My week one Artists Date as part of the twelve week ‘The Artist’s Way’ course lead me to this fabulous read by the co-founder of The Huffington post, Arianna Huffington. Thrive is one part personal memoir, one part current affairs, and one part self help. After two years of working her butt off to establish the global phenomenon that is Huff Post, Huffington had a a nasty wake up call that she was pushing herself too hard when she collapsed from exhaustion in her home office. Her fall resulted in a broken cheekbone, and cut on her eye, and an awakening of her soul.
The world as we know it is focused on revering those who achieve the duopoly of success: money and power. With the likes of the Kardashians gracing our popular culture we are lead to believe that ‘those who have it all’ are rich, charismatic, and have the power to do as they like. Brands capitalise on this ‘power’ by selling products either created or endorsed by celebrities, or that will give us a cult status by purchasing them. This is the driver for fashion trends and the reason why so many of us who would have shunned the idea of Birkenstocks three years ago are now happily flip-flopping around town in orthopaedic comfort feeling like an off duty model rather than a dirty hippie.
While money and power are both important things to have is used in the correct manner, they are superficial and hard work. Huffington demonstrates this an example of a eulogy. Many of the things you celebrate right now, are not what you will be remember for. Using the example of Steve Jobs, Huffington outlines that eulogy spoke nothing of the iconic products he developed in his professional ventures, and instead painted a picture of a family man who worked at what he loved, which was spending time with his children. I actually laughed out loud at the examples of what won’t be said (hopefully) at your funeral
‘She never stopped working. She ate lunch at her desk. Every day’ or:
‘While she didn’t have any real friends, she had six hundred Facebook friends, and dealt with every email in her in-box every night’.
For me this little excerpt really put things into perspective and I hope that the above statements will not be uttered at my funeral.
Huffington relates the idea of relying solely on money and power as the determinate of success is like having a stool with just two legs, things are unbalanced and you will topple over eventually. Either literally in Huffington’s case, or figuratively speaking. In her words at an address to college graduates Huffington states that:
…the way we’ve defined success is not enough. And it’s no longer sustainable: It’s no longer sustainable for human beings or for societies. To live the lives we truly want and deserve, not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving’
I think most of us can relate to that feeling of taking on too much in the quest for money and power. Money is easy to define, which is why we cling so desperately to the current economic system, its tangible, we can count it and gives us a calculated ‘amount’ of worth. Power on the other hand, is a difficult one to define. It can be looked at as ‘influence’. As mentioned earlier, celebrities have long held a sense of power over our lives; as a source of fascination, providers of water cooler gossip, idols, and entertainers but power extends beyond the media influence. Power can be as simple as being the ‘ruler’ of your family, social group, or office. Whatever the reach of your power, when its combined with a sense of monetary value you can easily be viewed by others as ‘successful’ within the two accepted metrics.
What many may not realise is that to acquire power and money often takes time, sacrifice and hard work by todays standards. Huffington addresses many issues in Thrive, but two that stuck with me throughout were the idea of a ‘time famine’ and ‘sleep macho’. Time famine is just how it sounds, the curse of our culture, the idea that time is always slipping away from us. Huffington presents this great quote from author of ‘Faster: The Acceleration of Just about Everything’, James Gleick:
‘Our computers, our movies, or sex lives, or prayers- they all run faster now than ever before. And the more we fill our lives with time-saving devices and time- saving strategies the more we feel rushed’
I know I can personally relate to this. Every time I find a more efficient way of doing something a new thing I had been putting off before sneaks into that slot of time I saved. There are ALWAYS more things to do. The trick is to prioritise the important things. Unfortunately in this culture of money and power, we are encouraged to prioritise the tasks that give us money and power, and this is usually work. Which leads back to the idea of sleep macho and how society is making a ‘fetish out of not getting enough sleep and boasting about how little sleep we get’. It’s true. As a solid sleeper I constantly feel a sense of guilt over making time for exactly eight hours.
With so many people ‘working hard’ I regularly feel a sense of guilt at not working 40+ hours a week and cutting back on sleep to fulfil the requirements of achieving money and power. To be honest I actually beat myself up about this. Despite ‘working’ around the clock on my personal sustainability endeavours, a couple of side projects, being a homemaker, pet owner, Uni student, cook, cleaner, blogger, yogi and research scientist (the only paid one) I often feel guilty ‘I don’t do enough’. It also leads me to feel a sense of inadequacy that my true desire to disseminate information about sustainability and environmental awareness, pays in love, gratitude, and general good vibes and words, not monetary benefits. In this duopoly of money and power, hugs and happiness don’t count, so I am a ‘poor woman’. Also my energy retailer won’t let me pay my bills in hugs or love, so I am actually poor in this kind of instance.
Huffington calls for us to redefine our ideas of success to include her four pillars of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. She provides the steps on how to get there, the academic backing for each step, and her personal experiences with he journey. I personally agree with all of her steps and I would love to see the economy reformed to place ‘real value’ on well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, as money and power are two things we just inverted one day.
It’s a scary thought that we base our lives around things we just totally made up. Especially when well-being is our life source and without good health we no longer exist. Wisdom can’t be bought, it can only be earned through personal discovery and learning. Wonder is intrinsic and something we a born with. It is a thing that gets quickly stamped out by the ‘time famine’ and ‘sleep macho’ world with cases of ‘Who has time time to stop and smell the flowers?’ or ‘I’m too tired for rose sniffing today, sorry’. Finally, giving cannot be a good thing in a world where money is revered as success, unless of course your act of giving will increase your power, in which case, go for it!
I am personally convinced that this is the way forward for humanity. Deep down in the depths of my soul I know this is how I have been living for many years now, the tricky bit will be battling those little voices in my head that tell me my ventures do not equate to success unless they provide me with vast amounts of money and power. While I don’t want to live my life in poverty (like I have for so many years of study, a woman cannot live off home-brand cereal alone for her entire existence) it would be nice to see a world that also places value on what is truly important. Measures of success that we didn’t ‘just invent’ one boring afternoon a few thousand years ago.
Here’s hoping for a eulogy that’s more than:
‘She wrote a lot, on a blog, it was read by a few people, she wrote there most days. She was diligent. Then she died’.
What would you like to see valued more than money or power? Share it below. Also feel free to share any info or feedback that you might have about Thrive if you have had the opportunity to read it.