Arianna Huffington has won world acclaim as an author and the president of the Huffington Media Group. In a commencement address she gave to the graduates of Smith in 2013, Huffington spoke about the need for a new definition of success, one which goes beyond money and power alone.

In today’s world, we need people who can redefine what it really means to be successful, she said. She urged graduates not only to go out there and take their places at the top of the world – but to change it.

Huffington argued that power and money (factors which have become synonymous with success) can be likened to a two-legged stool – you can balance on them for a while, but eventually, you will topple over. So many ‘successful’ people today have toppled, she said – a true indication that the way we have traditionally defined success is no longer sustainable. “If we do not redefine success, the personal price we pay will get higher and higher,” she said.

For society to function better, Huffington maintained, we need to relook what we have always valued as indicators of success. A new definition of what it means to be successful should include factors such as wellbeing, wisdom, a sense of wonder and an ability to give back.

With millennials – your own generation of trainee accountants – being touted as the most stressed generation of all, surpassing even the baby boomers, wellbeing is particularly important. Huffington maintained that while existing definitions of success protect financial capital, there is too little being done to protect human capital. The inclusion of wellbeing in any definition of success is crucial. With more attention given to the protection of human capital, so we will see our relationship with time improving.

Huffington’s address went on to stress how important it is not to lose one’s sense of wonder – a gift she learned from her own mother. Equally important is having the ability to reach out and connect with other people and have empathy, as is learning and gaining wisdom.

These are all metrics that are not associated with traditional definitions of what success is, but which are nonetheless vital components of living a happy life – and is that not the ultimate expression of success after all?

She concluded her address by saying that by redefining success, we will “live our lives with more grace, more joy, more empathy, more gratitude and yes, more love.”


Epic Discussion

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