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Redefining Success: Takeaways From Our Third Metric Conference

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It's now been a week since our first-ever women's conference, which was also the first event held in my new apartment -- a non-traditional but very rewarding housewarming. I'd especially like to thank my incredible co-host Mika Brzezinski. She was the perfect partner and proof that, even when putting on a stress-inducing conference about stress reduction, you can be calm, graceful and wise.

And though we haven't altered our culture's definition of success yet (the conference's theme), I think it's safe to say that the conference itself was a big success. It truly felt like we had captured a moment.

In putting together the event, we originally invited people who had written or spoken about what we call Third Metric themes -- how we live our lives, how we prioritize our well-being and ability to give back at work and at home, and how to deal with stress and productivity. But as word got out about the conference, people not normally associated with these themes began emailing both Mika and me and saying how much they'd been thinking about these same issues. So, clearly the conference and its theme of redefining success beyond money and power to include things like well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving back had touched a nerve.

And for those in attendance, or following via our live blog (which you can still access here), it was great to hear others' thoughts and perspectives on these issues, to share their journeys, their epiphanies, their stress-reduction and mindfulness techniques, and to hear about the moments when our speakers knew they had to change their lives. It was, as we'd hoped, somehow larger than the sum of its parts. And the conversation is continuing. The Third Metric is now a permanent section on our site and you can find blog posts and news and tips and personal stories related to it here.

But this is just the beginning. We didn't want to just start the conversation -- we wanted to start the process of changing habits and changing lives. Of course, changing habits is not easy -- it requires diligence, resolve, and drive. So as we go forward, I hope we all -- both those who were in attendance and anybody else who's interested in redefining success -- can find ways to be each other's tribes and remind each other of the need to recharge and renew ourselves. We know we all agree on the broad issues, but knowing something intellectually is different than embracing it emotionally -- and, most importantly, acting on that knowledge.

That's why the conference felt so satisfying. We're constantly being pulled away from our real priorities by work and technology and what we think we need to do in order to succeed. It's very easy to lose sight of what truly matters -- that's why it's helpful to regularly connect with others, articulate our thoughts and fears, and try to ingrain new and healthier habits in order to dislodge the stubborn and unsustainable old ones.

There were many moments that have stayed with me from the conference. In our first panel, John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, talked about the need for... love:

We can't solve the problems at the consciousness we're currently at. We need our leaders to release love. Love is in the closet. And we all know women on average have a much higher emotional, spiritual and social intelligence than men do. Men's metaphors for corporations are primarily war metaphors, sports metaphors, and Darwinian metaphors -- survival of the fittest. Those are antithetical to having love in the culture. So, if love is going to come out of the corporate closet, it's going to have to be women who release it.

Senator Claire McCaskill linked her ability to renew herself to special moments. Like the one she had the morning of the conference, when she and her daughter woke up in a hotel room in New York, ordered room service, and watched Sex and the City. "I had my renewal moment at the crack of dawn watching Carrie and her shoes," she said.

She also stressed that renewal and redefining success are not just for those at the top of the corporate or the political ladders. Because the destructive definition of success we're living (and dying) under affects people at every social and economic level. But those working two or three jobs are also those with the least leverage to insist on policies and workplace practices that allow for any kind of work-life balance.

And, of course, by redefining success we'll end up with leaders able to make better decisions -- which, of course, affect everybody. For example, we'll have leaders less likely to make the sorts of terrible and shortsighted decisions that led to the financial meltdown, and led to the misguided decision to respond to the ensuing crisis with austerity measures.

Another big theme of the conference was the value of giving back and how important that is, not just for the recipients, but for the givers. That's one reason why we were thrilled to announce at the conference that our RaiseForWomen Challenge raised $1.3 million for women-focused charities in partnership with the Skoll Foundation Crowdrise and the Half the Sky Movement. As an indication of just how many people were moved to contribute to the cause, 80 percent of the donations were for $100 or less.

