Lean In, Stand Up

06.07.1311:55 PM ET

10 Things We Learned at the Third Metric

From work/life balance to sticking up for your life choices, the gathering of high-profile working women had advice to dispense.

Two of America’s most high-profile women got together this week to talk about redefining  success—and invited several hundred of their friends to join in the conversation. Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski hosted an overflow crowd of women at Huffington’s (obviously spacious) Manhattan apartment to hear luminaries like Valerie Jarrett, Senator Claire McCaskill and Katie Couric discuss everything from the work/life balance to alternative medicine to using “mindfulness” as a path to leadership. Being mindful of your time, we distilled the dozen panels, interviews and speeches into 10 useful takeaways from the Third Metric conference.


1. A clean house is overrated.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) figured out her priorities early in her career. “I was a single mom of three and was the prosecutor in Kansas City,” she recalled. “I didn’t give a s**t if there were dust bunnies under the bed.”


2. Women know the secret: To get it all done, focus on one thing at a time.

“Men say they compartmentalize,” said Brzezinski. “I think they just forget.”


3. Don’t make excuses for your life choices.

President Obama knows the importance of family time, says his senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. “Nine times out of 10 he’s going upstairs” for dinner at 6:30 p.m. with the First Lady and their daughters, Jarrett said. “If he can make his children a priority, so can we.” That’s why Jarrett believes working moms who have to take a few hours to, say, attend their kid’s Halloween parade should be upfront about it. “Find bosses that accept your life choices,” she said. “Do not sneak!”


4. Funny is strong

Actress and comedian Susie Essman has heard all about “lean in.” She has a different prescription: “What we [women] have to do is stand up,” she said, noting that the most powerful thing in the word is to make an audience laugh. “Accept your power.”


5. When things get tough, fantasize

Juggling work and the absurdities of child rearing can drive anyone crazy, notes film director Tanya Wexler. Her panacea: When things get nutso, “just imagine that your life is an episode of Modern Family.” Laughter will ensue.

6. Most people are introverts

The day’s most surprising revelation came when four out of five members of one high-powered panel confessed that they are introverts. The confessors included George Stephanopoulos, Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks, Arianna Huffington (!) and Candice Bergen. “I’m an introvert and my husband is like the mayor,” said Bergen, noting that her spouse will talk to anyone. Murphy Brown, shy! Who knew?

7. Try a little lingerie.

Cosmo editor in chief Joanna Coles says that fun little pick-me-ups during the day keep her going. One treat: Talking to her magazine’s lingerie editor about the latest skivvies. “If I’m down, I sidle over to his desk and say, ‘Charles, show me a bra.’ ”

8. So you think you can juggle? Hah!

“There is no such thing as multitasking,” said clinical psychologist and mindfulness teacher Dr. Donna Rockwell. “You’re just not doing anything well.” Audience reaction: hearty applause.


9. This century belongs to the compassionate

“Women are better prepared to lead in the future,” said Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, “The new world requires a greater level of empathy.”


10. If you want people to change, show that you care about them.

“Fear is not a sustainable motivator,” said Dr. Dean Ornish, explaining why you can’t scare people into healthy eating habits. “Love is.”