The Power of Connection: CP @ TEDx Youth in Columbia Heights! Click here for full transcript.
May 29, 2014
I wanted to start with a quote from Paul Hawken, a leading environmental entrepreneur and advocate for sustainable business. In his 2009 Commencement address to the University of Portland, he says:
"Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation... but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.
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."
I love this quote because it so beautifully illustrates the urgency with which we need bright, capable, and motivated people to actively work with each other to make a positive difference in the world.
The good news is that millennials are not just motivated to make a positive difference, we are perfectly positioned to succeed in doing it. According to a 2010 Pew Research Survey, millennials are optimistic, motivated to take on greater levels of responsibility, and prioritize helping people in need over having a high paying job. A vast majority of millennials stated that they would consider leaving an employer if its social responsibility values did not align with their expectations.
We are the most highly educated generation in American history, as well as the most racially and culturally diverse, and two thirds of people representing all generations view us to be more tolerant and accepting of difference than previous generations. We are digital natives, fluent in social media and agile adopters of digital platforms. We are collaborative, creative, adaptive, and idealistic. And we can hustle like nobody’s business.
All of these attributes position us to be natural problem solvers and innovators, and you can already see that all over the world millennials are stepping up to the challenge and creating real and radical change in their communities.
Which brings us to a real and significant problem: the earth may be hiring, but it’s not necessarily lining up with health benefits and a sweet 401k. And in the real world of hiring, the situation isn’t much better. In 2013, over half of young adults 25 and under were either un- or underemployed, and the number of young adults 25 and under working for minimum wage has risen 70% in the past decade. 70%.
So at a time when there is an enormous pool of educated talent eager and motivated to make a positive difference, and at a time when new and dramatically different approaches to the norm are required, the majority of thinkers in our generation are being siphoned into low-paying, low-reward, and low-impact positions, and this is in a way that will negatively affect both their future employment options and their earning potential over the trajectory of their careers. It is hurting our generation, and inhibiting our natural potential to create real and powerful change.
Unfortunately, there is no immediate solution to this problem. We can’t wave a wand and change the number of jobs that are available and what those jobs are. We can’t always change the types of opportunities that are immediately open and available to us. But we can change the way we think about work, life, and the impact we want to make in the world.
A year and a half ago I left my chosen career path in order to explore the limits of my own potential, and to reimagine myself as the professional I truly wanted to be. I have dedicated my professional career to helping people build personal and professional connections around the change they want to make, because I believe everybody has the ability to make a positive difference, and we should all feel supported in that.
The truth is that you have the power to decide and actively pursue your personal impact right now. Organize a project related to your cause, and do something meaningful as a way of building skills you can relate to your career. Be proactive in connecting with people and finding ways that you can get involved in the cause areas that are important to you. The first step is setting an intention – identifying your potential for impact (what you are passionate about that translates to your work), your skills (what you are good at) and your needs (where you need help).
Being able to determine where you need help, and knowing how to ask for it is important, because nothing of great substance has ever been accomplished alone. Clear and meaningful connection is so important in our ability to succeed in our goals, and to aspire to accomplish the unthinkable. To succeed we need to believe in ourselves, but even more importantly than that, we need others to believe in us. That belief is the difference between an idea that is realized, and one that stalls out.
For me, it has not just been about doing more with less, it has been about doing more with others. And once again, this is an area where millennials shine – we are all so incredibly connected, all part of a global community that can communicate with each other whenever from wherever. It’s incredible. Less than a hundred years ago people would have said it was magic. And it is. It is the powerful potential of a connected generation.
So use that ability to connect to create real change now. Find the people that care about what you care about and win when you win. Find the people that will stand in this with you. Because what Paul Hawken said is true: You are brilliant, and the earth is hiring. And there is no better time to start than now.
It’s your future. It’s your world. It’s your time.
-- Eleanor Hall, Executive Director, TEDxYouth@Columbia Heights
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