There’s more to measuring success than money

How do you measure success? This question has been percolating inside me since I left the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco. It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.

It brought leaders from the tech and business world together with spiritual and mindfulness gurus to discuss how we live, peacefully and fully and in our fast-paced, hyper-connected, digital world. The three-day event was packed with inspiring sessions, but the one that resonated most with me was Arianna Huffington’s session on how we define and measure success.

Arianna says that traditionally, success has been defined by having money and power, but now we often see people who “have it all” by these standards and yet are physically exhausted, depressed and isolated. How can we call this success?

Summer, which often includes family vacations and time away from the office, can be a great time to think BIG and re-examine what success means for you and your family.

Success is defined as accomplishing one’s aim or purpose, but how often do we give ourselves the space and time to think about our aim and purpose in life? To think deeply about what’s really important to us, what we want to accomplish and what we want to be remembered for?  

Arianna talked about living our eulogy. She says, “in a eulogy, you never hear about all the things we proudly display on our resumes, like ‘Matt tripled market share over the course of his tenure’ or ‘Sally was such a hard worker, she always ate lunch at her desk and her PowerPoints were amazing.’”

The things we remember about people are always the softer things, the qualitative things, like how they made us feel, how they lived their life, how they were with their family, their beautiful smile, their caring nature, what they did for the community, how they made the world a better place.    

If we’re lucky enough to live into our mid-90s, we have about 35,000 days to play this game called life. And how we play it is determined by what we value.   Spending time getting clear on what we value couldn’t be more important.  

One of the things we do with our clients at the very beginning of our working relationship – before we get into managing assets or planning for retirement – is talk about their goals, vision and values.

What are we managing your wealth to provide for? What’s really important to you? And what are the obstacles or stressors that are getting in your way?

Many of our clients who are in their peak career and parenting years are running so fast and furiously that these questions often cause a long pause and a search for the “right answer.”

It’s rare that we get past the basics the first time we dive into these questions, but over the years, we see people adding more color to the picture, getting more vivid with their vision, getting clearer about what they value and seeing how they can use their wealth to support them and the life they want.   

Two of the biggest stressors I see with people is not having enough time and fear of not having enough money.   

Time is definitely our most precious and finite resource; every day, we must navigate an endless stream of demands. As much as we want to do it all, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Sheryl Sandberg, in her book “Lean In,” talks about how we need to ruthlessly prioritize the things that matter to us. We don’t find time for things that are important, we need to make the time. If we don’t, the path of least resistance is to do whatever is immediately in front of us or whatever comes up.

Take a look at your calendar for the past month and notice how you spent your time. Are there things you could have said no to so you had time for other more meaningful things? Are there things that you don’t personally need to do that you could outsource to buy yourself some time?

Using your wealth to buy more time is rarely a bad decision. The world isn’t going to stop making demands on us. It comes down to awareness and good planning to filter through the noise.

Money is also a precious resource and, like time, there are constant demands on our money. We are faced with more advertising directed at us than ever before and everything sounds like a “good deal.” It’s so easy to lose sight of what we really need and to get caught up in an endless stream of wants as we try to keep up with the Joneses. These demands on our money aren’t always for material possessions or enhanced lifestyle; they are often for good causes, like charitable giving.

There are thousands of worthy causes and wonderful nonprofits in the Bay Area alone that are constantly seeking funding for their missions. But if you feel the need to respond to every solicitation that comes your way, you might lose the ability to fund issues that you care deeply about and experience the joy that comes along with that.

We spend a lot of time with our clients, helping them prioritize and find alignment between their money and their spending and the things that are important to them so their money is really working for them and fueling the life they want.  When people get clear on their priorities, they almost always find they have enough.  

Between all the demands we face daily and the pervasiveness of technology that keeps us constantly connected, we have to ask ourselves, are we missing the moment? More and more, people are realizing they are and are seeking ways to slow down the hectic pace of their lives and be more present.

Mindfulness and meditation are now mainstream practices that people are learning and tapping into to look inward and reconnect with themselves. The benefits are clear; a regular practice of meditation, even for 10 minutes a day, can lower stress levels significantly, improve our focus, and enhance mood and creativity.

Progressive companies are even adopting these practices in the workplace and seeing great benefits in their workforce. In the Bay Area, there are numerous resources and places to learn and practice mindfulness, such as the San Francisco Zen Center. There also are retreat centers, like Tassajara and Esalen, within a few hours’ drive.    

I hope you all find time to slow down this summer, to be present and grateful for all that you have, and to celebrate your successful lives in the making. Cheers!