I hardly know where to begin. I have written and rewritten this letter to you half a dozen times over the last three months. Each time, I cry a little more — tears of joy of course— because the man I look up to was once my little boy. Words never seem to fail me. But this time there is so much I want to say, and I fear so little space to say it in.
This week, you received the dreaded email informing you that due to the coronavirus pandemic, classes will not start as planned on campus this fall. Instead, the first semester of your freshman year will be at home - not at Lafayette in Pennsylvania. I know how frustrating this is for you — and no doubt, for many of your classmates across the nation who are experiencing the same thing.
This has been such an incredibly uncertain and difficult time as you all try to get on with your lives and your education. But I promise you, you’ll be better for it. As I told you on our drive together, Logan, distance learning and communication is how we now operate in the business world, whether through email, phone calls, or Zoom. In the business world, we learn in real-time and lean on friends, colleagues and mentors when we need help or guidance. Now, you too, will be challenged to do the same. I have no doubt it will make you a more curious, independent learner and require you to ask for help in ways you never expected -- I hope teaching you invaluable lessons in growth and humility in the process.
I can’t tell you that everything will be ideal and “back to normal” after this semester, or the next, or the next. What I can tell you is that the best things in life happen when you least expect them. In living through the pandemic, you have had the privilege of witnessing the best and the worst of human behavior: on the one hand, the heroism of first-responders, healthcare providers, and on the other hand. . . well, at times, the occasional sad and cynical triumph of politics over science and good sense. For good and bad, you have been witness to history.
But you have choices in life. We all do. We can dwell on what doesn’t work and get tripped up in second-guessing and regrets. Or we can march forward building a new tomorrow and a more perfect world. There have been screw-ups over the last few months even in our home: mornings where there was nothing for breakfast in the house, and you stared at an empty refrigerator while mom was on a Zoom call discussing food-insecurity and our organization’s emergency school-feeding fund with partners and supporters. The irony of that isn’t lost on me.
But there are some constants in life, things that the pandemic and the resulting fallout to all our lives doesn’t change. I’ll call them “Mom-isms!” I hope they serve you the same way they have served me and give you the early guidance you need to thrive in the years ahead.
1. Covet relationships. Value them. Cultivate them. Know when to lean on friends, teachers and family members, and when someone else’s silence is a call for help.
2. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. End of story. A promise made is a debt incurred.
3. Pay forward every favor, good deed, or piece of luck you’re fortunate enough to experience. An act of kindness can change someone’s life, and that is a kind of superpower we all have within us.
4. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are.
5. Laughter really is the best medicine. So find people in your life who make you smile – and keep them there.
6. Try to enjoy the “process,” as much as you do the end result. Without the journey the finish line is far less meaningful.
7. Always listen before you speak – or better yet, listen instead of speaking. Silence is both an art form and a sign of confidence.
8. If a door is opened for you, or if a circumstance turns in your favor, chances are someone else had a hand in it. Thank them. Then thank them again. And then do the same for someone else.
9. There are only two reasons for doing something: passion and purpose. You doing something because you love doing it, or you do something because it is meaningful, helpful, and necessary. It should never be for the money or the accolades. Those are false gods.
10. Change is the price of survival.
Logan, if you’ve learned nothing else from the crazy times we’re living through right now, I hope it’s this: sometimes the ultimate antidotes to noise, confusion, worry, and the anxiety of the unknown . . . are humility, empathy, action, and genuine caring about others. You don’t have to save the world – but the simple act of trying is a sacred demonstration that you give a damn. Give a damn.
As you and the Class of 2020 take an important life step in a strange time in our nation’s and our planet’s history, keep in mind that, perhaps more than ever before, you have the chance to create the change you wish to see in the world. Please learn from this moment. And remember that great leaps of faith are all we have when we don’t have all the answers.
We often read about the number of successful ventures and profitable corporations that were launched during the Great Depression. The reason for that is simple: times of transition and challenge are times of great opportunity. I would like to think that the opportunities that this challenging time is creating for your generation is the silver lining in the dark clouds of the past several months.
I love you -- truly, madly deeply.
Alexis Glick is Chief Executive Officer of GENYOUth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthier school communities through programs presented in partnership with the National Football League and the National Dairy Council. Glick also serves as a frequent contributor to many national and international news programs, providing her perspective on global business topics of importance, the financial markets and CEO leadership trends. Prior to GENYOUth’s inception, Glick previously served as a senior media executive, and also appeared in the anchor role on NBC’s Today Show and CNBC’s Squawk Box. In addition to her current executive responsibilities at GENYOUth, and enjoying her active role as mom to four kids, Glick is active in several national and local non-profit institutions. She is a frequent, strategic advisor to CEOs for some of the largest international, blue-chip and Fortune 500 companies on issues relating to media strategy, business development, investor relations and communications and advises professional athletes on social media, branding and public speaking.