I’m honored to address you as you launch your career. Some of you are excited about what happens next. Others are perhaps anxious about the future.
All of you have one thing in common – you, and only you are the architect of your next move. Yes, climate change is real and present. Yes, there is conflict in the world. Yes, the global economy is flat. True, it might be hard to find the job you think you want. I have no doubt that there is a struggle ahead for each and every one of you.
I can also tell you, without a doubt, that you can take comfort in two realities.
First, embrace change.
It is the nature of human beings to exist in states of change – to dwell in places that are between what was, what is, and what will be. We are born to try, to be better, to become. It’s what makes us great builders.
We live long lives amongst elders and youngsters. We observe and learn from each other. Some of my best teachers have been dead for thousands of years. I learn from their struggles to be human. I can walk in their steps.
You cannot avoid walking in their steps.
As you do, respect your fears by getting really, really good at something. Anything. Not a work thing. Something personal. Learn to ski. Play the piano. Commit to learning something small and beautiful.
When you commit to something small and beautiful, you can have happiness every day of your life, simply by returning to that commitment. When you get knocked down, get up for that thing. That small and beautiful thing that you know, intimately – that you can truly own.
Paint a scene. Dance the tango. Sing with your child. Grow a garden. Get on your bike and go fast. It really doesn’t matter what you try. Just try something. If it’s right, you’ll know it. If it’s not right, you’ll know that too. Try again.
Second: When you stumble, get up!
Who does hard things? Those that can. You have everything you need, to become great at what you want.
If you don’t stumble, you aren’t taking enough risks. If you don’t risk enough, you can’t find your limitations. And if you don’t reach your current limitations, you won’t grow. You are simply a net consumer of energy, resources, and other people’s time. Do yourself a favor and set on this path to find your purpose.
When I stumble, I recall that small thing of beauty and place it in the majesty of the bigger picture. If my tomatoes wilt, I think about the regal forests of the Pacific Northwest. If I fall off my skis, I think about the ice age covering Europe. Center yourself by reestablishing your true place in the world. We are each a tiny speck of life in the sublime and terrible mystery of the universe.
So go forth, young graduates. Find something you love enough to be great at it. Keep looking for it, go fast. And when you find it, own it, totally and completely. Within the great abundance of life, within something way bigger than you: dare to be great and create abundance all around you. We need that from each other. We owe that to each other.
Congratulations – dream big, execute well, and repeat. It’s that simple.
A nationally recognized leader in sustainability, Tom Paladino is the founder and CEO of Paladino and Company.