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The Third Metric and the Wisdom of the Hippies

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There is a growing hum around Arianna Huffington's initiative, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power." Good for Arianna for reintroducing our profits-blinded world to this critical age-old philosophy. Media interest in the subject has gone missing for several decades, and it's about time we were reintroduced to the concept, foreign as it now seems.

Decades ago, in the afterglow of Woodstock, events at Kent State and Altamont catalyzed a scattering of the then-potent youth movement. Being gunned down by the National Guard at a college rally or being knifed to death at a rock concert was not really what we had in mind. A shift occurred, summed up by the lyrics to the CSN song, "Wooden Ships": "We are leaving, you don't need us."

All of that potent youthful energy soon bled out from the heavily populated urban areas into more peaceful rural places. From Boston and New York, it spilled into the North woods of Vermont and Maine. From D.C. and Atlanta it flowed towards the small towns of Virginia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. The youth of Los Angeles and San Francisco pointed their VW's north to Humboldt County, Arcata, and Oregon.

Some might say we gave up and dropped out, but it was more than that. We chose, rather, to try to change the world by example rather than by protest or force, so off we went to test our theories and beliefs.

So came the ascension of the New Age pioneer; Martin guitar in one hand,Troy-Bilt rototiller in the other, acquiring chunks of rural acreage, settling in to disengage from the hyper-profit-motivated straining's of the American version of capitalism: choosing instead to create a new economy, based upon... you guessed it... "redefining success beyond money and power." Sound familiar?

We were interested in finding a balance, and let's not fool ourselves... it was very challenging. We were constantly asking ourselves, "Is what I'm doing congruous with creating a better world?" Ambition and motivation were required to stick it out. Creating something big and new and better has never been easy. Sacrifices were made. Money, as a tool of influence, was ignored... even shunned, but we worked hard, mostly beyond media coverage and political influence... hammering out an alternative American lifestyle. If you think about it... what could possibly be more "American" than that?

Of course, there are some who held onto their hippie ideals while remaining in the game in more public, influential and profitable ways. Ben & Jerry, Paul Hawken, Ina May Gaskin, Scott Nearing, Senator Bernie Sanders, Betty Friedan and many more became publicly known... some even became rich and powerful. But for the most part, we simply vanished.

What we failed to realize was that they did not need us! We had abandoned that wooden ship... leaving the rudder to those who did not concern themselves with the Third Metric. And so the inmates became increasingly in charge of the asylum.

My own stumbling attempts at "New Age Pioneering" ran headlong into the 1980's, complete with Ronald Reagan and resurgent greed. So bit-by-bit, I edged my way back into "the system," always keeping a weather-eye out for the pitfalls.

Although we hippies saw ourselves as the generation of change, the reality is that it can be difficult to make much of an impact on the world when your nearest neighbor is a moose and at the end of each day, you were entirely spent from your attempts to scrape a living from the land. Some of the uber-dedicated pulled it off, but most of us lacked that calling and/or discipline.

Examining the American landscape today, it is clear that those sentiments from the '60s and '70s have ebbed. Perhaps Arianna will be the moon that tugs the new rising tide. I applaud her for reintroducing the idea and will eagerly assist in her efforts, wherever possible. Every movement needs leadership. It is long overdue.

As we children of the sixties slip into our dotage, we still harbor dreams... good dreams... visions of a better world based upon a value system that is balanced and not smothered by profit-making. In the final quarter of my life, I am getting back into the game and playing harder, yet again... not by dropping out, but by jumping in. I invite you to do the same, no matter what your age.

The fundamentalism of myopic profit-making, like every other form of fundamentalism, is corrosive to the general well-being of the inhabitants of our planet. Profits are not evil. I work towards that goal every day, but profit at any price is not a philosophy that produces long-term well-being or sustainability. Recent economic upheavals have proven that. History shows us that profit for profit's sake causes great calamity.

Although I am uncertain of exactly how it will work out, I still have an interest in making some noise. We are not done yet, and you do, in fact, need us.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.