'Beyond Success' was the title of the presentation I was asked to give at a conference in Hong Kong last month. The subject was to include some of the latest science, secrets and strategies of body stamina and brain health and how these impact your stamina, performance and leadership. I once again came across the exact two words Beyond Success just a few days later when reading a feature in the online Huffington Post written by its founder and editor Arianna Huffington. She calls it the Third Metric - redefining success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom and our ability to wonder and to give.
It resonated so clearly with much of my own philosophy and some of my message at the recent conference. It's easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work and our frantic 'busy-ness' on the home front. It's easy to use work and the excuse of 'hectic' lives to let ourselves forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It's easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually stressed-out existence "It's easy, in effect, to miss our lives even while we're living them. Until we're no longer living them." suggests Huffington.
Huffington describes how much emphasis we place on our resumés as we continue to update our profile, all the while connecting and checking out our connections on LinkedIn. She suggests stopping for a moment to think rather about our eulogies.
For most of us, a eulogy will not just be the first time someone talks about the real stuff of our lives but the only one. The eulogy is one's legacy, of how people remember how we live on in the minds and hearts of others. It reminds us that giving and reaching out to help others is the essence of being human.
Have you noticed when attending a funeral that the eulogy celebrates a life very differently from how we defined success in our everyday life?
"It is very telling what you don't hear in eulogies" quips Huffington. You almost never hear things like: Of course his crowning achievement was when he made senior vice president. Or: He managed a Fund of a billion dollars. or: What everybody loved most about her was how she never took a break and ate lunch at her desk- every day.or: "He will live on, not in our hearts or memories, because we barely knew him, but in his PowerPoint slides, which were always meticulously prepared."
For decades now it has been clear how in the process of chasing the elusive end point, we burn out, become depleted, depressed and diseased. But what was ignored until recently is that no matter how much a person spends his or her life burning the candle at both ends, chasing a toxic definition of success most often leads to missing out on life.
The eulogy is always about the other stuff; what they gave, how they connected, how much they meant to the people around them, small acts of kindness, lifelong passions and what made them laugh. "Even for those who die with amazing résumés, whose lives were synonymous with accomplishment and achievement, their eulogies are mostly about what they did when they weren't achieving and succeeding” concludes Arianna Huffington. And yet we spend so much time and effort and energy on those résumé entries, which are gone as soon as our heart stops beating.
In her 1951 novel Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar has the Roman emperor meditating on his death “It seems to me as I write this, its hardly important to have been emperor."