Meaning is the New Power Suit

BY SHERI SALATA

This year marked my inaugural trip to SXSW and the lovely and inspiring vibration of Austin, Texas. For me, one of the most thought-provoking and rewarding experiences was speaking on a panel at the Create and Cultivate event—the destination for millennial women.

From a cottage-chic, event-space house in Austin, we talked through questions facing women in the workplace. I loved the crowd. The fact that you show up to have these conversations about things that matter to you makes you a star in my book. And this incredibly engaged audience was filled with those kinds of stars.

The younger ones wanted to talk about power: How to get it. How to own it. How to keep it. How not to apologize for it, or get passed over or hand it over to men.

And I get that. I stood in those shoes once, too. But now, after years of holding positions of traditionally defined “C-suite power” (Executive Producer, President and the like) and as I redirect my life in bold, dreamy ways, I have new ideas and a fresh outlook that could help all those younger selves I see around me. The ones searching for a new way.

The idea of power in the workplace as defined by an org chart is swiftly becoming an antiquated notion. Doesn’t it feel outdated? It does to me. And it’s time we replace that old traditional model with a new one.  I say out with power, in with meaning.

What I am suggesting from my admittedly catbird seat is that meaning is the new power. Wild, yes? Disruptive, yes? True? Try it on for size.

The beauty of this new framing is that it levels the playing field. Those of us who don’t dream of reaching the C-suite are still successful, based on our own terms. Success shouldn’t be one size fits all. Success defined should be personal because defining meaning is private, holy work. What brings meaning to your life? YOU DECIDE.

And even if you still must live in that old-fashioned power structure to earn a paycheck, when you prioritize meaning you know inside yourself that you have put yourself back in charge of what matters most.

Here’s what I know from so called “C-suite heaven”, my friends: There is no success without meaning. Meaning is the most crucial piece to the happiness you seek when giving your heart, your energy, and your best ideas in service to a career. Meaning makes it matter. And the “day in day out” secret? Meaning is more important to your sense of well-being and satisfaction than profit sharing or summer Fridays.  Meaning makes life matter.

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