Arianna Huffington gave the keynote speech at the PBWC (Professional Business Women's Conference) in San Francisco, recently. I found her charming, funny, intelligent, strong and impressive. After all, I have a special place in my heart for self-deprecating humor, and to hear it from such a successful, recognized and driven leader in media is particularly charming. She opened her speech as she opens her book, with an anecdote describing a moment of weakness. And in that unexpectedly vulnerable story from a woman who is a force of nature, it hit me how easily we see only the strength in others, while usually seeing only the weaknesses in ourselves. I never imagined Arianna Huffington having a bad day for some reason.
That day, I started my day feeling like no matter how things went, I would not get enough done -- there is always just too much to do, too little time. Prioritizing tips in place, tech hacks for productivity: check. I took on the day committed to giving it my best shot anyway. I know that no matter what, building a business brand is an endless stream of opportunity. Add to that the parental responsibilities of a single parent, and the one thing I knew with some certainty is that I would inevitably go to bed that night thinking about what remained unfinished on my lists, overshadowing any surprise bright spots that had gone my way that day.
The lists on my smart phone were growing in the crowded conference hall, as I digitally multitasked while impressive women professionals around me were deep in the business of trying to support, encourage, teach and reach each other. I was calmed a bit by Arianna's joke to sleep your way to the top. I do love sleep. And when she started to explain how Thriving involves not just money and power, but "a third leg to the stool" I thought... I have not yet mastered the first two: money and power, but sure -- let's look at a third leg of the stool... why not? There are still more blank lines to fill on my lists...
The third leg of the stool, she suggested, is basically about connection -- staying human.
And I remembered that at age 16, a favorite uncle gave me a book called How to Succeed in Business Without Being a Man. I don't remember much of the advice, but I remember learning that my uncle saw me as a future successful businesswoman was enough for me. So often, you hear the advice to do what you do for yourself, not for anyone else. But I have rarely found that doing it for yourself is as fulfilling as doing it with and for what it means to other people, too. You take your circle with you in all you do, that is what I have found.
Fast forward many years, and here I am in exciting downtown San Francisco, at a particularly exciting moment, working with an extraordinary team at CNET en Español. Our collective mission it is to make technology accessible, interesting and entertaining for the millions of Spanish speakers in the U.S. It is a mission in which I believe in, deeply. And I realized yet again how much fulfilling work is about with whom you are connected, as much as it is about the work itself.
Among the skills suggested in the conference as critical in our changing economy, is being "numerate," that is versed in the metrics by which our work is measured. But what I heard from Arianna is that it's time for a new set of metrics around personal success, including the value of the strength of our relationships -- i.e. connection.
What if we did recalculate personal success? What if we measure our work not just in what it provides for us in money and power but also in what it allows us to contribute and how it allows us to connect? What would that look like, and how would it feel? In that recalculation, we could then view our day not by the sum of an overwhelming mountain of tasks started each day from 0, but more as an opportunity to aggregate our experiences and successes to the present to prove the likelihood of success. In doing so, I could see a reclaim of that feeling of enjoying the journey.
I emailed Arianna to say thank you for being there and sharing her perspective. I wanted her to know that it mattered to me. To my amazement, she emailed me right back. A woman, an unequivocal world leader, took the time and made the effort to acknowledge and connect with me, and she even invited me to share more on the blog. That's what I call one big, unexpected bright spot in my day!