Technology is a double-edged sword. It helps and enables us in many ways. It also connects us to our jobs around the clock, which can lead to stress and burnout. That was the focus of the Social Media Week panel “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power.” The third metric in this case refers to personal wellbeing, a far-harder-to-define yardstick for success, but one that Jordan Hillary Freeman, marketing director of the Huffington Post, described as “the difference between being smart and being wise.”
One of the panelists, Rasanath Das, cofounder of Gita Sutras, said he went from working 100-hour weeks on Wall Street to a monastery where he did two hours of meditation a day, and discovered a clarity he hadn’t attained before.
Das said he found that chasing money and power and status can be empty—and on top of that he only felt resented by people who were struggling. “You have to really know what your purpose is, and taking the time to do that is very important,” he said. Das wound up connecting with the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text; the focus of Gita Sutras is to bring a culture of wellbeing and a focus on the individual into workplaces.
He hopes to create a long-term movement, not just a splash. A tip: At day’s end, take 15 minutes and take stock of one act of kindness or one lesson you learned and reflect on how it affected your life. Try to carry it with you over time, and you’ll feel enriched. “It’s the small things that make a big difference, and we don’t take the time in the day to write down the small things and remember them,” Das said.
These concepts are gaining traction. Noah Levy, cofounder of BRB, said his app allows people to step away from their phones without worrying about seeming as if they’ve dropped off the face of the earth. And Rich Pierson, CEO and founder of Headspace, said technology isn’t necessarily the problem—the solution is to use it in a mindful way. “I think it’s an interesting medium to see how we can plug in to unplug,” he said.
Or, as Derek Flanzraich, CEO of Greatist.com, put it: “Technology is a tool that we use, and not a tool that uses us.”
The panel touched on another important aspect of the third metric: giving. That’s an area that has benefited from the growth of technology. Margi Cadet, marketing director for DonorsChoose.org, said philanthropy can increase people’s happiness. Her site, for example, helps public school teachers get materials for their classrooms.
Before tech-driven non-profits, there was no easy way to give to public education, and 70% of the site’s donors say it’s the first time they’ve ever given to a public classroom. For every donation of $50 or more, contributors get hand-written thank yous. Teachers get to pass on to their classes a lesson in gratitude and the donor gets to hear about the impact they’ve had, turning the donation into something tangible and powerful.