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Alum Podcast Hosts Seek to ‘Elevate’ Post-College Life

Hosts Share 5 Tips for Solidifying Mental Fortitude

By Dylan Manfre M.Jour. ’23

Parker Yablon ’18 and Sam Panitch ’18

From left, Parker Yablon and Sam Panitch have recorded hundreds of episodes of their podcast, "Elevation Nation," which explores topics related to building their adult lives after graduation.

Photo courtesy of Sam Panitch ’18 and Parker Yablon ’18

Sam Panitch ’18 and Parker Yablon ’18 turned to a whiteboard to workshop what didn’t feel right in their lives.

The two friends had enjoyed their University of Maryland experience, Panitch as an operations management and systems analytics major and Yablon studying government and politics. They learned business skills from being in a fraternity and running a small food delivery business. Panitch sharpened his public speaking skills as a tour guide with Maryland Images.

They got hired by the same consulting firm when they graduated and liked their jobs, but ultimately felt depressed and like they lacked a larger purpose.

Panitch and Yablon wrote down three of the big life questions that they—and many 20-somethings just starting out—were struggling to answer: Who am I? What is my fuel? What is my vision?

Talking with other UMD friends and their families, they realized they weren’t alone. They believed their discussion—which they put under the theme of “mental fortitude”— could help others make sense of their own transitions and hit upon the idea of creating a podcast.

“I think for us, it’s how can we make a difference in the lives of other people and make a difference in the world?” Yablon said.

Two and a half years later, Panitch believes the authenticity of “Elevation Nation” is what makes it stand out. In their quest to navigate the sometimes-murky waters of adulthood, he and Yablon bring on a wide variety of people: entrepreneurs, successful business professionals, artists, athletes, fitness and dating experts and more. They ask every guest what their mental motto is.

In their latest episode, featuring D.C. comedian Sarah Fitz, she responded, “You gotta laugh … even if something bad happens to you, find a way to laugh about it.”

Hearing those answers excites them both because they believe everyone has a story to tell.

“Not every day is great, and we don't pretend that it is. We have guests that maybe don't have huge followings or showcases, but we give them an opportunity to tell their story,” Panitch said.

The podcast, available on Apple, Spotify and other major outlets, has generated a community of over 20,000 listeners and supporters they call “elevators”—people who are in the continuous pursuit of improving their quality of life and gaining fulfillment.

After recording more than 230 episodes, they’ve developed a few major takeaways from their conversations that they believe college students can benefit from:

“People who matter will make the effort”
Panitch had a lot of friends in college through his fraternity involvement in Alpha Epsilon Pi and his classes. As college and eventually post-graduation life went on, it was harder to maintain those friendships. People move away and start professional lives—but those that stick around have a meaningful effect.

“I talk to Parker every single day. I talk to Parker more than my family. Probably, he hates me for it,” Panitch laughed.

The point: You’ll know which relationships are important to strengthen and preserve, as well as those it’s OK to let fade. But make sure to follow through on what your gut tells you.

Power of accountability
The pair calls this concept “fuel” for a successful life. Yablon said it is his top priority, and he encourages young adults and college students to make it theirs as well. Make decisions, own your choices and learn from them, he urged.

“To do something once or twice, that’s easy,” Yablon said. “It’s doing it every single day or week or whatever it might be and holding yourself accountable when you don’t do that, that’s hard.”

You gotta do
Yablon’s mother would tell him growing up that his decisions would affect him for the rest of his life. It was a concept he never understood until he graduated from Maryland and began to run Elevation Nation with Panitch.

“There’s going to be ramifications whether they’re good or bad, regardless,” Yablon said.

Yablon encourages listeners to be self-starters. Not every day will you wake up with a burst of energy like feeling shot out of a cannon, but on days when the energy is there, decide what you’re going to do and stick with it.

Therapy is cool
Yablon and Panitch are in therapy like many adults. One of their goals in the podcast is to destigmatize the mental health conversation. They encourage listeners to feel comfortable sharing their experiences, and the two get vulnerable about what they are going through. For example, in one episode, Panitch discussed how he believed he was having a poor work-life balance and was spending excessive time thinking about projects while off the clock.

Overall, Panitch believes that young people should feel at ease with going to therapy which is why they discuss it often.

“I like to joke that (Elevation Nation) was our therapy before we started going to therapy, which Parker and I both go to now and absolutely love and think it’s great to work on ourselves,” Panitch said.

Go outside … immediately
With more people since the pandemic working from home or in hybrid formats and some classes being asynchronous or remote, the two are massive proponents of spending time outside. Whether it’s homework, walking the dog, running or other exercise—anything to get outside has been shown to have a positive effect.

“Being outside is very therapeutic,” Panitch said. “I think being outside is crucial to mental health as humans. We need to unplug from technology and get back to nature. It's in our DNA. I've felt anxiety and stress diminish when I've been able to spend ample time outside.”



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