Letter to my Younger self: Chris Jackson

Letter to my Younger self: Chris Jackson

Everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive. That’s why Goodwill turns donated items into free career training to help people in our community achieve the life they want. Learn more at goodwillsp.org/train

Chris Jackson is the president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, a position he’s held since June 2017.

Jackson joined Goodwill in 2010 as vice president of strategic planning and organizational development.

Prior to that, he was vice president of community building for United Way of Central Carolinas and was a principal in the retail client group at Vanguard Group, the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, investment company.

Jackson is a husband, father of three and grandfather of five.

As a youth, he overcame his share of challenges. Today he tells that story through a letter to his younger self.

Chris Jackson Photo:Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont

Dear Chris:

You may not be able to see this today, but I want you to know that the decisions you make over the next several years will lead you to a wonderful life filled with family, friends and purpose.

I know today you are not happy with your life.  At 16, it is hard to see beyond what you are feeling now.

You don’t want to disappoint your family, but you feel disconnected and are often angry with the challenges you’ve had to face. Your decision to drop out of high school and start working seems like the best thing to do.

You can’t know it now, but you will have a range of jobs — working in fast food, selling Beatrice Potter books door to door, driving school and charter buses, collecting bad debts and working in customer service.

Ultimately, however, you will have the opportunity and responsibility to lead thousands of people.

You will learn lessons in each job that will help you later in life. These will be lessons that help you find your path and ultimately your purpose to create access to opportunity so others can pursue their dreams.

You will have many challenges along the way and will make many decisions that you think at the time will lead you to a very difficult outcome. The reality is that each of these challenges will make you stronger. Your family and others will always demonstrate their love and support for you.  

You will meet a young lady who changes the trajectory of your life and becomes your wife. 

You will experience unconditional love and come to understand the power of realizing that others will always have your back. Together you will be blessed with three wonderful children and five grandchildren.  

Some of the lessons you will learn are things you heard growing up, but didn’t believe.

  • Work hard. It is one thing only you can control.
  • Take every opportunity to learn. The best lessons will come from your greatest challenges.
  • Always be great to others. The blessings you share will come back to you when you least expect them and need them the most.
Chris Jackson (right) lends a hand on opening day of their first Fort Mill location.

Your desire to help others will grow, and you will decide to leave a successful, 20-year career in business. This decision will lead to one of the most significant challenges in your professional life, and the one that helps you find your purpose.  

You will start a new career with a nonprofit organization, and your first role will be in an organization that faces an unprecedented scandal. This experience will test all your knowledge and experience and help you understand some important leadership lessons:

  • Always keep people first: Processes and data are important to effectively managing organizations, but people are what makes everything possible. 
  • Stay focused on the mission: Be humble and always act with unquestionable integrity. If there is a challenge, your track record will speak for itself.
  • The power of trust and support: When people trust you and know you have their backs, anything is possible. When you create this type of environment, teams will thrive and be able to manage any challenge together.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Communication is the key to understanding. People appreciate transparency and forthright communication, and effective communication can help organizations move forward, even during the most difficult times.

At this moment, you can’t see that your unconventional path will lead you to be a part of one of the greatest organizations in the past century, an organization where the mission is to partner with people just like you — people who are talented and who aspire for more for themselves and their family but simply need help to find their path — an organization where the environment is focused on not judging people for their past decisions, but encouraging, supporting, and ultimately helping people see possibilities, seize opportunities and prosper.

Edited by Jalon Hill

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