The Case for Redefining Success

Everywhere we turn, women are being confronted with heated debates about 'having it all.' Women are being urged to "lean in" and challenge the barriers of the traditional workplace. These conversations on balancing a family, a career, our image and personal lives are going to take us in one of two directions: a dead end or taking matters into our own hands and redefining what it means to be a successful woman.

At last week's Huffington Post's women's conference, the focus was on how to reinvent success through the lens of the third metric: well-being. Attendees discussed everything from how women strive to make things look so effortless (guilty as charged) to the trials and tribulations of worrying. They discussed multitasking as one of life's great myths -- "there's no such thing as multitasking -- you're just not doing anything well," said Psychologist Donna Rockwell.

These are just three of the 26 points that grew from the conference and were shared in the piece "Things Every Woman Should Know" about success beyond money and power. I'd like to add number 27 to this list: Find meaningful work.


Becoming a social entrepreneur has filled me with satisfaction in ways I couldn't have imagined. Working on the ground in Rwanda with my 'trade not aid' jewelry initiative SAME SKY has transformed my life and my perspective. I invested in the ethical shopping movement, a movement that I knew would enhance the lives of not only women artisans, but of everybody involved. SAME SKY jewelry acts as a ribbon to the HIV+ artisans, and every piece of jewelry comes signed with a letter from the artisan who crafted it. It is amazing to see how these consumers get just as much satisfaction from empowering the artisans as the artisans who are rebuilding their lives.

Happy Money, a book by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, found that in a national sample of Americans, individuals thought that their satisfaction with life would double if they made $55,000 rather than $25,000. But the data revealed that people who earned $55,000 were only 9% more satisfied than those making $25,000. In the United States, once people are earning around $75,000 per year, making more money has no impact whatsoever on their day-to-day feelings of happiness.

That being said, I suppose the old saying "Money doesn't buy happiness" rings true.... Or does it? New research has proven that spending even small amounts of money on others can make a difference in your happiness. Dunn and Norton's research explains that rewarding customers and employees with opportunities to invest in people's lives can enhance not only individuals on a personal level, but will also enhance the company's bottom line. It's like what my good friend and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus said (and the very reason I began my career as a social entrepreneur), "let us suppose an entrepreneur, instead of having a single source of motivation (such as, maximizing profit), now has two sources of motivation, which are mutually exclusive, but equally compelling -- a) maximization of profit and b) doing good to people and the world."

When word got out of my mother, Ethel's, passing, the SAME SKY artisans of Rwanda sent me a video in Kinyarwandan of them singing in my mother's honor while holding up pictures of her and her favorite SAME SKY bracelet. They planted her a tree outside the SAME SKY collective in Kigali. I thought about the unlikely connection, a group of women living a world away who survived unspeakable atrocities that are now touched by my mother's passing and want to reach out to me.

It is the irony of my life: I started this 'trade not aid' initiative to help women genocide survivors that suffer from HIV/AIDS, and these women wound up helping me more than I could have ever imagined. This is the model for the new age of success: You can touch someone's life by empowering them, and in turn, you are actually empowering yourself. There couldn't be a more perfect way to define well-being.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.