10/18/2010 08:11 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Redefining Success: The Importance of a Good Spirit

Arianna Huffington is asking some good questions lately about the "reality of reality," suggesting that Washington, D.C. and the media are out of touch with you and me.

I'm in the process of exploring the struggle of leading a life that is spirit-based versus ego-driven, and one of the key aspects, for me, is understanding what success looks like from each of those perspectives.

I work in the wacky world of software development. As part of our project definitions we ask, "What does success look like?" And being process wonks, we want metrics to prove it. So what do we measure?

"We measure what matters."

So what does really matter? What is the reality of success?

Let's start with "Rich and Famous." I think these are success factors of the ego, not the spirit. A spirit-based metric (a better metric, I feel) would be that given by friends and family and people whom you love and who love you, the people to whom you are kind.

A good-spirited person may become rich and famous, of course, but the measure of success should not be his or her wealth and fame. I don't know any famous people well, but I have a strong hunch that Oprah, for example, is a good person with a good spirit, and she makes a pretty good living.

Please don't think I'm saying we should all be happy to be muddling along and that it is wrong to "make it," to become wealthy through talent and persistence. It's just that I think we should adjust our measure of success, real success.

Why do we and the media laud the accumulation of wealth? Why do we not call to attention the way that some of those wealthy people accumulate their riches on the backs of the less fortunate? The reward system is all bass-akward.

I am terribly naïve, I admit, but just think how great it would be if we were more vocal about our disdain for such people (and their companies). As my colleague Mike said to me recently, "What gets my goat is those who lay off 10 percent of the workforce and walk away with a 200 million bonus."

I can see why. I'm not a socialist or a "commie." I am simply saying that such a situation is clearly unfair, mean-spirited and ego-driven. We all know it; they know it; and heaven or not, the rule about rich folk, camels and needles reinforces the point.

If 10 percent of a workforce has to be laid off in order to keep a company competitive, then that's the way a free market works; maybe there's no way around it. But why does the CEO have to walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars -- hundreds ... of millions ... of dollars -- in bonuses?

This is the "bottom-line" reality in America today, for a few select individuals. For most of us it reads more like a fantasy -- or a nightmare.

If the American Dream is a dream of a nation with a good-hearted spirit, where success is measured by the ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness without harming others, and to foster a system where kindness and striving to live up to our full potential are rewarded, then we have a lot of work to do.

Let's start by changing our measure of success.

I hope we can influence the media to make a change. I hope Oprah's new network will champion the successes of good-spirited people. In my world, money and power are no longer the measure of success. What about yours?

If you would like to continue this conversation, please comment here, tag those little boxes above or write to me at I can't give you a fancy website with all my musings on it yet, but I can give you my time to exchange ideas.