My mother always loved a good celebration. She kinda milked them for all she could. I wish she was still here today. Her memory is strong and full of her quips, life lessons and funny sayings. 

I wanted to share a few of them through my 2020 lens in celebration this graduation season, which for many of you, has children graduating without the traditions and pomp and circumstance given these uncertain times.

1.    Write your own life script.  You are now CEO of your life. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now. Enjoy the process. Trust your gut. Things may feel uncertain, but even in these uncertain times, there is great opportunity. Opportunities don’t come out of thin air, but with diligence and hard work. Hard work is supposed to be hard. Your life script is not a simple hashtag. It is up to you to go out in the world and turn the page on this new chapter in your story. Make it character rich and filled with exploration and discovery. Be the super hero of your story. 

2.    Build your personal brand.  Jeff Bezos said your personal brand is what people say when you leave the room. Do the best every day to show up as you want to be remembered. Even if you are not sure, know that integrity rules and everyone appreciates the positive person who shows up in service of another. Always do the right thing even when it isn’t easy. I have a wooden sign that says dance like no one is watchingDo the right thing when no one is watching.

3.    Average is officially over. Growing up, a ‘C’ grade was average. Today, it’s not even close to being considered good enough. What was considered average 10 years ago is far below average today. We are entering a time where machines deliver with precision and excellence. Don’t be average. Be excellent. “90 percent of life is just showing up” is a famous Woody Allen quote that simply isn’t reality based. Just showing up doesn’t even come close to cutting it. Another quote of Woody Allen also said, “I would never join a club that would allow me as a member.” Show up as your best self. Deliver excellence. Every day. Without question, and surround yourself with those that do the same.  

4.  It is what it is. It used to bug me when my mother said it. She was curt and swift with the delivery. Usually in response to a complaint or when something unexpected occurred. The class of 2020 were robbed of so much, but my mother would say put on your big girl/boy pants, pick yourself up and continue on. 

5.    You can only control what you can control. Know that the darkest nights turn into the brightest times. We can’t control what happens in the world right now, but we have the power over the choices we make. “You never know how strong you are until being strong is you only choice.” You may not know where these next months will take you. But the best way to move away from fear and anxiety is to take action. Don’t let the distraction of this time be it the pandemic or social media take away your focus. 

6.    Always be learning. My mother was incredibly well read. She knew so much about a lot and took great joy from her continuing education. She was disciplined and if she read a new book, she would share what she learned. When she learned a new skill, you could be sure she would want you to learn it as well. Learning makes us more confident. It gives us depth of character. It’s not about building an expertise, but in becoming an expert in being curious. 

7.    Think big picture. Ask What if? What if you made an unexpected choice? What if you said yes without knowing where it would take you? What if the worst thing possible really turns out to be the best possible thing? Ask what if and see where it takes you.

8.    Be grateful. You have been given the gift of superior education and long lasting friendships. Recognize the gifts you’ve been given each day. Paying tribute has an amazing effect on producing a positive mindset. 

9.    Take on a role model mindset. Emulate the teachers who have inspired you, the friends you have admired, the characters who have stood out. The most influencial person in your life is you. When you recognize your influence over you, it’s a game changer.

My twin boys are launching from University of Southern California and Miami of Ohio this week into a world full of possibilities and opportunities albeit quite different. The wisdom of their grandmother Modi are simple and simply the things that should ground us all in this new-normal and give us power in this great pause.