We were also treated to a sublime performance by the Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari, who has collaborated with Kanye West, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys -- and can now add headlining a success-redefinition conference to her resumé. We might have also been the first conference to feature a 15-minute breathing interlude, led by the wonderful Joan Witkowski.

To give those of you who weren't there a taste of what was being said on the panels -- and, just as important and interesting, what was overheard in between -- I'll leave you with a collection of some of my favorite quotes. If anything strikes you, please build on it and keep the conversation going, using the hashtag #thirdmetric. Let us know how you're redefining success in your own lives, what hurdles you're facing, how you're overcoming them (or not), and what your thoughts are about work and life and well-being and wisdom. It's time to redefine success. A lot of people know it, a lot of people feel it, and now it's time to make some real progress -- so that our next Third Metric conference can be even more productive.

Katie Couric on being 'in the moment': "If we took a little more time to be in the moment and talk about real things, our life would be so much better."

Jill Abramson on perspective: "I was hit by a big angry white truck in Times Square... an accident like that will put things into big bold perspective for you."

Padmasree Warrior on hiring and promoting: "We never say we want people who are empathetic, who are creative, who are good listeners. And I think we need to change that."

Rebecca Miller on change: "If the whole system doesn't change a little, then our daughters and granddaughters will still be having the same conversations... As women rise to the top we need to begin to create workplaces that are actually different."

Valerie Jarrett on 'having it all': "You can have it all, but you can't have it all at the same time."

Mark Bertolini on balancing life and work: "When your work defines what your work-life balance is, you've lost control."

Dr. Mark Hyman on stress: "If you really knew what was happening when you're stressed, you'd freak out. It is not pretty."

Dr. Dean Ornish on the impact of stress: "When you're under chronic stress, your life is shorter."

Amishi Jha on multi-tasking: "Multitasking is a myth -- what we actually do is task-switching... Out of all the things our mind does, that switching function is the most depleting."

George Stephanopoulos on meditation: "It's been a lifesaver. I've been meditating for about two years now -- consistently. I did it for reasons that we're discussing now, here -- to manage a frenetic life... I was always overly tired, over-stressed, feeling a kind of, constant low-level impatience, and I didn't like it."

Bill George on men: "The men I know are just as concerned about being caught up in money and power... We want the same opportunities to define a life of meaning and service."

Cindi Leive on 'leaning in': "If I lean in any farther, I'm going to fall over."

Christina Huffington on taking care of yourself: "I know now that I can't go out into the world and help someone else unless I'm taking care of myself."

Tanya Wexler on cheering yourself up: "Imagine your life as a sitcom, and when things start to get bad, just hear that laugh track."

Penny George on integrated medicine: "Integrated medicine really is the Third Metric... We are in trouble with medicine because of the first two metrics."

Zeke Emanuel on cutting health-care costs: "The only way we're going to save money and cut costs is prevention."

John Mackey on which employees to reward: "I tend to promote people who are more spiritually awake... because I know they'll be better leaders."

Bill George on what it takes to be a successful leader: "If you don't have an introspective practice, I don't know how you'll be a successful leader."

Sallie Krawcheck on what sustains her: "How I get through it: I am endlessly grateful."

Sally Osberg on giving back: "Giving back always sounds to me like you're paying a debt. What about just giving?"

Susan Cain on passion: "I would add another element to that Third Metric, and that's passion... and learning how to say no to things that are not in the service of that passion."

Adrian Grenier on success: "It's about humbling myself and asking what can I learn from others."

Cathy Isaacson on the real meaning of success: "When most of us measure the success of our lives, most of us won't ask if we had enough money or enough power."

Mika Brzezinski on our responsibility to each other: "We all need to have a true, honest conversation about not only the challenges we face but how we can help each other."

Tony Schwartz on renewal: "Renewal is not for slackers, renewal is a way to increase your capacity, to be more effective."