Arianna Huffington on a New Definition of Success
But our ability to regularly get back to this place of wisdom—like so many other abilities—depends on how much we practice and how important we make it in our lives. And burnout makes it much harder to tap into our wisdom. In an op-end in The New York Times, Erin Callan, former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers, who left the firm a few months before it went bankrupt, wrote about the lessons she learned about experiencing burnout: "Work always came first, before my family, friends and marriage—which ended just a few years later."
Looking back, she realized how counterproductive overworking was. "I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place with at least some better version of a personal life," she wrote. In fact, working to the point of burnout wasn't just bad for her personally. It was also, we now know, bad for Lehman Brothers, which no longer exists. After all, the function of leadership is to be able to see the iceberg before it hits the Titanic. And when you're burned out and exhausted, it's much harder to see clearly the dangers—or opportunities—ahead. And that's the connection we need to start making if we want to accelerate changing the way we live and work.
Well-being, wisdom, and wonder. The last element to the Third Metric of success is the willingness to give of ourselves, prompted by our empathy and compassion. America's Founding Fathers thought enough of the idea of the pursuit of happiness to enshrine it in the Declaration of Independence. But their notion of this "unalienable right" did not mean the pursuit of more ways for us to be entertained. Rather, it was the happiness that comes from feeling good by doing good. It was the happiness that comes from being a productive part of a community and contributing to its greater good.
There is plenty of scientific data that shows unequivocally that empathy and service increase our own well-being. That's how the elements of the Third Metric of success become part of a virtuous cycle.
If you are lucky, you have a "final straw" moment before it's too late. For me, it was collapsing from exhaustion in 2007. For New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, it was obsessively checking his email via his in-seat phone on a transatlantic flight, leading him to confess, "My name is Mark, and I'm a techno-addict." For Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed, it was contemplating "one minute bedtime stories" for his two-year-old son to save time. For Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, it was a skiing accident that left him with a broken neck and eventually led him to the rejuvenating practices of yoga and meditation. For HopeLab president Pat Christen, it was the alarming realization that, due to her dependence on technology, "I had stopped looking in my children's eyes." For Anna Holmes, the founder of the site Jezebel, it was the realization that the deal she had made with herself came at a very high price: "I realized, ‘Okay, if I work at 110 percent, I get good results. If I work a little harder, I'll get even more out of it.' The caveat of this success, however, had personal repercussions: I never relaxed... I was increasingly stressed... Not only was I posting once every ten minutes for twelve hours straight, but I also worked for the two and a half hours before we started posting and late into the night to prepare for the next day." She finally decided to leave Jezebel. "It took over a year to decompress... a year until I was focusing more on myself than on what was happening on the Internet."