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Sharing for Growth, Gratitude and Paying It Forward

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One of the things that I find so inspiring about the Third Metric is that it's a discussion, and it's open to anyone. To me, it's a discussion about developing and growing into thriving human beings, and then spreading that into the rest of your world and the world.

In May, at the Third Metric conference in New York, I got incredibly excited and inspired because I witnessed that it's a conversation between people who are actively working in a conscious manner in order to create sustainable success beyond money and power, while at the same time totally empowering themselves and those around them. As Tony Swartz put it: It's about redefining greatness.

The discussion thing actually threw me off at first though -- I'm a listener. I like to take things in, and then only when I feel that I actually know something about a certain subject or have any sort of authority on it (whatever that really means), do I like to speak about it. But lately I've been thinking that that might not be the best way to learn. For example, I worked as the executive chef at a winery in Napa for a few years, surrounded by people whose wine knowledge was extraordinary. I took a backseat while listening intently. I furiously wrote notes in my Moleskines as people spoke about the subject, and did my own reading on the side, but now that I look back I know for sure that if I'd just inserted myself into actual conversations, my wine knowledge would be 100 times more extensive than it is today.

I've decided to open myself up and am learning to be a bit more vulnerable, in order to grow and learn. I learned this sitting in Arianna Huffington's living room in New York City with some of the most inspiring and powerful (in every sense of the word) women in the world (and "a few good men"). And even though the Third Metric is about success beyond money and power, I felt an intense power from being in that room with those remarkable people who are sharing and being open, and vulnerable. People who are intent on putting good into the world: truths, fairness, opportunity, love. The fact that Arianna Huffington's sleep evangelism is a subject in redesigning greatness makes me even more excited. The day was filled with incredible people who have forged the way. Most became successful on their on their own terms, and those who didn't are recognizing and developing what they want to change. Instead of feeling intimidated, I felt: I can do anything. Listening to them have an open and honest discussion changed things for me, and at the same time confirmed a lot of the wishes I have for myself in this world. I felt inspired by a different model in which I could see myself striving, and the people I love thriving.

Only those who have been closest to me in the past few years know that I've had this passion to learn and discover and to ultimately be: the best possible version of Jane Coxwell. It's been about 10 years of reading and exploring, and learning and listening mainly in private, and then also secretly sending myself off to learning experiences that have involved, among other things, weeks worth of silence. I think some of the books on my shelves would even surprise some of my closest friends. But I feel like I'm ready to open myself up a little. I realize now that I don't have to be perfect to talk about it, and I don't have to already be the person I want to become to have an opinion. I can share and learn at the same time, and maybe my growth will be even greater because of it.

My hesitancy about expressing my want for my own evolution is that I'm a private person -- well, that's what I've been telling myself. But I saw recently that it was mainly just vulnerability. Opening myself up to things that I otherwise don't have to address. I've been "private" because when I tell people that I meditate every day and have done for the past two years, will they expect me to be more peaceful and serene? When I tell people that I'm trying to put the best possible health into my body, will they judge me when I have my beloved pizza and a beer? I actively practice gratitude every single day, but how do I openly say that when sometimes I am demanding and expect a lot from people around me?

And following that, how do I make sure that I'm not coming across as pious when I get these overwhelming feelings of gratitude and love and connectedness? How do I express genuine, natural anger or look upset when I've told everyone that what I actually want for me and everyone around me is to thrive and be happy?

Thriving doesn't mean perfection, though. When I think of myself as thriving, I basically see myself happy and fulfilled, and making those around me happy and fulfilled. An integral part of that happiness is spreading it to friends and family and paying it forward to whomever I can, because everything I have and have been able to do has been from the goodwill and generosity of other people. It really is as simple as that.

I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa -- and it hit me while I was sitting in Arianna Huffington's living room, behind Barbara Walters, listening to Valerie Jarrett, with a name tag that said "Chef/Author," that I'm the product of dreams, good people, and sharing. Valerie Jarrett was talking about what we can do to change the narrative and I realized that we all have a place in that. So I'm opening up to sharing and conversation.

Joining this conversation means writing, and I'm not a writer. In my head I've asked, What are you thinking? You can't write things for The Huffington Post! But I guess it comes from the heart and I want to be better at communicating so I'm going to give it a shot. I'm going to become vulnerable. And share.

Connect with Jane on Instagram or through her website.