Hawken Tells Grads, “You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring”

I’m a big Paul Hawken fan because he uses his business to help foster social change.
He understands how powerful business is in our society and what a business leader who is on his game can do. Inspire people to be better versions of themselves is what great leaders do, whether they’re in business or not, and Hawken’s a master at it.
Here’s some of what he had to say at University of Portland in May:

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.
You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss.

“Do what needs to be done,” Hawken says. That’s such a different mindset from “plaster the town with resumes and pray you land a job.” Whether you’re an ’09 grad or somewhat older than that, there’s wisdom in “Do what needs to be done.” It’s sort of a “follow your bliss” for these troubled times.
I can think of a couple things that need doing. I’m sure you can too.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.