating something unique and sincere. The pain that you feel should force you to use your mind and to think, to look at your life from an outside perspective. Can this situation that you are dealing with help you to ask questions about yourself that most others will not? To look within yourself and not only find out who you are but also who you want to be. By choosing not to make excuses for inaction but instead using our minds and doing what we can with what we have, we not only begin to move in the right direction, but we help to lift others up along with us.
Famous psychologist, holocaust survivor, and Author Viktor Frankl explained in his book Man’s Search for Meaning how he was able to transform the dreadful and agonizing experience of surviving through several Nazi death camps into something meaningful and beneficial to the world. In doing this Dr. Frankl made a choice to use adversity to make him better and not worse. Despite his unfortunate conditions, he decided to turn evil into good and went on to not only become a great and influential psychologist but also to formulate a school of psychology and philosophy based on the idea that individuals are strongly motivated to live meaningfully and purposefully.
Dr. Frankl proved that we could find meaning in life by responding to life’s challenges in a sincere and humane fashion. We too should do as Victor Frankl has done and choose to see how we can make good out of our “less then favorable” condition. In consideration of virtuous action, we can find meaning and purpose to our existence, we can find our “why” and we can step toward serving and making a true difference in the world.
4. Jump at Opportunity and Surround Yourself with Good People
There are countless routes that can lead to detachment from your undesired life path. Are you honestly and thoughtfully taking advantage of all of the opportunities that are available to you? With open ears and an open mind, we must listen closely to those who go before us and to those who we come into contact with. If we are truly hungry for opportunity, we will seek to sense its presence like a shark smells blood in the water.
Strike up a conversation and talk, ask questions, and get curious about how you may be able to move forward in life. If your experiences are anything like mine, you will realize through curiosity and insight that there are a lot more possibilities to advancement then you may think. We must not stop jumping at every opportunity we can to learn and to place ourselves into a more favorable position.
It baffles me how in this age people can go to school or sign up for a civil service test for free and yet they still do not go through with it! One can learn skills from free online classes, but they refuse to do so! Countless opportunities are given to different groups of people yet so many fail to take advantage. What can be an excuse for not showing up when there is a policy in place that makes it almost impossible for you to fail or make money?
Why do so few young adults stuck in the slums seek out the military as an option? Regardless of the perceived downside, by enlisting, one can instantly detach from their negative influences. The service can further provide opportunities for a career, for paid education and it can offer a chance to declare worth to a future employer or on a resume.
It has become accustomed that the longer one stays in poverty, the sooner they will tie in with gangs and less then favorable influences, so why not get out when you can? By submerging ourselves in positive activity and by seeking to advance continuously in whichever ways we can, we can begin to meet and surround ourselves with positive people.
Athletics, clubs, after school activity and meet up groups are great ways to begin getting around good people. When you get around them, stay around them! Adopt and incorporate the positive qualities that they possess and stay away from the negative influences. In essence, there are times and situations where we may not be able to immediately remove ourselves from negative people, but we can block them out and make better decisions. In doing this we can detach, and we can begin to use the negativity to motivate us and to spur us forward.
5. Start Owning Your Life
It remains impossible to have control over our lives if we continue to point fingers and blame others for our condition, for how we have been treated or for what we do not have. It is imperative as individuals that we get away from this inherited mindset and way of living.
We have no control over where and to whom we were born. We may not be able to choose how we were raised or what had happened to us when we were young, but we do have the ability to slowly make things right for ourselves and for the world around us. If we are to do this, we must start owning our lives and start taking responsibility for our actions. If we start holding ourselves accountable and to a higher standard, then we can begin to start traveling in the right direction!
Living this way will clear the smoke in the air and allow us to finally begin seeing what we need to do to improve our predicament. If we make the honest yet sometimes difficult decision to look ourselves in the mirror, reflect and take the initiative to change, we can transform our lives!
As a people, we must agree upon ways in which we will begin to change, focusing more on ceasing the momentum of destructive patterns and less on providing free handouts. As a society, we must begin to realize and accept the consequences of certain actions and begin to play a role in adjusting a way of life.
As individuals we must begin to take accountability for our lives and take the bull by the horns. If each of us seek to live by the five suggestions mentioned in this article, we can arm ourselves with what is necessary to get out of your negative situation and we can stay focused on moving forward toward a better life.