Arianna Huffington started a movement a few years ago called, “The Third Metric.” Its mission is to help people, particularly women, find their own definition of success beyond money and power.
We all know how I feel about chasing money and power, so it’s no surprise that this platform resonated deeply with me. I could summarize the inspiration behind Arianna’s mission, but that just seems silly. She’s Arianna Huffington for God’s sake. I’ll let her speak for herself:
“Over time our society’s notion of success has been reduced to money and power. This idea of success can work — or at least appear to work — in the short term. But over the long term, money and power by themselves are like a two-legged stool — you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. And more and more people — very successful people — are toppling over these days.”
To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond money and power, and takes into consideration well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”
Yes. What she said.
I first came across The Third Metric in 2013 while I was considering the terrifying idea of becoming an entrepreneur. It was precisely what I needed, and when I needed it most. At that point in my career, I’d amassed a set of trophies and titles that were neat, but not enough. I craved something more. I didn’t want more money or power — those metrics had proved to be less and less meaningful over time. I wanted something that felt more whole, significant—more me.
So, I hit the self-help section at Barnes and Noble to figure out what my Third Metric was and how to work it into my life and career. I found my answer in Chapter 3 of Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star, when I was asked to draw a line down the center of a piece of paper, and on the left side, list all the things that drain my energy, and on the right, list all the things that fill me up.
Negative things on the left, positive things on the right.
Interestingly, all the traditional trappings of success ended up on the left side of the paper: big accounts, big responsibility, and lots of pressure. Meanwhile, small, quick projects and small, flexible teams landed on the right.
The themes were very clear once I put pen to paper. Big and overbearing is not my happy place. Small and impactful is. After reading Finding Your Own North Star and working with my life coach, I determined that my Third Metric, my currency beyond money and power, was impact.
When I became an entrepreneur and launched The Mom Complex, I had a guiding light to go by from day one: I care deeply about impacting and improving the lives of other people. I don’t care about working with clients who have millions of dollars. I care about working with clients who want to make the lives of mothers easier.
I don’t care about having multiple offices in multiple cities. I care about having a stunning office in Richmond, Virginia. I even named the company’s creative workspace, “Impact Innovation Studio,” and painted it on the wall, so I’d never forget it.
Determining my Third Metric wasn’t easy. It took hard work and lots of homework, but once I had it, my life got better and the decisions about the company I started became easier. Should we work with freelancers who do stunning work but can’t hit deadlines and cause other people to work on the weekends? Nope. That’s a negative impact. Should we take on a non-mom focused project just because the client has money and they like us? Never. That’s not impact.
More money and power don’t do it for me. Impact works for me. It makes me work smarter, not harder, and it’s making a difference in people’s lives. At The Mom Complex, we’ve received so many tokens of gratitude for the impact we’re having that we had to find a special place to store all the love notes.
You certainly don’t have to start a company to bring your Third Metric to life. You can build it into your current career and life. But first, you have to figure out what your Third Metric actually is.
So what, beyond money and power, fills you with joy and happiness and makes you feel successful beyond belief? As Arianna said, “We all need three-legged stools to survive and avoid crashing and burning.”