If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like living in the hood, the first thing I can tell you is that you should consider yourself lucky that you only get to wonder. I grew up in 2 different inner-city housing projects in the city of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have some of the notorious hoods or housing projects like New York or Los Angeles, but it was still a pretty rough time full of all the trappings of the ghetto:
- Drug dealers
- Constant gunshots
I grew up in the 80s and 90s when crack was big and all the gangsters—just the Bloods and Crips, along with a few smaller attempts at start-ups in my city—were battling over the street corners and not only killing themselves, but killing other innocents as well.
In fact, one of my earliest memories is watching a kid get run over by a car in a police pursuit. I was only 3.
The articles here dive deep into my personal experiences growing up in the projects. Some of those experiences I wish I never had and others I’ve used to make a better life for myself, but they’re all part of who I am.
Living in the hood makes you mentally tough
Living in the hood forces you to confront reality. I grew up way too fast, but I had to because I didn’t have anyone to protect me from the harsh realities of life. So I had to protect myself.
No one gives a shit about you
One of the first things I learned was “No One Gives A Shit About You”. That article makes some people sad that I developed that outlook on life, but I believe this embracing this truth is an advantage.
What I learned is that all love is transactional—even the love you get from your mother, which should be unconditional, often has conditions put on it. Especially if your mother is dysfunctional.
Life’s not fair
Until I got to high school, I went to school with mostly other poor black people. My high school was across town with middle-class white people. It was the first time in my life that I spent so much time around so many people so much better off than me.
However, just because they had more advantages than me didn’t mean that I would let myself underperform and become just another stereotype. I learn from that experience that life isn’t fair. I wrote more in-depth about that idea that you can read here.
Read: Life’s not fair
How to be street smart
I was never a guy who hustled or did street stuff, but I had to navigate that environment to keep myself safe. When you grow up on the street, you learn how to read people and navigate human nature. It was often a matter of life or death.
In this breakdown of my process and approach to becoming street smart. While I’m not naive enough to think that an article can make you street smart, it can prime you to look for opportunities to develop that side of your intuition.
How to give tough love
Part of being mentally tough is having the ability to be tough on others when they need it. However, you can’t just go in there with guns blazing, saying anything that comes to mind. There is a way to be tactful yet respectful.
Still, a lot of people are too soft and sheltered to ever receive tough love. If I ever wanted to make it out of my situation, I had to be comfortable keeping it real and being a straight shooter. This article teaches what I learned about talking directly to people, even in a harsh environment like the hood, and still getting results
Read: How to give tough love
The 7 benefits of having a rough childhood
Growing up in the at-risk youth demographic isn’t all negative. If you can take the terrible experiences you had in your childhood, learn from them, and use them for good, then you can have an incredible life with many advantages that a lot of people raised in stable homes will never get.
Living in the hood gives you a bad relationship with money
5 reasons you’re broke: How to stop being poor
This article tells lessons I learned from getting $55k in life insurance money when my father died at age 18, only to be broke again in 12 months. I reflect on some of the poor attitudes I had about money, along with many of the things I never learned about money because I grew up poor.
5 lessons from working at a homeless shelter
Working at the homeless shelter was an illuminating experience. I’d been close to being homeless before, but I was always a cool guy so I never had problems finding roommates. I didn’t live in a nice house or anything like that, but I could always find shelter.
Still, it was uncomfortable as I spent most of my 20s living paycheck to paycheck. Working in the homeless shelter showed me how bad it could get and also how quickly it could get that way.
Living in the hood gets you used to dealing with crackheads
9 lessons from living by crackheads & crack dealers
In this article, I talk about my experiences interacting with crackheads and drug dealers from a very young age. My sense of humor has a lot of crack references, and I’m sure one of the main reasons is that I used jokes to cope with this craziness.
How to hustle like a crackhead
It’s amazing what crackheads will do to get money for more crack. What’s even more amazing is the transformation that addicts go through when they’re finally able to channel that energy into something positive.
This article breaks down the hustle of a crackhead so that you can harness it without ever having to smoke crack.
29 crackhead quotes
This is a collection of the most outrageous things I’ve heard crackheads say or have heard people say about crackheads. Hilarious but some interesting gems in there.
Read: 29 crackhead quotes
Business and life lessons The Notorious B.I.G. 10 crack commandments
I wasn’t sure if I should put this in the money section or the crackhead section. The 10 crack commandments is a hip hop classic in which The Notorious B.I.G. gives a step-by-step playbook on how to succeed in the dope game.
I break the song down to help you apply the lessons to your life and non-drug-related business ventures for success.
Living in the hood teaches you the value of having good parents
Problems growing up with an absent father(and how to fix them)
Fatherless households have arguably been the greatest scourge of low-income, inner-city, African American communities. I was raised by a single mom, so I know all the ways this damages and sets boys back.
I’m fortunate that I was completely ruined, but many aren’t so lucky. In this article, I not only break down the stats and demonstrate why being raised without your father is bad, but I offer some solutions for both the mother and son to implement.
How to forgive your parents
At the end of the day, you realize that your parents did the best job they could. This is hard for people to accept, but no one tries to make their own life worse. This means that if they never matured or were able to provide for you, they just never learned or developed the emotional strength to try.
I’ve written a lot about my mother in newsletter. I’m fortunate to have learned how to forgive her for what I went through when I was growing up. This article explores the strategies I used to forgive my mom, which started my own journey of healing.
Living in the hood will give you hard-earned life wisdom
Is karma real? 3 life lessons from a troll
Because of the structure of the neighborhood I grew up in, I always had a healthy respect for how I treated people around me. You never knew the extent of someone’s connections or how bad things could get for you if you made enemies with the wrong people. To me, this was a basic example of karma.
Maybe that’s why the spiritual idea of karma is so easy for me to accept. In this article, I write about a rather interesting experience I had that demonstrated how this principle applies, even in the massive digital world. This is a must-read if you want to know how to make sure that you keep your karma right.
5 things I learned growing up in the projects
This is the article that discusses the five biggest things I’ve learned from growing up in the projects. The projects are a place where you are schooled in the hard lessons of human nature. It’s where I developed street smarts and manners, toughness, and fearlessness, but also humility and respect.
This is a short read that will change the way you think of people who grow up in the ghetto. You may even wish that you had been unfortunate enough to have the same experience.
How to avoid a street fight, and what to do if you can’t
This article might very well save your life. Too many people today think that street fights are something to be glamorized. The reality is that street fights almost always alter your life, and not in a positive way.
Read this article to minimize the chances of you ever being in a street fight. You will also learn the most effective thing to do if you do find yourself backed into an alley where you have to defend your life.
Lessons from the ghetto: Willingness to fight
Although I was a professional boxer, I’m not naturally a violent person. I had to learn how to push myself to a dark place where I’d be willing to hurt another person. It helped that I had several experiences of being bullied as a kid. However, the bullies in my neighborhood were seriously violent individuals.
I fought a lot, not because I wanted to fight, but because I knew that I couldn’t get away with being in peace. So I viewed fighting as the lesser of two evils. They were going to harass me regardless of what I did, so I figured I’d at least make them pay for it.
Read this article to learn the psychology of a victim turned victor and how to keep yourself from ending up in a position where people think they can just take advantage of you.