Things My Grandma Taught Me -- and How I Live By Those Lessons Today!

By Dr. Dawj Sangster


I live my life according to invaluable lessons that my Grandma taught me.

As a girl, there was a moment when I tried to enjoy my childhood; a moment when my innocence was in place and all seemed happy.  We lived in a house on the south side of Chicago, in the Englewood community, where there were gangs, drugs, and violence.  There was much negativity going on around me, which some of my older family members participated in.   My Grandma tried to shield me from it, while instilling in me solid values on faith, independence, relationships, integrity, and doing my best at everything. 

I can remember us sitting and having long talks about each topic, while she would go on and on about the importance of living my life by those values, and to never let them be compromised. 

We are sometimes faced with situations that may cause us to rethink what those values truly mean, and to consider if they should be compromised.  As I reflect on each area, I ask you to think about your own values, and whether you have ever, or would ever, compromise them. 



Our family grew up in the Baptist church and I spent quite a bit of time on the church pews nodding and/or eating peppermint candy.  One thing I remember vividly is my Grandma telling me that I should be able to keep my faith, when everything else has failed or is falling around me.  I do remember as I got older being in situations where if it were not for my faith in God, I would never have made it through my rough patches. 

The lesson — Never compromise your faith.



I was taught that even as a woman, I should know how to work, cook, clean, and be able to stand on my own two feet, whether I was blessed with a spouse or not.   Grandma had been married for years, but she also worked and retired from Chicago State University as a custodian.   She felt that as a woman, I could still be a good mate, while having the ability to stand on my own if necessary.  This was vital for me during homelessness and divorce, because I was placed in situations where I had to stand on my own, and I was able to do it. 

The lesson — Never regret your independence.



Our family valued relationships.  Grandma felt that cultivating relationships with family and friends was important to personal and professional growth.  She talked endlessly about being a good friend, not stabbing people in the back, and helping others.  We spent time at the soup kitchen feeding homeless people, and those who were less fortunate than us, making them feel special and appreciated.  Even back then, I was learning the value of appreciating others regardless of their upbringing and personal situations.   

The lesson – Never lose the value of building relationships.



Grandma was very adamant about a woman having integrity in all that she stands for.  If she said she was going to do something, she did it.  It was known that a person’s word was just as good as signing a contract, because it meant something back then.  These days, people will laugh and lie in your face, while gently sticking a dagger in your back.  What has happened to integrity, honesty and truth in family, relationships and business? I have heard tales of, and personally witnessed people stealing items, money, business ideas, and spouses.  Are you serious? We have to do a better job at valuing integrity in our relationships and in business.  We can accomplish so much more if we learn to work with and not against each other. 

The lesson — Never compromise integrity for a buck.


Be the Best

Grandma wanted me to excel at everything.  She felt like I should reach for the top even though I was sometimes called a nerd.  I can remember reciting two-page-long Easter speeches, because Grandma wanted me to shine.  I entered competitions and was always in the top rankings because I knew my Grandma’s expectations, and I enjoyed my accomplishments.  What about you? Are you striving for the best or do you settle for mediocrity?

The lesson – never do less than your BEST.


Think about your values and upbringing.   Consider whether or not they align with those of your business associates and the people that you call your friends.  How do they align with the way you live your life? , Take some time to write down those values and ensure that while you are purposely living your BEST life, that you do NOT risk compromising them.




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  • Dawj, this is so right on time! As we grow in our own businesses and as Six Brown Chicks I fully understand that the negative will also come with all of the positives. I'm honored to be centered around so many amazing women and wanted to thank you for the reminder as well as agree with you about our Grandmothers dropping that very important wisdom on us.

    Thank you and I'm so very glad and honored to be able to call you my friend. I love and respect you and the impact that you are constantly making in our lives and the lives of others. You are truly an example of what it means to "Think Royally"

  • My grandmother taught me soooo many things. I wouldn't even know where to begin. She always wanted me to follow my dreams and by all means get an Education!

    Thanks for sharing Brown Chick.

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