This week, came to my inbox, courtesy of LinkedIn, a headline from Huffington Post—“Are you living your eulogy or your resume?” The answer for me is easy, the eulogy, but dread is not far behind—what if that’s the wrong answer? I’m not quite sure what living your resume means, but I am quite sure I understand the former—living a life that you hope to be proud of, a source of inspiration to your children, a life with meaning and impact in the making a difference arena. I know it sounds morbid, but I hope many people will remember me, will say that I made a difference in their or someone’s world…that my time on the planet was not misspent or, worse yet, ill spent.
So imagine my joy when, voila, I got the right answer—living the Eulogy. But imagine my consternation when I find out that a) someone has come up with a name for what I hold dear: “Third Metric,” b) its mathematical (how could you spoil something so lofty with math) and c) the idea, while worthy, seems to be the subject of a new campaign of Huffington’s Post to redefine the meaning of success.
You will recall that in my first blog post I wrote of my consternation over life in a world where few seemed cognizant, aware or even remotely concerned with “the bigger questions.” The big questions, you see, inevitably lead you to the leading the Eulogy life ethic…or as Huffington calls it, the third metric.
Well before I let you know how it works, here’s why philosophers make good lawyers: Both have a love affair with asking questions. I remember well asking way past my quota as a student making me the thorn in the side of many a teacher. Give me an example you say? OK, I’m in first grade. Big news is earthquakes in South America. We are doing “journal entries” for a class assignment. President Eisenhower is on the news extending his heartfelt sympathies to the quake victim families . I think that’s worth putting into my daily journal. But, how to spell Eisenhower? I ask my teacher. Who quips back: “What in the world does a first grader need to know how to spell Eisenhower for?” (I’m sure she ended the sentence with a preposition). I explain about the earthquakes and the journal entry. She makes a very unkind face, spells it and gives me a disdainful look every time I raise my hand going forward. Thus began my miserable experience with elementary education, about which I will someday write.
So, the Third Metric—my version of it goes like this: You ask a few key questions: What are we doing here? Why are we so special? Haven’t we learned anything from the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans? If not, why not? Why do we work a five day week, i.e., is there a race, the largest most profitable economy when we reach the end of the “game” wins? From a long game perspective, who gets remembered, and why? Does the short term matter at all? And, in a nod to my Italian heritage, why is everyone in such a hurry? Do the Roman ruins tell us nothing about the grandeur of the present, soon to be past?
Ask these and other related questions and you come down to this: What matters? I disagree with Huffington about what Steve Jobs will be remembered for (she thinks not the iPhone or iPad). Whenever I wash with a really nice cotton towel, I do think occasionally about Eli Whitney and what his cotton gin did for us. And then there’s John Adams, who had such insight and intelligence shaping life as we know it—and I suspect he won’t be remembered in 100 years hence, except in the hearts of school children memorizing the names of the U.S. presidents in order. Now, that’s a shame. But the stout smart lawyer who sometimes took on unpopular causes and did a damn good job, will not fade into complete oblivion. He mastered the Third Metric, I think.
Now Huffington disparagingly suggests that no one wants to be remembered for answering all of their emails and promptly. I beg to differ. I’d like to be remembered for that and for being willing to work long hours for little pay because all those things say I gave it my all. To coin a cliché, I treated my life like opening night, no dress rehearsal for me. And, with a little more research into Huffington’s Third Metric, I see that she and others (notably a psychologist named Perlman) have hijacked the concept into the women’s empowerment movement. Shame. It’s not a woman issue. It’s a people issue. A humankind issue. If you contort this uniquely human complexity into a woman issue, the concept will be dead in the water.
So while I leave you with these thoughts and your own eulogy vs. resume or Huffington’s “third metric” analysis, I will go try to find out just why on earth she had to give something so significant a mathematical name (which is bound to alienate some of even the brightest minds) and whether the math angle is just a ploy to get on the quantitative bandwagon that is so popular these days–culling more data to generate numbers that tell us more about ourselves than we care to know.
Two words. “What matters?” That is a great way to break it down, but I also think that is where most people get stuck and derailed. They focus on what matters to others and not what matters to themselves.
I love all that is third metric related, there is finally a name for the way that I have been trying to live my own life. Thanks for writing this!