I have been thinking a lot about my Nan, and what she would make of what’s going on in the world right now.
My nan was born into an East End Family of 18 children. YES you read that right EIGHTEEN.
My Nan started smoking at 11, had stopped going to school by the age of around 13, and was snogging American soldiers for packs of Nylons by around the age of 16…
I loved my Nan dearly.
She taught me so many valuable lessons about life, about being yourself, about endurance.
She did not have an easy life. She raise 8 children of her own. Worked many jobs. A factory worker in the Trebor sweet factory, which contributed to (along with her 40 a day smoking habit), her losing all of her teeth in her late twenties. She ran a corner shop with my grandad in Manor Park, where one day she fought off a wanna be robber, by sitting on him lol…and once her children were grow and having children of her own, she worked as a childminder and cleaner.
She knew how to graft.
She did however have some serious money mindset issues. With a stock of things she’d only keep for best. Always feeling uncomfortable with anyone wanting to spend money on her. The furthest she ever travelled to was to Scotland to visit relatives…I don’t think she ever got a plane out of the UK. She loved nothing more than squeezing a folded up £5 note into your hand (without my Mum seeing it), and she loved having a blow out at the Bingo.
My Nan would often take me for the weekend to give my Mum a break (who had 6 kids…can you see a pattern here) and one time she caught me bunking off school in East Ham, about to shoplift some coverted stationary items from WHSmiths…she joked that she had been watching me from a distance and intervened before I got myself arrested.
Rather than punish me or tell my mum, she took me to the cafe and spent some time with me.
Whenever things get hard in my business (which I can be honest about have been of late) I think about my nan. I think about the graft that she knew. The washing of 8 children’s clothes by hand, or later in a twin tub. I think about the meals she would cook, and the sacks of potatoes she’d get through each week…and the time my cousin Joe realised chips came from potatoes and not the freezer.
I think about how her and my grandad installed a work ethic in all of their children, who all worked hard…if not smart.
And so…the lessons?
I sometimes think of my Nan as the character from Catherine Tate’s show, the sweary nan, I’m not sure my Nan actually swore that much, but her ability to say what she thought without giving a hit about what others thought, was inspiring. She’d say “Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter’ which I think is quite insightful.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF A BIT OF HARD WORK
All this bullshit that business gets to be easy is making people unwell. Yes there are hacks and smarter working practices, but many of the people selling these are doing so from a position of privilege. When you are the one responsible for putting food on the table or keeping a roof over your heads, there is no length to what you would go to. There is no shame in grafting.
ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING UNEXPECTED UP YOUR SLEEVE
My nan was one of the most resourceful women I’d ever met, she always had something fun or useful up her sleeve. A bottle of vodka in her handbag, a loo roll shoved under the pram, a sweet or a lollipop in her pocket. She never relied on what might be available, often bringing a packed lunch and a flask of tea wherever she went.
FIND THE HUMOUR IN EVERYTHING
My nan was funny right up to the last few months she was alive. The last few years of her life were very tough with a range of health issues including vascular dementia…but boy oh boy did she make us laugh. Often with tales of what she got up to, sometimes taking the micky out of other people. She once turned up to a fancy dress party in her late 60s in one of my dancing school tutus, her bum hanging out and everything.
Let’s not pretend the world is an easy place right now.
But we must look for the lessons, we must remember who we are and where we came from. There is more that connects us than divides us. And although I’d rather us not have to go through tough times to enjoy the good times…we do learn, we do evolve, we do learn to be ressilliant, resourceful and grateful for what we have.
I will leave you with one final story.
It was 1989, I was 10 years old, and we had gone on a big trip to Thorpe Park. My Mum, her 6 kids, my Aunts & Uncles, their kids, we were about 40 strong as a family. We had enjoyed a great day at the park, gone on all the rides, swam at the man made beach, ravaged a massive packed lunch and then been treated to ice creams…and as we made our way to the car parks at about 5pm my nan who would have been in her 60s all of a sudden fell to the floor and rolled down a massive big hill.
I thought she had had a heart attack, or had tripped and the level of panic among the adults told me something was up.
And yet, when we all ran down to the bottom, my uncles helping her back to her feet she announced with a smile
“I’ve always wanted to do that”
Struggling to know how to move forward in your business right now?
Julie Creffield is a serial entrepreneur, and creative business mentor with a passion for building and activating powerful and profitable communities, and helping solopreneurs to THINK bigger and PERFORM better
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