In the last six months, as host of the Italian American podcast, I have spent a lot of time researching Italian-American culture, but I’ve also had the opportunity to talk to and interview many Italian Americans. There seems to be a major trait that most of these Italian Americans share: They have an intense work ethic, or what I refer to as “hustle.” They hustle in their careers every day. They hustle at home to prepare amazing meals that keep their families together. They hustle.
It seems only logical that this hustle mentality was handed down from our Italian-American ancestors. Most of the Italians who immigrated to America were poor and had very little money, if any, when they arrived. I can’t tell you how many of our podcast guests tell us similar stories of their grandfather or grandmother coming to this country with less than $10 to his or her name. So, of course, our ancestors had to hustle to survive. They worked themselves to the bone every day; their families depended on it. We are here because of their hustle, and now that same forceful work ethic is ingrained within us.
We’ve made it as Italian Americans, haven’t we?
You could make a strong case that many Italian Americans have made it; by “made it,” I mean, we have successful careers and families. We own houses in nice neighborhoods, cars, and even our own businesses. We are lawyers, financial professionals, engineers, doctors, etc. However, no matter how much success we attain, the Italian-American work ethic never seems to stop. It is like a battery that never dies. In a lot of ways, it’s this hustle that brought us this success…but, now what?
In our next episode of The Italian American Podcast, we’ll share our conversation with Tony Reali, host of ESPN’s “Around the Horn.” The minute we met Tony, energy radiated from his being. He was warm and sincere, like many Italian Americans are. He gave us a tour of the studio. He made sure we had everything we needed to be comfortable, and like many of the other guests we have interviewed, his hustle was present every step of the way.
This is a 37-year-old man who has hosted an extremely popular sports television show for 15 years. He joined ESPN in an off-air research position, and then, like many Italian Americans, he worked his way up. On Super Bowl Sunday, about 15 years ago, he received a call with a request to fill in for the host of “Around the Horn,” who could not make it in that day. Reali has been hosting the show ever since. When I say hosting the show, I mean hosting the show full of hustle. His preparation is intense. His focus deliberate. Yet on air, he manages to maintain his light and humorous off-air personality. When I mentioned to him how impressed I was with his ability to be himself on television and not change who he is, he said, “It’s the only way I know how to do it, Anthony.” I got the chills.
Maybe stopping isn’t a good idea. Maybe we can just slow down sometimes.
So maybe turning off this hustle isn’t really a good idea; after all, it’s a part of us. It’s who we really are, and like Tony said, that’s the best way to carry yourself. However, I do feel that we need to slow down sometimes and enjoy what our hustle has helped us to achieve. After all, what’s the point of working so hard if we can’t enjoy the rewards of that hard work.
My great-grandfather, who emigrated from Salerno, sold junk to feed his family. He hustled. I have three young kids that I want to support, so I hustle. My co-host Dolores, who I try to keep up with, is a hustler who I know works hard every day to make her father who is looking down on her proud. Tony Reali has an 18-month old daughter, so he hustles even harder, but smarter way now. My fellow Italian Americans, let’s keep hustling, but let’s do it in a way that allows us to enjoy what our hustle has earned us. While I am confident our ancestors would never tell us to let up on our aggressive and passionate approach to life, I am sure they would want us to slow down once and while and appreciate the success they helped us to create.
Do you feel that hustle that our ancestors have bestowed upon us? Please post about it in the comments section below.
roseann geiger says
Omg this so on point! I grew up in a very italian american town in Queens NY -Corona. This hustle was the norm. To this day the hustle that was instilled in me has gotten me through many difficulties. I am relentless when i need to be. But you are right, sometimes we have to slow down. We have no choice for our health and happiness. Its like the saying”take time to smell the roses” We cant feel guilty to do that. Especially since we have such a talent for beauty in the world – in art, music, FOOD, etc…The old neighborhood is very different now but there is still a mighty core of italian americans who either live there or are involved there. We do our best to help many who are unfortunate and there have been times that we have exhausted ourselves. We must learn to replenish. And what better way as Italian descendants than to appreciate the beauty of “smelling the roses” not only in nature but in the many accomplishments that we as Italian Americans and people of Italian descent worldwide have done. At the end of the day, we appreciate our families and precious laughter. In life we hustle but we also create and we know how to appreciate beauty and good times.
Roseann! We’re so glad the post resonated with you. Your point that this hustle has gotten you through many difficulties demonstrates how it does serve a positive purpose, but, as you say, remembering to slow down and “smell the roses” serves its own positive purpose as well, exactly. Keep hustling, but keep appreciating! :)Thank you for sharing with us!
Anthony Fasano says
Roseann thanks for sharing your thoughts here. What really hit home for me about your comment, is when you said, “we have no choice for our health.” I think that is one weakness we have. We can work really hard and hustle, but we can overwork ourselves easily. I am planning to avoid overworking myself, let’s see what happens 🙂 Ciao…
I think that the American economy is pretty eager still to exploit that Italian American work ethic. One difference between here and Italy is that Americans don’t believe in rest; like I can’t just tell my boss I’m taking the month of August off to take my family to the beach – that isn’t acceptable at most workplaces. So I think our challenge as Italian Americans is to hold onto the Italian zest for life and sense of deserving leisure time that seems so foreign to Americans. It’s true, our ancestors hustled hard so that we could enjoy the fruits of their, and our, labor.
Anthony Fasano says
Gamato, you are right, which is exactly why I don’t work in the corporate world anymore. Too many rules and regulations, and always expected to go 100 mph!