Dear Johnny…

07/06/2016

I’ve loved being your older brother. It’s been incredible to watch you grow up. You’re smart, caring, hard working, and nearly as good at basketball as me.

I always wished we could have gone to school together, but being five years older than you, we just missed each other. So you were forced to follow in my footsteps – often being referred to as “Victor’s little brother.”

Still, you found your way. And when I visited home after leaving for college, people came to know me as “Johnny’s older brother.”

I always smiled when I heard that.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen you pursue your passions of music, health & wellness, and community. You’ve found an amazing girlfriend – a rock in your life. I’m watching with great pride as you navigate the tricky waters of college and work. I only wish I lived closer to be a bigger part of the small moments in between.

Then…last spring, when you told me that you wanted to attend Ei’s 3-month program, Leap Semester. I was beside myself. The entire team at Ei & Sage Corps cheered at the possibility of you joining.

A few weeks later, when I read your application for this Summer’s Founding Class, my eyes welled with tears (I know…I’m a sap). I was full of pride when I read your responses to the questions about why you wanted to attend and what you hoped to learn.

You had been talking about needing experience to see where your skills fit in the world. College hadn’t afforded you an immersive space to explore your future career. And now the very thing I’d been working to create was going to be helpful – to my own little brother! You were even going to stay with me for the classes in Chicago before traveling to a work experience in a new city. I couldn’t wait.

Then our worlds were turned upside down.
Dad was diagnosed with an advanced form of Pancreatic Cancer and all of our plans were put on hold. There was so much sadness in April. There still is.

But I see that fire in your eye. Even though things seem impossibly difficult, you know what you need to make the most of your work and life during these final months of college. Since you couldn’t be part of our 3-month college program, I’m not sure how to be helpful from a distance, so I thought I’d start with this note.

Let’s make something…
If we could have spent time together, I would have encouraged you to spend the summer making things –  for a company and/or for yourself. Life is similar to being a builder. The more you build, the more skilled and confident you become.

But it’s hard. Your mind fills with questions about what you should build and whether or not it will be a giant waste of time and money. It’s easier to plan than to make.

But making something – even something seemingly small – pushes you to take those questions and curiosities and channel them into something you can examine and share. Taking those risks moves you to learn about yourself, build relationships, and have something to share with your community and maybe even future employers.

Podcast?
Most recently, you told me about making a Podcast highlighting local entrepreneurs. That’s brilliant, Johnny!

You mentioned that some people critiqued the idea and said you need more authority before doing such a thing. Don’t listen to them. Make it. Start with just  2-3 interviews – one a month for three months. And see where it leads. Their feedback is just one perspective. Let it educate you, not stop you.

Here’s the thing…
As soon as you start, you will inevitably want to quit at some point. You’ll make every excuse under the sun – especially with how much is going on at home. But keep things simple and drive ahead.

I’m even thinking about when we play ball together. You’re a good shooter, but you’re awesome at driving to the basket. And I love watching what you do when you’re about to drive to the basket: you glance up, glance to both sides of me, and then before I can guess which way you’re going…you become a blur as you make your layup. It’s awesome.

It took a lot of practice for you to gain that kind of confidence. Now, you need to apply that thinking to projects like this.

I’ll be here…
I know the days ahead will have their challenges. But that’s not all they’ll have. They can be some of your best. There is a lot we can’t control right now, so take things you can control and make them great. You’ll never regret doing so. And no matter what happens, I’m in this with you. I want nothing more than for you to flourish.

If anything I’m making can support you, just ask. Most recently, the Ei team and I have decided to put a lot of our work into a guided, online experience to help individuals like you design internships, apprenticeships, and personal projects in their own communities. If you want to be part of Leap Course, I’ll cover the cost and we can talk through things more.

Whatever you do, just know, I believe in you and am in your corner. Always.

Love,
Victor

PS: Read Johnny’s response to this letter at: http://victorsaad.com/dear-victor/