On June 6, 2013, I was privileged to attend a conference hosted by Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski, The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money And Power. Here is a short reflection I wrote afterwards, originally printed on The Huffington Post.
The latter half of my high school junior year had been an Advil-aided blur. After three months dangling from a 2400-point rope, I swam through pools of answer bubbles, DBQs, and rhetorical analysis essays, holding my breath for four hours each with only one, ten-minute break. And then I shoved my nose into a unit circle while logarithms devoured the Z’s emerging from my temple. I’d spent this time infusing vital – and not so vital – data into my head during every free period and lunchtime.
It was not uncommon for me to study late into the night. This behavior was described with words such as “dedication” and perseverance” and “studiousness”. The words “stressed”, “sleep-deprived”, and “manic” were seldom uttered.Once I had triumphantly set my pencil down after my last final exam, my alarm clock rang at 5 AM the next morning, and I was whisked from Los Angeles to a conference in New York promoting a healthy, restful lifestyle.
While I had glanced through the headlines of HuffPost’s dedicate Third Metric page during the weeks leading up to the conference, school had held my attention hostage. My expectations of the conference were nearly nonexistent, but I did have a back-of-the-mind vision of a family-and-happiness-are-more-important-than-money-and-power premise. I should have known conference hosts Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski were one step ahead. The conference they had created focused on “redefining success beyond money and power,” but it was clear early on that for the most part, the guests – like the hosts – had already done that.
They defined the “Third Metric” as embracing a healthy coexistence of one’s work life and one’s personal life. I heard how Mayor Richard Daley once let White House advisor Valerie Jarrett leave work early for her daughter’s Halloween parade. As I listened to CEO describe how she once blasted Teddy Pendergrass’s “Wake Up Everybody” on a slow workday, I envisioned how my own creativity might spark in such an environment. I learned from actresses, executives, and neurosurgeons alike that rest and wellbeing are just as dependent on success as success is dependent on rest and wellbeing.
Here I was in New York, a mere 48 hours after I had been sitting in a school hallway, cramming Pythagorean identities into my head, and energy bars into my mouth before my final exam. But now, I was listening to Arianna speak of her own office’s nap rooms and guided breathing exercise breaks led by Joan Witkowski. I suddenly came to three conclusions: First, that if I had known about the power of relaxation months before, my academic labyrinth might have been more easily traversed. Second? Try to work for Arianna Huffington. Or someone like her. Third, I realized that, as the youngest attendee, my role in the evolution of the workplace that the Third Metric strives to propagate, is to bring what I learned into each collaboration in my whatever I career my future brings me. And if I do, perhaps I’ll be able to provide the same guidance to a stressed out high school junior that Arianna and Mika gave to me.